10 Ways to Open a Locked Door

If you’re like me, you’ve spent you fair share of time getting locked out of the house, the car, or even locked in a room on occasion. It’s frustrating, stressful, and often expensive. The cost of damaged locks and doors, the expense of calling a locksmith, and lost time can be a dear price to pay for our forgetfulness.

We know, of course, about stashing extra keys and leaving spares with family and neighbors. But what about those times when we just haven’t got those options available? Or if we just failed to take those precautions in the first place?

In those cases, we need to get a little creative. Let’s look at 10 ways to open a locked door:

1. Door Hinges If the door opens towards you, you’re in luck. That’s the side where the hinges are, and you can open that door from the hinge side of the frame. You’ll need a hammer and nail – or adequate substitutes – in order to tap the hinge pins out from the bottom of the hinge. Once out, the door can be pried out of its frame.

2. Credit Card – This technique only works on doors with a rounded bolt which typically open when the doorknob is turned. A credit card, or other firm but flexible strip of material ( a rectangular section of a milk jug works) can be slid between the door and the frame just above or below the bolt. Once the card is in place, it can slide over the bolt at the rounded edge, pushing the bolt back into the door.

Note: If you use a credit card for this, pick an expired one; or an old library or gift card.

3. MacGyver - This one was so creative that I just had to include it. Again, this method is useful for only specific types of door locks  generally found on interior doors, the kind that lock and unlock with a turn of the doorknob. BYU student hackzorz shares this unique method at Instructables.com., using dental floss, a sheet of paper and the electrical cord of a vacuum cleaner. Yes, you read that right.

4. Pick Set – Tricky to do without experience. A lock pick set involves resetting the individual tumblers within the lock cylinder, which is normally done by the notches of the lock’s key. A second tool is used to keep the raised tumblers, which are spring-loaded, from dropping back down. With a decent pick set, some patience and smooth finagling, you can work yourself into your house in no time.

5. Slim Jim (For Car Doors) – This is essentially flexible strip of metal with a notched end shaped to fit specific model cars. It’s slid down between the outer door frame and the window glass, and positioned to pop the door lock by moving the interior door mechanism via the notched end.

6. Paper Clip – Specifically for interior doors with access holes in the doorknob. That small hole accommodates the “key” that came with the door knob set which, if we were smart, we would have stashed nearby. A paper clip will make a good substitute.

7. Screwdriver – A variation of Step 2 which used the credit card method. In this case, we are working from the flat side of the latch, which is the side of the door that opens towards you (the hinge side).  A flat-head screwdriver can be slid between the door and the frame, in front of the latch. From there, you can slide the latch back into the door, maintaining pressure against the latch to prevent it from springing back out of the door.

8. Lock BumpingThis is a somewhat sophisticated technique, requiring something called a bump key. The concept is explained at Wikipedia.

9. When all else fails – a door can be forced out of its frame with the proper technique. If an actual one is not available, something that can act as a battering ram will do, or a well-placed lateral kick. The force must be applied as near to the door latch as possible. Bear in mind that deadbolt locks often extend into the door 1” or more, making this method far less effective. In such cases, it is advisable to:

10. Call a Professional Locksmith – Hopefully you didn’t lock your cell phone in the house also.

Of course, the best and easiest way to open a locked door is with the key itself. Hopefully, you won’t ever have to resort to any of these other methods.


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