How to Open a Locked Door Without a Key

The situation is simple. There’s a locked door and you need to get to whatever happens to be on the other side. Unfortunately, you don’t have a key. There are quite a few strategies that you can try, but many of them offer limited potential for success. Even so, you may decide to try one or more of them in hopes that you can open the door sooner rather than later. Here are some suggestions on what to try, along with the potential risks involved.

1. What Type of Lock is Involved?

Before you try any approach to tripping the lock, it pays to look closely at the kind of lock involved. Are you dealing with a knob lock or a lever handle lock? Perhaps the lock that’s causing the angst happens to be a deadbolt. There are also cam locks, Mortise locks, and cylinder locks that are used in a number of settings.

Why does the type of lock matter? The lock design plays a major role in determining what sort of approach is most likely to disengage the locking mechanism and allow you to gain access to the space. Choosing certain methods could end up doing more harm than good. After you identify the lock type, stick with solutions that are known to be somewhat effective with that type of lock.

2. Consider the Traditional Bobby Pin Strategy

Bobby pins are not as common as they were in the past. Like hat pins, they aren’t really needed in order to be in line with today’s fashion trends. Even so, there may be some bobby pins tucked away in a space that you can reach.

To give this approach a shot, reshape the bobby pin so that it will fit into the lock. It’s easy to bend the pin into a shape that will fit in many types of locks, especially if the lock in question is part of a basic door knob. After inserting the pin into the lock, move it about slowly and try to listen to any sounds made by the tumblers. You can also try gently turning the knob to see if it turns as you move the pin around.

While this trick has been known to work with inside locks, it’s not likely to do much if you’re trying to get through the front or back door. Those locks are typically resistant to bobby pins and similar devices. Keep in mind that if you’re too aggressive with the bobby pin, it may stick in the lock. That will leave you in a worse position than before.

3. The Credit Card Method May Work

Another method that may be worth trying is inserting a credit card in between the door and the lock plate that’s attached to the door jamb. The idea is to use the card to gently push the locking mechanism out of and away from the jamb. While this method does require patience, you may find that it allows you to trip the lock and get into the space.

One of the perks of this approach is that the credit card is not likely to do any permanent damage to the lock itself. A possible drawback is that you could damage the card in some way that renders it useless. If you’re willing to wait a few days for a replacement card, this might be worth it.

Keep in mind that this method won’t work with every lock type. You could end up still locked out and have nothing but a damaged credit card to show for your efforts. Think long and hard before you try this approach.

4. Try a Paper Clip

Some recommend using two paper clips at the same time. This is especially true if you’re dealing with the type of lock usually used for a bedroom or bathroom door. Fold one out completely while bending the second one into a shape that fits into the lock. Insert the bent one in first and follow up by inserting the second one just below the first. The goal is to slowly work the lower clip up and down and side to side while gently turning the upper clip. This may trip the lock and allow you to open the door.

Will this work? Some people swear by this approach. Others find that it accomplishes nothing other than bringing on more frustration. If you give this a try and it doesn’t work after a few minutes, it’s best to stop. Doing so will reduce the risk of damaging the lock.

5. Then There’s the Screwdriver Solution

A flat-head screwdriver could be the solution to the problem. Opt for a screwdriver that’s smaller but still with enough length to give you some leverage. Insert it along the point where the door plate meets the locking mechanism. Use the flat head to attempt to push the lock backward and away from the plate. The handle on the screwdriver may provide just enough control to pry the door open and allow you into the space.

Keep in mind using a screwdriver could cause some damage. At the least, the lock may tend to stick in the future. If you’re open to replacing the lock anyway, this might be a quick solution. If you’d rather not damage the lock, trying a different approach is best.

6. Or a Butter Knife

Another strategy that you can try is using a butter knife. With some types of locks, the flat blade is the right size to fit in between the door and the jamb. The goal is to use the blade in much the same way you would use the screwdriver. Since the flat part of the blade is longer than the flat head of the screwdriver, you might have a better chance of opening the lock without any damage.

Do expect some damage to the butter knife. In fact, it may not be one that you want to use at the table again. This solution is not completely without some risk to the lock itself, so consider using some other method before resorting to this one.

7. Trying a Lock Pick Set

Lock pick sets are not just for burglars. In fact, many professionals keep these kits on hand at all times. You can also buy one to keep at home. Most of these kits will come with several different sizes of picks, something to extract broken keys, and a few other accessories that could help with a lock. You will need to learn how to use the tools properly if you hope to trip the lock without causing any damage.

If you do have a kit and already know how to use it, that’s great. Heading to the store and buying one will not make you a proficient lock picker immediately. Unless you know your way around a kit, attempting to use it on your locked door is not your best option.

8. A Desperate Act: Using a Drill

Things are getting desperate and you need to get into that room. The lock is no longer anything that you want to preserve. In fact, you’re ready to do whatever it takes to get into the room. Before you decide to try taking the door off by the hinges or taking a running start and hoping to break through the door, you should consider a drill.

A common household drill and the right size drill bit will do the job. Make sure the bit is secure and insert the tip into the lock. Activate the drill and burrow right through the mechanism. Once you’re done, the door knob will turn and you can get into the space.

At this point, the lock is completely worthless. You will need to have it replaced. Nothing you could do will possibly make the lock work again. Invest in a new lock and start fresh.

9. The Most Practical Solution: Call a Locksmith

Up to now, the focus has been on strategies that you can try on your own. While it may be fine to try one or two of the less risky ones, there’s a better approach that will preserve the lock and your sanity. That solution is to call a local locksmith.

The locksmith will ask a couple of questions, including information about the type of lock involved. Armed with that data, the professional will soon be on the way with the right tools to do something with the lock. In the meantime, you have the chance to calm down.

Once the locksmith arrives, it won’t take long to determine what tools to use. In most cases, the professional will have the door open in a matter of minutes. Best of all, the potential for damage to the lock is minimal.

The bottom line is that you’re better off calling a locksmith in the first place. Between preventing your blood pressure from rising to damaging a lock and needing to replace it, you’ll feel better about the entire issue. Best of all, the locksmith can also make a few extra copies of the key, making it easier to store them in safe but accessible places around the house. That will help reduce the risk of being locked out of the room again.