How to Unlock a Door Without a Key? 6 Effective Ways

Adrian Rodger

By Adrian Rodger

Last Updated on July, 2024

All of us have probably left our keys inside the house at least once in our lives. Coming back home after a long day and reaching into your pocket for your keys only for your hand to come out empty is an all too familiar situation. 

It can be particularly stressful standing outside a locked front door, thinking, “What do I do?” However, to unlock a door is a lot easier than you might think. All you need are common household items like a paper clip, butter knife, coat hanger, bobby pin, or screwdriver.

If you find yourself locked in a room, it’s important to stay calm and call out for help to alert someone outside. If you cannot unlock the door, contact a locksmith for assistance.

In emergencies, such as being trapped inside and unable to get out, don’t hesitate to call the fire department for immediate help. 

Let’s get into it.

Quick Summary

  • There are various ways to unlock a door without a key, using common household items such as a paper clip, butter knife, coat hanger, bobby pin, or screwdriver.
  • In an emergency, it is important to stay calm and call for professional help from a locksmith or the fire department if necessary.
  • If attempting to use DIY methods, it is important to be careful and not force the door, as it may cause damage. It is also recommended to hire a professional locksmith for safe and legal unlocking.

What’s the Best Way to Unlock a Door Without a Key? 

You can often unlock a door using ordinary items like a bobby pin, paper clip, screwdriver, or hammer. Calling a locksmith is the safest option, as they have the right tools and expertise to open a locked door without damaging it. 

However, if you’re locked out and prefer a more DIY approach, consider these several methods first.


a locksmith lockpicking a door

Picking locks is commonly associated with burglaries, but it can also be used to unlock your door without a key if you accidentally get locked out.

Lock-picking kits contain tools like a tension wrench and picks for different lock types. Follow the instructions given in the kit to pick your lock. 

However, if you’re locked out of your house, it’s unlikely you’ll have a lock-picking kit at hand. In a pinch, items like paper clips or wire hangers can serve as makeshift tools for an interior door lock (this is also called the scrubbing method). 

How To Use The Bobby Pin Method: To open locked interior doors, you’ll need two bobby pins, each bent into a specific shape. The first pin acts as a makeshift key by bending the end into a handle and inserting it into the key hole to turn the lock cylinder. 

Next, straighten the second pin into a long pin with a slight upward bend at one end. Insert this pin into the top half of the keyhole above the first bobby pin. 

When a door is locked, the lock’s cylinder is secured by spring-loaded pins inside holes. The original key’s teeth lift these pins, enabling the cylinder to turn. To pick the lock, use your pick to carefully lift each pin until the cylinder of your door lock can rotate freely

How To Use The Wire Hanger Method: If the interior door has a latch bolt that is spring-loaded, angled and facing away from you, use a piece of wire from a clothing hanger.

Straighten the wire and bend a small hook at one end. Insert the hooked wire into the gap between the door frame and the edge, then pull the wire to retract the latch bolt and open the door. 

Using X-Ray Paper

unlocking a door using a x-ray paper

A popular method to open a locked door without a key involves using a piece of flexible, rigid paper (like X-ray paper) to apply pressure to the latch.

Slide the paper between the door and the door frame, position it at the latch, and tap sharply to retract the latch and unlock the door. This method is considered safer and more effective than using a credit card. 

However, not everyone will have X-ray paper at hand, so using a credit card might be your only option, though it’s best to keep it as a last resort. 

How To Use The Credit Card Method: If you attempt this technique, use a sturdier card that won’t easily bend or break, as there’s a risk of damaging the card during the process. You can also always use a card that you don’t need in the event it incurs damages. 

Insert the card above the locking mechanism between the door and the frame. Apply pressure and force and swipe quickly downward to slide the card between the lock and door frame.

Tilt the card towards the frame to try and manipulate the lock. When done correctly, this action might make the lock shift and release it, but it’s important to note that this method is not foolproof and may not work in all situations.

It is often a hit-or-miss approach when trying to unlock a door without a key. 

Using a Hex Key or Allen Key 

a person unlocking a door using an allen key

A hex key, also called a hex wrench or Allen wrench, is commonly used for furniture assembly and mechanical tasks. They can also be used to unlock doors that have circular keyholes, thanks to their shape and rounded tip. 

First, straighten out a coat hanger and make a small hook at one end. Next, insert the Allen wrench into the space between the door and the frame. Gradually push the Allen wrench slightly until you feel it engage with the locking mechanism. 

Then, use the coat hanger to apply pressure to the key. Keep the pressure steady before moving the key in a circular motion until the door unlocks. 

Using a Screwdriver 

a locksmith unlocking a door using a screwdriver

A screwdriver can be effective with certain types of locks, such as those with a button in the middle of the doorknob. You will need a tiny screwdriver to insert it into the doorknob and turn it to unlock the door. 

Alternatively, if necessary, you can use a hammer and screwdriver to remove the door from its hinges. This method requires basic DIY skills and may be tough on the door. Ensure you can confidently reattach the door to its hinges afterward. 

How To Use A Screwdriver To Remove The DoorKnob: Low-security interior doors can be unlocked when you remove the doorknob. If the mounting screws are visible, unscrew them and dismantle the knob and lock. 

If the mounting screws are hidden, use a slotted screwdriver to remove the decorative plate, knob, and shank carefully. This will expose the mounting screws, allowing you to remove them and access the locking mechanism. Slide the latch away from the doorjamb to unlock the door. 

Using a Substitute Key

The Spam key that was used for opening metal food cans like Spam, anchovies, and sardines, is rarely seen today. However, if you happen to have one, it can act as your spare key. It could be worth trying to use it to unlock a door. 

Most locks, such as those on a bathroom or bedroom door, are designed for privacy. On the non-locking side of the door knob, there is typically a small hole containing a hidden button that must be pressed to open a locked door.

To unlock a door, you’ll need a straight, rigid tool like a straightened paper clip or a small screwdriver. 

In some cases, you may need to insert the tool and turn the lock slightly. For this, you can use a small screwdriver or, as a makeshift option, flatten the tip of a paper clip with a hammer to create a suitable tool. 

Using a Knife

a locksmith unlocking a door using a knife

A knife can be a handy tool in an emergency where you don’t have your house keys with you to unlock the front door. If nearby or borrowed from a neighbour, you can use it to unlock your door. 

Insert the knife between the door and the jamb, sliding it through while applying pressure. Be cautious not to use excessive force as this could damage the lock. Let it click into place until the lock turns.

Just be sure not to apply too much pressure while doing this, as this could end up breaking your door. If you’re unsure about performing this task safely, consider hiring a residential locksmith for assistance. 

Calling a Professional Locksmith

If you’re unsure about attempting these methods or lack the necessary tools to unlock your door safely, calling a professional locksmith is your best solution. 

Here’s why: 

  • Expertise: Locksmiths are skilled in unlocking house and car doors efficiently using specialised tools. 
  • Damage-Free Unlocking: They can unlock doors without causing damage, ensuring you won’t need costly repairs afterward. 
  • 24-Hour Availability: Many locksmiths offer 24/7 emergency services. They provide quick assistance outside regular hours. 
  • Safety and Legality: Professional locksmiths open doors safely and legally, adhering to locksmithing standards. 

When hiring a locksmith, choose a reputable, licensed company. Inquire about pricing and response times, and seek recommendations if possible. Hiring a professional ensures a reliable and secure solution to regain entry into your home. 

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With these methods, you should be able to unlock your door. However, if they don’t work or you don’t have the necessary tools at hand, be sure to call a locksmith to take care of the problem for you. 

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