You’ll Never Get Locked out Again Once You Learn This Simple Trick

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There’s nothing quite like the feeling of hopping outside for a quick chore — maybe you’re taking out the kitchen garbage, or maybe you’re taking your dog for a short walk — and then returning home to find that you’re locked out. The immediate panic of getting locked out of your home is only compounded by the dread of having to call, then wait for, then pay, a locksmith.

Here’s good news: There are some tricks you can try to unlock your door without a key that might get you inside before a pro arrives — that way, you can at least wait in comfort (or, you know, use the bathroom).

Remember: Only use these methods to get into your own home, and only use them in a pinch. It’s also essential to note that these methods won’t work for every locked door, and forcing them could cause additional damage.

Here’s what to do if you get locked out, as well as advice on when to call a professional locksmith or handyman, when to consider replacing old or malfunctioning locks, and when to consider upgrading to a newer, safer option.

What reasons might you have to unlock a house door without a key?

Even the most responsible homeowners and tenants sometimes find themselves locked out of their homes or perhaps unable to access a room inside their home. The reasons range from simple (a lost key) to urgent (kids or pets are stuck inside) to critical or life-threatening (a house fire). You also might find yourself accidentally locked out because of a lock or key malfunction.

Do the methods to get into a locked door vary depending on the home’s age or type of lock?

Yes, says Daniel Cabrera, a Texas-based real estate expert and property manager. “Unlocking methods vary with the age of the lock and the type,” he explains. “An older lock can be more easily manipulated with typical lock picking techniques, while newer locks are more complex and might require sophisticated tools or strategies.”

In other words, newer locks are great for security, but less great if you find yourself locked out.

How does the method differ for exterior house doors vs. interior house doors?

“Interior doors usually have much simpler locking mechanisms and can be unlocked mostly by use of amateur tools like paperclips or small screwdrivers,” Cabrera says. “Exterior doors, on the other hand, feature advanced security requirements that might require lock bumping or professional techniques to pick the lock.”

What tools do you need to unlock a door, and how should you use them?

If you find yourself locked out, check to see if you have any of the following tools handy:

  • A bobby pin
  • A plastic card like a credit card or gift card
  • A knife
  • A screwdriver

Depending on what’s available, you can try the following methods.

How to Use a Bobby Pin or Paperclip

This method might work for basic tumbler locks that are equipped with pins.

First, find two thin bobby pins that you can bend, then remove the round tips that are on the ends of the bobby pins (skip this step for paperclips). Straighten one of the pins and shape the second one into an “L.” Next, insert your unbent bobby pin into the lock and try to find the first pin inside. After you find one, take your L-shaped pin and insert it into the lock to try to lift the first binding pin.

Repeat until all the pins get aligned in order to rotate the lock and open the door.

How to Use a Credit Card

For most latch types of locks, a plastic card or credit card might go a long way in opening the door to an older home non-destructively, Cabrera says. “Because locking mechanisms have only gotten more complex with time, more advanced locksets might require lock picking sets or an actual locksmith for unlocking without causing any damage,” he says.

How to Use a Knife

While this might be the easiest thing to find or borrow to open a door, a knife should be used with caution to avoid injury to yourself or the door. In order to try to open the door, you’ll want to insert the knife between the door and the door jamb and carefully slide the knife through. Try applying some gentle pressure to the door when doing it. Experts recommend consulting professional help before trying this.

How to Use a Screwdriver

This method can work for both an interior or exterior door with a thumb-turn lock. Insert a screwdriver into the space between the frame and the door itself where the handle is. Turn the screwdriver counterclockwise, then clockwise until you hear a “click.” 

When to Remove Door Hinges

Removing the door from its hinges is often the last resort and used only in an emergency or if the above methods don’t work. 

When should you call a professional or replace the locks?

A locksmith can help you avoid damage to the door or lock by unlocking the door using professional tools or techniques. In addition, you might consider replacing older locks or malfunctioning ones to keep your home more secure in the event of a lost key or an emergency — especially if the lock is rusted, opening or closing is difficult, or it appears to be misaligned. 

Newer smart lock technology options, like Lockly, offer more secure ways to lock and unlock doors quickly without a key (i.e., “peek-proof” PIN keypad, revocable eKeys, and 3-D biometric fingerprint sensors), says Lockly’s Steve Gibson, a seasoned strategic advisor with extensive experience in the field of smart locks and property management. 

This can be handy especially if you realize someone is locked out while you’re away. 

“As connectivity becomes integral to our lives, the demand for secure and smart home access rises,” he explains. “Traditional keys are being replaced by IoT innovations like biometric recognition, app control, digital keys, and facial recognition. This evolution ensures heightened security, remote monitoring, and integration with broader smart home ecosystems.”