How To Pick a Lock With Household Items

Key Takeaway

  • Household items that can be used to pick locks include paper clips, credit cards, soda cans, ballpoint pens, and hairpins.
  • You may use long thin objects like paper clips or bobby pins to manipulate the pins of a pin-tumbler lock like a deadbolt or a padlock.
  • You may pick a slanted-latch-style lock using a credit card or butter knife, whereas you need a homemade tubular lock pick to pick a tubular lock.

When I first started out, I didn’t have any fancy tools or expensive equipment. I relied on my ingenuity and a few common household items to get the job done. It wasn’t until much later that I invested in more advanced tools and techniques. But even to this day, I still find myself going back to the basics and using household items to pick locks.

In this article, I’m going to share with you the art of lockpicking and teach you how to pick a lock with household items. I’ll be covering various methods that you can use to pick different types of locks, including pin-tumbler locks, padlocks and tubular locks. So, grab a paper clip or a credit card, and let’s get started!

What Household Items Can You Pick A Lock With?

There are a variety of household items that can be used to pick a lock, including:

  • Paper clips or bobby pins: These long, thin objects can be straightened and bent into a small L-shape for insertion into the lock.
  • Credit cards or butter knives: These items can be used to push the latch or bolt of a lock open.
  • Soda cans: With some creative cutting and shaping, a soda can can be turned into a shim to manipulate certain types of locks like padlocks and combination locks.
  • Ballpoint pens: The body of a ballpoint pen can be used to create a makeshift tubular lock pick for opening certain types of locks.
  • Hairpins: Similar to paper clips or bobby pins, hairpins can be bent into a small L-shape for use in lock picking.

It’s important to note that picking a lock can land you on the wrong side of law. Therefore please ensure to go through the local laws first. I did a detailed article on lock picking legality here

How To Pick a Lock With Household Items

Picking a lock with household items is a skill that can come in handy in certain situations, such as when you accidentally lock yourself out of your house or lose your keys. Here are some general steps on how to pick several locks using household items, including the principle involved.

Using Long Thin Object Like Paper Clip or Bobby Pins

Using Long Thin Object Like Paper Clip or Bobby Pins

Principle: 

The principle behind this method is to manipulate the pins inside the lock to the correct height without using the key. Each pin is composed of a top and bottom piece, and when the correct key is inserted, it pushes these pins to the correct height (shear line), allowing the lock to turn and open. 


When attempting to pick a pin-tumbler lock with a paper clip or bobby pin, the same displacement of pins is achieved without the key. This method may be used to pick the majority of pin tumbler locks like padlocks, deadbolts, etc.

Using Long Thin Object Like Paper Clip or Bobby Pins

Procedure:

  • Step 1: Start by straightening out the paper clip or bobby pin as much as possible, making sure there are no bends or kinks in the metal.
    straightening out the paper clip
  • Step 2: Next, create a small L-shape at the end of the paper clip or bobby pin. This will serve as the tool that you use to lift the pins inside the lock.
    small L-shape
  • Step 3: Insert the L-shaped end into the keyhole of the lock and begin to feel around for the pins. You may need to wiggle the tool around a bit to find the pins.
  • Step 4: Once you locate a pin, use gentle pressure to push it up. You should be able to feel the pin set into place when it reaches the correct height.
  • Step 5: Continue this process with all of the pins in the lock until they are all set into place.
  • Step 6: When all of the pins have been lifted to the correct height, the lock should turn, and the mechanism should release.

Using A Credit Card or Butter Knife

Using A Credit Card or Butter Knife

Only locks with slanted-latch-style systems can be picked with credit cards or butter knives. Furthermore, the angle of the latch must be facing the person attempting to pick the lock in order for the card or the knife to be pressed in.

Principle: 

The principle behind picking a door lock using a credit card or butter knife is to manipulate the lock’s latch or bolt mechanism to open the door.

The latch or bolt is a spring-loaded mechanism that extends out of the door and into the door frame, preventing the door from being opened. When you turn the doorknob or key, the mechanism retracts and allows the door to open.

Using A Credit Card or Butter Knife

Procedure: 

  • Step 1: For this method, you’ll need a flexible and thin tool, such as a credit card or butter knife. A credit card works best as it has more flexibility, but a butter knife can also work if it’s thin enough.
  • Step 2: Insert the card or knife into the crack between the door and the door frame, just above the lock. Angle it towards the side where the lock is located.
  • Step 3: Once the card or knife is inserted, bend it away from the door to create a slight gap between the lock and the door frame. This will create some space for the card or knife to slide down and push the latch or bolt back.
  • Step 4: Slide the card or knife downwards while applying pressure to the latch or bolt. With enough pressure, the latch or bolt should slide back, allowing you to open the door.

Using Homemade Shim made with a Soda Can

Using Homemade Shim made with a Soda Can

A shim can be used to pick a variety of padlocks, including those with a spring-loaded shackle. It may also be effective on some combination locks with a spring-loaded shackle. However, shims are not typically effective on more advanced locks like deadbolts.

Principle:

The principle of unlocking a lock using a shim involves bypassing the locking mechanism by manipulating the shackle or bolt. A shim is a thin piece of metal, typically made from aluminum, that is inserted into the gap between the shackle and the lock body. By applying pressure to the shackle and pushing on the locking mechanism with the shim, it is possible to disengage the locking mechanism and open the lock. 

Procedure:

  • Step 1: Gather your supplies: a soda can, a pair of scissors or a utility knife, and pliers.
  • Step 2: Cut off the top and bottom of the soda can, so that you are left with a flat piece of aluminum.
  • Step 3: Cut out a rectangular strip from the aluminum piece that is roughly the same width as the lock’s shackle.
  • Step 4: Fold the aluminum strip in half lengthwise so that it forms a V-shape.
  • Step 5: Using the pliers, bend the ends of the aluminum strip upwards at a 90-degree angle so that they form a small handle on either end.
    bend the ends of the aluminum strip
  • Step 6: Insert the V-shaped end of the shim into the space between the shackle and the lock body, with the handles pointing downwards.
  • Step 7: Slide the shim down the length of the shackle until it reaches the locking mechanism.
  • Step 8: Apply slight upward pressure on the shackle while simultaneously pushing the locking mechanism with the shim until it pops open.

Using Homemade Tubular Lock Pick 

A homemade tubular lock pick can be used to pick tubular locks, which are often found on vending machines, bike locks, and some types of safes. These locks have a round keyhole with pins arranged in a circular pattern, which requires a specialized tool like a tubular lock pick to pick.

Principle:

The principle of unlocking a tubular lock using a homemade tubular lock pick is similar to using a professionally made lock pick. Tubular locks have pins arranged in a circular pattern, and the lock pick must be able to manipulate these pins individually to open the lock.

When you insert the homemade tubular lock pick into the lock, the notches you’ve made in the pick align with the pins inside the lock. By gently turning and manipulating the pick while applying pressure, you will gradually lift each pin to its correct height, allowing the lock to turn and open.

Using Homemade Tubular Lock Pick 

It’s important to note that picking a tubular lock can be more challenging than picking a standard pin tumbler lock, and requires more precision and skill.

Procedure:

  • Step 1: Gather your supplies: a ball pen barrel or small-diameter metal pipe, a small saw or rotary tool, a small file, and pliers.
  • Step 2: Cut off a section of the metal pen barrel or pipe that is slightly longer than the lock you want to pick. This will be the body of your lock pick.
  • Step 3: Using a small saw or rotary tool, cut evenly spaced notches around the circumference of the barrel or pipe. These notches should be the same size and shape as the pins in the lock you want to pick.
    small saw
  • Step 4: Insert the lock pick into the lock and begin turning it slowly while applying gentle pressure to the pins.
    lock pick
  • Step 5: As you turn the lock pick, you will feel the pins begin to set into place. Apply more pressure to the pins that resist turning until all of the pins are set. Once all the pins are set, the lock will open.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q1. Can I pick any type of lock with household items?

Answer – No, not all locks can be picked with household items. Some high-security locks may require specialized tools or techniques to pick, and attempting to pick them with household items may be unsuccessful.

Q2. Can I damage the lock by picking it using household items?

Answer – Yes, if you use too much force or the wrong tools, you could damage the lock, making it difficult or impossible to unlock even with the correct key.

Conclusion

While picking a lock with household items can be a useful skill to have in certain situations, it’s important to proceed with caution and use this knowledge responsibly. Always make sure you have the legal right to pick the lock and be aware of the potential risks involved in damaging the lock or injuring yourself. With practice and patience, you can learn how to pick a variety of locks using household items like paper clips, credit cards, or even soda cans. However, if you’re unsure or uncomfortable with the process, it’s always best to call a professional locksmith to assist you.

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Hey! I am Mark. Though I am not a locksmith by profession, but locks have always fascinated me since my teens. And it all started when I got locked out of my house and I had to pick the lock. Since then it has become my hobby to learn more about different kinds of locks, understand their working and methods to pick them up. In due course of time, I have also become better aware of how installing the right lock goes a long way in ensuring iron clad security. I aim to share my passion (about locks) through this blog. If you are also passionate about picking locks or are just looking to beef up the security, hop on the ride.