Toolbox Essentials: Q1 2022 Catalog
Easy Ways to Remove a Stuck Key From a Lock

Easy Ways to Remove a Stuck Key From a Lock

If you’ve got your key stuck in your lock and your head stuck in your hands; don’t worry, we’ve got your back. Getting your key stuck isn’t the debilitating situation you probably think it is, and it’s absolutely solvable.

Wipe those tears out of your eyes and join us as we talk you through getting your key unstuck from a lock.

Ways to Remove a Stuck Key From a Lock

Before you do anything, the most important thing is this: don’t do loads of heavy-handed pulling, wiggling and bending.

If you do, you’ll probably snap your key inside of your lock. And if you snap your key inside of your lock, you’ve got a much bigger problem. We’ve addressed that problem later in this article, but for now, your key is simply stuck in your lock. Here are a few ways to wiggle it out:

Do a Slow Wiggle

Your instinct will be a hard pull, and lots of needlessly-boisterous wiggling and moving. Don’t succumb.

Again, that might snap your lock, but even if it doesn’t, it’ll encourage the pins of the lock to bind to the teeth of the key.  Instead, be gentle. Jiggle the key up and down (not side to side) while gently pulling outwards. If you’re patient, you might be able to set it free.

If this works, you can then try putting your key back in the lock, gently and delicately, and try unlocking your door again. If you’re gentle enough, it might work. If you have any filing material to hand, check your key for any barbs or sharp points. If there are any, file them down – they might be the key-sticking culprit.

Get Lubed Up

row of WD40 cans in a store

The second option is to use some lubricant. Often, a key is only stuck because of a little stiffness, and because of a lack of lubrication between the key and the lock.

Get some WD-40 (or any other similar stuff), and spray around the part where the key is stuck. You know that strange little straw thing you get with a can of WD-40? That’s for getting the liquid right into small gaps just like this one, so fix that straw on and spray away. As you’re spraying, wriggle the key free and it might just come out.

Once it’s out, try using the key again, but be gentle.

Do Some Plugging

Okay, see where your key is? Now see the smallest circle which surrounds that area? That’s called the plug. If this plug is loose, your key might be struggling to turn. And if it is loose, that’s probably why your key is stuck inside your lock.

Here’s how you can deal with a loose plug:

  1. Push your key in as far as it will possibly go
  2. Turn the key back to the position it was first in when you inserted the key (that’s probably the locked position)
  3. While holding the key with one hand, push the plug with your other hand. Push firmly to keep the key in place
  4. While you’re pushing firmly, pull your key out

When you’ve pulled your key out, try unlocking the lock again, but do so very gently and slowly.

Ice Ice Baby

If none of that has worked, and the weather is warm, this last option (though an unlikely fix) might just help you out.

Wrap two or three ice cubes in a plastic bag, and hold them against the key and the lock. After a couple of minutes, you might be able to pull the key free. And you might also now be able to unlock your door successfully.

What to Do if Your Key Has Snapped Inside Your Lock

If your key is snapped in your lock, things are a little different, and you’ll need to try some different approaches. Here are a couple of tactics you can use:

Turn the Screw

If all of the key teeth are stuck in the lock, the lock and key are actually turnable. All you need to do is get something long and flat (like a flat-headed screwdriver or a jigsaw blade), and gently prise that into the keyhole (alongside the stuck key) before turning.

Pry the Snapped Part Out

Your second option is to remove the snapped key from the lock. Use pliers, tweezers, a small, narrow blade (such as a jigsaw blade) or a piece of metal wire to pull or guide the stuck piece out. Before you do this, give the lock and key a good old spray of WD-40, which should make things looser and easier.

For more tactics you can use when your key is snapped in your lock, watch this video.

Can I Get Into My House Without a Working Key?

It’s unlikely that you’ll be able to get in, but there are a couple of things you can try. But before we give you these tips, you need to promise never to use them to break into someone else’s house. Not even one of your enemies.

Promise? You swear?

Okay, here we go.

A good go-to solution is offered by any of the cards that you have in your wallet (but don’t use a debit or credit card, as you might damage them). If you’re lucky, you might be able to slide the card between the door and its frame to jostle the door open.

For a visual guide, watch the video below:

Secondly, you should look for any unlocked doors and windows. Sounds obvious, but it’s always worth a try.

Okay, I’ve Unstuck My Key – But I’m Still Locked Out of My House

Don’t worry, you’re not locked out of your house forever.

If you’ve tried the tips above, they’ve hopefully helped you to unstick your key and gain access to your home. Or access your home without a key.

But if it’s all gone wrong and you still need some help, what you now need to do is call a locksmith.

If you’re looking for a local locksmith, here’s a great site for finding one close to you. All you need to do is type in your zip code and there’ll be one close by. The site says it’s for car locksmiths, but it’s for residential locksmiths too. Here’s another great site for finding local locksmiths.

They’ll be able to come and help you in no time.

What Do I Do About a Car Key Stuck in a Lock?

hand removing key from car ignition

If you’ve got your car key stuck in your lock (or stuck in your ignition), your options are pretty much the same as the ones we’ve outlined above for house keys… so try all of those solutions on your car key too.

How Can I Stop My Keys From Getting Stuck in Locks?

Hopefully you’ve solved your problem.

But since you don’t want it to happen again, you can take some steps to avoid future key-jammed ordeals. Here’s how…

Keep Things Clean

You should always make sure your locks are debris-free and moving freely. To do that, just give your locks some WD-40 every few months or so. Similarly, you should routinely clean gunk and debris off your keys by using rubbing alcohol, adhesive remover or plain old soap and water.

Carry Copies

Here’s the most important thing to do: always carry two copies of every key. If one gets stuck, the other will be able to get you out of trouble, so you won’t wind up locked out of your house. Over time, well-used keys can become mis-shapen and worn, so it’s always good to have two.

Solve the Problem Before It’s a Problem

If your key has been stuck (even if you managed to fix the problem), you should get a professional to check it right away.

Say you got your key stuck today, but you managed to get it unstuck (and unlock your door) with some of the tips above. That’s good news for now, but it’s likely to keep happening again and again. Eventually, you’re gonna be left in an unsolvable situation, so avoid that now while it’s easy. Call a locksmith and get them to sort things out.

Carry Equipment

If you always have some problem-solving equipment to hand, you should always have a good chance of getting yourself out of trouble. Always carry a spare key, a broken key extractor kit, and all the tools we’ve already mentioned above.

Final Thoughts

Now that you know how to handle the situation, hopefully you can make it back into your home! On the other hand, if you’re still struggling, keep your head up! You can always reach out to a locksmith if you can’t get the key out on your own.