Instructables
Picture of How to Pick Simple Locks/Latches with a Paper Clip
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You would be surprised at how many of the locks and latches around us can be bypassed with a simple paperclip. Some are cheaply constructed. Others are simply poorly installed. I am going to show you several examples. This illustrates how most locks are primarily just a deterrent and aren't 100% secure.

Disclaimer: This article is intended for informational purposes only. The author, and website hosting entity will not be held responsible for any misuse of the information, including any and all activities forbidden by applicable laws.

Step 1: Improperly hung doors

You may have heard of people opening a door with a credit card. Well, you can usually do the same thing with a paper clip.

There are a number of ways that a door can be improperly hung that make it easy to get through. If a door does have not a deadlatch or if it isn't functioning properly, then the door latch can be pried open. It is even easier if there is a large gap between the door and the strike plate. Here is a quick video tutorial.


If you can't pry the latch open from the front side, you can also use a paper clip to pull the latch open from the back. To do this, start by bending your paper clip into a large hook. Then insert it into the gap in the door and feed it behind the latch. Keep feeding it through until the end of the paper clip comes back out the front where you can reach it. Grab both ends of the paper clip and pull. The door should pop open.

Step 2: Open Doors with Privacy Locks

Picture of Open Doors with Privacy Locks
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Many houses have door knobs with privacy locks on bathrooms and bedrooms. These knobs are locked by pressing in the handle an rotating the knob slightly. This prevents the outer knob from turning. Privacy knobs mostly serve to prevent people from just walking through a door without knocking.

Fortunately, they are designed to be easy to open. The outer knob has a hole in the center that lets you insert small rod (in our case a paper clip).  This pushes on a pressure plate that disengages the latch. You can then turn the outer knob and open the door. 

Step 3: Simple Latch

Simple latches such as swing latches are also easy to open with a paper clip. Start by unfolding end of the paper clip. Insert it into the gap in the door below the latch. Then just slide the paper clip up until the latch is lifted free from the hook (called the keeper).

Your paper clip can also be used to re-latch the door. To do this, slide the latch down so that the door can barely close. Then with the door closed, use your paper clip to slide the latch down the rest of the way back into the fully latched position. This trick makes it looks like it was never opened.

Step 4: Cheap Luggage Locks

Cheap luggage locks like the kind pictured here are one example of pad locks that can be picked with a paper clip. These rudimentary locks just have a small spring loaded clamp that holds the U-bar (called the shackle) in place. To open the lock, all you need to do is pry this clamp open. You can do this with a paper clip whose end is bent into a small loop. If you have a key to use as an example, try to replicate its shape as well as you can. Then just insert it into the lock, and rotate the paperclip until the lock pops open. You may need to  move the paper clip around until you find the clamp. This method is easier and more discrete than other methods such as cutting it open with bolt cutters.

Step 5: Open Paper Towel/Toilet Paper Dispensers

No one is really concerned about the security of their toilet paper or paper towels. But it is useful to be able to refill them is you lose the key. There are a wide variety of latching mechanisms used on toilet paper/paper towel dispensers. But usually there are one or two spring loaded plates that latch around the front cover. You will have to examine the latch on your dispenser to determine exactly how it opens. 

Most often you can open a dispenser by inserting the straightened tip of a paper clip into the key slot and pressing down on the plate below. When there are two plates, you need to straighten out the whole paper clip and bend it into a U shape. Then use one end to depress each of the plates at the same time.

Step 6: Toy Handcuffs (and Other Toy Locks)

Picture of Toy Handcuffs (and Other Toy Locks)
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Most toy locks are a single spring loaded latch or pawl. To open them, you just need to use your paper clip to press on whatever plate or pin that the key would normally press on to release the locking mechanism. This spring loaded plate is usually located just above the key hole.

Note: A paper clip can not be used to unlock actual police handcuffs. While the construction is similar, a large paper clip is too wide to fit in the key hole and a small paper clip isn't strong enough to raise the pressure plate. So you will need to use a bobby pin to unlock those.
 
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great instructable.clear pictures videos and instruction.a thief would really enjoy this instructable

ha ha this would be really helpful if I became one, but I would be a "steal from the rich, give to the poor" kind of thief.

Haha, good luck on that robinhood

My dad refuses to have anything to do with lock picking or crime, so when he went to help the neighbors kid get out of the parents room that the kid accidentally locked, he used a ladder to climb into the window rather than just sticking a rod into the privacy lock hole thing.
Uh....
What?
Perhaps FuzzyBearGeek is wondering why your father even had to make a choice between his principles against lockpicking and climbing a ladder, as your later statement implies that the door was unable to be unlocked with a "rod into the privacy lock hole thing". In that case your father would not have been able to pick it, his laudable principles would be unchallenged, and he would indeed have had to use a ladder.
It's amazing! The Great Fintoni! Complete with awesome mind reading hat! :-)
I love reading that line "His laudable principles would be unchallenged." Sounds great. :)
Thanks Fuzzy - that really made my day! :]
My wife and I can now toddle of to a well-earned rest with a smile on our faces.
Yours,
The Great Fintoni
Woohoo!!!! Ripple effect is always in motion. I now am in a fantastic mood as well. :)
Um, but that's why the hole is there.... it's a built-in safety feature in case a young kid (or someone passed out) is locked in there. That's the whole point. (And also why it's only used on internal doors. It's a privacy feature, not a security feature.) *facepalm*
I don't think that door was able to be unlocked from outside unless you did it the credit card way
sid81 year ago
One should know this type of tricks to pick the lock but people use bump key to pick the lock. Bump keys are used for the depth lock pick..
kbeedle1 year ago
Does this mess up the door at all?
DIY Hacks and How Tos (author)  kbeedle1 year ago
In most cases no but it is possible. Just be careful and don't force anything that is stuck.
tinkermac1 year ago
A J Mansfield! Please show us. Thanks
very nice how to
I used to have to do this every day after school when i was like 13. funny its on here now. At first i used a flathead screwdriver to delicately pull the latch away from the frame while pulling on the handle with my other hand, allowing me to move the screwdriver back and forth. I would just do that until i had it far enough from the frame and the door would swing open.
stealthop1 year ago
thank you , this was instantly helpful .
AgilePhil1 year ago
This one is important for parents to learn. Your young child can lock themselves in the bathroom accidentally.
useful tricks, what about picking more complex locks?
The instructable is just about how to "jimmy" a simple lock, not actually pick it. There are instructions online for lockpicking though. If you're interested, it's worth buying a $20 lockpick set and a couple padlocks to practice on; it's a cool skill to have.
That is difficult. Any lock with a set of tumblers usually takes a decent amount of force to turn. A large paper clip is usually too fat to manipulate the tumblers and a small paperclip is usually too weak to turn the barrel.
We had these in our house as kids. You can also unbend a coat hanger and use that.
Every wire hanger we had in the house was oddly shaped because of this!
alzie1 year ago
Great post!
Its my experience some times that
the cheaper the lock, the harder they are to pick.

Ive had great success raking quicksets and the like.
Theyre mechanically refined,
takes like 15S after you get practiced.

Cheap tool box locks are tough because theyre unrefined.

Some of the hardest are car door locks
because of the high torque that must be applied while raking.

Medico? Forget about it!
But, the above covers about 99% of whats out there.

I always keep a paper clip rake in my wallet and
a pocket knife for torquing.
Ya never known when yer gonna need em!
Closer1 year ago
Interesting but using a credit card on the type of lock in the video will not work. There are two parts that move in and out of the door. The wedge shaped lock and the smaller part beside it. When you move both together with the door open, they will move smoothly. However, when the door is shut the wedged shaped part goes in the hole in the door frame while the smaller part does not.
When the two parts are no longer lined up - when the door is shut - the wedge shaped part cannot be pushed back. That is why the smaller part is there - to prevent such a thing from happening. You can demonstrate this your self by depressing the smaller part and then trying to depress the wedged shaped part. You cannot move it. If you can, you need a new lock!!
wa7jos Closer1 year ago
You are absolutely correct. This is how these security pin latches are SUPPOSED to work.
But you'd be surprised how many are improperly installed. If you can "over-close" the door so that BOTH pins fall into the strike place, then it isn't a security latch anymore and can be opened as if it were the "vanilla" type latch.
chrwei1 year ago
some privacy locks use a twist lock instead of a push plate to unlock. they still do not need a key, but a small screw driver, or a cleverly bent paperclip, can work.
ill take my credit card size set of rakes and picks any day over a paper clip
With a second paper clip, you can pick real locks.