Introduction: How to Pick Simple Locks/Latches With a Paper Clip

About: My name is Jason Poel Smith. In my free time, I am an Inventor, Maker, Hacker, Tinker, and all around Mad Genius

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

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)

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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