Duct Tape Dorm Door Opener

Introduction: Duct Tape Dorm Door Opener

College is great.

Going to the bathroom and getting locked out of your room accidentally is not,
especially when you have an exam in 15 min...

This guide will show you how to make a low-cost emergency dorm room opener in just 15 minutes using materials that you probably already have: duct tape, string, and paper clips. That's all.

Step 1: Prerequisites and Materials

What you'll need:

  • A door with a handle that unlocks when you turn it from the inside
  • Duct tape
  • ~3 feet of string (enough to reach from handle to the floor)
  • 3 paper clips
  • Scissors and pliers (or a multi-tool)

Step 2: Paper Clip Catch - Part 1

  1. Measure the distance from the door handle to the floor.
  2. Add 8 - 12 in. for safety (you can always cut off more later).
  3. Cut a piece of string of this length.
  4. Tie one end of the string to a paper clip. Wrap a small strip of duct tape around the knot to ensure that it does not slip. Also, you can wrap the paper clip's body in duct tape to keep it from opening.
  5. Cut a piece of duct tape about 4 in. long and 2 in. wide.
  6. Cut 1/4 in. wide slits from the edges of the piece of duct tape towards the center (but not touching).
  7. Place the paper clip + string on the non-sticky side of the duct tape. A little bit of the paper clip should poke out over the edge of the duct tape (as shown in the picture).
  8. Fold the slits over the string with their non-sticky sides facing in. The idea here is to create a slot that will allow the string to slide through freely but will prevent the paper clip from slipping through. This step may require a touch of finesse.

Step 3: Paper Clip Catch - Part 2

  1. Now, fold the edges of the duct tape over into a loose pocket containing the paper clip (as shown in the picture). The non-sticky side of the duct tape should be facing the paper clip, and the sticky side should be facing out.
  2. You are going to stick this to the bottom of your door with the string side facing into your room, and the exposed paper clip tip facing the cold, harsh world outside your dorm room's confines.
  3. Make sure to stick the paper clip/duct tape catch directly beneath your door handle.

Step 4: The Door Handle

In order to open your door, you will have to pull down (or up) on the door handle, so the first step is to attach a string to the handle.

  1. Attach the other end of the string to the end of your handle using duct tape. If you attach the string near the end of the handle it will not get in the way of normal door operation (see picture).
  2. Make sure you leave sufficient slack in the string for the handle to turn without ripping out the paper clip/duct tape catch on the bottom of the door; however, don't leave it so loose that the string drags across the ground.

Step 5: Paper Clip Key

  1. In order to open your door using your emergency duct tape door opener, you'll need to pull the exposed paper clip catch under your door.
  2. The easiest way to do this is to fashion a simple hook using a bent paper clip (see picture). You can also wrap duct tape around the rest of the paper clip to serve as a handle.
  3. You can make a holder for you key using another bent paper clip and a piece of duct tape (see picture).
  4. One place where you can hide your key is on the outside of your door behind your name tag (or another appropriate dorm door decoration)

Step 6: Operation

Using your fancy emergency dorm room opener:

  1. Get locked out of your room.
  2. Remove your paper clip key from its stealthy hiding place.
  3. Use your paper clip key to hook the catch and pull it out.
  4. Once the paper clip catch is pulled out far enough, grab it and gently pull until the handle depresses far enough, unlocking your door.
  5. Reset by pulling the paper clip catch back into its duct tape pocket under the door and putting the paper clip key back in its stealthy hiding spot.

Keeping other people from getting into your room using your fancy emergency dorm room opener:

  2. Especially don't do something stupid like publish an instructable on your fancy emergency dorm room opener!

What if someone finds and(or) steals my key?

  1. This is one huge advantage of this entire set-up. If someone where to discover your set-up, you would only need to remove the various paper clip/duct tape/string shenanigans from the inside of your door, leaving your unknown nemesis with nothing but a bent paper clip - sweet.
  2. This is significantly better than hiding a copy of your real room key - or worse, your room key - behind your name tag. In this case, you would have to go to Housing, explain why you had an illegal copy of your room key, pay for your lock to be changed, and burn with anger at the trouble your anonymous nemesis had put your through.


Make sure that the duct tape you're using won't permanently mark the surface of your door lest Housing come after you with fire and pitchforks for hurting their lovely doors.

Don't do drugs kids.

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