Locks are meant to keep strangers and unwelcome visitors out of your homes, but unfortunately, sticky locks can keep you out too.
Careful when fixing them, though, as not all online suggestions are mainly meant to keep the lock in good working condition for long – they could just be quick fixes and may permanently ruin your lock.
The key (pun intended) to getting rid of annoying sticky locks can be summarized in 8 easy steps:
- Look for a pencil
- Get a sharpener
- Sharpen the pencil
- Draw on the key
- Insert the key
- Turn the key and try opening the lock
- Trust and repeat the process until the lock is fixed
- Call a locksmith if all else fails
Many other lubricants in the market may help you with the problem. You may even have readily available household materials that can help unstick your locks without you having to use a pencil. If you want to know why using a pencil is the best remedy for your sticky lock, though, then keep on reading.
Why Is Your Key Sticking in the Lock?
Your key is sticking in the lock due to trapped dirt. Over time, dust and other dirt accumulating inside the lock leads to increased friction. At some point, friction becomes high enough to noticeably impede the key when unlocking doorknobs. So, you need to ensure the lock has adequate lubrication.
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If you prefer, you can just buy graphite powder, actually. You wouldn’t need a pencil then. Doing so saves you the time and effort required to do many of the other steps.
It’s the children who usually use pencils and sharpeners, so it may come as a surprise that they are, in fact, effective in fixing adult concerns like sticky locks and are among the best options too.
Pencils are made up of graphite that is slippery. The bonding between graphite sheets is also very weak, so the sheets easily slide past one another when pressure is applied. This quickly explains why it can serve as a good lubricant.
Other websites may suggest using lubricants such as olive oil. The problem with olive oils is that they might work the first time, but for the rest of the door knob’s now much shorter lifespan, it’ll work as a dust magnet, choking the door knob’s hole with dirt until you’re now left with a more serious problem and will have to actually buy a new knob.
The sharpener will give you a steady supply of much-needed graphite throughout the lubrication process. At this point, it may seem silly how a pencil and a sharpener can fix a sticky piece of metal, but trust the process and read on.
Now, a dull sharpener will likely make it harder for you to make the most out of the pencil, as it usually leads to broken tips. Make sure to use a sharp sharpener; otherwise, it’ll undoubtedly be self-defeating, not to mention time-consuming.
It should also match the diameter of the pencil, as sharpeners that are too wide for the pencil you’ll be using it with will also lead to broken tips during the sharpening process. You wouldn’t want to reduce the useful life of the pencil simply because you weren’t able to find a working sharpener.
An alternative to a sharpener is any utility knife you may have. This may be the chance to put your scouting skills into action.
If a pencil and/or sharpener aren’t readily available in the house, you don’t need to feel bad about purchasing new materials to use as a make-shift sticky lock fixer.
For one thing, a graphite material is one of the options anyway. And also, you can still use them again with other locks in the future, if needed. You can also use the pencil and sharpener to do their actual jobs at some point – to be used in writing.
It’s essential to sharpen the pencil to expose as much graphite as possible. This makes the job faster since you would not need to sharpen it multiple times should the task need more graphite than usual.
Please pay attention to the tip, though, and don’t make it too sharp that it easily breaks. Recall the ideal pencil tip back when you were in preschool, doing shading as one of your arts exercises. What you’ll be doing next is quite similar to that.
Now that you’ve sharpened your pencil, it’s time to draw on your key. This step aims to put as much graphite powder as you can on the surface of your key. At the end of this step, your key should look like it has been dipped on graphite.
To start, you have to find a solid surface to place your key on. This can be a table or a chair as long as it’s not wobbly. Don’t use your hand as the platform, as you may accidentally puncture yourself with your freshly sharpened pencil.
After placing your key on your chosen platform, support it tightly by pressing your fingers on the bow. If you don’t know what a bow in a key is, it’s the one you hold whenever you turn it in its lock.
While pressing on the bow tightly, draw on one side of the key as hard as you can to get as much powdered graphite adhering to the surface of the key.
One technique I always like to use is to repeatedly draw on a single crease to release as much graphite powder as possible. When a considerable amount of powder accumulates in the crease, use your pencil to spread it around to cover the surface.
After one side has been completely covered, flip the key and do the same thing on the opposite side. Don’t forget to also repeatedly draw on the edges of the key and make sure all crevices are covered with that smooth black powder.
After putting graphite all over the key, insert the key into the sticky lock. You’ll need to shake it a bit inside, just like you likely do when the key gets stuck inside the sticky lock. The shaking motion distributes the graphite into the different corners of the keyhole, priming it for the next step.
If you don’t notice obvious improvements just yet, draw on the key again and insert it in the knob. You might just need to add more lubricants.
After sprinkling graphite into the keyhole, turn the key to improve graphite dispersion inside the knob and, of course, check if all your hard work has paid off. This improves lubrication without damaging the keyhole in the process.
Graphite is one of the softest minerals, so you wouldn’t worry about getting the keyhole clogged with graphite powder. When applied with slight pressure, the powder will simply break down into much more minute pieces and take up a significantly smaller volume inside the whole. If anything, the most it could do is improve lubrication.
If it still doesn’t turn, try to slide your key in and out of the keyhole a couple of times to dislodge as much graphite inside as possible.
If you’re still unable to fix the lock, try repeating steps 3 to 6, as the graphite you initially used may not be enough. Some households have graphite powder ready, so they directly apply it to the sticky locks to make the lubrication process much faster. It’s the same graphite that’s in the pencil, though, so just remember that you’ll have to place a generous amount of graphite into the key.
If you don’t have any graphite on-hand, I recommend the Pinewood Pete Graphite Lube Powder. It’s an affordable product and comes in an easy-to-use tube, perfect for applying to small locks.
8. Call a Locksmith
Steps 1 to 7 were meant to save time and money and not have to call a locksmith. Sometimes, though, a sticky lock may just be among the many other problems of a doorknob, and it could be best just to call a locksmith to fix it or to install a new knob.
This could save you some precious time and effort, especially if you’ve already done your best in the previous steps and they still didn’t work.
This life hack just showed you how a pencil could help you get rid of stubborn sticky locks while at the same time avoiding temporary fixes that only result in worse problems in the future. If you need to fix a sticky lock as soon as possible, though, and only quick, temporary fixes are available; then, you’ll just have to live with it and call a locksmith to replace your doorknob in a few days.
And oh, invest in a better doorknob this time!
See also: How to Lock a Door Without a Key