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How to Pick a Door Lock with a Paper Clip

This article is a collaborative effort, crafted and edited by a team of dedicated professionals.

Contributors: Muhammad Baballe Ahmad, Mehmet Cavas, Sudhir Chitnis, and Zhen-ya Liu.

✓ Verified & Tested Information

How to pick a door lock with a paper clip? It’s easy and anyone can do it with a few simple steps.

Gather Your Supplies

Picking a door lock with a paper clip is possible, but it requires some preparation and practice. The first thing that you need to do in order to pick a door lock with a paper clip is to gather all the necessary supplies. This includes two paper clips, a tension wrench, a pick, and a flashlight. Once you have all these items, you can begin the process of learning how to pick a door lock with a paper clip.

A paperclip

When picking a door lock with a paper clip, one of the key items to have is the paper clip itself. Its shape and size make it perfect for navigating the inner internals of the lock. The simple curve offers enough flexibility to maneuver around within while being stiff enough to place pressure on individual pins as you move them out of the way. It’s also strong enough that it won’t bend or break under normal pressure; however, too much force can still cause damage.

When choosing a paperclip for this task, make sure it is high quality and rust-free if possible. If corrosion sets into jamming the paperclip in place, you’ll be trapped inside until you find another way out! Make sure you also choose one that is both long enough to reach all of the pins and small enough that it doesn’t cause unintentional damage along the way.

A small flathead screwdriver

For picking a lock with a paper clip, you’ll also need a small flathead screwdriver. An ordinary flathead screwdriver will work; however, a miniature screwdriver, often used for eyeglasses, provides a better grip and is less likely to slip off the tiny pins inside the lock. The head of the screws driver should be slightly smaller than the paper clip but still fit within the body of the lock. This will allow you to apply steady pressure to each individual pin as you manipulate them with the clip. Be sure to check that your screwdriver can fit in between any protrusions inside the lock that might interfere with its use.

A pair of needle nose pliers

A pair of needle nose pliers is one of the essential tools in picking a door lock with a paper clip. The pliers may be used to increase torque, as well as to pull out and twist the pins away as you’re working your way through the lock. Also known as nail nippers, they are easy to find in any hardware store or online retailers.

When using needle nose pliers, it’s important to start with an enough grip to keep the paperclip from slipping away, but not too much that prevents the clip from moving freely. Furthermore, it is recommended to use a pair of adjustable pliers for better control and efficiency when manipulating pins. Adjustable or locking pliers minimize the risk of slipping and allow for varying levels of pressure on each pin.

Understand the Lock

Before attempting to pick a door lock with a paper clip, it’s essential to understand how locks work. Most door locks use a spring-loaded pins or wafers to secure the door, and when the cylinder is turned with a key, the pins move so that the locking mechanism can open. Without the proper key, the pins need to be manipulated to the correct position in order for the door to open. In order to do this, you’ll need to understand the inner workings of the lock.

Identify the lock type

The first step in learning how to pick a door lock with a paper clip is to identify the type of lock you’re dealing with. Most locks fall into three categories: pin tumbler, wafer, and lever locks.

Pin tumbler locks are the most common type and are found on doors, filing cabinets, padlocks, and other household locks. Wafer locks are less common but can be identified by the flat metal piece that sticks out at the top of the lock. Lever locks consist of levers that must be moved in order to open them.

Pin tumbler locks are what we will be focusing on in this article as they are relatively simple to open using a paperclip. It’s important to recognize that picking a lock takes a bit of practice and patience; don’t expect immediate success! When picking a pin tumbler lock, there should be five pins inside which need to be pushed back into alignment so that you can unlock the door.

Locate the pins

In order to pick a door lock, you first need to understand how the tumblers and pins work. The most common types of locks are pin tumbler locks and are what you will find most often in interior doors. This type of lock is made up of five main components: the plug, the shell, the key pin, the driver pin and the tension tool.

When you insert a key into a pin tumbler lock, each part works together to retract the pins until they can no longer be felt and unlock your door. To open a lock without a key, these pins must be manipulated individually until they become flush with each other, allowing the plug to turned freely in the shell.

Locating The Pins: In order to manipulate these pins and pick your lock, you must first understand where each one is located within the plug and shell of your lock. Begin by introducing your tension tool into your plug as far as it will go and apply light pressure until it reaches its furthest point. Then slowly turn it counter-clockwise while continuing to apply pressure until all pins become flush with each other. Now that you have identified where all five components are located within your lock, your paper clip can be used with precision in order to pick each individual pin before being able to turn your plug freely inside its shell.

Manipulate the Lock

Manipulating the lock is one of the most important steps when it comes to picking a door lock with a paper clip. To do this, you will need to insert the paper clip into the lock, pushing the pins up one at a time so that the lock can be opened. This process can be tricky and requires some practice, but once you get the hang of it, you’ll be able to quickly and easily pick locks.

Straighten the paperclip

The first step in learning how to pick a lock with a paperclip is to take a regular sized paperclip, and straighten it out. This is an important step, as the stiffness of the clip will allow for it to slide into the keyway nicely, without bending, or slipping out of the keyway all together. To straighten the paperclip, hold one end of the paperclip in each hand and gently apply pressure until you have achieved a desirable straightness. Once this has been achieved, you can proceed with manipulating the lock.

Insert the paperclip into the lock

Using the straightened paperclip, insert one end of the wire into the keyhole of the lock. Gently push it in as far as it will go, being careful not to break or bend the paperclip. Rotate and maneuver the paperclip until you find a spot where it is not too tight and not too loose. This is referred to as a “sweet spot”, and marks where you will try to push and move to manipulate the lock. Move your small screwdriver or thin object inside the lock to test if you found a sweet spot, while continuing to move your paperclip around inside. Exploring different locations in the keyhole can help you locate any resistances or restrictions that you must maneuver around or through.

Use the screwdriver to turn the paperclip

To start the process of picking the lock, take a standard paper clip and hold it flat against your hand. Now, take a nail file or small screwdriver and carefully use it to heat up one side of the paper clip. This will create a slight curve in the paper clip, bendable in one direction. Make this bend consistent on both sides of the paperclip until it looks like a tiny screwdriver. Now that you have your makeshift tool ready, insert it into the topmost part of the door lock. Move it back and forth while gently turning until you feel some resistance or a click; depending on the type of locking mechanism this could indicate a successful opening or that you have entered in the correct combination for unlocking. Keep carefully manipulating with your faux screwdriver until you hear or feel either a click or resistance indicating that it is open.

Test the Lock

When attempting to pick a door lock with a paper clip, the first step is to test the lock. You should do this by inserting the paper clip approximately one inch into the keyhole and turn it clockwise and anticlockwise. If you feel resistance turning the clip, then the lock is tumbler style and you can move forward with the rest of the process. If not, then you may need to try a different method.

Try the paperclip in the lock

Testing the lock with a paperclip involves manipulating the pins inside the lock. Insert the straight edge of a paper clip into the keyhole until you feel it hit the back of the lock. Turn the end of the paper clip in both directions while keeping it inserted at the back of the lock. This will cause several of pins to begin to move up, resulting in a click. If this click happens, your paperclip has manipulated all of your pins and you have successfully unlocked your door. Be sure to try another paperclip if you don’t hear this click right away- different locks require different sizes and shapes of picituations in order to open them properly. If at any point you are feeling discouraged or like your progress is too slow, pause and take another look at your work before continuing; mistakes made during manipulation can set you back significantly when picking a lock with a paperclip!

Test the handle to see if it opens

Before attempting to pick a door lock, it is important to test the handle of the lock and see if the door will open without any additional effort. If the door is unlocked, you can turn the handle and open it. Testing your handle can save you time and effort if it turns out that your door does not require picking.

If your lock requires a key to open, however, then you will need to resort to picking the lock. Some locks are easier than others to pick and require two different steps: tensioning and raking. Tensioning helps ensure manipulation from one side helps all pins move past their shear line while raking uses techniques such as up-and-down or back-and-forth movements of a tool until the pins move all together at once in order for a successful unlock. If these steps are followed correctly, you should be able to successfully pick a lock!


Troubleshooting is an important step when attempting to pick a door lock with a paper clip. If you are not having any success, the first thing to do is to go back and check that each step is done correctly. You may want to practice with a practice lock before trying it on an actual door. It is also important to ensure that the paper clip is the right size and shape. Let’s look at some other troubleshooting tips that can help.

Adjust the tension of the paperclip

Once the paperclip has been bent into the proper shape and positioned in the lock, the next step is to adjust the tension of the clip. To increase tension and lower security of the lock, shorten the clasp on the wire and make it more like a hook. To reduce tension, just straighten out part of our wire you have already bent to make sure that it will fit more snuggly into the lock so that it won’t come out too easily. Once you’ve adjusted the tension, you can test it by inserting your makeshift pick into the lock and turning it firmly counterclockwise in a back-and-forth motion until you feel it click into place-at which point you can turn your handle and open up your door!

Re-position the paperclip

When attempting to pick a door lock with a paper clip, it is important to ensure that the tool is correctly positioned. In order to begin picking the lock, the paper clip must be inserted into the vertical slots of the keyhole. Most commonly, beginners struggle with incorrectly positioned paperclips and therefore cannot unlock their door.

When inserting the paperclip into the keyhole, make sure that it is positioned straight and aimed upwards towards the middle of the lock. It should fit snugly in between extreme sides of vertical slots in order to create enough tension to then turn with pressure applied over top of it. If you find that your paperclip is not creating enough tension or slipping out of place within the keyhole slots, repositioning it slightly will usually remedy this issue.

Remember that patience and practice are important; when troubleshooting door locks using a paperclip or any other tool, stay relaxed and remain attentive as you apply pressure to re-position your tool and slowly turn your way into success!

Use the pliers to remove the paperclip

To pick a door lock with a paper clip, you need to first straighten out the paper clip. Bend one end of the paperclip upwards to form an unlock pick. Then use pliers to carefully hold and bend the other end down on a 45 degree angle. This will be used as a tension wrench on the lock. Insert the unlock pick into the top of the keyhole and start jiggling it around until you feel some give. When you feel resistance, gently apply pressure to your tension wrench and turn it in whichever direction is required for your specific lock type. Continue to apply light pressure until you hear a click – this means that you were successful in opening the lock!

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