HOW TO GET A KEY OUT OF A LOCK: Step-by-Step Guide

how to get a key out of a lock
Photo by KoolShooters

A poor day might happen in a variety of ways. One of them is when your key gets stuck in the lock as you try to unlock the door to your home after a long day at work. The rising rigidity as you try to wriggle it out of the keyhole can make you feel helpless. This issue may cause you to yell in frustration.
Fortunately, you don’t need any special abilities to get the key out of the lock. You can address this problem and keep your key from getting caught in the lock by following the instructions in this article. This task can also be accomplished with common home materials.

What Is the Best Way to Get a Key Out of a Lock?

If you find yourself with a key caught in a lock, there are a few actions you can take to try to get it out. Here are some pointers on how to get a key out of a lock:

#1. Try moving the key

Push the key firmly into the lock, then gently giggle it back and forth while attempting to turn the key in the lock to loosen it. Sometimes a gentle jiggle is all that is required to get the key out of a jammed lock.

#2. Using oil, lubricate the lock

If the key becomes stuck owing to a lack of lubrication, a small amount of oil can be used to free it. Spray a small amount of oil-based lubricant into the lock mechanism and wait a few minutes before attempting to remove the key again.

#3. Make use of graphite powder

Graphite powder, a dry lubricant that performs just as well as oil, can be used in place of oil. It comes in spray cans, but you can also file it down with a pencil.

#4. Use needle-nose pliers

Sometimes all you need is a little leverage to get a key out of a jammed lock mechanism. With a pair of pliers, grip the key firmly and jiggle it side to side as you draw it out. However, if you use too much power, the key may bend or break off in the lock.

#5. Try an ice cube

It may sound strange, but an ice cube can occasionally be used to get a jammed key out of a lock. Wiggle the key out of the lock after 30 seconds of holding the ice against the key. The cold makes the metal shrink somewhat, which may be enough to free the key.

#6. Make use of a key extraction tool

If the key is still stuck, you can use a key extractor to free it. These specialized tools, which may be obtained at a hardware store or online, are designed to remove keys locked inside locks. Put it on the lock according to the manufacturer’s instructions, then use the tool to gently take the key out.

#7. Contact a locksmith

If none of these solutions work, you may need to contact a professional locksmith to get the key removed. A locksmith has the equipment and knowledge to extract jammed keys from locks without causing damage to them.

When attempting to remove a stuck key from a lock, it is critical to be patient and careful. If you use too much power or utilize tools that are too large or sharp, you may damage the lock or the key itself. If you are unsure about removing the key yourself, it is always a good idea to contact a locksmith for assistance.

What Causes Keys to Get Stuck in Locks?

Keys can become stuck in a lock for a variety of reasons, but the two most common are unlubricated locks and debris in the keyway. The lock’s parts require a modest amount of oil to turn smoothly. The oil might dry out or mix with dirt and dust to form a sticky paste over time.
Dirt and debris can also obstruct the keyway. While you may be able to get the key into the lock, the obstruction may make it difficult to withdraw the key.

However, there are various possibilities for why your key is stuck. The following are the most typical causes:

#1. Locks need oil to turn smoothly

Locks need oil to turn smoothly. If that oil dries out, the lock mechanism and the key may become stuck. Spray lubricants such as oil or graphite powder into the keyway, then wriggle the key free.

#2. Locks can get dirty, or debris might accumulate in the keyway

Locks can get dirty, or debris might accumulate in the keyway, causing the key to become caught on the lock pins. To clear the dirt and get the key out, wiggle it back and forth and spray compressed air into the keyway.

#3. Locks can get broken or worn over time.

Locks can get broken or worn over time. As a result, the key can get stuck when inserted or removed. While you may be able to remove the key using any of the methods listed above, you should contact a locksmith or handyman as soon as possible to replace the lock.

#4. The key itself may become deformed or broken

The key itself may become deformed or broken, making turning or removing it from the lock difficult. Use any of the procedures above to get the key out, then straighten it with a hammer or call a locksmith to perform repairs.

#5. The lock and key may be misaligned

The lock and key may be misaligned, causing them to get caught when you put them in or try to pull them out. Follow the techniques outlined above to get the key out, then have the lock and key fixed or replaced.

#6. The lock might freeze in cold temperatures

Although it is uncommon, the lock might freeze in cold temperatures, making it difficult to turn or remove the key. Warm the lock gently with your breath or a lighter until the key comes loose. However, excessive heat or boiling water can harm both the key and the lock.

How to Avoid Getting Your Key Stuck Again

There are various things you can do to prevent your lock from binding in this manner in the future.

The first step is to make sure the tailpiece is securely fastened and not too slack, as too much strain can bind the lock. You could also wish to get that particular lock re-keyed. Keys and locks, like any mechanical device, wear out and fall out of specification with time. Simply cutting a new key may not work since a new key with worn pins will not elevate sufficiently to generate the “shear line” required for function. Brass lock pins will corrode over time. Re-keying your lock means getting new pins and a new key, which can give you many more years of service.

You may also lubricate your lock with a Teflon-based lubricant once or twice a year by applying the lubricant to the keyhole and running your key (or ideally a blank key) in and out of the lock. This will clean debris from the cylinder before it clogs and lubricate it for long-term smooth operation.

It’s also crucial to realize that locks aren’t indestructible and that as they age, the cylinder, housing, tail, or any other component may distort out of shape. A lock with a deformed cylinder or housing, in particular, may be physically difficult to repair, and replacement may be the only alternative. To find out if this is the case, you should contact a local locksmith.

Can a Locksmith Get a Key Out of a Lock?

The answer is an emphatic yes. There is no one better to help you remove a key from a lock with all of their experience, tools, and training.

There are three key advantages to hiring professionals:

  • The problem is resolved more quickly, allowing you to get back to your day as soon as possible.
  • Less likely to cause harm: Unlike most people, who may damage the lock or the door, professionals understand exactly how to handle the components involved.
  • You are more likely to discover a simple solution; you may have to replace your door if you cause too much damage, whereas a locksmith may be able to solve the problem without having to replace too many components.

What To Do If Your Key Gets Stuck

When the doors were unlocked, the key became trapped in the lock. Perhaps the key is jammed in the lock and will not turn? Whatever the situation, here are some dos and don’ts to help you get things done quickly:

  • Call a professional locksmith to assist you in resolving the problem.
  • If you are unable to remove the key normally, leave it alone.
  • Don’t lose your cool and resort to force; it could make things worse.
  • Don’t try to disassemble your door’s lock because it may be beyond repair.

How Long Does It Take To Get a Key Out of a Lock?

A professional locksmith should be able to get the task done in about 20 minutes, depending on how difficult the lock is and how badly the key has become stuck. There is no telling how long it might take if you try to do it yourself.


Of course, if you’re still stuck after attempting all of these solutions, know that you’ve given it your all—this is a job for pros. To retrieve the key or replace the lock altogether, you’ll need to contact a locksmith. Then, in the future, you can avoid the sticky scenario! Keep a spare keychain on hand in case your first one begins to flex with wear—a warped key is more likely to stick down the road than a straight key.

Also, every few months, give your locks a short squirt of lubrication to dissolve any crud and keep the locking mechanisms operating freely. You might never have to deal with a jammed key again with this little effort.

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