How to open a locked door knob

Many of us never think about being accidentally locked out of a door in our home until it's too late. Most doorknobs can be opened even if they're locked, but the method varies by design. Parents may recall trying to calm a hysterical toddler through a locked door while frantically attempting to unfasten the lock from the outside. The best way to deal with these issues is to learn how to open your locked doors before such an emergency occurs and to practice on the doors in your home. Hold the door open as you lock the door, and keep it open as you practice releasing the latch from the opposite side.

Take a flat-head screwdriver and wedge its tip behind the rotating tab.

Push the handle of the screwdriver toward the door. The tab should come off easily. There should be an opening in the knob where the tab was removed.

Insert the screwdriver into the opening. You should feel a slot within the knob. Place the tip of the screwdriver into the slot and apply pressure.

Maintain pressure on the slot and begin to rotate the screwdriver to the right.

Continue to turn the knob until you hear a click. Push open the door and manually unlock the opposite side.

Open a large, standard-sized paper clip, using the last coil as a "handle."

Slide the tip of the extended paper clip into the opening in the doorknob until you feel a button or depression. Apply pressure until you hear the lock release, and open the door. For newer knobs, it is not necessary to rotate the knob simultaneously to release the lock. If you have an older model, apply pressure while turning the knob in order to unlock the door.

Use a long nail or a similar object if a paper clip is unavailable or ineffective. Follow the instructions in Step 2.

Remove the entire doorknob as a last resort if the previously described methods do not work. Use a screwdriver to remove the screws located at the base of most doorknobs. Take out the screws, pull off the doorknob on your side of the door and push out the knob on the other side. Release the locking mechanism by pushing either a finger or the shaft of the screwdriver against the latch securing the door. Open the door and either replace or reassemble the knob, making sure that it is installed in the unlocked position.


Make sure that your hands are clean and dry before using a screwdriver, paper clip or nail to open a locked doorknob. Slippery hands can interfere with successfully opening a locked door, and a poor grip on these instruments can lead to injury.

Things You'll Need

  • Flat-head screwdriver
  • Large paper clip
  • Long, thin metal nail
  • Phillips screwdriver
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About the Author

Genae Valecia Hinesman, former banking executive, entrepreneur and fashion model, began writing professionally in 2002. She is a Cum Laude graduate of the University of Southern California where she studied business, finance and exercise physiology. Her articles featured in Living Healthy: 360, Life 123, the American Chronicle and Yahoo Voices.