How to identify locks & keys

Written by matthew caines
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How to identify locks & keys
Find ways to differentiate similar-looking keys for identification. (keys image by Edsweb from

Avoid panic and alarm in emergencies by labelling and matching your keys and locks. This will help you identify which key fits in which door. It might be a workplace safety procedure or a home precaution to give you peace of mind but, either way, there are plenty of ways to ensure that each key matches their respective lock.

Skill level:


  1. 1

    Place and keep each key next to or near its matching door. Doing so will ensure that even if you cannot remember exactly where the key is, you know that it is nearby. Place the front door key, for example, in a china pot or dish next to the front door. Have a holder in each room to prevent panicky searches in the event of an emergency.

  2. 2

    Inform the family or workplace of the new key arrangements. Tell them, for example, that the back door key is now kept in a wall-mounted box instead of under the door mat. Doing so will ensure that your family members and work colleagues will be prepared in the event of a fire or emergency.

  3. 3

    Colour-code your keys if you are having trouble telling which key fits in which hole. This also is a good idea for those who carry a key ring full of similar-looking keys, such as a school janitor or office security guard. Do this by investing in some glow in the dark, multicoloured key caps. These caps are not only visible in the dark -- very useful in an emergency -- but also are stretchy and fit most key top shapes and sizes. You can buy colourful key tops from hardware stores and locksmiths.

  4. 4

    Ensure that any master keys in the building or workplace are limited in their distribution. According to the University of Washington Police Crime Prevention Unit, master keys should be distributed on a strict need-to-have basis and not for convenience. Avoid the temptation of issuing several master keys; although it may seem like you are preventing potential dangers, the extra keys increase the chances of a break-in.

Tips and warnings

  • You can colour code your keys by using any leftover nail varnish; simply paint on a spot of colour that matches the lock.

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