An Easy DIY Guide to Unsticking a Sticky Front Door Lock

The locks in this old house of mine tend to get rather stubborn from time to time. The key will fit inside the lock just fine, but then won’t turn so the door can be opened. When this happens, the lock is said to be a little “sticky”, referring to the internal mechanism no longer wanting to rotate.

Fixing a sticky door lock is an easy do-it-yourself project for anyone. All it takes are a few supplies and some patience.

Try using a pencil first

Graphite has a bit of a greasy feel, which is why it makes such a good lubricant for unsticking locks. Rub the edges of the key over the graphite tip of a pencil, taking care to coat it pretty thoroughly. Once you’ve transferred some graphite to the key, try using the key to unlock the door. If this simple trick doesn’t work, then the next step is to try some other type of lubricant.

Door lock lubricants

While some people swear by WD-40, this really isn’t the best product to unstick a lock. WD-40 is a petroleum based product, and over time can attract dust particles. While a oil based lubricant is fine in an emergency when you are stuck outside of your home, a better product is one especially designed for door locks.

I use graphite powder myself which is available at your neighborhood Ace hardware store. This product comes in a tube form. Other products similar to this are Lock Ease graphite powder or liquid, also carried by Ace.

To use the graphite powder, carefully snip of the end of the tube, taking care to point the tube away from you so as not to spray yourself in the face. Press the tip of the tube into the key hole opening and give it a gentle squeeze. Insert the key back into the lock, wiggling it back and forth until the internal mechanisms begin to turn and unlock the door. Once the door has unlocked and can be opened, reapply a little more graphite to the area where the bolt slides in and out of the edge of the door. Use your key a couple more times to lock and unlock the door, until the lock works smoothly.

If this doesn’t work….

Graphite powder is very effective in unsticking a sticky lock, but really shouldn’t be reused repeatedly since too much graphite can also clog up a lock. If the lock continues to be stubborn, then either the key or the lock itself is worn. You should first try having a new key cut to see if that will solve the problem. If it doesn’t, then it’s time to replace the lock on your door with a new one.

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