front door lock

Sticky Lock? Here's How to Fix It

The door locks in your home are likely used every single day, maybe even multiple times a day, yet they are so often taken for granted. It’s easy to forget about maintaining locks properly as long as they are clicking into place as they should. The moment they start sticking or not functioning as intended, their importance suddenly becomes crystal clear. 

A sticky lock is actually a pretty common problem, and the solution isn’t all that time consuming. Keep reading to find out what to do when your lock is sticking, and how to avoid it in the future.

Why Is My Key Sticking?

The issue most homeowners face with their locks is that the key jams in the lock and is hard to pull back out. Usually, this happens when the lock pins are dirty or need to be lubricated. Common causes of this include corrosion, rust, and a build-up of dirt and debris. Everything from outside elements like dust to the lint your key picked up at the bottom of your purse can transfer to the lock and result in sticking.  

sticky lock

What to Do If Your Key Sticks in Your Lock

If you think you have a sticky lock, follow these steps:

  1. First, check that your key isn’t bent. The teeth of a key are precise and unique, which is what makes a lock work. Even the slightest bend in your key can throw off the whole mechanism. If it is bent, you can straighten it with pliers, but it’s better to leave it to the pros and go get a new key cut. 
  2. Next, make sure that your key barrel isn’t loose. The same goes for any screws surrounding the lock and door handle. Poorly fitting pieces can cause issues unlocking.
  3. If everything looks as it should, it’s time to lubricate the lock. 

How to Properly Lubricate Your Lock

Most locksmiths recommend using a dry graphite powder to lubricate sticky locks. You can find a powdered graphite powder at your local hardware store, as well as precision straws that allow you to aim the lubricant in the exact right spot.

PRO TIP: Dry graphite powder tends to go everywhere. Don’t attempt on a windy day, and be sure to wear gloves. Start small, a little goes a long way!

Can’t find graphite powder? Try using a pencil! A lead pencil contains graphite, which serves as the lubricant. It’s best to avoid petroleum-based lubricants like WD-40. Although they will work initially, wet lubricant will attract even more dirt and grime over time.


How to Prevent A Sticky Lock

  • Act early. If you've noticed that your key is hard to get out of your lock, take action earlier versus later. While it's a relatively simple fix, the issue escalates if you ignore it over time — and the last thing you want is for your key to snap off in the lock! At that point, you have to get a locksmith involved.
  • Provide regular maintenance. Regularly lubricating your door locks can help keep problems at bay. Include this chore on your yearly home upkeep list alongside cleaning your door. A little upfront effort can save you the headache of a sticky lock (or broken key!) later.
  • Update your lock when necessary. Keep in mind that the average lifespan of a lock is seven to ten years, and your lock may have simply aged out. Locks aren’t designed to last as long as doors, so it may be time to update yours. From traditional handlesets to electronic keypads, shop our range of hardware to find what you need.

RELATED READ: How to Clean Door Handles (According to Material Type)

If you are having to “lift and jiggle” or pull as you turn your key in order to open your door, then the issue is likely not your lock, but the fit of the door in the doorframe. Exterior doors face a lot of changes in moisture, humidity, and weather, which can result in warping. Warping is essentially a material’s reaction to a change in environmental conditions, and isn’t an indication of faulty manufacturing.

Most often, a door will become acclimated to its new environment and self-correct. Simply check to make sure the door unit is not out of plumb with the wall. If you believe your door is warped for good and damaged beyond DIY repair, go ahead and replace it. 

front door

RELATED READ: The Best Way to Get Rid of Mold & Mildew on Exterior Doors

If you are ready to upgrade with a new door, find a wide range of styles from our collection. We have a beautiful, durable door to suit any style!