How to Fix a Sticky Lock

deadbolt on door

We’ve all done the dance at the front door, trying to get the key in the lock just so, because it’s finicky. We usually have our hands full of groceries, a child or we have to use the bathroom – or all three at once. This isn’t at the top of the list of world problems to solve, but it is annoying.


So we’re going to help you fix a sticky lock.


First, clean that thing out. Well, first, open your door. We’ve got a series of easy steps to help you unstick your lock, but open the door first. 

Then, get yourself a bottle of compressed air, like the kind you use to clean your keyboard. Spray the heck out of the keyhole and all around the deadbolt. 

Grab an old toothbrush and brush anywhere the bristles will fit: on the keyhole, around the bolt, around the edges of the strike plate.

Turn the deadbolt to the locked position and use a microfiber rag to clean off the bolt and around the edges where it enters the door. 


Best lubricant for fixing sticky locks


Next we need to oil it up, except we don’t actually want to use oil – it collects dust and gets gunky – technical term. Think the goo that collects on the hood of your stove. Oil, plus the environment – you don’t want that in your lock, so you’ll want to use a graphite or silicone spray rather than your regular WD-40 or other oil-based lubricants. WD-40 does make a product specifically for locks, WD-40 Specialist Dry Lubricant and we also like 3-IN-ONE’s Lock Dry Lube.

Just like you did with the compressed air, spray a good amount of your lubricant into the keyhole and around the deadbolt entry point. 

Now, if your lock isn’t sticking, but it’s hard to turn the handle or you have to struggle to get the deadbolt home, check the strike plate and the bolt – are they matched up, or is your door slightly off kilter, causing the deadbolt to scrape against the edge of the plate as you try to lock and unlock your door? If this is the case, tighten the screws on all the hinge plates that keep your door attached to the frame. That may do the trick. If not, check the weather stripping, make sure it’s not too thick or thin in any one place and that it doesn’t have something stuck underneath it, setting your door out of whack.

Your strike plates may be out of alignment, if none of the above is helping, and you can adjust them yourself. You’ll need a screwdriver and you may need to gouge out a little of the wood to accommodate the move up or down of the plate. Some doors come with wiggle room so this may not be an issue. 

If you’re uncomfortable with this project, we can help! Our ACE Handyman Services team is ready to help you with this kind of project and lots of other home improvements and home repairs. Just call us at 650-249-3131 or get an estimate and set up an appointment online


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