How to Fix a Sticky Door Lock

To fix a door lock that doesn’t turn easily:

  1. Squirt a little powdered graphite (available in squeeze tubes at home improvement and automotive stores) in the keyhole of the lock.
  2. Insert the key in the lock and turn it several times to distribute the graphite.

In a pinch you can rub lead from a soft pencil (which is composed of graphite) on the key, then work it back and forth in the lock. Be sure the lead in the pencil is made from true graphite.


  1. My issue is with a steel exit door where to turn the key you have to pull up on the door knob before it will turn. It seems that the bolt is pressed against the jamb by the weight of the door.

    • Without seeing the door myself, you may have a top hinge loose causing the door to sag some and thus it’s applying pressure on the bolt. Check for loose hinges. I’m assuming your not talking about a deadbolt since you say door knob. The striker plate may need some adjusting to relive any tension on the latch. Also the house may have settled some causing some friction on the latch and striker plate. If everything seems tight, you can take a metal file and in small increments, file away to create a less tension on the latch and that should free up having to lift door to unlock.

    • I have the same problem. There isn’t a lot of moveability with door and so I have to keep adjusting the door knob to make the connection – think the knob hole wasn’t correctly configured with the door jam so it doesn’t line up. It wasn’t lined up correctly at installation.

  2. The causes are just dirt that is blowing around in the air and possibly moisture from rain getting inside of the key slot and building up. Like the video states, any kind of spray lubricate will just give you temporary relief. They make an electric cleaner which leaves no residue you can use to blast out any dirt buildup inside the lock and then use the powdered graphite to help make the key slide in and out easy.

  3. Don’t mix powered (graphite) and liquid (WD-40) lubricants. When I was in college, maintenance decided to switch from a powered lubricant (due to health concerns) to a liquid lubricant. Within a week about a dozen of the dorm locks had to be replaced because they seized up from the interaction of the lubricants becoming like cement in the lock cores. Several students were locked out of their rooms for several hours waiting on maintenance to break into their rooms to correct the issues.

    • That must have been quite a night for those students!
      Thanks for sharing your thoughts with the Today’s Homeowner community.
      TH community members helping other TH community members — we love it. 🙂


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