If you're having a hard time inserting and removing your key, or if there is a sticky grinding feeling while turning the key, your lock may be in desperate need of some lube.
But will any old lube do the trick, or do we need to use a special lock lubricant.
Ideally, you'll want to use dry lubricants on locks, like graphite or Teflon, that don't leave an oily residue. Oil-based products can collect all sorts of strange stuff such as dust, hair, or even pocket lint, which can cause further buildup in your lock.
The best lock lubricant is Houdini Lock Lube! It is a non-petroleum-based lube that is safe to use on just about anything. It provides excellent lubrication, lasts a long time, and does a great job of preventing rust.
However, there are other options on the market that work just as well and might be more available in your location.
In this guide, we'll cover some of the best lock lubricants on the market, as well as what lubes work best in specific conditions–such as indoor/outdoor use, climate, etc.
Let's get to it!
Table of Contents
What Lubricants are Best for Locks
The best type of lubrication for a lock is a dry lube—such as Teflon (PTFE) or graphite. These types of lubricants repel dust and dirt and keep your lock from building up a gunky and sticky mess.
But which dry lubes are best for locks?
Below is my selection of the five best lubricants for locks.
Any of these five products will provide you with long-last and buttery-smooth lubrication and good rust protection.
1. Houdini Lock Lubrication
Art of Lock Picking's top choice for a silky-smooth lock is Houdini Lock Lube. This stuff is incredible and specifically made for locks. It contains no oil, grease, graphite, silicone, or Teflon.
In fact, the magic of Houdini Lock Lubricant is that nobody really knows what is in it.
But don't let that deter you because this stuff is absolutely amazing!
Houdini does an incredible job at penetrating and cleaning corrosion and provides long-lasting buttery-smooth lubrication.
It works well in all climates and is great at preventing rust—even in salty and humid coastal locations.
Additionally, it is dielectric, so it is safe to spray on electronics.
You really can't go wrong with Houdini Lock Lube.
2. Tri-Flow Superior Lubricant
Next up is Tri-Flow Superior Lubrication, which is a powerful rival to our top choice Houdini, and is widely recommended by locksmiths.
The active lubricant in Tri-Flow is Teflon, which is just a brand name for PTFE (polytetrafluoroethylene)—like Hershey is a brand name for chocolate.
Teflon is one of the most slippery solid substances known to man, making it an excellent dry lubricant. Nothing sticks to this stuff, meaning it won't attract and collect dirt, dust, or other contaminants that might find their way into your keyway.
Teflon is also hydrophobic, meaning that it repels liquids and helps protect your lock against rust and corrosion.
However, it does fall short in one regard. It doesn't include a plastic straw applicator, so accurately shooting it down a keyhole is slightly obnoxious. But it does clean up nicely.
Overall, Tri-Flow is an excellent choice for any lock that will provide long-lasting lubrication and rust protection.
3. 3-IN-ONE Lock Lube
3-IN-ONE Lock Lube is another excellent dry lubricant made specifically for locks that will provide a buttery-smooth keyway.
3-IN-ONE dries almost instantly to prevent dirt and dust from sticking and is petroleum-free to reduce any sticky buildup in your lock.
It also works well to penetrate and clean rust and corrosion, as well as prevent it.
Just be sure not to mistakenly get the 3-IN-ONE Oil which is a terrible lubricant for a lock. We'll discuss lock oils in another section of this guide and why you should avoid them.
4. Lock Saver Synthetic Lubricant
Lock Saver Synthetic Lubricant is another locksmith top choice that is specifically designed for locks.
It is a PTFE dry lube that leaves no oily residue, so it won't collect stay particles like dust and hair—which will eventually cause buildup and a sticky lock.
It has excellent outdoor durability, lasts a long time, and prevents rust and corrosion, even in humid and coastal locations.
Like all PTFE lubricants, it is also suitable for cold weather as it doesn't contain anything that will freeze up—such as oil.
5. CRC Dry Graphite Lube
Last up is CRC Dry Graphite Lube. As you can probably infer from the name, CRC uses graphite which is a fantastic lubricant for locks.
In fact, most lock makers actually lubricate their new locks using graphite, and before the rise PTFEs, it was the primary lubricant used by many early locksmiths.
Once doused into the keyhole, it quickly bonds with the metal and provides an almost frictionless experience.
Also, because it is a dry lubricant, it doesn't collect garbage like dirt or dust and is pretty good at preventing rust. That being said, graphite wouldn't be my first choice if you live in a salty coastal location.
One of the only real drawbacks of graphite is that it can be messy. However, when delivered by aerosol, it tends to be cleaner than pure graphite powder.
Quick Tip: If you want to save a few bucks, you can also grind down the graphite from a pencil and apply it to your lock. With graphite, less is more, so apply scarcely.
Types of Lock Lubricants
Not all lubricants are equal. Some work better than others for specific applications, but which perform best on locks.
Let's briefly look at the four different types of lubricants, how they work, and determine which we should use in our locks.
Dry lubricants are made up of small solid particles that are slippery enough to reduce friction between two surfaces.
The most common types of dry lubricants you'll find are graphite, PTFE, silicone, and Teflon (branded PTFE).
Dry lubricants are best for locks because they don't leave behind any oily or greasy substance that will collect stray particles like dirt, dust, hair, or even bug carcasses. They also don't collect and hold water, which aids in rust protection.
Penetrating lubricants, such as WD-40, are not intended to be long-lasting lubricants.
Rather they are low-viscosity oils specifically designed to penetrate the tiny cracks between components and provide temporary lubrication. They also incorporate additives that help break up rust and other corrosion.
Using penetrating lubricants on your locks will provide temporary lubrication, however, it will also leave behind an oily residue that can collect particulates and cause a grimy buildup over time.
Oils lubricants are thin liquids used to reduce friction, heat, and wear between components. They come in various "weights "(20W, 10W, 5W) that represent that oil's viscosity.
While lock oils will provide good lubrication for your locks, they will collect dust, dirt, and other contaminants, which can quickly gum up the internal components.
Additionally, some oils can be too thick—or vicious—and will make your lock sluggish.
Grease is a lubricant made by combining oil and thickeners.
Grease is not recommended for locks. Just like oil, grease can collect all sorts of particulates that find their way into your keyway and quickly gum up the internal components.
Grease is also very thick and sticky and will make your lock operate very sluggishly.
Is Graphite a Good Lubricant for Locks?
Graphite powder is an excellent lubricant for locks. In fact, many lock manufacturers pre-lube their locks using graphite. It's a dry lubricant and does a great job protecting your lock against buildup and corrosion.
However, graphite has one major drawback. It is really messy and gets everywhere.
It can also make a mess days after applying it.
Let's say you lubricate your locks with graphite. The next day you lock your door, and graphite gets all over your key.
Wherever you put that key next will get black particles everywhere—in your pockets, your purse, on the counter-top. Just hope you're not wearing white.
Graphite is rather old-fashioned, and while it works wonderfully, there are just better options out there today that don't make a mess.
Is WD-40 a Good Lubricant for Locks?
WD-40 can be useful to break up rust and corrosion, however, it is a terrible lubricant for locks and if possible should be avoided.
Because it is petroleum-based, it will leave behind an oily residue that will collect particles like dust and dirt. Over time these particles will eventually build up a black gooey mess that will cause a sticky and poor performing lock.
If you’re in desperate need of lubrication for your lock, consider breaking up the graphite from a pencil and applying a small amount to your keyway.
Which Types of Lubricant Are Best To Use for Outdoor Locks?
For outdoor locks, you'll want to use a dry lubricant that won't collect dust and dirt, which will slowly build up and make a gunky mess of your lock. Additionally, you'll want good rust protection that won't freeze in the winter.
The best types of lubricants for outdoor use will be graphite or Teflon (PTFE).
As a final note, if you live in a coastal area with humid salty air, you may find better rust protection using Teflon over graphite.
Lubricating your lock every 1-2 years will keep it in tip-top shape and help you avoid any nasty situations.
Situations such as breaking a key in your lock—which is a common result of a rough functioning or bound up lock.
In this guide, we learned that the best type of lubricant for locks is nearly any type of dry lube, such as graphite or Teflon. Dry lubes do not slowly build up a gunky mess by collecting dirt and dust.
I hope you found this write-up and my recommendations helpful, and if you would like to learn more about home security, locksmithing, and lock picking, be sure to drop by my Academy for more free guides!