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How to Unlock a Door With a Hole (Privacy Locks)

unlock a door with a hole
Last Updated on February 11, 2022
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Great news! That lock a hole on the doorknob is very easy to unlock. As a matter of fact, they are designed that way.

These types of doorknobs are called "privacy locks" and in most cases can be unlocked using a small screwdriver or other household objects.

In this guide, we'll look at how to determine what type of privacy lock you have and how to unlock it using household items!

I'll also cover a few alternative ways to open the door if you can't get past the door—such as being broken or barricaded.

Let's go!

What Is a Privacy Lock

A privacy lock is a lock designed to allow someone to quickly lock a room for privacy and is used on interior locks, such as bathrooms and bedroom doors. These locks are typically engaged through a push or turn button when privacy is desired.

The purpose of these locks is not security-based, but instead privacy-based. As such they are also designed with an emergency hole that allows you to quickly and easily insert a thin tool to unlock them.

They can be easily bypassed using a variety of household objects as well as emergency keys.

How to Unlock a Privacy Lock

The first step to unlocking a doorknob with a hole is to identify which type of lock you are dealing with.

There are commonly two types of privacy locks with holes:

  • Button Lock: The lock is engaged using a push-button and disengaged by turning the doorknob.
  • Thumbturn Lock: The lock is engaged by turning a tab on the handle and disengaged by turning it in the opposite direction.

Depending on which of these you have will determine the method you will need to use to unlock it.

Below is an image of each type of privacy lock.

thumbturn vs button doorknob

If you're not sure which type you are dealing with, fret not, you can quickly try both methods below and one is bound to work.

Unlocking a Button-Type Privacy Lock

The button-type privacy lock is the easiest of the two types to bypass.

They are also the older of the two and will most commonly be found on older homes—but you will find them in new homes as well.

For a tool, you can use any stiff pointy object that is small enough to fit into the hole. Commonly used objects include
wire hangers, paperclips, bobby pins, ink cartridges, etc.

Button-Type Steps

To unlock a button-type privacy lock, take your tool (small screwdriver, paperclip, or other thin objects) and insert it into the hold as far as you can.

Next, apply force by pushing the tool further into the keyway. With enough force, you should feel the locking mechanism click.

That's it, the door is now unlocked!

Unlocking a Thumbturn-Type Privacy Lock

Next up is the thumbturn-type privacy lock. These locks require a little more effort but are just as simple nonetheless.

For a tool, you ideally want a flathead screwdriver that is small enough to fit into the hole. However, you can improvise with other objects so long as they have a similar end to a flathead screwdriver.

Thumbturn-Type Steps

To unlock a thumbturn-type privacy lock, take your small screwdriver and insert it into the hold as far as you can.

With the screwdriver in the lock, slowly rotate it until you feel it fall into a groove. Next, turn the screwdriver clockwise (to the right) until you feel a click.

That's it, the door is now unlocked!

Emergency Keys

If you're in a scenario that requires you to open these locks frequently, such as when caring for an elder or if you have kids, there are tools to quickly unlock privacy locks called "emergency keys."

privacy lock emergency key

As we've seen from this guide, these tools are not essential and can easily be replaced by a small screwdriver.

However, having a dedicated tool that you can leave in a designated location that nobody will touch or move because there is no other use for it, can be useful. I personally can never find my 30+ small screwdrivers when I need them most.

Alternative Methods of Entry

What other options do you have to unlock a doorknob with a hole if, say, the lock breaks or the above methods don't work?

There is a lot of fluffy nonsense out there today about bypassing these types of doors, maybe of which don't really work.

So let's look at some tried and true alternatives to bypassing an interior door and lock.

1. Remove the Hinges

Removing the hinges is an excellent non-destructive alternative to get past an interior door.

However, this method is only available when the hinges are on the outside of the door.

Additionally, you'll require at least a hammer and screwdriver (or hinge removal tool), as well as time to remove the hinge bolts.

2. Use a Credit Card or Shim (Loiding)

If you have a little room between the door and your door frame you can also try shimming—or loiding—the latch.

If the hinges are on the inside of the door the slant of the latch will be pointing outward and you may be able to bypass the lock using a credit card. Be sure to check out my guide on bypassing doors with credit cards and gift cards.

However, if the hinges are on the outside of the door, you have to use a latch slipping tool. Here is an excellent video cover latch slipping.

One note, if you have tightly fit doors or excessive molding around your door frame, this method can get a little tricky.

3. Brute Force

Interior doors and locks are not designed with security in mind. This makes them very susceptible to brute force attacks.

You can easily bypass the door with a solid kick near the doorknob (point of resistance). Additionally, you can rip out the locking mechanism with a hammer or crowbar.

So if an emergency does arise and you don't mind replacing a door, brute force is always a functional option.

kicking in doors art

To Sum Up

As we can see, unlocking a door with a hole in the doorknob is extremely easy.

However, be wary. Bypassing these types of locks can be a gateway drug that will lead to a full-on lock picking addiction.

At least that's how it worked for me.

If you have any questions or remarks, please consider leaving them down in the comments below. I truly hope that you found this guide helpful and if you'd like to learn any more about lock picking and security, consider checking out my other articles and guides over at the Academy.

Furthermore, consider checking out my online shop and snagging yourself a lock pick set! They are a lot of fun and as I said, addicting!

Have a wonderful day and happy picking!

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