Locking a door without a lock may seem like a real life version of Mission Impossible. Perhaps not as exciting, but nevertheless difficult.
But I want to crush this illusion of difficulty by showing you some VERY SIMPLE ways to lock a door without a lock. These locking methods work for doors that open inward, outward and for sliding doors as well.
You’ll be able to secure a door without a lock at home or anywhere else you happen to wind up without too much fuss and stressing out about your safety or the safety of your valuables.
This is a handy skill to possess, and I’ll break it down in a way that’s very easy to understand. Before we begin, here’s a quick overview of the best methods:
- Block the door from the inside with a door barricade, jammer or a wedge. Some of these devices also contain an alarm which can get triggered if anyone tries to open the door. There are professional security devices designed for this. But there are also household items that can be used for the same purpose, as I’ll explain later in more detail.
- Use a portable door lock. As the name suggests, a portable lock is small and easy to carry. It requires no installation. Just attach one of these bad boys to the designated place on the door and lock it in place.
- Remove the door handle/door knob. Doors that don’t have a lock often have a door handle or door knob which when turned retracts the latch so that the door can open. By removing the handle you can effectively prevent the latch from retracting and prevent anyone from accessing the room.
- Anchor the door handle/knob to a heavy or immovable object that’s inside the room by using a piece of rope. This method is specifically used for doors that open outwardly. The logic here is pretty straightforward. Someone tries to open the door from the outside by pulling, but they’ll pull in vain because the door is kept in place by a heavy piece of furniture on the other side.
This was a quick overview of the ways you can secure a door without a lock. But now let’s take a look exactly how to use each of these methods properly and how to avoid any mistakes.
1. Block the door with a barricade or a jammer
First thing to know when barricading a door is to do it from the inside of the room. Otherwise the intruder can easily move the stuff away and get to the door.
Also, a barricade is only effective on doors that open inwardly. If the door opens on the other side of the barricade than it obviously doesn’t make sense to move a coffee table or a closet next to it from the inside because it will be exposed to the intruder when he opens the door. And he can move them away easily from there.
So let’s recap: Standard barricades are effective only for doors that open inwardly. This is also true for standard jammers and wedges. But there are some exceptions when it comes to doors that open outwardly, which I’ll explain in the next section of this article.
Best door barricades and jammers
Some barricades and jammers that you can use are heavy furniture (closet, chair, heavy coffee table, bed etc.) and professional security devices designed for this purpose.
A chair can be a really handy door knob jammer. It’s lightweight and you probably have a few in your immediate surroundings!
This video shows how to block a door by using that red chair over there. However, the chair needs to be of proper size so that it fits well under the door knob. If it’s too short, it won’t work.
If your door has a lever, place the chair under the lever and make sure there is no space for it to move. If it has a knob, it still works the same way but is a little easier to displace. An office chair can be the easiest to use because you can adjust its height.
It’s best to have a professional security device when travelling because you never know if there will be any basic barricades available. And the hosts probably won’t be thrilled with you moving the furniture around anyway. Not to mention that it can get annoying pretty quickly as it takes time and effort.
It’s also super easy to make a jammer of your own. You can do this by folding up a piece of cardboard from a box and sticking it under your door. You can also use a thick sock or apiece of cloth from a towel. Make sure it is thick and hard enough not to slide out easily. It is easy to do and is cost-effective. While it’s not something I would advise for the long term, there’s some scope in DIY door jammers to help lock bedroom or bathroom doors, or even your closet.
Arguably the best and most versatile professional device is a door security bar (link to Amazon).
It can be used to jam the handle/door knob from the inside of the room on inward opening doors. This is done by placing one side of the security bar under the handle/knob and the other side on the floor.
A security bar can also be used to lock sliding doors or windows by placing it horizontally.
The length of the bar can be increased or decreased depending on the width of the door. It’s a great travel companion because it can fit on any standard door and window.
Do you have sliding doors and are finding it difficult to lock them up? Or sliding window panes. Dowel sticks will come in handy for this!
Dowel sticks are small, thin wooden sticks used generally in carpentry and as structural reinforcements in cabinets, hangers, closets, boxes, and other furniture. You’ll find them easily at a supermarket or any place that sells gardening or carpentry tools.
You can fix a stick into some gap in the sliding door, and hence make it impossible to open the door without taking the stick out. If it is tight enough, there will be no way it can be taken out easily.
Steel door brace (barricade)
Another great option is a steel door brace (link to Amazon). It’s a small but tough steel piece installed on the floor next to the door. If someone tries to kick the door in, the barricade will block their effort.
There are two parts to this device. One is the stationary part that’s permanently attached to the floor. The other part is the one you can remove and attach easily when you want to block the door. Both parts are shown on the photo.
This is a convenient barricade but it requires screwing the lower piece to the floor. So it’s a more permanent solution, for just one location. Unlike the security bar which can easily be used anywhere you like from one moment to the next. However, the installation is very easy in both cases. In the case of this barricade it takes about 5 minutes, as you can see in this video tutorial.
But this door brace is more reliable than your standard security bar. It can withstand up to 3000 lbs of force, as real life tests have demonstrated. So if someone tries to kick the door in, this barricade will remain standing. Even if the door falls! But at that point, no security device would help anyway so that’s a mute point.
Which door jammer or barricade to get?
All of the professional devices mentioned above work really well. Or you can just stick to blocking the door with heavy furniture when you feel it’s necessary.
If you have toddlers and are using metallic locks, make sure they don’t have sharp edges. If there are elders or specially-abled people at home, I’d suggest opting for mechanical locks or door alarms instead of jammers.
How to barricade a door that opens outwardly
Securing a door without a lock that opens outwardly can be difficult because you can’t use a standard barricade. Instead, you’ll have to jam the door knob or handle with a security bar or a similar object that goes beyond both sides of the door. So that the handle prevents the door from being pulled from the outside.
There is a special, horizontal outswing door security bar (link to Amazon) available for this purpose, and it works as expected. Just make sure that the door is not too wide because it needs to extend on both sides.
Another way to secure this type of door is by anchoring the door knob/handle to a really heavy or immovable object in the room with a piece of rope. You tie one side of the rope on the handle and another on the heavy object. Make sure that the rope is tight when you’re done. Now the heaviness of the object will prevent the door from being pulled to open.
However, you have to make sure that the string you use to anchor the knob is not fragile or thin. A thin string will break easily and lay waste to all your hard work. I recommend using a plastic string or hard wool. Zip-ties also work well, but they are shorter. Zip ties can be used for tying the handles or double doors, and then anchoring them to something heavy.
However, another problem with outward opening doors are the hinges. If the hinges are exposed from the outside, someone could remove them and remove the door from the frame.
I wrote a full guide on how to secure a door that opens outwardly so I suggest checking it out for more detailed instructions for these methods.
But there’s one problem that we should point out: barricades and jammers don’t work when you’re not in the room. What I mean is, you can’t put the barricade and leave, because you’ve barricaded yourself in the room. The only way to exit is to remove the barricade, but then your door is left unprotected. So if you don’t have another entry/exit point, the only way to use a barricade is while you’re inside.
2. Use a portable door lock
There are many portable door locks that can be attached to the door to secure it in a few minutes or less. I’ll just mention three that are affordable, easy to set up and actually effective in keeping unwelcome guests where they belong:
Addalock (link to Amazon) is by far the most popular portable door lock. It’s a one piece lock that is super easy to set up.
It works by locking the handle in place so that the door can’t be opened even if someone used a key. But since the primary objective is to make the handle unmovable, it will work even on doors without a lock.
The set-up takes just a few seconds and doesn’t require any tools. A straightforward video tutorial is available on the product page.
The simple set-up and it’s pocket size design makes it so convenient for travel and those places where you don’t have the permission (or desire) to make any permanent changes to the door. Not to mention that it’s really affordable, costing just under $20 at the moment of writing.
While the Addalock is a great little locking device to have as you travel, I wouldn’t consider the door 100% secure with it being the only locking mechanism in place. But for emergency situations when your dealing with a door without a lock, or don’t have a key, or just want some extra protection, Addalock is definitely a very convenient device.
Calslock portable locks are about the size of two pens, they are lightweight and can be carried around easily. But don’t be distracted by the size, they are quite sturdy. These work best with doors that have a little space in the doorframe. I would recommend these if you’re looking for locks for places that are accessed by many people – dorm rooms, hotels, hostels, and rentals.
Travelers Security Lock
This is a more advanced and more powerful device than Addalock. What I mean by “more powerful” is that it can withstand stronger force if someone attempted to kick the door in. But it functions in the same manner and it’s also pocket size, making it a great choice for travel security.
It’s easy and fast to set up on any inward opening door. The only requirement is a gap of 1/8-1/4 of an inch between the door and the door frame. Here’s a video set-up tutorial from Youtube.
Just like the Addalock, it can also be removed in a few seconds in case of an emergency. All in all, very practical. It’s just a bit more expensive than Addalock, at around $50 at the moment of writing.
So it’s really a question of whether you’re willing to spend a bit more to get better security against forced entry. You can check the current price and reviews on Amazon.
The Door Bull
This lock (link to Amazon) is very similar to a door barricade that’s installed on the floor. Except, it’s installed on the door and the door frame.
While a door barricade might allow someone to open the door slightly, the Door Bull is more of a lock. It keeps the door fully closed. And if anyone tries to forcefully break in, The Bull will make the door a more difficult opponent as it distributes the force more evenly between the door and the door frame.
The Door Bull is a patented design and therefore fully unique. It only requires a fast DIY installation per instructions provided in the manual. This makes it a good choice even for doors without a lock in temporary residencies.
Just keep in mind that this lock is designed for doors that open inwardly, not outwardly. And you’re supposed to place it just like a door barricade, on your side of the door.
Which portable door lock is best for you?
So those are the three portable door locks that can be fitted on a door without a lock that I fully recommend. Any three of these will work. I sorted them based on their price, effectiveness and set-up difficulty.
The Door Bull, requiring some actual installation is better suited for a place you’d stay at for an extended period of time. Whereas the Addalock and Travelers Security Lock are smaller and easier to set up, so they’re overall better travel companions.
3. Use a strike plate lock
Strike plate locks are like door chains, but sturdier. They’re simple to use and affordable. They’re also great for handicapped people and the elderly. On top of that, a strike plate can withstand a lot of external force.
An electric strike plate lock (see on Amazon) is also easy to use. These are electromagnetic and open from the outside using a card or fingerprints. More high-end locks also use a retina scan. In case of emergencies, they have panic bars. These are used generally in high-security areas like companies, jewelry stores, or banks, but are highly suitable for the home environment as well. Make sure you get a licensed professional to install this one for you.
4. Remove the door knob/handle with a screwdriver
When turned, the door knob or handle will retract the latch that opens and closes the door. Which makes it a very vulnerable point of entry.
You can prevent this from happening by removing the door knob/handle. Usually only a screwdriver of the right size is needed.
However, keep in mind that you’ll also be stuck in the room until you put it back on. This can be potentially dangerous if you don’t have another exit point in case of an emergency. So I’d use this tip only if you really don’t have any other option.
5. Bind the door handles/knobs together (for double doors)
If you have double doors that don’t have a locking mechanism, they still probably have two handles, right? Tie them together with a piece of rope, a chain with a padlock, or a security cable like the one you’ve probably used to secure your bike.
Which of these methods you can use will depend on the design of the handles. You might also be able to use a sliding cabinet lock if the handles are of a similar design and relatively close together.
6. Use a sock, a fork and an alarm
I’ve mentioned the most convenient locking methods and devices. But there are other methods that can be used to secure a door without a lock, such as door wedges and alarms:
- Block the door from the inside by stuffing a sock or a similar piece of fabric under the door. Even a shoe or a slipper can work if the gap is large enough.
- Use a fork or a spoon! I know, it doesn’t sound very promising, but some tinkering with the steel and you’ll have a great door jammer on your hands. You can find several DIY videos for this on Youtube, but in essence, you have to fold the end of the fork a bit, and then cut off its handle. Then, you can push the head part into the door gap and the handle in between the tines and secure it.
- Place a door wedge with an alarm under the door to block it. Similar to a sock, but more effective. And if someone attempts to open the door, the wedge will act as a barricade. Plus, the door movement will trigger the alarm on the wedge, so you’ll be aware of the threat immediately. Alternatively, you could use a door wedge without an alarm. Either way, both wedges are really low-budget solutions.
- Get a small, affordable battery alarm like the Noopel wireless door/window alarm which you can stick on the any surface. Flip the on/off switch as needed. Any vibration on the door will trigger it to produce 120 decibels of noise. An alarm is obviously not a lock, but it’s a simple way to chase off any would-be intruders, and a solid addition to any of the other locking/blocking methods mentioned before.
A combination of these three makeshift methods is a bit unorthodox but it can work great, it’s cheap and it doesn’t require any complicated installing.
Final Word: How to Lock a Door Without a Lock
To secure a door without a lock can seem difficult. But security experts have created a great deal of alternative locks and barricades that can be just as effective at keeping the bad guys outside as a standard lock. Oftentimes even better.
The problem with many of these locks however is that you need to be inside the room and lock the door from the inside. So you need an alternative exit point if you plan on locking the door and leaving the room.
Unfortunately there’s no easy solution to this problem. To fix it, you’ll probably need to install a real lock on the door. But for those situations when you are in fact inside the place, any of these portable locks, wedges, barricades and jammers will do the job equally well, if not better. Hope this helps!