We often get requests to upgrade bedroom door locks. To understand why someone would do this let’s first discuss the different types of locks commonly found in a home.
1) Passage aka hall and closet – this is the easiest to understand. It’s simple a door knob that turns and opens the door regardless of what side of the door you are on
2) Entry – this type of lock has a key. It can be locked or unlocked from the inside without a key. This type of lock is typically found on a front door of a house
3) Privacy – this type of lock is lockable from the outside. There are typically emergency overrides on the exterior of the door. There is either a hole for a “poke” tool to be inserted and unlock the lock or there is a slot than can be turned with a fingernail or coin.
How do I open a locked bathroom door?
It’s very common for a bathroom door to be locked and the person to exit, locking out anyone from their bathroom. There are several ways to open a locked bathroom door.
If your bathroom knob looks like this, you are in luck. You can usually use a finger nail (be careful though), coin, or butter knife to turn the slotted part to unlock the door
If your bathroom knob looks like this you need a “poke tool” or more formally called a bathroom emergency key. The key is simply inserted into the hole and you’ll feel some resistance like you are pressing a button. These are typically found on Schlage brand bathroom / privacy knobs and levers. The trick is to keep the key absolutely straight. If you deviate right, left, up, or down, you’ll miss the button you need to press. When you fully depress the button, you’ll hear a loud pop and the door will unlock.
If you don’t have one of these poke tools that came with the lock you can use a similarly shaped piece of metal. The hole is small though so the biggest challenge is finding something that will fit.
If the hole on the privacy lock is larger it will most likely require one of these keys to open the door. These are typically found on Kwikset brand privacy locks. These emergency keys come with the locks but are, unfortunately easy to misplace. These locks have a slot inside the exterior handle that you can rotate with the flat end of this tool. If you don’t have one of these tools you can find a small jewelers screw driver or similar tool.
4) Undo the Screws
If you notice the screws are on the exterior locked side of the door. On entry knobs the screws are on the inside so a would be thief couldn’t simply undo the screws. However, for privacy knobs they are only designed to offer a minimal amount of security. The screws are on the outside in case something happens to the lock so people can still get in. If you’re handy and confident, you can undo the screws and manually move the latch over to unlock the door. I would only attempt this if you feel comfortable and if you need to resort to undoing the screws you may want to call a locksmith near you instead.
5) Call a locksmith
Sometimes odd things happen. The latch might have failed. You might have an antique knob or something non-standard. A local locksmith will be able to assist you.
Other Privacy / Bathroom Lock Questions and Answers
Is it illegal to have a key lock on a bathroom door?
This is not legal advice, but no. Residential homes have different building codes and standards for lock and door hardware. Additionally, a locking door knob still allows for someone to leave. It would be strange to have a lock on a residential door though.
Can you buy these tools?
You can find these tools easily online. You can search “emergency bathroom key” on amazon and find a lot of different suppliers offering both types of tools? These are not restricted locksmith tools.