It’s a winter wonderland: snow falling, mitts and scarves, and frozen locks. The smallest amount of water can completely freeze up a lock, keeping you out of your car or home and stuck in the cold. Let’s operate under the assumption that not everyone carries de-icer on their person at all times, and isn’t in easy reach of a hair dryer. Whether you parked your car outside the garage for a night or made the mistake of getting the car washed just before the temperature crashed, there are easy ways to get back inside or back on the road.

Don’t Use Water or Force!

While warm water seems like the answer, it can actually cause more problems both short and long term. Even if it unlocks your door, the extreme heat damage your lock or its surroundings, including the seals. In addition, the water leftover can cool and freeze, repeating the same problem you thought you were solving. In that same vein, don’t force the door open. Using blunt or miscellaneous sharp objects to try and try it open or break the ice can cause damage to the lock, and even to the point of it no long accepting your keys. This is a costly and unnecessary expense, so forego the DIY if that’s all you have available.

Try Hand Sanitizer

One thing most people carry with them – sometimes even on a keychain – is hand sanitizer. If your bottle lists ethanol, isopropanol or methyl alcohol, as ingredients, then it’s safe to say it won’t freeze. This is because these ingredients in most hand sanitizers have a very low freezing point, so it will remain liquid even when water freezes. Another factor is that it can actually lower the freezing point of water it touches, therefore melting the ice inside your lock in a matter of seconds.

Coat your key in hand sanitizer and gently insert the key into the frozen lock. It may not go far in at first, so feel free to wiggle it a be, but be sure not to force it. Gradually, and if you continue to add hand sanitizer and try again, the ice will melt and you’ll be able to fully insert the key and turn it to unlock your door. Even after it’s unlocked, leave your key in for 30 seconds to a minute, giving the alcohol an opportunity to melt all the inside. This will ensure the lock won’t refreeze anytime soon.

Call a Professional

If you’re stranded without hand sanitizer, find shelter and call a Winnipeg commercial locksmith. Rather than trying to jimmy the lock, and causing further damage to your lock or door, contact someone who is trained and licensed to unlock it for you with minimal to no damage. If the lock has become damaged from being frozen, they’ll also be able to repair it on the spot, saving you an unnecessary trip to the dealership or automotive shop. Nowadays, locksmiths often offer 24/7 service, with incredibly quick response time, and fairly low costs. Especially if you’re out in the middle of nowhere, in extremely cold weather, or can’t find shelter, call someone as soon as possible.