Are Keys Magnetic? (House Keys Attracted to A Magnet)  

The short answer is “no”, most house keys do not stick to magnets.

Alternatively, “yes”, some of the metals used to make house keys are magnetic.

The remainder of this article will give you an in depth look at magnetism in regard to house keys, what it looks like, where it comes from and why or not it is present.

Are Keys Magnetic? (ANSWERED)

Introduction To House Keys

According to the American Heritage dictionary, a key is: “A notched and grooved, usually a small piece of metal implement that is turned to open or close a lock.”

It is a device that most commonly consists of two parts: the bit and the bow.

The world’s first keys were made in the 6th century BC by Theodorus of Samos.

 These keys were developed into the ancient Egyptian pin lock.

They were bulky and made of wood. At this time, only the wealthy wore keys, usually as necklaces, signaling one had items valuable enough worth securing.

However, the way we now know keys is very different from the very first key ever invented 6000 years ago. 

The first all-metal locks appeared around the year 900 and are accredited to English craftsmanship.

With the Industrial Revolution in the late 1700’s came precision engineering, which offered increased sophistication and security in keys.

The Double or Four-Sided Key was born, and this is most commonly the type of key you use to open your front door.

What Does Magnetic Mean?

In short, the word “magnetic” refers to any metal object that shows visible attraction to a magnet.

Meaning, magnetism is the force which attracts materials together.

It can also be diamagnetic, which means do the opposite and repel the material.

Magnetism is just one small aspect of the combined electromagnetic force field.

Since the early 1800’s, the term “magnetic susceptibility” has been the scientific term for the degree to which a material is attracted to or rejected by any magnetic field.

Due to a quantum mechanical property named “spin”, magnetism appears from the spinning momentum and orbital angular motion of electrons and electric charges.

Quantum mechanics explains in depth how every substance on earth is made up of very small units called atoms.

Each atom has its own electrons, which are extremely small particles that carry mini electric charges.

Spinning around and around, the electrons revolve around the core, or nucleus of an atom, generating electric currents that cause each electron to act as a microscopic magnet.

Most of the world’s substance is non-magnetic, meaning in most things, equal numbers of electrons spin in opposite directions, which in turn cancels out their magnetism.

Although some materials such as nickel have electrons that are not paired with other electrons, the unpaired electrons are then free to align and pair themselves with a magnetic field.

The result of this pairing is combined magnetic attraction.

This is the case with substances such as iron and metallic nickel because it has enough unpaired electrons, and it displays traditional magnetism.

The metals such as brass that don’t show magnetic attraction don’t have adequate unpaired electrons and are considered both physically and magnetically inert.

Why Are House Keys Magnetic?

Materials which are attracted to a magnet are called magnetic materials or ferromagnetic materials. 

Magnets do not attract all metals.

Iron, Nickel, and Cobalt are the only three naturally occurring magnetic substances on earth.

This is because these three metals in pure form and objects made up largely of these metals are attracted to a magnet. 

Those materials that are not attracted to a magnet are called non-magnetic or paramagnetic and include all substances other than iron, nickel, and Cobalt.

Examples of non-magnetic or paramagnetic materials include glass, fabric, plastic, water, and rubber.

Non-magnetic substances cannot be magnetized unless mixed with a magnetic metal such as one of the three listed above.

Pure iron is ferromagnetic, meaning that it is extremely attracted to a magnet.

However, if enough paramagnetic material is mixed with iron, it can become non-magnetic.

Simple magnetic testing is a very common way of distinguishing between the two.

House keys and most keys, for that matter, are made of metal, although they are not made solely of ferromagnetic metals.

They are heavily mixed with non-ferromagnetic materials such as brass alloys or copper, nickel and silver alloys.

None of which are strongly magnetic.

Now let’s take a closer look at the reasons behind house keys being non-magnetic.

Using mixed metals enables house keys to be cheap, and easily reproduced yet strong and durable. 

Key makers don’t like making keys from materials that are hard to machine, and the owners of keys don’t like encountering corrosion. 

Another good reason for keys to be made of metals that are softer than iron, nickel and steel is a matter of wear.

It is better for a house key to wear down than for the lock mechanism to erode.

As it is much easier to make a new key after many years than to rebuild and replace the entire lock.

So, your keys are made from metal, but they are most likely a mix of mostly non-magnetic materials.

You might also learn more from:

Are Keys Magnetic