Paper clips are very common items in any household or office environment. They also have many survival uses.
Some of the most common survival uses for paper clips are:
- Sewing Needle
- Lock Pick
- Fishing Hook
- Gear Repair
- Splint for Broken Toe or Finger
- Blow Gun Darts
Although those are some of the more popular ways to use paper clips in survival situations, there are many more. Below are 47 survival uses for paper clips. I have tried to explain how each one works and have included pictures when they would be beneficial.
47 Survival Uses for Paper Clips
A paper clip, along with a few other small items, can be used as a compass in a survival scenario. To do this, you will need a paper clip, cup or another container, leaf (or piece of paper), water, and knife.
Take a paper clip and remove the longest straight section. Quickly run a knife blade down that section of the paper clip, going the same direction each time. Do this 50-100 times. This will magnify the paper clip. Be sure that you remember which way you were scraping. This will be the “North” end.
Fill a small, non-magnetic, cup with water. If you don’t have one, you can make one by cutting the bottom section off of a water bottle. Place a leaf with the paper clip segment into the middle of the water. After a short time, the paper clip will point north.
Toe or Finger Splint
If you break or sprain a toe or finger, you will need to prevent it from moving until you can have a doctor take a look at it. After you bandage it up, sit two straightened paper clips, one on each side of the finger or toe. Then wrap the paper clips using a bandaid, tape, or something else to keep them in place. This should immobilize the finger until you can get help.
Fishing Hook or Lure
Paper clips can also be used as a fishing hook or lure in a survival situation. As a hook, paper clips will only be able to catch small fish due to how easily the bend. To make a hook, straighten the paper clip but leave one “J” bend in place. On the other end, make a small loop. This is where your string will go. To reinforce this loop, wrap the remainder of the paper clip around the hook twice. Trim what is left over.
Paper clips’ shininess makes them good for building fishing lures as well. Secure a few paper clips to your fishing line. For added effect, you can use them to hold bits of aluminum from soda cans. This will create a larger surface to attract fish.
DIY Blow Darts
If a blow dart gun is part of your preps, you will eventually run out of darts. Knowing how to make replacements could be very valuable. Start by straightening a large paperclip, being sure to get it as straight as possible.
Next, find some paper and cut out a cone shape. Roll it around the paperclip and secure the edge of the paper in place with glue. Remove the paper clip and place a drop of glue onto the small end of the cone. Place the paper clip back into the cone, making sure that it goes about an inch into the cone. After it dries, use some sewing thread to secure the joint between the cone and paper clip. Add a drop of glue to the thread. After the glue dries, try the dart in your blog gun and make any necessary adjustments to the size of the paper cone.
I think most people have heard of using a paper clip to pick a lock, but most people don’t know you actually need two paper clips for this to work. The first is called a “rake”. This is what goes deep into the lock and moves the pins. The second is called a “tension wrench”. This puts pressure on the locking mechanism to keep the pins out of alignment after they have been moved by the rake.
The first thing you want to do is make the rake. To do this, straighten one end of the paperclip so that you have a section long enough to fit all the way into the lock. Then use pliers to create a “w” shape at the end of the straight section. This is what you will put into the lock to move the pins inside of it up and down.
The second thing you need to do is make the tension wrench. Take a second paperclip and straighten it completely. Fold it in half and use pliers to pinch the middle to make it smaller. Twist the entire paperclip a few times and then create a 90-degree bend at the end of the paper clip where it has been pinched. The bend will need to be about 1/4 inch from the end.
Place the tension wrench into the keyhole where the key’s spine goes and gently turn it like you would a key. Then insert the rake and use it to move the pins. As you do this, be sure to keep slight pressure on the tension wrench. The pins should move one by one and the tension wrench will prevent them from falling back into place. Eventually, the lock should open. This does take practice and a little trial and error. This works best with smaller, less expensive padlocks and locks on desks.
If you have somewhere that you don’t want birds to land and poop everywhere, you can use paper clips and plywood to create bird spikes. Partially straighten several clothes pins and set them aside. Be sure to keep at least one of the bends intact. Then drill small holes in a piece of thin plywood.
Run the straight ends of the paper clips through the holes. Use glue to secure the bottom of the paperclip (the part with the bend) to the bottom of the plywood. Then use a drill to secure the bird spikes to whatever surface you need it on.
*Many paper clips rust quickly, so this is a temporary solution. You could spray paint them and the plywood to slow down the rusting and protect the wood.
Zipper Pull Replacement
A paper clip does a good job serving as a replacement zipper pull if you lose the original. Simply connect the paper clip to the zipper and use it as normal. This works on clothing, sleeping bags, packs, and other gear.
If you need to repair clothing or other gear in the field, a paper clip works well as a makeshift needle. Straighten the paperclip and cut it to the desired length. Flatten one end of the paperclip with a rock or hammer and sharpen the other end. You can use a smooth stone or file to sharpen it. Next, use a hand drill or other sharp object to drill a hole in the flat end of the paper clip.
*Note: A multitool or Swiss Army Knife will be necessary to do this if in the field.
If you lose a button in the field, a paper clip can serve as a temporary replacement. Sew it where your old button was and use it like normal.
If you have a hem fall apart, a paper clip can hold the fabric in place until you can fix it. Doing this could even prevent further damage to a hem that is just starting to fall apart.
Losing a screw that holds your glasses together can be a big pain. If you have really bad vision, it can become a really bad situation. Straighten a small paper clip and run it through the glasses frame and temple. (The temple is what holds the glasses to your face by hooking behind your ear.)
Twist the paper clip to secure it and trim the excess. Be sure that the pointy ends of the paper clip are facing away from your head to reduce the chance of you being scratched to stabbed. To reduce movement, squeeze the paper clip with pliers after it is in position.
Having your glasses fall apart when you are nowhere near a glasses repair kit is never a good thing. If this happens, you can use a paper clip as a miniature screwdriver in a pinch. Straighten one end and flatten the tip with a hammer or rock. Square the end and use the tip as the screwdriver blade and the still-bent portion as a handle.
Full-Size Flathead Screwdriver
Many paperclips can work to remove and replace standard flathead screws on wall plates and other items. Simply place one end of the paperclip into the screw slot and twist.
Having crud stuck under your fingernails looks bad and can also be a hygiene issue. Bacteria can easily transfer to food as you are eating, which could make you sick. Use a paperclip to clean this stuff out and then wash your hands with soap and water.
Although I would only do this as a last resort, a paper clip can make a suitable toothpick.
Cell Phone Stand
Although this isn’t necessary for survival, a paper clip can work well as a compact cell phone stand. Straighten the paper clip and then bend it in thirds at 90 degrees. It should look like a square with one missing side.
Then bend each tip 90 degrees about 1/4 inch from each end. The tips should face up if the paper clip is lying down.
Now bend the top section to about 60 degrees 1/3 of the way from the top. You may need to play with some of the angles and dimensions a little depending on the size of your phone.
Small pieces of debris can be really hard to get out of a keyboard’s tiny nooks and crannies. You can use the end of a paper clip to gently lift out dust and crumbs.
Cell Phone Port Cleaner
In addition to being a good tool for cleaning keyboards, a paper clip can also do a good job cleaning ports on cell phones. If your phone won’t charge or your headphones sound funny, the USB port or headphone jack may have stuff in it. Use a paper clip to remove any lint or dirt that may be present. Be sure to be careful so you don’t damage any sensitive electronics.
Wire or Cable Tie
You can keep bundled wires and cables organized by using a paper clip and a rubber band. Attach the paper clip to the rubber band. Then wrap the rubber band around the bundled cable. Secure it in place by running the paper clip through the end of the rubber band.
Laptop Camera Cover
If you are worried about the government, hackers, or some 12-year-old in Russia spying on you through your laptop’s camera, a paper clip can help ease your fears. Bend the paper clip so that it will straddle the top of your laptop. Wrap a piece of tape around the part of the paper clip that will be covering the camera’s aperture.
One of the most common ways to use a paper clip is to reset gadgets. Many devices have small recessed buttons that can only be pressed by running a small item, like a paperclip into a hole.
Removing Sim Cards
Removing a sim card is very similar to using a device reset button. This means that a paper clip can work well for this as well. Straighten one end of a paper clip and use it to press the release button for the sim card tray.
A large paper clip can be used as a hook for small articles of clothing and towels. Straighten a paper clip and bend it into an “S” shape. This will allow you to attach the hook to a rod or branch and support the weight of the clothing.
You can also use a paper clip to create a small key ring. Start by straightening a paperclip. Then, wrap it around something round, like a screwdriver or punch. You want the item you are wrapping the paper clip around to be approximately as wide as you want the keyring to be. The item should also have open ends so you can remove the paper clip when finished.
Wrap the paperclip tightly around the screwdriver or punch. Somewhere between 2 and 4 passes will work fine. Remove the paper clip by sliding it off the end, and then use pliers or cutters to trim the ends.
If your dog, cat, bird, or other pet keeps escaping from their kennel or cage, try using a paper clip as a secondary lock to keep the door shut. If they are really persistent, twist the paperclip like a twist tie to really lock it down.
Although it isn’t nearly as secure as using a real lock, a paper clip can be used to slow down someone who is trying to get into your luggage. Run the paper clip through the zipper’s lock holes. To make it even more difficult to open, you could twist the paperclip like a twist tie.
Drywall Hanging Clip
Larger, beefier, paper clips can be used to create hooks for hanging light items on drywall similar to “monkey hooks” and other hardware. Straighten the paper clip and bend it into a “J” shape. Add another smaller reverse “J” bend at the end of the big J’s curve.
The straight end of the clip will go through your drywall and its shape should hold it in place. If the paper clip isn’t strong enough to pierce the drywall, try using a 1/16-inch (preferably smaller) drill bit to make a hole for it to pass through.
Clean Windshield Washer Nozzle
Windshield washer fluid nozzles can sometimes become clogged, preventing them from spraying fluid when you need it. Use a paper clip to remove any gunk or dirt. that could be causing the problem.
Unclog Spray Bottles
If you have a clogged aerosol or pump spray can or bottle, you can use a straightened paper clip to clean out any debris that may be blocking it.
Unclog Glue Bottles/Caulk Tubes
Glue and caulk will always clog the tips of their bottles or tubes. Pick away the excess dried glue or caulk with your fingers and then use a paper clip to pierce the container’s tip. This should allow the glue or caulk to flow out again.
Packing and moving tape can be a pain to deal with. It is thin and easy to lose where the end of the tape is. It is even worse when the tape splits when you try to pull it apart for use. Place a paper clip at the end of the tape roll. This will make it easier to pull apart when you need to cut your next piece.
If you need to cook small pieces of meat or entire small animals, straightened paper clips could make a decent meat skewer in a survival situation. You could also use another paper clip to secure the skewer to a long stick, allowing you to cook over a fire easier.
Paper clips also work well to close bags of chips and frozen foods. Fold the bag over and use the paper clip to secure it.
Paper clips can also be re-bent to serve as safety pins. Describing how to do this is best done visually, so check out the picture above.
Small paper clips work well as makeshift twist ties. They can help you close bags to prevent pests from getting in and ruining its contents.
Since paper clips were originally designed to hold paper together, they make excellent clips for holding and organizing paper money.
During a survival situation, a paper clip may be able to serve as a makeshift antenna for certain electronics should the original become damaged.
You don’t even have to do anything special to a paper clip for it to be used as a bookmark. Simply slide it onto the page you are on, and you are good to go.
If you have board games, you will inevitably lose some of the pieces that it came with. Paper clips, especially ones that come in several colors can make suitable replacements for them. If you get creative, you can even use them to make characters by gluing eyes to them or wrapping them in tape.
If you just lost a bunch of weight or are having to use a much larger person’s belt, a paper clip can secure a long belt tail.
You can use a large paper clip to hang plants. Straighten it and then bend it into an “S” shape. It can then support the weight of small potted plants.
If you are having a hard time getting into a letter, use a paper clip to get under the envelope’s flap to tear it. You can use the paper clip to just get it started or help you tear all the way across.
A paper clip can also work to hang gear from drawers and even pegboards.
Roll Up Sleeves and Pant Legs
There are times when you want to roll up sleeves and pant legs to keep them clean or out of your way while you are working. It can be incredibly frustrating when they fall back down at the worst possible moment. Use a large paper clip to prevent rolled sleeves and pant legs from falling back down.
Brass Case Safety Checker
A piece of brass will begin to stretch after it has been reloaded a few times. This is especially true if you have needed to trim it. As this continues to happen, the brass above the case rim will become thinner and weaker. At a certain point, this will become severe enough that the case head will split when the round is fired. This condition is known as incipient case head separation.
A simple paper clip can be used to create a tool that will let you know if this is about to happen. It will keep you safe from potentially dangerous malfunctions that could result. Straighten at least half of the paperclip and create a 90-degree bend at the end.
Insert the bent end of the paper clip all the way into the brass case. Scrape the tip against the inside of the case like you would scratch something with your fingernail. If the paper clip catches on the side of the case near the bottom, that case is no longer safe to use.
Clean Flash Holes on Ammo Brass
If you reload your own ammo and use a case tumbler you have probably had tumbling media get stuck in the primer’s flash hole or get compacted inside a piece of brass. Use a paper clip to punch through debris blocking the flash hole and break up larger chunks inside the case.
Gun Cleaning Pick
Sometimes while you are cleaning a gun you may notice a fleck of brass or unburnt gunpowder in a really inconvenient location. If you don’t have cleaning picks, straighten a paper clip to use it as one instead.