How do I mark my keys?
November 15, 2005 1:39 PM   Subscribe

I have way too many keys (my house, relatives house, work) that look way too much alike. What's the best way to mark them? Nail polish? Paint? Some kind of magic sharpie? (thanks!)
posted by PenguinBukkake to Home & Garden (27 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Those little plastic thingys sold at the hardware store?
posted by desuetude at 1:42 PM on November 15, 2005

I've often wondered about this myself. However, visual markings don't seem like they would work very well, especially if you spend a lot of time trying to find a key in the dark. I haven't tried this, but maybe you could do something with texture. Collect some fabric samples, and glue tiny swatches onto the broad part of the key that doesn't go into the lock. Maybe you could mix things up with different grades of sandpaper also.
posted by JeremyT at 1:43 PM on November 15, 2005

on one keyring? what i do is order them in the sequence they are used in a typical day. then they "make sense" and it's easy to tell which is which (except for whether the order is reversed or not). keyring marks the sequence start/end.
posted by andrew cooke at 1:43 PM on November 15, 2005

You can go to the key-cutter and have him cut distinctive notches in the handle part, so like 1 on the top, 2 on the bottom, one on each side, etc. With the appropriate dremel tool, you could do this at home.
posted by adamrice at 1:45 PM on November 15, 2005

with an etching tool or a chisel and hammer
posted by malp at 1:45 PM on November 15, 2005

What desuetude said. Little colored rubbery plastic rings that fit around the top of the key. They make them in lots of colors, and even textures. Danged if I can think of what they're called though. Your hardware store will know what you're talking about.

JeremyT is right that this won't help in the dark, but a small keyring flashlight (squeeze activated) is always a good idea anyway.

Having sub-rings on your keychain is also useful, so you can group into "work," "home," etc.
posted by CaptApollo at 1:52 PM on November 15, 2005

The hardware store can copy your keys in different color metals. Otherwise, those plastic tops are really helpful. Markers usually wear away after time.
posted by hooray at 1:52 PM on November 15, 2005

The key kiosk we go to in Seattle offers funky key designs now. You can get a Mariners pattern, roses, American flags, lightning bolts, whatever you like. The Fred Meyer (kind of an everything store) also offers those key patterns.

They look like these (warning: annoying audio). You can't get 'em for certain mongo sized keys, like my Honda, that I know of.
posted by GaelFC at 1:57 PM on November 15, 2005

I use the little plastic things, too. They cost mere pennies and are decorative as well as functional.
posted by mikewas at 2:03 PM on November 15, 2005

The funky key designs look interesting -- I think they must be powder-coated, in order to endure the rugged life of keys (but I haven't actually tested them yet -- they cost a lot more).

The notches idea might work for you, or you could DIY by drilling distinctive patterns of small holes in the fat, non-business ends of your keys.
posted by Rash at 2:07 PM on November 15, 2005

If your object is just to distinguish one key from another, then the rubber ring suggestion is great. But if you are looking to keep track of which key goes to what, then I agree with the first of malp's suggestions. Borrow or buy a Dremel tool and buy a small engraving bit for it. Then you can actually print on each key what it is. Or if you don't think it's wise to mark your front door key "front door key," then print a code on the key and keep a list of codes that tells you which is which. I have two old volkswagens with nearly identical keys, but one key has "rabbit" etched on it. So that works.
posted by bricoleur at 2:07 PM on November 15, 2005

My solution to this (though on only one key) has been quite simpler: I wrapped the key in blue painting tape. This way I can not only instantly distinguish it visually, I can also tell it out just on the feel. This is useful as I usually take my keys out in the dark. You could expand this to multiple keys by using different types of tape for each key.
posted by kensanway at 2:18 PM on November 15, 2005

My keys are very colorful for just this reason. I have a couple of "WacKeys" and I will vouch for their durability and that they are great for quick identification. I also have a couple of different colored aluminum keys. I got all of these at the grocery store keystand. I've also melted a little solder on one of my front door keys to make it easy to distinguish in the dark.
posted by krix at 2:21 PM on November 15, 2005

Those little rubber ring thingys get really grubby looking after a while.
posted by matildaben at 2:34 PM on November 15, 2005

Won't the colored thingies not work if you've got a large number of keys on your keyring because they'll take up a lot of space?
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 2:43 PM on November 15, 2005

Do you absolutely need to keep them together? Are you using your house keys while you're at work, and vice versa? I'd keep them on separate rings -- and rather than marking or engraving each key, I'd use label tags. If you must keep them together, you could use the sub-grouping suggested above; but really, the simplest solutions are usually the best.
posted by cribcage at 2:56 PM on November 15, 2005

I use a valet-style key ring, and have multiple rings on the "home" side of it. That way I just need to get the right key within a small group of keys.
posted by I Love Tacos at 3:11 PM on November 15, 2005

I only have two sets of keys: work & home/car.

I've found a simple solution grouping them with hollow leather keyfobs, a cat and dog. The cool thing is that the keys retract inside the casing when not in use.

bark bark purr purr

I got them at Rowf in Brooklyn, and have already gotten quite a few friends the same set after serious sweating. If you'd like a set or specifications, email is in my profile.
posted by naxosaxur at 3:29 PM on November 15, 2005

On preview: oops! Each INDIVIDUAL key? I use the Brother p-touch on the smallest font size to label them: "Door" & "Bath" & "Toplock" & "Lock". Although, you have to replace the stickers every five months when they fade...
posted by naxosaxur at 3:35 PM on November 15, 2005

In a related question, the
MoMA Key Ring Organizer
was recommended.
posted by Sharcho at 3:50 PM on November 15, 2005

The Container Store has these funky key caps.
posted by Biblio at 4:19 PM on November 15, 2005

Biblio, I love those -- thanks for the link.
posted by desuetude at 4:29 PM on November 15, 2005

I recently got a housekey made with an LED light on the key. Easy to find the key by feel; easy to light up the lock. I was delighted that they had the right keyblank for my key. I could enthuse about this for a while, but I'll stop now.
posted by theora55 at 4:32 PM on November 15, 2005

Almost anything you put on them yourself is going to rub off surprisingly quickly.

I tried the rubber rings that go around the head of the key but those never fit right over the heads of many keys, and soon broke off.

Now I have these covers which fit different shapes well, and are much much more durable and very easy to feel with your fingers. They're also easy to find while fancy custom keys are not.
posted by fleacircus at 4:42 PM on November 15, 2005

Do adamrice's notches yourself, using a file. Keys are brass - very easy to file.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 5:17 PM on November 15, 2005

All but one of my keys on my ring have the teeth side on the same side of the ring and the smooth side on the other. My front door key is flipped the other way, which makes it easy to find (necessary for safety).

Also, I took off the keys off that I don't use on a regular basis and put them on labeled keychains. It's better for your car's starter to not have a huge keychain weighing it down whenever you're driving.
posted by neda at 5:40 PM on November 15, 2005

Second the Dremel tool idea. I've done this for my expanding key collection, and not only can you tell which key is which by sight, you can learn the engravings by touch, as well!

Perfect for lending the right key to a friend or relation also.

Plus, if you end up not using a key for a while, there's no problem remembering what obscure lock that mysterious key opens. Saved my butt many times now.
posted by Aquaman at 6:01 PM on November 15, 2005

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