How to Untie Shoelace or String Knots

Four Methods:The Basic Finger MethodThe Twist and Push MethodThe Spoon Tap MethodThe Corkscrew Method

Knots keep our shoes on, they hold up our clothes lines and they allow us to sail our boats. Basically knots are great. But when a knot goes awry, untying it can be a painstaking and frustrating task—especially in shoelaces or thin strings. The thinner the string, the more difficult a knot can be to untie if it has been pulled tight. However almost all knots can be untied eventually with patience and ingenuity.

Method 1
The Basic Finger Method

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    Try to understand the knot. If you are untrained in knot theory, this can be tricky, but opening a knot is much easier if you know which loops and intersections are holding it together. Study it for a moment and try to determine which direction each loop should be pulled to loosen the knot.
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    Give your string some slack outside the knot. You won't be able to untie the knot if the ends outside of it are pulled tight.
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    Get a firm grip on two strands of the knot with the tips of your fingers, one in each hand. Depending on how thin your string is, this might be impossible. If you need to use your fingernails.
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    4
    Gently work the two strings back and forth until you feel some looseness. To untie a knot, you need to create slack. Depending on how you are holding the knot, that can mean pushing instead of pulling. Be gentle but firm—tugging the wrong way too hard can just tighten the knot further. Move on to a different pair of loops until the knot loosens. Keep working the knot from different angles, trying different combinations until you get one or two spots of looseness.
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    Get a good grip on the slack spots and pull open the knot. Just make sure you don't accidentally pull the knot tight again. Pull one end of the string back through the open loops to undo the knot. Once the knot opens up into a series of crossing loops, the surest way to get it untied for good is to trace one end back through the loops until there are no intersections.

Method 2
The Twist and Push Method

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    Twist one loose end of the string as tight as you can. You want it so tight that the string becomes dense and less bendy.
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    Firmly push the twisted end directly into the knot. The idea is that the twisted string will be twin and hard enough to overcome the friction of the knot and create some slack.
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    Use the slack it adds to pull the knot apart. Once you've pushed some slack into the knot, you should be able to pull it apart as normal.

Method 3
The Spoon Tap Method

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    Find a clear, level surface. Lay the knot on the surface.
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    Bang on the knot with a firm but light object. A wooden spoon is ideal. Keep turning the knot around and giving it another bang until it loosens a little.
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    Once there is a tiny gap, insert the end of tweezers or nail scissors into the little hole. Ease the knot open gradually. It should now slip undone.

Method 4
The Corkscrew Method

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    Get an ordinary corkscrew. You can also use any other thin metal object, like a needle for smaller knots. Just be careful not to pierce and damage your string.
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    Insert the point of the corkscrew between the strings of the knot. Basically any point on the knot will do.
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    Wiggle and twist the corkscrew into the knot. Hopefully this will create some slack.
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    Tug the corkscrew to loosen the knot, and untie as normal.

Tips

  • Be sure that the laces or string aren't wet before beginning, as this can make the knot even tighter.
  • Some strings are too thin to untie with your hands. Try using two needles and magnifying glass to pick the knot apart.

Sources and Citations

  • Linda Gray, Household Hints & Tips, p. 53, (1994) ISBN 978-0091-91784-5 – research source

Article Info

Categories: Knot Tying | Shoes