The Definitive Way to Safely Hammer a Nail

hammering a nail with a clothespin

The Spruce

It’s not uncommon for home improvement rookies to experience slight panic while attempting a project involving a hammer and nails. Fingers somehow always get smashed, and suddenly, the project doesn’t seem that important anymore. But with this trick, you don’t have to sacrifice your digits when you want to hang a few photos. Watch the video below to master our super easy methods, and you’ll be hammering away fearlessly in no time. 

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Watch Now: The Trick to Safely Hammering Nails

Whether you're working on a larger project or you're a DIY newbie attempting smaller indoor home projects, mastering these three ways to safely hammer a nail will help you get the job done faster. Watch the video above to learn how to (safely) hammer a nail.

Here's How to Do It

A clothespin is all you’ll need to ensure you never accidentally hammer your fingers again. With your hammer nearby, use the clothespin to clamp the nail so that the tip of the nail is poking out from one side of the clothespin. Place the clothespin against the wall, then start hammering. The nail should start going into the wall seamlessly. Hammer until you reach your desired length of nail sticking out of the wall, then unclamp the clothespin. 

If your nail isn’t going anywhere as you hammer, it’s possible that you’re clamping the clothespin around the nail too tightly. The goal here is to use the clothespin to hold the nail in place while it goes into the wall so that your fingers don’t have to do the work.

hammering a nail with a clothespin

Why It Works

Simply put, you’re removing your fingers from the hammer zone by holding the other end of the clothespin. The best part? The clothespin can be used over and over, works with any size nail, and is super portable.

Don’t Have a Clothespin? Here Are Some Alternatives

We get it. If you aren't line drying your clothing (or crafting with your kids) you may not have a clothespin handy. Here are some other ways to keep your fingers safe from smashing.

A Sponge

Most people have a sponge lying around, and this common household item can easily act as a buffer between a hammer and your fingers. Before you try this trick, keep in mind that the best kind of sponge for this project is one that is soft on both sides, so avoid sponges with a scrubbing surface. 

Poke the nail through the sponge, and hold it in place against the spot on the wall that you’d like the nail to go. Start hammering until the nail is as deep into the wall as intended, then quickly rip the sponge off. Voilà. 

hammering a nail with a sponge

A Piece of Cardboard

If you’d like your fingers to be as far away from the hammer as possible, you can use a strip of cardboard to hammer your nail. On the short end opposite the end you’d like to hold, use scissors to make a cut in the cardboard, and put the nail inside. It should be snug against the cut sides, so make sure you’re not stretching or bending the cardboard while you cut. Hammer and then pull the cardboard away. 

hammering a nail with cardboard

Why the Clothespin Is the Best Method

While all three methods are effective in making sure you don’t lose a fingernail in the process of improving your space, a clothespin is the best way to go in our view. Unlike the sponge, you can use the clothespin over and over, which is great since you're likely going to need a hammer more than once in your lifetime. Plus, tossing out the sponge after ripping it from the nail isn't exactly eco-conscious, or budget-friendly. And while the cardboard can be reused, it takes a few extra steps to prepare it. Above all, a clothespin is easily portable, so you can stick it in your pocket and take it with you all around the house.

It’s time to put a pin in your hammering fears and own your DIY project. Once you master one of the three methods outlined above, you’ll wonder why you hadn’t tried them before.