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How To Separate Magnets

By Shalea Hardison

One of the most fascinating things about magnets is their incredible strength. It can also be the source of frustration for anyone who has ever gotten their magnets stuck together. Of course large magnets for tool holding appear strong, but even small rare earth magnets can prove surprisingly difficult to separate. How to separate magnets depends largely on the strength of the magnet.

Magnet Spacers 

Separating magnets relies on a few simple principles – create an air gap and slide don’t pull. Often our neodymium magnets come with a plastic or heavy cardboard spacer between them. It’s helpful to keep these for future storage. As a rule of thumb, the stronger the magnet, the thicker the spacer should be. Spacers simply provide a non-attracting surface for the magnets making it easy to pull them apart.

The Slide

The easiest method to separating magnets is to slide them apart. When separating magnets keep in mind shear force. Magnets are measured on pull strength, so are up to five times easier to move if they are pushed apart instead of pulled apart. Small magnets slide relatively easily, even without spacers. Use two hands for slightly larger magnets or magnets without spacers.

The Edge

Stronger magnets need a little leverage to introduce a gap. Utilize the edge of table or desk by positioning the magnets where they are joined and then carefully pushing the magnets apart. Be sure to quickly separate the magnets and store far enough away from each other to prevent jumping and avoid pinching fingers.

Push strong magnets apart using the edge of a table or deskPush strong magnets apart using the edge of a table or desk.

The Wedge

Some magnets are very difficult and dangerous to separate. In order to separate magnets with a very strong pull strength, users often make non-magnetic aides to wedge and pry stuck magnets apart. Wooden jigs or wedges are the most common and useful tool. They are easily made and customized to the exact size needed.  In most cases, separating magnets with a wedge takes two people. It’s the safest way to ensure the magnets don’t jump back at each other.

When separating magnets of any size, take care to avoid pinching, smashing or crushing fingers. We recommend wearing gloves and safety glasses. Magnets are brittle and chip easily. If they accidentally snap together, it is common for them chip or even shatter. Of course, once separated, store separately. 

Do you have tip on how to separate magnets? Share it with us in the comments below and help someone out of a sticky situation!

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Interested in learning more about magnets? Check out Polarity - a magnet blog. View Articles