This time of year is full of holidays. Between Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas, this season brings us more questions about how to hang stuff with magnets.
Like most of our articles, we’ll test out a few different ideas for the most common questions. We’ll share what works and what doesn’t, hopefully helping folks find the right magnet for the job.
Looking back, we’ve written about hanging things with magnets many times. They’re questions that keep coming up! Previous articles include:
A magnet hanging on a vertical surface like a wall relies on friction to prevent it from sliding down. For this article, we’re only considering a few magnets that incorporate some kind of rubber coating.
If you’re comparing magnets by looking at our Pull Force, Case 1 numbers, it might lead you to believe rubber coated magnets are weaker. This is true within the narrow definition of Pull Force, Case 1, because the magnet itself is farther away from whatever you're sticking it to. The magnet can only get as close as the thickness of the rubber.
That’s not a fair evaluation for hanging something on a vertical surface, since higher friction often means you need less magnetic force.
Our smallest hooks are great for hanging light objects. Want to hang an oven mitt on the side of your fridge? These are the ones you want.
They aren’t rubber coated, but each one has two little rubber feet. These help provide that added bit of friction to prevent it from sliding down.
If you look closely, you’ll even see that the magnet itself is actually a disc magnet set in a steel cup. This is a lot like our broad line of Mounting Magnets. This configuration is great for sticking to a steel surface without requiring an excessively thick magnet. It can also help get a bit more strength sticking to a thin steel surface.
From the outside, this magnetic assembly is a stout plastic disc, with a rotating hook for hanging things on. There are a lot of really smart magnetic design choices embedded inside.
These hooks have an internal disc of steel, on which an array of disc magnets are arranged. With the whole thing covered in a grippy, rubber-like coating, they are great at providing that extra friction.
Another subtle feature is the hook itself. Notice how the hook curves very close to the wall you’re sticking the magnet to. This helps reduce the leverage of a load trying to pry the magnet off. The closer the hook is to the wall, the less likely it is to rotate away from the wall.
We gathered these magnets and a few others to test them on a few common surfaces. Here’s the table of data we measured:
The whole reason we test all these magnets is to find some no-nonsense, straight answers to share. We hope our experience can help folks order the right magnets for the job.
Unfortunately, the more we test magnets the more we keep discovering how the answers often depend on the situation. What holds true in one situation might not for another. It’s not always obvious before you test it out. Magnets are weird sometimes.
For example, the MMS-E Mounting Magnets and the big hooks were all slightly stronger on the door, compared to the filing cabinet. The little hooks, however, were quite the opposite. They measured much stronger on the filing cabinet!
Why is this true? We suspect two factors are involved: steel thickness and paint thickness. The filing cabinet has a much smoother finish. Though we didn’t measure it, we suspect the paint is thinner. This allows the magnet to be closer to the actual steel underneath the paint, which might make a bigger difference in performance with those little hooks.
The other magnets were stronger on the door, maybe because that steel is thicker than the flimsy filing cabinet.
What conclusions should you take from all this? Take the numbers here and on the hook product pages as good sincere advice, knowing your mileage may vary. When in doubt, order a few magnets to test before making larger orders.
Can I use two magnets on either side of a window to hold something up? Most times, this isn’t a great idea. Windows are commonly constructed as double-pane, meaning there are two layers of glass separated by a gap of a half an inch or more. With large gaps like this, smaller magnets just don’t provide enough force.
We tested a pair of WPH-LG magnets through a single pane of glass, and it was able to hold up some weight. We tested just over 6 lb on that particular glass. When we tested the same pair of magnets on a double-pane window, they could barely hold up themselves.
We also tested RMB-B-X8 and RMB-B-Y0 magnets on glass. They worked well on the single pane, testing at 4 and 9 lb, respectively. On our double-pane window, the -X8 failed, while the -Y0 could maybe hold up a piece of paper.
If you are trying to hang something on a double-paned window, please consider something other than magnets. How about some tape? We're magnet people who look for any excuse to solve a problem with magnets. Keep that in mind when we say you shouldn't try using magnets through thick, double-paned windows.
While we didn't include it in the table of test data or the video, we also tested the three MMS-E mounting magnets with a straight pull. We measured how much force it takes to pull the magnet straight away from the door/cabinet, more like a Pull Force, Case 1 situation.
We measured pull forces lower than the numbers specified on the product pages. Why is that?
For example, the MMS-E-X0 tested at 10-12 lb on our test surfaces. Why is it listed at over 40 lb? The answer is simple: All of our Pull Force, Case 1 numbers assume you’re sticking the magnet to a big, thick test plate. In that test, we measured much stronger pull forces. This can be confusing if you’re expecting to see that same performance on thinner, painted steel.
Why don't we just list those products with pull forces to thinner steel? Why do we choose the thickest steel to make the spec? These are fair questions. In using the thickest steel, we're showing the magnet in it's strongest possible situation. It's what the magnet is capable of in ideal conditions.
Wouldn't it be better to choose some thinner, more common steel to define the spec? We don't think so. For starters, what's common? Many of us only stick magnets to refrigerators, but that doesn't mean that someone doesn't stick them to a hull of a ship! If we defined the test spec to a thin steel, magnetic strength would "level off" as you tested larger and larger magnets. You'd really be testing the capability of the steel more than the magnet!
For some hanging projects, you don’t need a hook. Our Magnetic Thumbtacks are very popular for hanging greeting cards on a fridge door. The smaller size can handle most cards, while the larger one tackles very thick cards.