Instead of trying to pull them apart, firmly slide and/or twist them away from each other and far enough apart so that they don’t jump back together.
Neodymium magnets are surprisingly strong. If you’ve never handled them before, you will probably be somewhat stunned and amazed by how powerful these shiny innocent-looking little magnets can be.
This is because neodymium magnets are the strongest type of permanent magnet commercially available. In fact, they are far stronger than all other ceramic or alnico magnets of equal size – with a magnetic energy value as much as 18 times greater than these other magnets by volume and 12 times greater by mass. That’s a big deal.
So, with that said, here are our tips.
The fundamental concept in a nutshell: Neodymium magnets pull towards each other with a strong force, more than double the pull force rating of each magnet.
As a result, if you attempt to pull one magnet off of a stack or two magnets directly apart – you will need at least double the pull force to separate them – as well as a greater amount of leverage than the magnet’s actual size allows. This challenge becomes even more pronounced with medium and large magnets.
So, conceptually and practically, the most efficient may to separate magnets is to devise a method to get more leverage or a better way to grip the magnets – and to provide enough force to move the magnets laterally or sideways, which requires far less strength or force than trying to pull them directly apart.
How to separate small magnets (0 – 5 pounds of pull force)
Small magnets can normally be separated by hand, usually without much effort or mechanical help. Magnets with listed pull force ratings of up to five pounds can be slid apart without much resistance. The key is to slide one or more magnets off of the stack with a lateral motion, as shown in the diagram above.
How to separate medium-sized magnets (6 – 11 pounds of pull force)
Magnets in this range can fight and bite. While many medium-sized magnets can be separated by hand, it can helpful to use some kind of leverage such as a vise or the edge of a workbench or table with the stronger ones.
Also, many medium-sized magnets come with small plastic washers or spacers between them. This is because it's far easier to separate two magnets when a spacer is kept between them. Once the spacer is removed, it is much more difficult to separate the magnets by hand.
Finally, be extremely careful with magnets in this size and strength range. While they may appear small and relatively harmless, they can easily pinch your skin and draw blood. If this happens, immediately press a cold cloth and ice on to the affected area.
You may also want to consider wearing work gloves and safety glasses when handling magnets of this size. If not handled properly, these magnets can slam together unexpectedly in an instant and send small chips of the nickel coating flying into the air.
How to separate large magnets (12 – 25+ pounds of pull force)
These magnets fight and bite even more ferociously than their medium-sized counterparts. Some larger magnets with spacers can be separated by highly-experienced and strong hands. In most cases however, added leverage is needed – such using the edge of a workbench or table, a vise or a magnet splitter.
You will also want to be even more careful with magnets in this size and strength range. While they may still appear small and relatively harmless, they will jump back together more quickly and forcefully than small or medium-sized magnets.
So be sure to get them far apart once you have separated them. If these magnets do pinch you, immediately apply a cold cloth to stop the bleeding. Then ice the area to reduce possible pain and discomfort.
You may also want to consider wearing work gloves and safety glasses, and working with another experienced person when handling magnets of this size.