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6 Hacks for Opening a Stuck Canning Jar

Tricks for Opening a Stuck Jar - LivingHomegrown.com

In a perfect world, we should never have a stuck ring on a canning jar because preserves should be stored WITHOUT the rings!

Didn’t know that?

No worries. I wrote all about it here:

Why You Should Always Remove Jar Rings.

But the reality is that many people don’t know this and they leave on the rings. Perhaps you do too.

Although you can get away with it most of the time, eventually you will run into the issue of a jar with a stuck ring. (As well as the other issues spelled out in the above post)

This happens because rust or food/brine residue is under the ring and acts like a glue – cementing that ring onto the jar. Sometimes, it is next to impossible to turn or remove the ring to open the jar.

A stuck ring can also happen when you are storing an opened jar in the refrigerator. You need the ring to hold the lid in place, right? But if left long enough, it can get stuck as well.

Below I offer some simple tricks for getting that darn ring off without sacrificing the hard-earned preserves inside.

And the best part is that these tricks work just as well on any commercial jar in your cupboard.

Yes, even that pesky store-bought jar of pickles.

Thermal Expansion is Our Friend:

All canning jar rings (and most lids) are made from a thin layer of metal. And all metal has certain physical properties that we can use to our advantage.

So here’s the deal:

  • All matter tends to expand when heated.
  • Metal just happens to expand more than glass.
  • If you heat the metal lid and ring, it will expand and loosen its grip.
  • For best results, try to only heat the metal and not the glass.

Now just so I don’t get notes from all my engineering buddies, I am fully aware that if you heat both the lid and the jar to the same temperature, the metal ring will probably still come off because it will expand more.

However by only heating the metal (and keeping the glass unchanged), you create a greater difference between the two sizes and TA-DA the jar opens.

(And yes, TA-DA is an engineering term.)

Heating the Metal Ring:

Stuck Jar Lid - LivingHomegrown.com

1) Run Water on the Center of the Lid Only

Metal has a high rate of thermal conductivity which just means that it will heat pretty darn quickly and easily.

So all you have to do is heat the center of the lid and that heat will rapidly spread to the edges and the ring.

Just hold the jar under running hot water and direct the flow at the center of the lid. (Not the glass)

You can also run the hot water around the ring for good measure.

Then dry it off and give it a twist to see if it will open.

Stuck Jar Lid - LivingHomegrown.com

2) Turn the Jar Upside Down into Warm Water

This is a very common tip on the Internet and it does work in most situations. Also, it uses less water and is therefore less wasteful.

However, there is one instance where this method won’t work well and that is when you are dealing with a refrigerated (or cold) jar.

By turning the jar upside down, you put the cold contents up against the lid and that can prevent the lid from heating enough to make a difference.

So if your jar is cold, skip this one.

The idea is that by soaking the jar upside down, you not only heat the ring but also soak the goop underneath the ring that is causing the problem.

Set the jar in the warm water for about 10 minutes and then give it a try.

Stuck Jar Lid - LivingHomegrown.com

3) Heat the Ring with a Hair Dryer

Another method for heating the ring is to use a hair dryer.

The key with this method is to point the hair dryer at the lid rather than the glass of the jar.

Again, this is so that the metal heats more than the glass.

Just a minute or so of heat should do the trick.

 

A Better Grip is Key:

Once you have the ring heated, you may be able to open it with your bare hands.

Yahoo!

But if not, you now turn to methods for better grip.

In fact with standard commercial jars, improving your grip may be all that you need to do to open that pesky jar.

Stuck Jar Lid - LivingHomegrown.com

4) Rubber Gloves:

This is by far my most successful way to get a good grip. You can either use an empty rubber glove like a towel over the jar or put both gloves on (one to hold the jar and one to open the lid).

The glove will even give you a good grip if the jar is slightly wet from trick #1 or #2 above.

Stuck Jar Lid - LivingHomegrown.com

5) Rubber Bands:

If you don’t have a rubber glove on hand, grab some rubber bands.

One large or several thin rubber bands wrapped around the ring, might give you just enough gripping leverage to give that ring a good turn.

Stuck Jar Lid - LivingHomegrown.com

6) A Damp Sponge:

This is my least favorite method. But one time on a camping trip, this was our only choice and it worked.

A damp sponge does give you just a bit of grip and is better than nothing.

Note: Although I see it mentioned elsewhere, one method I have not had any success with is a clothes dryer sheet. I have read that one sheet laid over the top of the jar will give you better grip, but it doesn’t seem to work for me.

Perhaps my particular brand is just too slippery. Hmmmm.

So next time you are trying to wrangle a stuck jar ring or lid, I hope this helps you out.

Think you might try this? Have another tip I didn’t list?

Please tell me in the comments!

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About the Author:

Theresa Loe is the founder of Living Homegrown® and the Canning Academy® and is the Co-Executive Producer & Canning Expert on the national PBS gardening series, Growing A Greener World®. Theresa homesteads on just 1/10th of an acre in Los Angeles with her husband, two teenage boys and several disorderly but totally adorable chickens. Learn more about Living Homegrown here and about the Canning Academy here.