How to Open a Stuck Jar Lid

by Brett and Kate McKay on January 19, 2008 · 52 comments

in Manly Skills

jars1.jpg

It’s Sunday afternoon and you are sitting in your man chair, in your man robe, reading your man newspaper. It’s your wife’s turn to cook today. (That’s right. You share in the cooking duties at your house. Manly men know how to cook. Especially meat.) To keep things simple, she’s whipping up some spaghetti and a nice side salad to go with it. And then you hear it: “Dear, I can’t get the lid to the spaghetti sauce jar to open. It’s stuck. Can you open it for me?”

Are you ready for moments like these? Here are five techniques to show off your man skills and open a stuck jar lid every time.

1. Brute force. This technique simply requires you to use your manly strength to twist open the jar lid. You get extra points if you do it without the assistance of a rag.

2. Wrap the lid in a dish towel or rubber glove. If brute force doesn’t work, give your self some extra traction by wrapping the lid in dish rag, or better yet, a rubber glove.

3. Break the vacuum seal. If the bottle is new and still vacuumed sealed, breaking the seal makes the lid easier to open. You can do this by using a bottle opener and pulling the lid away from the jar.

4. Run the lid under hot water. Running the lid under hot water for a minute will cause the metal to expand so the lid comes off more easily.

5. Tap the lid with a spoon. Sometimes food gets stuck in the lid which in turn causes the lid to get stuck. Give the lid a few quick taps on the side with a spoon in order to dislodge any food.

Image by How Can I Recycle This?

{ 52 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Kyle January 24, 2008 at 4:05 pm

Stumbled across your blog. Good reading. I use to bang the side of the lid on the counter, would work everytime, until I broke a tile….not so good.

2 xer January 31, 2008 at 2:24 pm

Tip the jar upside down and whack the bottom of it with the palm of your hand. Do this two or three times. Then open the jar. Works like a charm every time.

3 Man of Men January 31, 2008 at 2:38 pm

Easiest way ever is to grab a knife, hit the lid with the blunt edge of the knife all the way around the jar. Opens like a charm.

4 KBK February 10, 2008 at 11:58 am

If it’s a small enough lid, turn your right hand upside down before grabbing it. The thumb sides of your two hands should face each other. This method gives a better grip.

You can also use a small strap wrench if hot water and tapping the edge doesn’t loosen it up.

5 Brett McKay February 10, 2008 at 8:54 pm

@KBK:

Thanks for the additional tips!

6 Zyxthior May 15, 2008 at 10:26 am

Just as xer said….the easiest way to break the seal and get the jar open is a couple of good whacks on the bottom of the jar. I don’t know how many times my wife has struggled with getting something open….I’d take it….smack it on the bottom a few times…and then open it up with very little resistance….of course my wife always tells me:

“I loosened it for you….”

7 Mark June 6, 2008 at 5:18 am

The manliest way to unscrew a jar is to set it on the bench, stare at it in a very manly way until it unscrews itself and runs off.

8 Heather June 29, 2008 at 7:17 pm

I have a couple of other ways to open a jar, although there are both variations of the same principle: break the seal.

1. Bang the edge of the jar lid on the edge of the counter top several times. Great way to relieve stress.

2. If you are going to be using the contents of the jar at once (like spaghetti sauce), then take a knife and stab the jar lid. The hole created will break the seal. Although, for some reason, the men in my life don’t like it when I employ that method. Something about me stabbing something with a knife…

9 Tom July 10, 2008 at 8:09 am

I once used the hot water trick on a jam jar for my mother after all other options had failed. All the while I explained to her the science behind it and when it did work, I swear she’s never looked at me with as much pride since.

10 Gabriel Austin August 20, 2008 at 9:56 am

Hot water to open a stuck jar lid is WRONG. Use cold water. Have you never felt a ring get loose when the hand is in cold water? The CHALLENGER ring slipped in cold air.
Think about it; the cold makes the metal retract into itself, thus making the interior whole wider.

11 Don August 31, 2008 at 8:34 am

Gabriel, you are wrong the TCE is higher for a metal than glass, hence when you heat up the lid with hot water it expands more than the glass (and quicker too, because metal absorbs heat much faster than glass). This effectively increases the radius of the lid, making a little bigger and hence looser for the person who will now easily open the jar. Make sure to wipe it off first.

12 Rachel September 8, 2008 at 9:29 pm

If all else fails… try sticking a knife under the lid and prying it open. Or you could just skip all the other steps and do that to begin with. It works for me. :)

13 Roland September 16, 2008 at 9:00 pm

Use the rubber/foamy underside of a mouse pad. At least it justifies your geekiness with some real-life practicality. :)

14 Christina October 5, 2008 at 10:42 am

The best way to open a jar is to use a wide rubber band, like the kind that come wrapped around bunches of broccoli. Simply place the rubber band around the lid, and it will provide all the traction you need. If your lid has a small diameter, wrap the band a few times.

15 Su November 20, 2008 at 4:31 pm

I tried everything written here to open a jam jar that had been closed for at least half a year.It was extra sticky cuz my husband made it at home so more sticky stuff under the lid from whe he poured it into the jars…But anyway, nothing worked until I tried the rubber band around the lid thing as Christina mentioned and boy does that work! It was so effortless and worked like a charm! I think that’s what I’m sticking to from now on…

16 rob January 18, 2009 at 11:45 am

What’s important about the brute force method is to make sure you use the proper technique: instinctively grabbing and twisting at the wrist is going to offer you very little leverage for opening that jar. A much more effective technique is to use a firm grip, keep the wrist locked straight, and turn from the elbow. If this doesn’t work, blame the first person who tried for getting it all greasy, then proceed to employ a craftier method.

17 jurisnaturalist February 21, 2009 at 11:45 am

Mark, Thanks for the Chuck Norris version!

18 tudza February 21, 2009 at 9:18 pm

Haven’t met a jar yet that didn’t yield to the “pry the lid, release the seal” method. The only problem is that a bottle opener rarely fits the lids, so take that spoon you are wacking the lid with and use one end or the other to pry it a bit.

19 Richard April 20, 2009 at 11:52 am

There are some small strap wrenches (mainly used for plumbing jobs) that are good for opening jars. Keep one in the junk drawer of your kitchen, it can be used for opening jars or pulling the “P” trap when the sink is clogged.

20 trout ponds April 27, 2009 at 4:30 pm

I was aware of the tapping/pounding, hot water and traction techniques. While none of those worked, I tried the pry the lid to break the seal technique just now… POP! it’s open!

I wasn’t aware lids were so easy to pry open to break the seal. I used a pointy butter knfe because it was a DULL blade and a bit thicker than a regular dinner knife. The strength of the steel and the point really helped.

Now I am embarrassed that I used the brute force with help techniques all these years, when I should have employed a tiny bit of my professional science background… we live and learn.

Thanks all for the suggestions!

21 TeeTee April 27, 2009 at 6:04 pm

Thank you, thank you, thank you!

They helped even a woman;).

22 Jeff June 5, 2009 at 11:37 am

Always open jars BEFORE placing them in the refrigerator. Makes them easier to open later.

23 Ewan July 19, 2009 at 2:12 pm

I recently got very angry with a jar I was trying to open for my girlfriend. Nothing seemed to work, and I lost my manly calm and bashed the side of the lid hard on the worktop. I gave it another pull and to my surprise it just slipped off. Next time, I’ll give it a manly bash and hope the glass doesn’t break.

24 Chieftain August 9, 2009 at 1:44 pm

Brute force works for me, every time. I do not understand why men have any difficulty opening jars with anything other than their bare hands. But then again, I’ve been a touch typist since I was thirteen, and I’m 46 now, and I’ve developed muscles on each of my knuckles from typing away at 140 wpm…

The science behind the hot-water trick is only partially right. Yes, you are expanding the metal on the lid when you run it under cold water. You are also expanding what little air remains in the jar’s “vacuum” (there is always some) and that, too, alleviates the vacuum seal. And finally the water lubricates the glass thread — all of which works together for men who need this trick to open jars.

25 Anthony Day September 15, 2009 at 10:43 am

One of the things we all do when trying to get a lid off is hold our breath. Next time as you are trying to turn the lid exhale. You will be surpised what happens next.

26 Jimmy The Man September 26, 2009 at 2:59 pm

The easiest way is number 3; break the vacuum seal and not by banging it or tapping it or anything like that but simply what it says there…i just get a normal cuttlery knife, slide it between the rim of the lid and the jar and push the bottom of the knife in. The lid simply makes a POP and it comes open.

27 ManInTheMaking October 25, 2009 at 11:24 pm

Dude, this is a gold mine of sound advice. It’s very cool and refreshing to find a real MEN’s website. Thanks.

28 Houdini October 27, 2009 at 10:27 am

The hot water trick was the best tip but if the jar is really stuck with
sugery jam etc. this is the BEST method. Microwave an inch of water
in a cereal bowl till boiling. Put jar in water upside down. Let soak for
a couple of minutes then give jar to a four year old to open. The back
of a knife whack on the lid is a brutal and barbaric act, don’t do that.

29 Tad March 18, 2010 at 6:48 pm

In Soviet Russia jars open you…

30 Lucas April 3, 2010 at 7:17 pm

This is the one trick I have used ever since a friend told me about it. I have not had trouble opening a jar ever since (although greasy hands may keep this from working).

Open it with your left hand.

I used to have trouble with about half the sealed jars (and some already-opened ones) I tried to open. Now, I NEVER have problems.

Yes, it is as simple as that. I am right handed, and it is stronger than my left (my overall arm strength is nothing special). But believe me, it works. When you open it left handed, you are pulling your arm BACK INWARDS towards your body, where it wants to be. Your muscles there are stronger than the ones on your right arm pulling your elbow OUT AWAY from your body.

Also, the issue of having a good grip goes away. When you have sufficient arm power (which you get instantly by simply using your left), you will find that your ordinary grip will be fine.

31 Iron Cage April 28, 2010 at 5:41 pm

Lucas, I agree with you. I am right handed and have always opened jars with my left hand. For some reason it does provide more arm power.

Here are the two methods I’ve used for years, depending on the type jar I’m opening:
For store bought jars, like pickles, jelly, etc. I just use the end of a butter knife and slide it in right underneath the edge of the lid and lift outward, and this pops the seal, and you can open it right up.

For home canned items where the outside part that screws down over the top seal (you know, the two part system for home canning), If the outside part has become rusty looking or stuck because of food or whatever, I run hot water over it for a couple of minutes, then try to open it by hand, then try tapping the part that is screwed to break loose any rust/food and see if it opens, then if this fails, I use the butterknife method. On the top seal, the hot water loosens the rubber gasket seal, and you can also use the butterknife to pop that seal if it doesn’t come off by hand.

These methods have never once failed me. Happy eating!

32 JeffC September 20, 2012 at 9:32 pm

I guess mine is a variation of the knife-tap method: I give the lid a couple of gentle-but-firm taps flat against the countertop. The jar is inverted, so the whole top of the lid strikes the countertop at once. Not nearly hard enough to break the glass, but apparently hard enough to break the seal. One thud equals 10 knife taps.

I must admit that the lid-prying method seems the most elegant, and I’m eager to try it. The avoidance of a display of physical force makes you seem much more a sophisticated problem-solver than monkey-gripping the jar, hitting it, or slamming it against the counter.

33 catherine October 10, 2012 at 12:54 pm

Xer’s tip worked for me!!

34 Mike November 3, 2012 at 7:37 am

If all else fails … vice grips.

35 anon November 5, 2012 at 12:29 pm

I use the ‘break the seal’ method. I just punch a small hole once in the lid with an ice pick which breaks the vacuum seal. Lid easily opens every time with no strength required.

36 will November 21, 2012 at 11:47 am

i find putting it over the hob is a good one. heats it up quicker than water

37 Maniel November 21, 2012 at 1:52 pm

I use .45ACP.

38 Jason December 6, 2012 at 1:40 pm

Open what? Wait, you’re only supposed to eat the food inside? I thought the “jar” portion was like a crunchy shell.

This is just for jars though correct? You’re still supposed eat the ones with the shiny metal like coating whole right?

39 Kevin December 18, 2012 at 10:23 am

This morning my girlfriend needed me to open a pickle jar first i tried the brute force method and did not succeed, she then broke the seal and again asked me to open it so i figured it wouldn’t be hard and tried with one hand this didn’t work so she runs upstairs and asked her sisters boyfriend to open it. he was able to and i felt most unmanly. I feel i was short changed because i didnt get to try again with two hands before she asked another man. This bothers me because opening jars is what men are for, i remain feeling unmanly untill she askes me to open another jar.

40 Trev January 30, 2013 at 8:35 pm

Wow fellas, there’s a much easier way… You don’t need to hammer the cap to break the seal lol. Wow…

Flip the jar over sirs. You take the bottom part of the palm of your hand, and hit the bottom end of the jar while the top is screwed on properly. It won’t jump thread if it’s not a cheap bottle, and if you’ve done it right, which you always should because it’s EASY!… you’ll hear the cap pop real lightly. Now twist. It’ll be 50% easier and you won’t look like you’re bringing out any big guns. You’ll look CLEVER.

41 JJ January 31, 2013 at 11:22 am

After buying a SECOND jar of salsa that refused to budge with every effort (hot water, tapping, brute force, rubber gloves, mousepad, butter knife, and telepathic will) my boyfriend and I were eating our chips with nothing but a little salt and a defeated attitude. However, my cheap side came out and said, there must be a way. Just as I was ready to poke a hole in the top of the lid to release the seal I thought, hmmm let me Google this. Wow – that bottle opener trick worked like a charm! So obvious, yet it took me over 40 years and your website to come across the idea. THANKS! Enjoying my chips and salsa this very moment and can’t wait to show my boyfriend my new skill when he gets home on the second jar of salsa.

42 Cody February 9, 2013 at 1:56 am

Just smash open the jar.

43 Dan March 22, 2013 at 6:58 pm

Tried everything; what finally worked was using a bottle opener to pry the lid enough to break the vacuum seal.

44 WilC March 30, 2013 at 11:24 am

Oh, forgot to mention a 36″ pipe wrench will fit almost any jar lid. If the wrench isn’t up to the task of unscrewing the disagreeable device then using the tool as a bludgeon usually will force the container to relinquish it’s contents, albeit, usually with some of the container adhering to the sought after delicacy.

45 Carol May 16, 2013 at 1:30 pm

Thanks so much!! Had a jar of sliced beetroot that I just couldn’t open. Had tried the rubber glove method, tried prising under the lip with a knife, nothing would work.
I tried running the lid under hot water and hey presto – opened like a dream!!

46 Aaron July 11, 2013 at 4:51 pm

Poke a hole in the lid.

47 CJ July 31, 2013 at 12:04 pm

Thanks! Spoon worked. I was feeling pretty weak there for a moment…

48 Marie-Jacqueline September 20, 2013 at 11:58 am

Thank you! Just tried the hot-water, bang-lid-on-counter, traction combo and — voila!

49 Amy October 21, 2013 at 10:19 pm

Brute force ftw.
I am the smallest person I know yet still people come to me for lids..
you just.. force it open..
Jar upside down with hands both twisting opposite ways and tucked into your chest is about how I do it I think

50 Justin November 16, 2013 at 10:43 am

Open it with your left hand. Supination provides about 25% more torque than pronation. So when you use your left hand to open a jar you are supinating where you would be pronating with your right hand. Thats why you can easily get a jar almost tight to undo with your right hand if you instantly try to open it again with your right hand.

51 mimi November 24, 2013 at 2:33 pm

I hit it with a spoon, (not tap) I was too annoyed…. I didn’t even need to turn it, it came right off.
Mimi 1 – 0 jar of jalapeños

52 T.C. January 9, 2014 at 9:55 pm

I just flip it upside down and smack it down. Yes, I know this sounds like I’m making it tighter but, aye it works every time.

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