Quick and easy tricks to loosen a stubborn jar lid

A tight jar is a classic kitchen snafu, but thankfully a stuck or sealed lid is easily thwarted by some simple kitchen hacks. To start, get a grip on that lid with a rubber pot holder or glove to help you force it open. And if that doesn’t work, we’ve got plenty more handy and straightforward methods for coaxing open a stubborn jar below. Let’s liberate your canned goods together!

Things You Should Know

  • Get a better grip on the lid by using a rubber glove, oven mitt, or a dish towel to provide some traction. Or, wrap a rubber band or cling wrap around the lid.
  • Try tapping a spoon around the circumference of the lid to dislodge any dried food and loosen the seal before unscrewing it.
  • Or, hold the lid under hot, running water for 1 minute before unscrewing it to dissolve any dried food in the seal and expand the metal lid slightly.
1

Rubber gloves or a dish towel

  1. Often, it’s just a problem of getting a good grip on the jar’s lid, which can be a bit slippery or awkward to hold. Get a better grip by covering the lid of the jar with a dish towel, or wearing rubber dish gloves or grippy oven mitts. Then, twist away.[1]
    • As you twist, hold the jar close to your body to increase your leverage, prevent slips, and engage your back and arm muscles, rather than just your wrists.[2]
    • Or, pick up a specialized jar opening tool to twist the lid off with the help of some clever engineering.
  2. Advertisement
2

Rubber bands or cling wrap

  1. Sometimes you need to add some grippy material to the jar itself, rather than adding grip to your own hands. Wrap a rubber band (or several rubber bands) around the circumference of the jar’s lid to add some friction. Or, drape 1-2 layers of cling wrap over the jar to envelope it in a stickier material that lets your fingers get a better grip.[3]
    • Set the jar itself on a non-stick surface, as well, like a rubber dish drying mat or a silicone baking mat, to make sure the jar doesn’t go anywhere as you twist it open.[4]
    • Place cling wrap over the jar’s opening before you replace the lid to make it easier to open next time.
3

Tapping on the lid

  1. Put the closed jar on a flat surface. Use a spoon to firmly tap all around the circumference of the lid (both on top and on the sides) about 6-12 times. Then, screw the lid off with your dominant hand. This helps break up any dried or jammy food matter around the seal of the jar, making it easier to open.[5]
    • If it doesn’t work immediately, keep tapping around the edge of the jar for 30-60 seconds, then try to twist the lid off again. Sometimes it just takes a little encouragement.
  2. Advertisement
4

Hot water

  1. It’s possible that some food bits got into the threading of the lid and dried there, effectively sealing the cap. To unseal it, turn your kitchen tap as hot as it’ll go, then stick the lid’s seam under the running water for about 1 minute before twisting it off.[6] Just be sure to dry it with a towel first to get the best grip.
    • If you don't have a source of constant hot water, make a hot water bath instead by filling a deep pan or dish with just-boiled water, then setting the jar upside down in the bath for 1 minute.
    • The hot water also makes metal lids expand slightly, loosening the seal.[7]
5

Bottle opener

  1. Most bottle openers have a hooked edge to pry under the lids of bottles, and it’ll work on a glass jar in a pinch. Jam the hook under the lid of the jar and pry it upwards. If you hear an audible hiss, you've managed to break the air seal.[8] Twist the lid off counterclockwise, using a rag for added grip if you need it.
    • Alternatively, put on work gloves and safety goggles and use a butter knife to pry the lid off. Just slip the tip under the lip of the lid and press the handle toward the jar. It’s a common fix, but we don’t particularly recommend it, given the safety hazard.[9]
  2. Advertisement
6

Smacking the jar

  1. Hold the jar by the lid at a 45-degree angle with your non-dominant hand. Then, smack the bottom of the jar firmly with your palm 10-15 times. Place the jar upright and twist off the cap.[10] The force of the smack sends air bubbles to the lid’s seam, breaking any vacuum seal that may have formed since you last opened it.
    • Alternatively, set a kitchen towel on a hard surface, and gently but firmly hit the bottom of the jar down onto the kitchen towel 10-15 times.
7

Open flame

  1. When heated, the metal lid of the jar expands slightly, loosening the seal.[11] Hold the jar with pot holders, and position the lid of the jar just over an open flame, like from a stove or lighter. Slowly rotate the lid over the flame for 30 seconds. Then, wearing your pot holders to protect your hands, twist the lid off.
    • We recommend you only use this method as a last resort, since an open flame can be dangerous.
  2. Advertisement

Community Q&A

  • Question
    How do you loosen a tight plastic lid?
    wikiHow Staff Editor
    wikiHow Staff Editor
    Staff Answer
    This answer was written by one of our trained team of researchers who validated it for accuracy and comprehensiveness.
    wikiHow Staff Editor
    wikiHow Staff Editor
    Staff Answer
    Running hot water over the lid may help loosen it. If possible, use a rubber jar grip or dishwashing glove to help create more friction when you twist the cap off. If that doesn’t work, you might be able to get the lid off using a wrench or slip joint pliers.
  • Question
    How do you release a vacuum sealed jar lid?
    wikiHow Staff Editor
    wikiHow Staff Editor
    Staff Answer
    This answer was written by one of our trained team of researchers who validated it for accuracy and comprehensiveness.
    wikiHow Staff Editor
    wikiHow Staff Editor
    Staff Answer
    If you’re opening a jar with a two-piece vacuum sealed lid, such as a Mason jar, you’ll have to take the ring band off first. Ideally, the ring band should have been removed immediately after the jar was sealed. If not, you might need to use a rubber grip or manual jar opener to get it off. Next, use the edge of a spoon or the blade of a butter knife to lever off the flat lid. If that doesn’t work, try a church key or bottle cap remover, but take care not to chip the glass.
  • Question
    How do you open an airtight steel container?
    wikiHow Staff Editor
    wikiHow Staff Editor
    Staff Answer
    This answer was written by one of our trained team of researchers who validated it for accuracy and comprehensiveness.
    wikiHow Staff Editor
    wikiHow Staff Editor
    Staff Answer
    Running the lid under hot water may help the metal lid expand and make it easier to take it off. Depending on whether the lid screws on or has some other type of seal, you might also be able to break the seal by sliding a flat metal object, such as a butter knife blade, between the lid and the body of the container and prying the lid loose.
Advertisement

About This Article

Luke Smith, MFA
Co-authored by:
wikiHow Staff Writer
This article was co-authored by wikiHow staff writer, Luke Smith, MFA. Luke Smith is a wikiHow Staff Writer. He's worked for literary agents, publishing houses, and with many authors, and his writing has been featured in a number of literary magazines. Now, Luke writes for the content team at wikiHow and hopes to help readers expand both their skillsets and the bounds of their curiosity. Luke earned his MFA from the University of Montana. This article has been viewed 494,919 times.
1 votes - 100%
Co-authors: 18
Updated: September 12, 2023
Views: 494,919
Categories: Food and Entertaining
Article SummaryX

To open a tight jar, start by wrapping a towel around the lid to get a better grip, and twist the lid open. If that doesn't work, put a piece of plastic wrap around the lid to make the lid sticky, or put on a pair of rubber gloves. To break the vacuum seal of a jar before you open it, tap the blunt end of a wooden spoon forcefully in 6 places around the edge of the lid to make air bubbles before you twist the lid. If that doesn't work, run the lid under hot water so it expands slightly, then try turning it! For tips on using other tools and techniques to open a stuck lid of any type, scroll down!

Did this summary help you?
Advertisement