Hands around a kitchen towel open a canning lid.

How to Easily Open a Sealed Canning Lid Whether Stuck or Stubborn



After spending time on preserving the harvest, whether through water bath canning or with your pressure canner, you want to USE the food. In order to eat it you must figure out how to open the can. This is your complete guide to opening canning jar lids with little trouble.

How Do Canning Lids Seal?

What makes a canning lid seal anyway? Let’s start with the tools of sealing. You have a flat lid, a screw band and the jar itself. Remember heat expands, and as the jar is processed, oxygen is forced from the jar. When a jar is heated, the sealing compound or “gasket compound” on the bottom edge of the lid softens. Now hot and soft, it fits itself tightly to the jar rim. As the jar cools, the contents shrink and pull back into the jar, creating a vacuum seal as the hot rubber seals to the jar rim.

A Stuck Lid is a Good Lid

Remember that if you can’t budge that metal lid on top, it’s a sign that the vacuum seal worked, preventing oxygen from entering into your canned goods. This is part of what keeps your food preserved and safe. Thus, it’s important to have a strong lid. If your glass mason jar opens easily, you’ve got a false seal and your food is considered spoiled. Look at the bottom of this page for more information on making sure your canned goods are safe to consume.

Hands wrap around a towel to open a canning lid

First thing to Remember

Before opening your canning lids remember to be safe with your tools and be careful the contents of the jar don’t come out in the midst of opening the lid.

Also note this post is specifically written for canned goods made with glass mason jars, metal one time use canning lids and metal canning bands. It isn’t written for reusable canning lids with rubber rings. I just have to say it: if you’re opening a reusable canning lid, please don’t manipulate the lid or put a hole in the lid. You’ll want to use it again.

Best Ways to Open a Canning Lid

Use a towel

This was my first plan of action following struggles with opening canning jars. After several nails broke, I found myself going to a thick kitchen towel for extra safety. To use a towel simply cover the lid with your cloth and pull up under the edge of the lid with your fingertips. The downside to this method is that it can still disturb long nails if the towel isn’t thick enough. This comes to why the next idea is my best way of opening canning lids.

These are my most efficient ways of opening a canning lid with little effort.

A bottle opener opens a canning jar

Use a Church key Can opener or Bottle Opener

I will proclaim this as the most efficient method of opening a canning lid. After much frustration and still finding nails a bit dented, I switched to using a church key style can opener. Actually, mine is more of a portable bottle opener but it works beautifully as a jar opener as well. A church key can opener is also a great investment if you’re going to be opening a good number of jars in the year.

A simple blue bottle opener is great for canning lids

Other Ways to Open a Canning Lid

Here’s a few more options to try when a canning lid won’t budge.

A Hot Water Bath

Warmth will also help to loosen lids. If your metal band is also stuck, warm water is especially helpful ( But know you shouldn’t store canning goods with the bands on.) Fill a bowl of hot water a few inches high and let the lid sit in it for 5-10 minutes. Note that you don’t want this too hot or the temperature change may cause your jar to brake; especially if bringing it from a very cold storage place.

Alternatively, you can run hot water over the lid for 2-3 minutes OR use the hot setting on a hair dryer. before loosening and opening the lid with a kitchen towel or rubber glove.

Use a Butter Knife

Another easy way to loosen that stubborn lid is with a knife. You can use a butter knife or, like me, use a knife with a sharper edge. This makes it easier to fit beneath the rim of the jar lid. Gently push up to break the seal. As soon as the air flows out you can open the rest of the lid.

a butter knife pries open the metal lid on a canning jar

Use a Rubber Glove

A rubber glove can be used jus as a kitchen towel to provide grip and protection for your nails, though I believe a towel provides a little more protection than this option. The best glove to use is a thick rubber glove meant for cleaning as opposed to a thin sterile latex glove.

Punch a Hole in the Top

No silly! Not with your fist. If all else fails, use a nail to hammer a small hole in the top of the lid. Because the lids are only used one time, it’s ok to ruin the shape. Once the hole is in, the airtight seal will be broken and you can open the metal lid much easier.

Did Your Jar Not Seal?

Perhaps you went to open what you thought would be a stuck jar lid and instead it came off without any fight. This is considered an unsealed jar and the contents of the jar should be disposed. If you are unsure about the safety of your jar’s contents or have other canning related safety questions, check online with the National Center for Home Preservation or call your local extension office.

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From the Hilltop,


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