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How to open a stuck lid on a Mason jar

In this article, you will learn how to prevent the metal band on Mason jars from getting stuck and how to break the vacuum seal and remove flat lids from jars the easy way.

The anatomy of a Mason jar lid

If you are preserving your food at home – you are most likely using a Mason type of jar.

There are two main brands of Mason jars: Kerr and Ball.

Both brands belong to the same company – Jarden Home Brands, both produced in the U.S.A., and pretty much look alike. The only difference between the two brands is that Ball jars have a measurement grid in ounces and cups on the side. Mason jars can be reused many times.

A note. In case you need to open a vacuum sealed jar with a one piece tight lid (the one you usually buy from the grocery store), then read my other article: How to open a jar with a tight lid (15 genius hacks!)

How to open a stuck lid on a Mason jar

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Unlike the processed food glass jar from the grocery that comes with the one piece lid, the threaded Kerr or Ball jar used in home canning comes with a two piece self-sealed lid.

The lid consists of the flat metal part that rests on the top of the jar and a metal band that screws to the jar to hold the flat lid during processing.

I need to note that metal bands and flat lids on Kerr and Ball jars are interchangeable.  The metal bands are reusable.  The flat lid can be used only one time.

Mason jar lid

Mason jar lid

(image from the

The flat lid has an indentation around its rim filled with colored sealing gasket compound. During jar processing the gasket on the flat lid softens and covers the the jar edge. When the jar cools after processing, the gasket forms an airtight seal that keeps the food in the jar from spoilage.


How to store home canned food the correct way

When I read about the trouble people were having with opening Mason jars, a lot of them mentioned that the metal screw bands were impossible to remove from the jar. The thing is that there is no need to store the jars with the metal bands on them.

The National Center for Home Food Preservation states that,

 Screw bands are not needed on stored jars. They can be removed easily after jars are cooled. When removed, washed, dried, and stored in a dry area, screw bands may be used many times. If left on stored jars, they become difficult to remove, often rust, and may not work properly again.

So, here is tip number one for easy Mason jar opening: after cooling jars for 12 to 24 hours – remove the ring bands from Mason jars before storing your canned goods.

But what if you were not aware of this tip and have a jar that has been stored for a long time with the metal band on it that now is hard to remove?

The first thing to do will be to try to unscrew it with the handy flexible rubber grip.

If the rubber grip fails – then you should use another kind of manual jar opener to remove the band.

The easiest jar opener to unscrew the band would be under cabinet jar opener with metal teeth, but it will leave unsightly marks on the band.

(Read the related article about manual jar openers).


How to open a flat lid on a Mason jar

In order to remove a flat lid, you will need to break the vacuum seal which, sometimes, is not easy.

To lift the flat lid off the Mason jar use a butter knife blade. Tuck it under the lid in the place where the jar thread is closest to the lid (take a look at the jar neck on the picture in this article) and pry to open. Alternatively, you can use the edge of a spoon as a lever to lift the lid off.

If this fails, then get a long nail or screw and a hammer and punch a small hole on the top of the lid. This will break the vacuum seal and you will be able to lift the flat lid easily.

Some people use a church key or bottle cap remover to pry the flat lid from the jar. It will work, but I must caution you that with these tools the glass jar might get easily chipped and become unusable.

Let’s recap the process of dealing with Mason jar lids.

1. Store canned food in the Mason jars without screw bands on them.

2. To break the vacuum seal and to lift the flat lid – use a butter knife blade as a lever. If the lid doesn’t budge, make a hole with the help of a screw and a hammer on top of the lid.

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Related reading:

15 can opener types

How to open a can without a can opener

How to open a jar with a tight lid (15 genius hacks)

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How to open a stuck lid on a Mason jar

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