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Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Top Ten Ways to Open Stuck Jar Lids

A bizarre post for the Guerilla Griller, perhaps, but it was a request, and as I am also a musician in my other life, I am used to doing requests!  The specific question was on how to open a stubborn jar of Marmite: those of you not familiar with Marmite need to know that it is a savoury paste of yeast extract, often spread on hot toast.  The taste of the stuff is so unique that it is even marketed on the principal that you will love it or hate it, and, in Britain, “it’s a Marmite thing” is a common phrase to describe something that will polarise opinion – perhaps a song or a movie.  As I can’t stand the stuff, I was tempted to either ignore the request, or find a way of keeping the lid on permanently, but a request is a request, and as it applies to anything in a jar, I suppose this set of hints will be useful elsewhere.

Before we get into how to open stuck jars, try to avoid getting them stuck in the first place by wiping the neck of the jar (and, if necessary, the thread on the inside of the lid) clean of any gloop before closing.

But, you did that, and the lid is still immoveable: so, here’s my top ten list on how to open a stuck jar…

(Public Health Disclaimer – this is obvious, but I have to say it: forcing glass can be dangerous, as it can break or shatter – protect yourself with gloves, goggles and other suitable clothing.  Make sure kids, pets and others are out of the way, and if in doubt, don’t do it at all.)
1)    Buy a jar opener (see picture above): these are often sold in kitchen stores and websites, and also in places that provide equipment for the elderly and those with disability.  You may not use it very often, but when you need it, you need it.  If you don’t own one, buy one, or you may have to use one of the following methods
2)    Run the neck of the jar under the hot tap: this will expand the metal, and also loosen and soak away any gunk
3)    Soak the whole jar in a bowl of warm water for half an hour, to give the same effect as number 2 above
4)    Wrap a cloth tightly around the lid: this gives you a bigger surface area to grip
5)    Carefully close the lid in the door, applying a firm pressure.  Turn the jar
6)    A very large adjustable spanner, mole grip or plumber’s wrench may do the job
7)    A car oil filter removal tool, which is a kind of latching bicycle chain on a stick will work, if you can make it grip the lid
8)    Gently tap the side of the lid on the edge of a work surface or similar, turning the jar as you do so.  This should break the seal, and loosen any stuck bits
9)    Get someone else to hold the lid, while you hold the jar, or vice versa: this doubles your grip, and assuming you both twist in the correct opposite direction, it should come free 
10) OK, I’m cheating: I couldn’t think of a tenth, so this is over to you.  If you have a sure-fire method for opening a stuck jar, leave it in the comments box below – I’d love to hear from you


  1. We always insert a butter knife under the edge and give the knife a twist so it allows air into the seal. If that doesn't work, we tap around the edge of the lid with the blunt end of the knife, then repeat the above.

    Usually that does it, but if it doesn't, we use some of the tricks above.

    Or I call my husband...

  2. Here's the 10th: hand it to your husband with your eyelashes fluttering just so. It doesn't usually work, but sometimes it does. Very unpredictable, that one.
    Great tips!
    I have no idea how you found me, but now I have found you, too! great information!

  3. Loving that both comments so far mention husbands: as I'm a straight male, I'm left to my own devices! But good tip with the knife, Kayla. Valerie, I think I found your blog browsing from the list of someone who follows someone who follows someone who follows me... Or something like that. Glad I found you, however I did it, great blog.

  4. First of all, I bang the jar on a board and kind of turn it as I bang it. Sometimes I use one of those grip things. And, not to beat a dead horse...I ask for help from you know who.

  5. I have a tenth for you. Turn the jar upside down and whack the bottom on the jar with your free hand. This is my first visit to your blog and I've been poking around and reading your earlier entries. I really enjoyed my visit and will definitely be back. I hope you have a great day. Blessings...Mary

  6. Put a rubber glove on one hand and twist the stuck lid. It actually works. No time to put on the glove? Put it between your hand and the lid and twist. It still works! Do it all the time.

    1. Holy moly... tried everything (even the husband, who stopped because he was seriously worried the glass would shatter) and finally, rather doubtfully, tried this - and it worked instantly! Thankyou!

  7. Husbands? I have an amazing one, but I'm the one who opens the jars in our house. Firm, sustained force usually does it, otherwise it's a marigold glove like @glistivali, a whack on the bottome like Mary, or if it's a jar I'm going to use up all at once, I just use a church key opener to puch a hole in the top.

  8. In my experience it is the girls who are better than the guys in opening stuck lids: my best jar opener is a female friend who is about half my size, yet has wrists of steel and can open jars that leave this large male weeping in frustration! Now, perhaps if they sold beer in jars we'd be better at it...

  9. My mother in law pierces a hole in the lid - I'm guessing it relieves the pressure of the vacuum inside - but I think you have to eat the contents sooner rather than later...

  10. A friend gave me this advice and I have never been stuck (pardon the pun) opening a jar since.

    Hold the jar upside down at a 45 degree angle, and tap the edge of the lid once sharply on a hard surface. (Although preferably not a granite worktop.) Works every time!