6 Brilliant Ways to Open Stubborn Jars

Release that frustration (and the lid)! Learn how to open a jar the easy way—even the most stubborn ones.

Ever find yourself craving pickles, but when you reach for your favorite jar of dills you can’t pry it open, no matter how hard you grip? Or maybe you’re struggling to open a jar of marinara sauce for pasta night. Well, when brute force has failed you, give these ideas for how to open a jar a try.

How to Open a Stuck Jar

Don’t hassle with that pesky jar any longer. We’ve got six fool-proof methods for opening a stubborn jar.

1. Add some grip

man tightly gripping a jar of sauce to open it Alaina DiGiacomo/Taste of Home

Often, all that is needed is to improve your grip on the jar lid. A loose grip could be caused by the lid being damp, or perhaps it’s simply shiny and slippery.

You can use items like a dry dish towel, plastic wrap or a piece of silicone (often found in kitchens as a heat-resistant mat or shelf liner). Place the grip-assisting item over the lid of the jar and twist as you usually do to turn a slippery lid into an open one. You can also improve your grip by donning rubber gloves or placing a thick rubber band around the lid. This rubber band trick also helps open beer bottles without a bottle opener!

2. Tap the lid

man tapping the lid of a jar with a wooden spoonAlaina DiGiacomo/Taste of Home

Take a wooden spoon or a butter knife with the handle facing the lid. Give the lid of the jar a couple of firm taps. This can have the effect of disrupting the seal. After tapping, try to open the jar again. You may need to repeat the tapping a few times to get that lid to budge.

3. Break the seal

man opening jar with a butter knifeAlaina DiGiacomo/Taste of Home

Go a step further and carefully use the tip of a butter knife, a bottle opener or even a flat-head screwdriver as a prying device. You can also use a screwdriver to open a wine bottle without a corkscrew.

Insert the tip of the chosen object under the rim of the jar lid and lever it out. (Keep it pointing away from your face while you work.) Move around the rim, inserting the tip and applying leverage until you hear a small pop. The popping sound is the seal breaking. Once this has happened, you should be able to open that tight jar with ease.

4. Try the water hammer

man using the water hammer technique to open a jarAlaina DiGiacomo/Taste of Home

Another way to break the seal when you’re trying to open a stuck jar is to use a method that’s sometimes called “the water hammer.” Start by holding the jar in your non-dominant hand and tilt it 45 degrees with the lid facing down. With the center of your palm, slap the base of the jar firmly but not too hard. The effect of the water hammer is to raise the pressure near the lid to break the seal. You should hear a small pop indicating the seal has broken and the jar can open.

5. Add some heat

man holding a jar under hot water to get it openAlaina DiGiacomo/Taste of Home

Applying heat to the lid will expand it slightly, releasing it from its tight grip. Heating methods include running the lid under hot water or putting the jar, lid first, into a bowl of hot water for 30 seconds. You can also use a hairdryer. (Here are some other handy hints for removing tough stuff!) Opening the hot lid after applying heat is best done with a potholder or dry dishtowel.

6. Reach for a jar-opening gadget

Close Up Of Senior Man Taking Lid Off Jar With jar opening toolDaisy-Daisy/Getty Images

If you regularly have trouble opening jar lids, stubborn or otherwise, or if you simply love kitchen gadgets, this method is for you.

Major retailers sell many jar-opening devices that apply the necessary grip for you and make opening that tight jar a breeze. And yes, electric jar openers are a thing (perfect for the cook who has everything!).

Check Out Our Favorite Jar-Opening Gadgets

Once that jar is open and the contents are gone, remember you can use them to organize your kitchen or for one of these Mason jar gift ideas. Otherwise, come up with your own clever way to reuse glass jars!

If you’re wondering how to can your own food before you test those lid-levering skills, you’ll need a lesson in canning 101.

Lucy Marinelli
Lucy is an Australian, Bali-based writer of fiction, creative nonfiction and poetry. She’s currently polishing three books for publication and has a poetry cycle (or three) in the works. Lucy also coaches writers, helping them to write their novel or nonfiction book, improve their writing skills and find their flow (no more writer’s block).