Kitchen Tip: How to Open a Jar with a Tight Lid

Kitchen Tips & Tricks | 33 comments

A couple weeks ago I found myself in a bit of a conundrum. I was making those Spinach, Ricotta and Tomato Calzones for dinner and needed sun-dried tomatoes. That sun-dried tomatoes that I had in the fridge were almost gone, so I had to open a new jar – but the lid would NOT come off. AND Eric was out of town, so I didn’t have a strong guy to do it for me.

First I tried one of those rubber grippers. That didn’t work. The lid didn’t even budge. I was starting to get a little irritated and my hand had a huge cramp in it. I put the jar down and walked away for a while. It was the tightest lid I had ever encountered. All the trying had left deep marks from the lid in my hand.

Then I remembered a few tricks for opening jars with too tight lids that I learned years ago. I had completely forgotten since I can almost always open the jar, or have Eric there to do it for me.

how to open a jar with a difficult lid

Kitchen Tip: 5 Ways to Open a Jar with a Tight Lid

I always try the jar grippers first because usually that does it for me. Sometimes you might need to try another trick if the vacuum is especially strong and stubborn.

If you don’t have a rubber gripper or opener, try wearing rubber gloves, such as kitchen cleaning gloves, on both hands. Hold one hand on the bottom, the other on the top and twist.

1. With a Butter Knife – Using a butter knife, give the end of the jar’s rim a few gently whacks with the knife’s handle. Air bubbles created can help loosen the vacuum seal.

2. With a Spoon – Wedge the tip of the spoon in the underside of the lid in between the jar and it’s lid. Wiggle it back and forth to try to break the seal. Do this all the way around the lide. Then, try to open the jar with your hands again.

3. With Hot Water – Hold the lid under running hot water for a minute or two. The hot water will warm the metal of the lid, causing it to expand which will make it easier to open.

4. With the Palm of your Hand – Hold the jar at a 45 degree angle in one hand. With the other hand, smack the bottom of the jar. Don’t use too much force that you loose your grip, just enough to create air bubbles that will help loosen the vacuum.

5. With a Few Bumps – Gently tap the bottom of the jar (hold it at a 45 degree angle) on the counter or a cutting board, moving it all around in a circle as you tap. Just make sure you don’t tap too hard because you don’t want to break the jar.

chicken with sundried tomatoes

Fabulous Sun-Dried Tomato Recipes

Need some recipe inspiration? Here are some of my favorite recipes using sun-dried tomatoes.

Katie Goodman

About the Author:

Katie’s lifelong interest in cooking good food has shown her that part of the goodness in life is enjoying delicious food with friends and family. She is: Mom. Writer. Photographer. Recipe Developer. Website Founder. Lover of all things good in life. A mix of great recipes, family memories, and yummy photography is what Katie serves up each week at GoodLife Eats™. Katie and her family reside in Colorado.

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  • 1
    Amber | Bluebonnets & Brownies - May 23, 2011 @ 6:33 am

    I usually start with the hot water trick. It almost always works for me. Great list of things to try, Katie!


  • 2
    Maris (In Good Taste) - May 23, 2011 @ 6:44 am

    Thank you for sharing these great tips!


  • 3
    Emily - May 23, 2011 @ 7:00 am

    If the jar gripper doesn’t work, I go straight to the “church key” type can opener, using the side that you use for prying the cap off a beer bottle. I lift the lid just enough to hear the seal break – it breaks the seal easily and the lid comes right off.


  • 4
    brendajos - May 23, 2011 @ 7:59 am

    I use a bottle opener on the edge of the lid to break the seal. Works every time. :)


    • Abbey replied: — July 28th, 2015 @ 6:35 AM

      Tried this one on a pesky sauerkraut jar that’d been there for months, I was always trying to open it. Worked like an absolute charm!

  • 5
    Rachel @ Baked by Rachel - May 23, 2011 @ 8:00 am

    I use to always do the knife trick first but now my go to is my pot holders with grippy side – works like a charm!


  • 6
    Jennifer - May 23, 2011 @ 8:11 am

    Great post..another thing that works is looking for the symbol on the side of the top and if you use a knife in that spot it releases the air and opens right away. old granny tip


  • 7
    Karly - May 23, 2011 @ 8:26 am

    Oh, you’re butter knife trick makes me giggle. I use to smack the edge of the lid against my counter tops, but I was always worried I’d miss and break the whole jar or end up hitting to hard and hurting my counter tops. Never even occurred to me to use something else to hit the lid. Haha! Great idea!


  • 8
    cathie - May 23, 2011 @ 8:31 am

    great tips… what i was wondering is do you have a good recipie or instructions for making your own sundried tomatoes.. and would it work for small yellow tomatoes too?


  • 9
    Angie -- Bigbearswife - May 23, 2011 @ 8:33 am

    I’m always fighting with lids! Thanks for the tips. I usally have hubby open them but sometimes he’s not always there when Im cooking


  • 10
    Amy - May 23, 2011 @ 2:07 pm

    I know this is weird, but I had a swimming cap that never got used so I now keep it in the kitchen for just this purpose. Seriously the easiest way EVER to open a jar. :)


  • 11
    BarefeetInTheKitchen - May 23, 2011 @ 4:07 pm

    The warm water trick used to work for me most of the time. Now though, I use one of those rubber gripper things (how’s that for a technical term?) and it works every time. Although, I will admit that if my husband or any of my brothers are around, I will happily let them prove their strength. ha ha.


  • 12
    Jamie | My Baking Addiction - May 23, 2011 @ 4:18 pm

    Great tips, Katie! I am always wrestling the pickle jar!


  • 13
    Sylvie @ Gourmande in the Kitchen - May 23, 2011 @ 5:27 pm

    My mom always did the spoon and hot water trick, works like a charm!


  • 14
    karen d - May 24, 2011 @ 7:53 am

    My sister gave me a great gadget to open tight lids. It looks like an oversized plastic (heavy plastic) church key type opener and works like one. Just place on lid like you were opening a bottle of beer (or beverage of choice) and lift gently. Presto, open jar. I have no idea where she got it, but maybe Bed, Bath & Beyond. Great product.


  • 15
    Christina - May 24, 2011 @ 7:54 am

    I use a rubber band. I read the tip in an issue of Martha Stewart and it NEVER fails me. Just wrap a rubber band around the lid of the jar and it will pop right off. I’m sure it’s similar to a rubber grippie thingie, but I think the rubber band works better.


  • 16
    Susan Love - May 24, 2011 @ 3:21 pm

    I turn the jar over on its top and give it a good whack on the counter-usually works for me


    • Jan replied: — May 31st, 2011 @ 8:31 AM

      I do what Susan does.
      Turn the jar over and hold it with the lid parallel to the counter top. Then, with force, I whack it straight down on the counter top. Works every time.

  • 17
    Elizabeth T - May 24, 2011 @ 9:16 pm

    I moved into my apartment late last year and didn’t bring anything specifically to open cans. However, I did have a roll of leftover shelf liner, so I simply cut out a square of that and it worked!


  • 18
    Teresa - July 09, 2011 @ 9:56 pm

    I keep a pair of rubber cleaning / dish gloves on hand – just for opening jars. Simply, put both gloves on, hold the jar with one hand, and open the lid with the other. I can almost always get every jar open now.


  • 19
    Robin - January 14, 2012 @ 3:32 pm

    Nothing worked on the stubborn jar we had (not tapping the jar lid, hot water, tapping the jar bottom, or rubber grips) until we tried the spoon suggestion. Instead of a spoon, I used the triangle pointed end on a bottle cap opener (sometimes also found on the tip of can openers). The instant we stuck the pointed metal tip under the jar lid and barely pried it up…the seal broke and the jar opened with no effort. THANKS FOR THE TIPS! Now I’m never fighting with a jar again…I’m headed straight for my bottle cap opener every time!!


  • 20
    San - February 19, 2012 @ 8:31 am

    Thanks for the tips…The hot water tip worked for me


  • 21
    Jesse - October 21, 2012 @ 6:19 pm

    Thank you so much! The spoon thing worked so well and now we are opening jars like madmen.


  • 22
    Mike - January 16, 2013 @ 1:36 pm

    Went stright to number 4. Work like a magic! Hey guys need some help too..


  • 23
    Margaret - February 10, 2013 @ 10:57 am

    Thank you so much Katie! The butter knife worked well for me.


  • 24
    jill - April 09, 2013 @ 10:58 am

    You just gave me a piece of my sanity back. My toddler is screaming for a pickle and my husband is at work. I Iwas about to pop a vein on this stubborn jar. The knife tapping took care of it instantly. Thank you!


  • 25
    Catherine - August 03, 2013 @ 5:49 pm

    A bottle opener works like a charm!!!


  • 26
    paytonforlife - August 28, 2013 @ 10:36 pm

    THANK YOU SO MUCH! I live alone and didn’t want to run to one of my neighbors in the middle of the night while in my pajamas and ask them to please help me open my jar of pasta sauce… but I was debating it!! It totally worked to put the jar under hot water, so I didn’t have to risk a restraining order or unflavored dinner! Thank you for the knowledge! :)


  • 27
    KJ - September 08, 2013 @ 7:10 pm

    You just saved my life! I thought I was going to give myself a hernia I was trying so hard to get the lid off…the spoon trick worked for me! Thank you!!!!!!


  • 28
    Kelly - September 21, 2013 @ 9:09 pm

    Thank you sooo much, I’m a pickle junkie and I was getting angry I couldn’t get this lid off and the spoon worked like a charm. I’m so happy I don’t even feel the pain in my hand anymore lol


  • 29
    Sandy - January 01, 2014 @ 12:21 pm

    Your tips saved my dinner today. Thank you very much. I tried tapping, twisting, hot water and nothing was working for a jar of sauerkraut and then I read about the spoon trick and that did it.


  • 30
    Jake - January 30, 2014 @ 7:04 am



  • 31
    Lauren - March 19, 2014 @ 6:03 pm

    The first solution (with the butter knife) worked well for me, thanks!! Saves me the embarrassment of having to ask a stranger.


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