Skip to main content Skip to header navigation

In a pickle: How to open a stuck jar

We’ve all been there: We go to open a jar of pasta sauce for dinner or salsa for a party, and we just can’t make it budge. Sometimes even the strongest of us encounter a particularly stubborn, tight lid.

Woman struggling to open jar

Take a few deep breaths and try one of these methods until you get that baby loose.

One of the reasons that jars of food are so shelf stable (meaning they can sit in your pantry for years) is a vacuum seal that keeps the lid tightly closed, thus preventing the contents from exposure to the air that would spoil it. What this means, though, is that occasionally these seals are a little too tight, causing us to struggle to get them open. Here are a few top tips for opening a stuck jar, from the mildly tight to the seemingly impossible to open.

Get more kitchen tips >>


First, try taking a deep breath and twisting with all your strength with dry hands. Use one hand to tightly hold the jar while the other hand firmly tries to turn the lid clockwise (to your left).


If your bare hands don’t work, try using a medium that will give you some grip. You may have a rubber grip opener, which can work. If you don’t, try using rubber gloves (like you would wear to wash dishes), a dish towel, a paper towel, or even a dryer sheet. Just like above, hold the jar with one hand and put the resistance material on the lid and twist.


Next, try applying heat, which can help the metal lid to expand and open. Run the lid under hot water for a few minutes. Dry it and use a paper towel or dish towel to once again try to open the lid.


If heat doesn’t work, try applying some pressure. Bang the bottom of the jar with your hand and try opening. Next try hitting the lid of the jar with a wooden spoon or other utensil. Try to open.

Break the seal

If none of these methods work, then the vacuum seal is probably very tight and just needs to be broken. Take a butter knife or bottle opener (preferably the “churchkey” or “crown cork” variety with a triangular tip) and lodge it as best as you can in between the lid and jar. Wiggle it a bit back and forth until you hear a “pop,” which will be the sound of the seal breaking. You should be able to open it. Alternately, try to run the knife around the entire seal until you hear the pop.

In another pickle? Find more solutions to common kitchen problems >>

More kitchen and cooking tips

5 Tools for a more efficient kitchen
Tiny kitchen, big problems
Time saving kitchen cleaning tips

Leave a Comment

Comments are closed.