Help! I need to get a jar of pasta sauce open but can't seem to budge it. I've tried using a dishtowel, and running it under hot water, but the lid is still stuck. What else can I do to open this jar?

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    If you can find one cheap (we have a couple we've gotten free at trade shows and the like), a rubber gripper like this one is an awesome thing to keep in the kitchen. I used to use the dent method mfg mentioned; now that I have this I find that hot water + rubber gripper = any jar can be opened. Commented Feb 17, 2011 at 18:44
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    For a regular jar of pasta sauce, a sturdy spoon under the rim always does the trick for me. Where it doesn't work is if the lid (as well as the jar) is threaded.
    – Marti
    Commented Dec 17, 2012 at 23:45

16 Answers 16


Go around the edges, tapping the rim with the handle of a butter knife (leaving little dents). That should allow you to twist it off.

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    Unsure if down voter wanted a citation, but this does work very well.
    – mfg
    Commented Feb 17, 2011 at 18:27
  • Works best if you hit kind of diagonally, with some of the force in the direction that would turn the jar lid to open it. I suspect it's breaking the vacuum seal. This is what I do after the rubber gripper and hot water run have failed. Commented Feb 17, 2011 at 18:38
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    I've used this method when I didn't have any rubber bands or rubber grippers around, and it does work very well. I wish people wouldn't drive-by downvote and instead would explain what they think is wrong with an answer. Commented Feb 17, 2011 at 18:43
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    That's how I do it. I usually find that even just one quite firm little dent will do the job. Commented Feb 17, 2011 at 22:06
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    Or just push a regular table knife into the gap under the lid - you just need to break the vacuum on an unopened jar Commented Feb 20, 2011 at 23:57

In future, if you're using a jar that you'll be emptying (like pasta sauce), the quickest way to open them is take a sharp, sturdy, pointed knife (or even a screwdriver), brace the jar well in a cloth, then carefully make a hole in the top of the lid (just place the point on it and give it a tap or two on the end of the handle). This breaks the seal of the jar, which is what makes it hard to open.

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    Thought of this, but wasn't planning on emptying the whole thing... needed the leftovers to be properly sealed afterwards. Thanks for the suggestion though!
    – clueless
    Commented Feb 17, 2011 at 19:49
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    @clueless: Having some spare mason jars on hand can be quite useful. Or any spare glass jars for that matter.
    – derobert
    Commented Feb 18, 2011 at 8:51

Ok - finally got it open! While googling, I came across a suggestion to cover the lid with a plastic glove and use that for traction. Not sure if it was the combination of running under hot water + the glove, or if the glove would've worked on it's own, but it's open now :)

  • I always just put a rubber glove over it and use that for extra power, even without the hot water.
    – Colen
    Commented Feb 17, 2011 at 23:28
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    Wouldn't it probably be as effective (more effective?) to just wear the rubber glove on the hand you're opening it with? Commented Feb 18, 2011 at 17:40
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    @Ryan Elkins - Using the empty glove offers an extra layer of material to act as a cushion, allowing more hand strength to be brought to bear. Commented Dec 18, 2012 at 14:15
  • I've found soaking in hot water to be better than running it under hot water - just turn it upside down and let sit in shallow hot water (just enough to cover the lid) for a while. It takes less water, and holds the heat longer, and soaking helps loosen the edges of any residue that might be dried between the cap and jar
    – Megha
    Commented Mar 16, 2017 at 1:41

One thing that has worked for me is to slide a flat (butter) knife along the glass under the edge of the lid. Turn slightly to break the seal. Warning -- if your knife isn't strong, it will twist the blade. You'll know if you got it, since you'll be able to hear the seal breaking

  • I was going to provide the same answer as you, but it is a bit ... risky: it could do worse than twist the blade, it could break, and the end could fly off somewhere...
    – Benjol
    Commented Feb 18, 2011 at 12:19
  • Ooh, that's never happened to me. Wow, now I've got something else to worry about. :-)
    – Martha F.
    Commented Feb 22, 2011 at 1:21
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    Or use a spoon instead of a knife. Or better yet - the back of any piece of cutlery (provided it's thin enough to fit), they are more sturdy than a blade. Commented Dec 18, 2012 at 12:00
  • You can also use a regular small size screw driver and carefully slide it in the crimped parts of the canister, and turn it till it widens up. It should open, possibly after going around the can repeating the process.
    – user17758
    Commented Apr 10, 2013 at 2:05
  • @CraigCunningham, screwdriver & hygiene... need I say more? Commented Apr 10, 2013 at 16:12

My favorite jar opener:

The Brix JarKey

Brix JarKey Brix JarKey

You just need a gentle lift to let a little air in and then you can remove the top bare-handed. The lid is not damaged (unless you use more force than necessary).

In a pinch, you can use channel-lock pliers to do the same thing. Hold the pliers "upside-down" so the longer jaw is under the edge of the jar lid and the other jaw is against the top and gently lift. A little air leaks in just as with the JarKey and then you easily open the jar by hand.

Channel Lock Pliers

  • I also use channel lock pliers -- but I open them up as large as they'll go, and use them for leverage in turning the lid. (and only if turning it upside down and banging along the rim against the counter doesn't work. (note that I don't have stone counters)
    – Joe
    Commented Mar 14, 2017 at 15:24
  • @Joe: That works like a conventional jar opener and approaches the problem as if friction were the issue. Try it the way I describe and you'll find that vacuum is often the real issue. Commented Mar 14, 2017 at 21:44

You need to depressurize it. It is very easy to do to simply take the pointed edge of a fork and jab the top of the container (the tin lid). Any small puncture made will work, once done the lid will open normally without any strenuous force. This method will work in the case where traction cannot force the lid open.


Either (1) Tap around the lid with a hammer/meat pounder or (2) Grab the lid with a rubber glove and twist.


I've had success with 2 methods .. 1: Tap the lid on the edge of a worktop, working all the way round. 2: Either hold the top of the jar under running hot water or stand jar upside down in a bowl of hot water for a couple of minutes. (failing that I shout for son or husband!!).


I use a pipe wrench -- plenty of leverage for opening even the toughest jars.


Other suggestions would be:

  • Turning the jar upside down, and using the palm of your hand to thwak the bottom a few times.

  • Using a rubber band instead of a rubber glove, if you don't have one available.


Put a rubber band around the lid of the jar, grip firmly, and twist.


The OXO Good Grips Jar Opener works well for me. I have arthritis in my thumbs of all places.

enter image description here

  • My wife uses the same one when I'm not around to be manly (read: she uses it when I can't open the jar). It works a treat.
    – JoeFish
    Commented Dec 18, 2012 at 16:49
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    Rob, please add summaries and descriptions of items referred to by links so that the answers on this site do not depend upon external content that may move, change or be removed. Commented Dec 18, 2012 at 23:15

use a butter knife and stick it in between the side of the lid and the jar. Pry it away from the jar a bit, and this should let air inside, making it incredibly easy to open (since there's no vacuum anymore)


Sometimes the vacuum in the jar causes a lot of friction between the lid and the jar. Holding the jar upside down and banging a few times on the bottom with your palm can get some air inside and free the lid.


For a few years I have used a Culinare One Touch Jar Opener. I bought one for my grandmother who was too weak to open jars herself and she loved it, and as I have a touch of RSI, thought I would get one for myself, it can open pretty much any straight sided jar - tad noisy, but very effective! (Amazon)

Culinare One Touch Jar Opener


If you want to open a jar keep it in boiling hot water as glass is poor conductor of heat it will contract and the lid will expand and your jar would be opened

  • It's actually the metal expanding faster than the glass does with changes in temperature. (aka 'differential expansion') It's actually a HUGE problem in machines, but is rather useful for cases like this.
    – Joe
    Commented Mar 14, 2017 at 14:06

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