Recycle canning lids, upcycle canning lids and repurpose canning lids....but can I reuse canning lids for home canning?

There has been a long standing debate about whether or not a home canner should be reusing canning lids, one piece lids and rubber gaskets.  But with the canning lid shortages that were experienced in parts of the world over the last number of years and the canning season getting started, we start to think about supply and that maybe reusing canning lids is a viable option.  For years I have been reusing many commercially filled glass jars and reusing canning lids, so today I decided to explore the debated question of reusing canning lids.

Why is it recommended to not reuse canning lids and one piece lids from commercially filled glass jars

In days of old, everything was reused if possible.  Even now, there is always the odd home canner who would reuse canning lids, one piece lids and rubber gaskets.  But, it has been a generally accepted practice for years to not reuse metal snap lids, one-piece metal lids and rubber gaskets for home canning.  This messaging has been driven home by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), the National Center for Home Food Preservation who state that "Lids should not be used a second time since the sealing compound becomes indented by the first use, preventing another airtight seal. Screw bands may be reused unless they are badly rusted or the top edge is pried up which would prevent a proper seal.".  Health Canada also make similar statements about reusing canning lids and simply states "Do not reuse old lids, even if they appear to be in good condition.".   Manufacturing companies like Bernadin, Ball and Kerr also adhere to the no reuse message.Photo of reusable glass jars

It would seem that their sole concern is that the sealing compound has an indent in it and therefore can't guarantee that the compound will go around the jar and thereby allow for a good seal.  But why does the indentation disappear when the lids are heated?  I wonder if this could be why they say you don't need to warm your lids anymore if canned over 10 minutes.  Makes one wonder.  And although I would like to be able to say I found a published answer to these questions, I can't.  The main information simply states not to reuse canning lids, one piece lids or rubber gaskets.

Although the National Center for Home Food Preservation states on their on line question and answer forum that "Lids should not be used a second time since the sealing compound becomes indented by the first use, preventing another airtight seal.", I find this interesting that within the Homesteading Family Kitchen Community and on Facebook, there are countless home canners who are complaining about their new lids not sealing.  So to read statements that a reused canning lid may not ensure another seal when new ones are not sealing either, I find interesting and somewhat ironic.

Although the one piece lug and continuous-thread lids can be purchased new, their reuse is also not being recommended in most circles because of the USDA recommendation on reusing snap lids.  It is felt the same recommendation would apply to one piece lug and continuous-thread lids and to some extent, rubber gaskets (rings). Photo of lug lids for reusing canning lids on blue tableclothA number of Universities around North America have weighed in on reusing snap lids and one piece lids with the similar non reuse messaging as the North Dakota State University of  "The gasket compound in used lids may fail to seal on jars, resulting in unsafe food." (Click here for the full article).  As a result of these recommendations, a number of home canners have adopted the one use only practice and do not reuse their canning lids or one piece lids. However, I feel that the reason for the lack of recommendation could most likely be like Oregon State University - OSU Extension Services, stated in reference to using one piece lids for canning.  Namely,  "Single piece lids have not been adequately tested for use in home canning by the National Center for Home Food Preservation.".  I recognize that each use will be unique to the canning session and the individuals experience but that more importantly funding prohibits a lot of testing.  In the United States, I understand the last home canning safety tests were done by the USDA in 2015 and in Canada, I can find no record of home canning safety testing by Health Canada since 1987.  There are so many things to test for that it just can't all be done. So by default, to cover their basis and err on the side of caution, recommendations are made to not use or reuse one piece canning lids of any sort.  But is this right?

Changing times

In my earlier blog Recycle glass jars, upcycle glass jars and repurpose glass jars....but, can I reuse commercially filled glass jars for home canning? I explore the possibility of reusing commercially filled canning jars. Further to this, the National Center for Home Food Preservation does state that " Most commercial pint- and quart-size mayonnaise or salad dressing jars may be used with new two-piece lids for canning acid foods." but they further qualify by saying that "Other commercial jars with mouths that cannot be sealed with two-piece canning lids are not recommended for use in canning any food at home." thereby giving at least some support to reusing some of the jars, if not all. But as I have identified above, that same support is not there for reusing canning lids or new and used one piece canning lids.

With the supply chain issues and the amount of garbage that we are creating, quite a few people are looking to alternate ways of getting the canning lids they require and to reduce the amount of garbage they create. Reusing canning lids and reusing one piece lug and continuous-thread lids and their associate commercially filled glass jar is one way to meet that demand.  However, with the recommendations as they are, home canners are, or can be, hesitant.  But at the same time they are torn because they have garden produce to deal with.  After all, wasting all that garden produce is not a desirable outcome just because you have no lids and/or jars.

But as one home canner who has been reusing commercially filled jars and their accompanying one piece lids, reusing snap lids and reusing rubber rings for years, I find the discussion and recommendations interesting to say the least.  As of late, there are a few people who have started questioning the no reuse recommendation.  Carolyn with Homesteading Family did a great blog on Can I reuse canning lids? if you want to get another view point.    But as a general rule of thumb, the reusing of jars and their associated canning lids generally falls into two camps - Never reuse a lid of any kind and reuse as many as you can safely reuse.  I fall into the latter.

However there are other options.  Companies like Tatler, Weck and Viceroy alter the non reuse message by promoting the rubber rings (gaskets) as being reusable with their reusable plastic and/or glass lids. I find it interesting that the Tatler and Weck innovation is very similar to the Gem glass jar, glass lid and rubber rings that were used in home canning circles in Canada for decades prior to the invention of snap lids and also similar to the wire closures used in days of old and the Crawleytown jar (mason jar) in the United States.Photo of wire sealing and gem glass jarsWeck innovation uses similar principles but without the metal band to lock it in place during processing.

Reusing canning lids, reusing one piece lids and reusing rubber gaskets

In my earlier blog Recycle glass jars, upcycle glass jars and repurpose glass jars....but, can I reuse commercially filled glass jars for home canning? I explored the use of commercially filled glass jars for home canning.  Part and parcel to the reuse of commercial filled glass jars is the reuse of the one piece lids (Lug and continuous thread) associated with those commercially filled glass jars.  But to ensure safety of the food products and ensure my best opportunity for a successful home canning session, there are caveats to the reuse of the lids. 

1. One piece lids 

Many of the commercially filled glass jars are sealed with what is called a lug (twist-off) lid.  Like the conventional continuous-thread (Screw) lid that also appears on some commercially filled glass jars, a sealing compound is applied to the underside of the lid so that it makes contact with the jar.  This compound ensures the vacuum created during cooling is maintained and the jar remains sealed.   You can visualize sealing of the jar because the center of the lid will be concave and will not "snap" or move when pressed.   

I use a lot of these types of lids and the accompanying jars for my home canning in all sizes up to 1 gallon.  To use these types of lids I do a visual inspection of the lid for scratches, stains, bent lids, discolored sealing compound.  If any of these items are present, I do not use the jar and accompanying lid for home canning. Photo of glass jars with non reusable lids on blue checkered cloth If I can not find a replacement lid, either new or used, I either reuse for other items, if the lid is not too bad, or recycle the jar and lid in our local recycling depot.  To determine the size of the lid you require when ordering new, the measurements are usually in millimeters(mm) and can be determined by measuring the outside diameter of the jar. Click here for more information. 

But if they are in good shape as pictured here, I add them to the stockpile for filling while home canning.Photo of reusable glass jars and reusable canning lids

2. Snap Lids

The primary suppliers of snap lids has been Bernadin, Kerr and Ball for years and although other canning lids are making a place for themselves in the market place, these companies are the ones you normally see in the grocery store.  They consistently come in standard(regular) and wide mouth sizes although for years in Canada, gem sizes were also widely used.  However, a recent announcement by Bernardin has been made that gem snap lids will no longer be available.  It has caused quite an uproar in the home canning community as there is a lot of these glass jars in use.

Regardless of the company or the snap lid size, they all use the same principle of applying a sealing compound to the outside edge of the metal lid, similar to the one piece lids, that makes contact with jar.  With the application of a metal band, this compound ensures the vacuum can be formed to seal the jar.  You will audibly hear a "snap" as the jar seals  and can visualize and feel that the glass jar is sealed because the center of the lid will be concave and will not move when pressed. Picking the jar up by the snap lid using only your fingers will also tell you if you have a good seal.

The key to being able to reuse snap lids starts with how you open the jar.  Using a butter knife, handle of cutlery or the metal band from the jar as a fulcrum on your hand helps to ensure that you do not bend or puncture the lid.  A flat sided opener or tools designed for opening snap lids will also work, but I find it has a tendency to bend and/or puncture the snap lid and so I avoid using these.  Once the lid is off the jar, I wash it in warm soapy water and after rinsing, I inspect the snap lid to see if it is bent, punctured or stained and inspect the compound for nicks, scratches and or discoloring.  If any of these are present, I do not reuse the snap lid but rather put it into the recycling bin.  If it passes the tests, I will dry it off and put it in the cupboard for later use. Photo of reusing canning lids to be used As the National Center for Home preservation identified, the compound will be indented, but personal experience has found that bringing the used canning lids to a boil in a pot of water for about 7 minutes and then turning down to keep hot works very well. Photo of reusing canning lids with indented compoundI do the same for new lids as well despite what the USDA , National Center for Home Preservation and snap lid companies are now saying about not needing to preheat the new snap lids.  I feel it is an added safety factor and helps to ensure increased sealing.

For further reading, and although a slightly different boiling time, Autumn with A Traditional Life also did a great blog on How to reuse canning lids.  

There has also been a couple people that have been using the rubber gasket from the Tatler lids in combination with a used wide mouth or standard (regular) metal snap lids to enable a different way of reusing the metal snap lids.  Testing results are favorable.  Check out the video MicroMoment: Canning Lids #2 if you are interested in the discussion of this hack as originally presented by RoseRed Homestead.  Not sure I will be doing this as I reuse the metal snap lids as they are, but it may be an option for some.  None the less, some great information.

3. Gem Glass lids and rubber rings (gasket)

Gem snap lids have been a norm in Canada for many decades but due to a recent announcement by Bernardin the making of gem snap lids is now being discontinued.  Click here for their Q & A section about the discontinued manufacture. With this discontinuation, the reuse of Gem snap lids is important.  To reuse them I follow the same procedures as I discussed earlier.

However, the Gem jars were originally designed to accept a glass lid with a rubber ring (gasket) and held in place with a deep continuous threaded band.  The metal bands will only fit on the older Gem jars due to glass jar neck height and despite the fact that finding the metal bands is proving to be problematic, they are a necessary component to this system.  As the metal bands start to rust they can still be used, but may at some point become unusable.  However I have been gifted many over the years, so I am good for now but also realize I will have to look into options.Photo of reusable glass jar and reusable canning lid - Gem jarThe rubber rings are still available but I also reuse them provided they are not cut, cracked or hard. I simply bring the rubber rings and glass lids to a boil in a pot of  water for a couple minutes and then turn down to keep warm.  Having them too hot makes them too pliable and difficult to put on the glass lid and so having them waiting in warm water makes applying them to the glass lid a lot easier.

4. Tatler lids

I have not tried these as of yet, although I have heard some good reviews on them. But also some not so favorable ones. The Tatler website, does state that they will pop when sealing, and the lids and gaskets are totally reusable.  Reviews I have heard and seen state that although there is a slight learning curve to them, once mastered they quite like them.  After applying the gasket to the plastic lid, the duo is placed onto the jar and held in place with a metal band, not dissimilar to the glass Gem lids and rubber bands. For further reading about Tatler lids and there use, click here.

5. Weck jar lids and gaskets

I have not tried these as of yet, although I have heard some good reviews on them as well.  The Weck website does relay a number of advantages for their use.  The general premise of them is that a rubber gasket is placed on a glass lid that is held in place with two to three clips that are removed after the jar has sealed and cooled. Jessica Sowards with Roots and Refuge farm did an informative, in depth review of them in her blog Canning with Weck Jars.

Advantages of reusing canning lids

1. Cost -  To treat all lids as a consumable product can add up to a large expense in a busy canning year.  

  • The current local price for 12 Bernardin standard (regular) snap lids is $4.99 CDN and for wide mouth they are $6.99 CDN.  In a given year, reusing canning lids can add up to a large savings fairly quickly.
  • If you reuse the one piece lids, not only are you saving the cost of the jar, but you are also saving the cost of the lid.  However, if you need to purchase new lug or continuous-thread lids, they are around $1.50 CDN to $5.05 CDN per lid, depending on size.
  • Rubber rings for the gem glass lids will run you about $1.99 CDN for 12 at our local store.  The metal bands are hard to come by new so I can't give you a price on those.  But, they are a tried and true method of home canning that has held the test of time and reusing the rubber ring will save you a small amount of money.
  • Tatler lids, in packages of 12, can be purchased from the factory for $10.95 USD for regular mouth and for $11.95 USD for wide mouth.  They do separately sell sets of 12 rubber gaskets for $7.50 USD for regular mouth and $7.75 for wide mouth.  As the lids and gaskets are reusable, you would probably not have to buy new for a while.
  • Weck jars require little in the line of consumable items and so the replacement clips (12 for $3.75 USD) and the rubber gasket ($1.50 - $1.85 USD for six) are more likely to cost you less after initial investment.  But being the gasket is reusable, you most likely would not need new for some time.

Regardless whether you are reusing canning lids or one piece lids the cost savings can be sizeable especially if you are doing a lot of canning. With the lids that require rubber gaskets, the cost saving is not as much, but it is still worth mentioning.  

2. Availability - With the recent shortages of canning jars and canning lids that many folks have experienced over the last years, being able to have options for reusing canning lids for home canning ensures that you are not caught off guard right when the canning needs to be done.  Availability is right around the corner if you ask your friends and family to save their commercially filled glass jars and lids.  I am sure they would gladly do this for you rather than throw them out and in no time at all you will have quite the stockpile.

3. Saves them from the landfill - In Canada, the 2020 National Waste Characterization Report (click here for link to this report) published by the Government of Canada stated that only 3% of residential metal and rubber is recycled. I realize that canning lids, one piece lids and rubber rings (gaskets) would make up a small percentage, it is still worth noting that by reusing these items, we are not adding to the landfill.  Any way you cut it, these reports help only to illustrate that we have a large amount of commercial filled glass jars and their associated lids that are heading to the landfill that maybe don't have to.

Disadvantages of reusing canning lids

1. Not consistent sizes and shapes - Every company wants their own unique shape and size as part of their marketing strategy.  Where this causes a problem is that finding replacement lids can be a pain and to limit the use to jars that will only accept a two-piece lid as the National Center for Home Food Preservation recommends can limit your supply of potential canning jars.  Matching the one-piece lid to the original or similar type jar can be a bit of a puzzle as well and the varied jar sizes also cause a problem with fitting the jars in the hot water bath canners and pressure canners we use. 

2. Jar may not seal  - This can happen with any of the lid types that I mentioned, but it can happen with new canning lids or rubber gaskets as well.  However, if you have been careful on how you open a jar and inspect the lids or rubber gaskets carefully, the incidence of failed seals is slight.  I can honestly say that I have very few of my jars that have not sealed from reusing canning lids.  In a recent canning of over 300 jars of jam and jelly, 90 of those jars were done with commercially filled glass jars and their one piece top. I only had 1 jar not seal and never lost one to breakage. Some of those jars and lids were from many years ago and multiple fills.  One jar had 3 different dates on it spanning over 5 years. I have reused the rubber ring (gasket) for years and have only had a few fail.

How to use reused canning lids, one piece lids and rubber rings (gasket) 

  1. Inspect your canning lids for nicks, cracks, scratches, stains or imperfections. 
  2. For the canning lids that pass the caveats, wash lids and gaskets as you would normally.  Rinse.
  3. Sterilize the reused canning lids and one piece lids in boiling water.  USDA and Health Canada are saying that if jars are processed for longer than 10 minutes, you do not need to sterilize the lids and rubber rings.  However, I still sterilize all new and reused lids alike.  I cover the canning lids and one piece lids with water, bring them to a gentle boil for 7 minutes or so and then turn down to just keep them hot.  For rubber rings (gaskets) I find that just bringing them to a boil for a minute and then turn the heat down to just keep them warm works better for ensuring they are not too soft for application to the glass lids.
  4. Fill the jars with your product.  Wipe rim.
  5. Attach lid of choice.  If using snap lids, Tatler lids or Weck jars follow the manufacturers instructions.  However, I do give a little extra tightening on the snap lids.  For the Gem glass jars using the glass lid and rubber ring (gasket) I tighten, then back off about an 1/8 of a turn and then place in the canner.  For the Lug thread one piece lids, I tighten the lid down only till the lid just starts to resist tightening.  For the continuous-thread one piece lids, I apply the same as I do snap lids. 
  6. Process in hot water bath canning or pressure canner.  For a great class to learn how to hot water bath can and pressure can, I would recommend The Abundant Pantry : Canning class I took with Homesteading Family to increase my knowledge base. 
  7. After processing time has elapsed in a water bath canning session, shut the heat off and leave sit for 5 - 10 minutes with lid removed.  In a pressure canning session, shut the heat off and allow the pressure to return to zero before removing the pressure canner lid.
  8. For metal snap lids and Weck jars, remove from the canner and set on t-towel on the canner.  For Gem glass lids and Tatler lids, a slight tightening of the metal band is required to just snug down the lid.  Be careful as it will be hot and the jars can sometimes spew over if they have not settled down sufficiently.
  9. Allow jars to completely cool.
  10. Check to be sure the jars sealed by depressing the top of the snap lids, tatler lids and one piece lids and by the other methods recommended for other glass lids and Weck jars.
  11. Label and put on the shelf.

Photo of home canned jars reusing canning lids

 Final thoughts

There are many options that are available to us to ensure that our food is safely canned while ensuring that it does not break the bank.  And at the end of the day, it boils down to a glass jar may not seal and if it doesn't you use it right away.  That's it.  You can also have jars not seal when using new canning lids, regardless of type, so I can't help but wonder if all the debate should be a barrier to reusing a resource that you have already bought and paid for. 

However, even though I feel quite comfortable in reusing canning lids, reusing one piece lids from commercially filled jars and reusing rubber rings (gaskets), I also realize that your personal comfort level will dictate what, if anything, you reuse.  I hope I have provided you with some valuable information to help you make that choice. 

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