Canning Water...Yes, Water! - Reusing odd shaped jars

If anyone would have told me years ago that we as a society would be doing things like canning water, I would not have believed it. Nor would I have believed that I would be canning water.  But all one has to do is look at YouTube and there is pretty much always someone canning water whether it be for long term storage or prepping reasons.  With the research that I have done into all the plastics that are out there, it is actually kind of scary.  With product names like Polycarbonate and polyethylene terephthalate it is small wonder that the alarm bells are being sounded.  So today, I find myself canning water but doing so reusing commercially filled glass jars AKA odd shaped jars with their associated one piece lids.

The water I drink and use

As I explored in my blog Water - The journey from sandpoint, dugouts and water tanks to a well, since moving to my place I have struggled with water, too much water, not good quality water and removing water.  As a result, for over 30+ years I have hauled water for drinking in one form or another, but primarily I have bought bottled water in a 5 gallon water jug.  Bottled water is typically derived from a reverse osmosis system that removes everything, including the vitamins and minerals, from the water that would impart a taste and including microorganisms.  Although bottled spring water and mineral water do not go through the same reverse osmosis system, the majority of bottled water is reverse osmosis as identified in this article, Brands Of Bottled Water That Are Reverse Osmosis, I very seldom buy those two bottled water products  because I want the 5 gallon water jug that can be reused by the water bottling company.  After all, according to the EPA - United States Environmental Protection Agency in an article called Plastics: Material-Specific Data the recycling "rate of PET bottles and jars was 29.1 percent in 2018, and the rate for HDPE natural bottles was 29.3 percent in 2018." and in Canada, according to the article Plastic waste and pollution reduction published by the Government of Canada "Canadians throw away over 3 million tonnes of plastic waste every year. Only 9% is recycled while the rest ends up in our landfills, waste-to-energy facilities or the environment.".  So if I can do my part to help increase the reuse, reduction and/or recycling of these plastic water bottles and water jugs and odd shaped glass jars, I am all in.

Regardless of how the water is derived, or whether reverse osmosis water is good for you or not as identified in What are the pros and cons of Reverse Osmosis water filters?,  this pure water is then poured into plastic containers for distribution to stores and homes around the world.  Plastic containers that are either made from PET or PETE (polyethylene terephthalate) identified with Plastic Recycling Symbol #1 Canning water - plastic recycling symbol #1or into plastic containers made from Polycarbonate and/or  PLA (polylactic acid) identified with Plastic Recycling Symbol #7Canning water - plastic recycling symbol #7And depending on the type of water being sold, it may also make it's way into plastic containers made from HDPE (high density polyethylene) identified by Plastic Recycling Symbol #2.

Why am I concerned

Although all the plastics that water is currently bottled into have received FDA approval as safe Packaging & Food Contact Substances in the United States, and the FDA - CFIA and Health Canada, Food Safety Systems Recognition Arrangement will allow for the application of its findings to Canada, only water bottles falling into Plastic Recycling Symbol #1 and Plastic Recycling Symbol #2 are considered to be BPA free.  As noted in the article 7 Types of Plastic Wreaking Havoc on Our Health, "Any plastic designated #7 is likely to leach BPA and/or BPS, both potent endocrine disruptors linked to interfering with proper mood, growth, development, sexual function, reproductive function, and puberty, among other essential human developmental processes. They are also suspected of increasing the risk of adult reproductive cancers, obesity, heart disease, and type 2 diabetes.".  And, considering that as ScienceDaily reports in  BPA replacement, BPS, hinders heart function, study reveals  "More manufacturers are now using BPS as a replacement in their products and labelling them as BPA-free.".  That is of concern to be sure.

Although I get the majority of my water from a local store and it comes in containers that fall into the Plastic Recycling Symbol #7, I recently bought some distilled water for a sourdough project I was working on. This distilled water came in containers marked with Plastic Recycling Symbol #1 Canning water - Plastic recycling symbol #1and although FDA approved and BPA free, it is noted in the article 7 Types of Plastic Wreaking Havoc on Our Health that "While it is generally considered a “safe” plastic, and does not contain BPA, in the presence of heat it can leach antimony, a toxic metalloid, into food and beverages, which can cause vomiting, diarrhea and stomach ulcers. Some studies have shown up to 100 times the amount of antimony in bottled water than in clean groundwater. The longer the bottle is on the shelf or exposed to heat or sunshine, the more antimony is likely to have leached into the product.".  As I explored in Woven Landscape Fabric - A Homemade Woven Weed Fabric DIY project, it has been shown that antimony can also cause problems with the lungs, heart, and stomach.  It is worth noting that bottles identified as Plastic Recycling Symbol #2 are "also considered “safe,” but has been shown to leach estrogenic chemicals dangerous to fetuses and juveniles.".

Needless to say, this is all of a concern.  But the reality is that until I can figure out my water issues, buying bottled water is something that I will need to continue doing for a while anyway.  However, I am going to be more mindful of what I am buying, how I store it and the length of time it sits in the plastic bottles.  I never really paid attention to dates on the bottles before, after all its water, but I will be starting.  For the distilled water, because I was having trouble finding it where I live I picked up a few 4 L jugs when I did find some.  Being it will have limited use,  I am going to get the water out of the plastic container and get it into some glass jars, store bought commercially filled jars AKA Odd shaped jars with their associated one piece lids.  I will be canning water.Canning water - Bottled water and odd shaped glass jars

Canning water

Selecting the jars

I have written a couple of blog posts where I explored the reusing of commercially filled jars with Recycle glass jars, upcycle glass jars and repurpose glass jars....but, can I reuse commercially filled glass jars for home canning? and reusing canning lids and one piece lids with Recycle canning lids, upcycle canning lids and repurpose canning lids....but can I reuse canning lids for home canning? and concluded that their use in canning was being overlooked in favor of disposal to the recycling bin (15% in the USA and 2% in Canada are recycled) and/or garbage where they will remain for centuries to come.  Because of the research I did and with my 30+ years of canning experience reusing odd shaped jars, I felt it necessary to test out the reuse of odd shaped jars and their associated lids in the pressure canner with Vegan Beans and Odd shaped glass jars - pressure canning with reusing glass jars and reusing canning lids and The journey continues - Pressure Canning quarts of Vegan Beans reusing Odd shaped jars and reusing jar lids

Although both explorations were successful, I feel it necessary to use these odd shaped jars for water bath canning and fill in the missing piece in this explorations.  Because the USDA , the National Centre for Home Food Preservation and Health Canada allow for canning juices and water in half gallon jars (approximately 2 L), I will be including some of my bigger commercially filled jars to test whether I can reuse odd shaped jars and their associated lids from store bought products in a hot water bath canning. This will also give me more water storage once I empty the water from the plastic containers and give these bigger jars another purpose. I will also be reusing canning lids on an older 2 quart jar.   Canning water - selecting odd shaped jars

Preparing the jars

After inspecting the odd shaped jars for nicks and cracks, I do a visual inspection of the one piece lids for scratches, stains, bent lids and discolored sealing compound as outlined in Recycle canning lids, upcycle canning lids and repurpose canning lids....but can I reuse canning lids for home canning?Canning water - inspecting odd shaped jars and lidsFinding the odd shaped jars and their associated lids are in excellent shape, I can then wash the odd shaped jars and lids in warm soapy water.  I also remove the labels as they will come off in pieces during the sterilization process and may attach themselves to the inside of the jars and therefore will be floating in my canned water.  I don't want that.  Notice how one of the one piece lids has been reused once before on September 6, 2021.Canning water - washed odd shaped jars

After the odd shaped jars and their associated lids are washed and rinsed it is time to start the process of canning water. 

Although the USDA and National Centre for Home Food Preservation state that it is no longer necessary to sterilize your jars and lids if the product is being processed in a hot waterbath for a minimum of 10 minutes,  I sterilize everything.  I sterilize the jars by steaming in a pot of boiling water for 7 minutes and then hold upside down on a clean t-towel till everything is ready. Canning water - sterilize odd shaped jars I also sterilize the associated one piece lids by boiling in water for 7 minutes and then turn them down to keep them warm till I need them..  Canning water - sterilize one piece lidsThis also helps to soften the sealing compound.

Preparing the Distilled Water

The National Center for Home Food Preservation gives instruction for the home canning of water, but I found that the content creator of the YouTube channel Make it Make did an excellent video outlining the USDA process of canning water with Storing emergency water /Canning

So although our sterilization processes are different, I will be following her lead on canning water and the first thing I shall do is fill my pot with the distilled water and put it on the stove to boil.Canning water - distilled bottled water in pot

Filling the odd shaped jars

When I put the distilled water on to boil, I also filled my commercial sized stock pot that I use for a hot water bath canning (including rack) with water to process the filled odd shaped jars.  To this water, I added a couple glugs of vinegar to prevent hard water film. I turned the heat on to bring it up to temperature similar to that of the filled odd shaped jars.  This will prevent thermal shock of the odd shaped jars once filled and added to the hot water bath.

After the distilled water has boiled for 5 minutes, I fill my odd shaped jars with the boiled distilled water to 1/4 inch headspace.  I then wipe the rim and attach the associated one piece lid.  Attaching the one piece lids is a little different than other lids in that the lid only needs to be put on to the point that it just starts to tighten - a true finger tight.Canning water - Finger tight one piece lid on odd shaped jar

With the one piece lids, if they are overtightened the lid may not vent properly and you will experience some bulging of the lid as I did when I was pressure canning vegan beans.Canning water - bulging lids

However, do not be alarmed should this happen.  As the jar cools the bulge will be sucked down and the jar will seal.

Processing the distilled water

Once all the odd shaped jars are filled and added to the hot water bath canner, I ensure that there is about two inches of water covering the top of the jars.  I am a little shy so I have to boil some water to top it off.  Do not add cold water as the thermal shock can crack the jars.  Because of the size of the odd shaped jars I could only get five in there.Canning water - filled canner with odd shaped jars

After I top off the hot water bath canner water, I put the lid on the canner and bring to a boil.  I turn down the heat to maintain a semi hard rolling boil and set the timer for 15 minutes as required by my altitude and National Centre For Home Food Preservation recommendations.

Once the 15 minutes has elapsed, I shut the heat off, take the lid off and leave the odd shaped jars sit in the canner for five minutes.  Once the lid is removed and heat is shut off, it immediately comes off the semi hard rolling boil.Canning water - leaving odd shaped jars in canner

Once the five minutes has passed, I lift the jars out of the hot water bath canner and set on a t-towel to cool.  All but two of the odd shaped jars had already sealed and there was no bulging of the reused one piece lids or reused canning lids.Canning water - finished canning water in odd shaped jars

After the jars have cooled, I can tell if the jars have sealed by depressing the center of the lid.  If they are not sealed, they will snap.  Additionally, you can feel the reused one piece lid is depressed indicating a perfect seal. This jar that was previously reused in 2021 was definitely sealed.Canning water - checking seal on odd shaped glass jar

However, checking the remaining four jars, it became evident that one had not sealed.  You can tell by the domed lid on the right hand jar vs the sealed jar on the left.  It also snaps when pressed.Canning water - one piece lid on odd shaped jar did not seal.

But for me, this is not a reason to indicate that reusing commercially filled jars AKA odd shaped jars and their associated one piece lids does not work.  After all, most home canner's have had jars not seal even when using new canning lids.  It just happens sometimes.  In this case, I don't think I had tightened the lid sufficiently.

To test this theory out, I decided to redo the jar and do an additional couple of jars at the same time.  In addition to the 2L odd shaped jar I will be redoing, I added one 2 L old pickle jar, two 1 L jars with their associated one piece lids and a two quart canning jar to which I am reusing a canning lid  The exact same process was followed for these jars.   After the jars had cooled, all jars (the five from the middle to right) including the one I redid had sealed perfectly.  Another successful canning session reusing commercially filled jars AKA odd shaped jars with their associated one piece lids and reusing canning lids.Canning water - Finished canning water project

Final thoughts

At this point in the exploration you may be thinking that I can only use these types of jars, in various sizes, for canning water or for pressure canning.  But rest assured that they can safely be used for much more.  Over the years, I have reused commercially filled jars AKA odd shaped jars with their associated one piece lids and reusing canning lids for all things that require hot water bath canning including apple juice, pickles, relishes, salsa, jams, jellies and anything else that needed canning. I have never had one release it's seal, even two or more years later.  In fact, I just opened a jar of relish from 2018.

Following this current exploration and keeping the other explorations in mind, I think I can safely say that reusing all sizes of commercially filled jars AKA odd shaped jars with their associated one piece lids and reusing canning lids can be safely done to hot water bath and/or pressure can anything you want.  They can be used the same as the canning jars bought from the store.

There is a large supply of these commercially filled jars AKA odd shaped jars available for the asking from friends, family and many other sources.  People are very happy to bring you their odd shaped jars.  And as long as they pass the criteria for use as I explored in Recycle glass jars, upcycle glass jars and repurpose glass jars....but, can I reuse commercially filled glass jars for home canning? and Recycle canning lids, upcycle canning lids and repurpose canning lids....but can I reuse canning lids for home canning?, the odd shaped jars with their associate one piece lids can be used to can for years to come.  Not only does doing so save money in canning supplies, it saves them from entering the landfill or recycling bin, for a quite a while anyway.  A win win situation I figure.

But will I can water again?  I would like to think that I will not and that there will not be a need to do so.  But if I am being honest with myself, I probably will be canning water again.  Although there may be information out there to contradict the research that I did, I find this exploration to be a bit concerning, to say the least.  But I suppose one could say there are worse things out there too.  And although there are those that would have everyone can up a large stock pile of water, I am not sure I am one that believes in doing that.  But it certainly won't hurt should I do so and after all, it won't go bad. What I can see myself doing moving forward is to can water as I have room in a hot water bath or in the pressure canner.  After all, as long as it is canned for over 15 minutes, it will be fine.  Extra time will not hurt it.

I hope you found this exploration into bottled water interesting.  I also hope that it helped to put some fears aside about hot water bath canning reusing commercially filled jars AKA odd shaped jars with their associated lids and reusing canning lids.

If you enjoy this content, please consider joining the My Boreal Homestead Life community.  By supplying your email address at the bottom of the page and hitting "sign up" or by clicking Join, you will ensure you get an email notification when I post new blogs to the My Boreal Homestead Life site. 

Thank you for joining me on the front porch of My Boreal Homestead Life as we explore this Homegrown, Homestead life, In a modern world.

Additional Resources

Canning water - reusing odd shaped jars in hot water bath canning

Leave a comment