I count myself lucky to live in a farming community where many women are avid home canners. However, there is one (small) down side: by early fall there isn’t a canning lid to be found on our grocery or hardware store shelves!
Most of the time, I’m well prepared and make a point of purchasing my tin canning lids early on. However, this year the shelves were bare by early summer.
I’m a fan of following safety rules when it comes to home canning. I really am. But sometimes (and this year especially), I am breaking the rules by reusing my tin canning lids.
4 Steps to Reusing Canning Lids
I know I shouldn’t reuse canning lids, but what’s a girl to do when she can’t get her hands on more? I’ll tell you. She makes use of what she already has.
This idea didn’t originate with me.
When I moved to Canada, it didn’t take me long to discovered that many women here were in the habit of reusing their tin canning lids. Some of them even still used old, Canadian made glass lids! Living in the northern part of country, resources were limited and they did whatever they had to do to make ends meet.
Now as a rule of thumb, I always aim to use new lids. But if the occasion demands it, I sometimes do reuse, so long as I walk through the steps outlined below.
Step 1: Recognize the Producer’s Claims
There’s one thing I want you to understand before I dive into this: canning lids are designed for 1x use ONLY. Every producer and company makes this very clear.
One time, people. The rubber seal on your lid is only good for 1x use!
Companies also state that reusing tin canning lids could result in unsafe food. What I’m going to share here is not in alliance with their recommendations. So please bear this in mind as you read over the next steps!
Step 2: Check the Lids for Blemishes
The first step in the process is to sort through your lids. Do not use lids that are blemished.
Dented or bent lids should be tossed in the garbage without a second thought. These lids shouldn’t be reused because it will be quite difficult to tell whether or not they actually seal after processing.
Also be sure to inspect the underside of the lid as well.
If the white enamel finish on the underside of your lid is corroded or if it is scratched and you can see metal showing through, throw it out. To the best of knowledge, the metal used for tin lids isn’t food grade and you don’t want it coming in contact with acidic juices or food.
Sort through your used lids and take the best of the best.
Step 3: Clean Your Lids Well
Used canning lids should be washed by hand in hot, soapy water. Keep an eye open for any blemishes you might have missed during the initial inspection. Be sure to thoroughly wash the orange seal free of any sticky juices or food products.
After washing your canning lids, you can move on the next step immediately.
Step 4: Boil Used Lids for 20 Minutes
The primary reason you aren’t supposed to reuse tin canning lids is because the seal is very, very thin. The first time a lid is used, the rim of the jar leaves it’s indent behind.
Unlike a real, thick rubber seal, the ones on your tin lids will never return to their original fullness.
You can see the indents on this batch of lids that were used 1x. The situation doesn’t look good, does it?
But here’s the hack I’ve discovered: if you submerge used lids in water and boil them for 20 minutes, the heat will soften the seal.
While they never do return to their original fullness, they will become much smoother and even.
Here’s a picture of the above lids after they’ve been boiled for 20 minutes and have been given time to cool.
You can still see a slight indent on some of them, but they look far more usable than before they were boiled!
Really. It’s as simple as that.
Step 5: Use Like a New Canning Lid
Once your lids have been through the boiling process and after you’ve let them dry, they can be store away. I do recommend keeping them separate from your new canning lids. You don’t want to reuse them if you don’t have to.
If you do go to reuse them, treat them just like you would a brand new lid.
A Few Things to Be Aware Of When Reusing Lids
As I mentioned initially, reusing canning lids isn’t recommended by producers or canning lid companies. If you do reuse canning lids here are a few things to be aware of.
- You’ll likely experience a higher seal failure when reusing lids, particularly when putting up tiny jars of jams or jellies with short processing times.
- Used lids may let loose in storage and cause food spoilage. If this happens, be sure to throw the food away.
- Lids that were first used for pressure canning are less likely to seal a second time, due to the intensity of the first seal.
- Because pressure canned food takes much longer to process, I always try to use new lids in hope of getting a 100% seal rate.
- Tin canning lids aren’t likely to seal again after a 2nd use.
- If you do plan to reuse your lids, you should learn how to remove them from jars with as little damage as possible.
How to Remove Lids from Your Jars With Blemishing Them
Everyone opens their jars of home canned food, differently. If you are going to keep lids for reuse, I recommend that you use the following technique.
Insert a butter knife between your canning lid and the topmost glass threads on your jar. Give the knife a gentle twist and your lid will pop free. Go easy, and the butter knife shouldn’t leave more than a scratch behind.
I prefer to use this method because it doesn’t interfere or mess with the structure of the lid!
I try to avoid reusing tin canning lids (and I recommend you do the same). But when I am in a pinch, if the stores are out of stock or if I’m short a lid or two, I do reuse. I’ve weighed the risks and have decided I’m ok with it.
But as for you and your household? It’s going to be entirely up to you!