If you can’t find canning lids, you might wonder – can you reuse canning lids? The answer might surprise you.
We’re going to talk about something a bit more controversial, and it’s honestly a topic that I never considered until 2020 hit. The canning shelves went from full to empty, and despite being a year after all of the craziness, canning lids are still incredibly hard to find. That left me wondering last year – can you reuse canning lids?
I want to start by saying that safety rules tell you that metal canning lids are only safe for one-time use. If you want to follow the canning safety rules and avoid making any canning mistakes, then disregard this article.
I’ve always hated tossing out the lids after finishing a jar of canned goods. It does feel wasteful, and while there are things you can do with used canning lids, I have too many.
So, when everything happened, I did what any sane homesteader would do – I listened and talked to other canners.
I got a lot of feedback, and if you browse YouTube or social media, I’m sure you will see others who share their thoughts as well. We debated whether or not Ball or Kerr recommends a one-time use to get more money.
Let’s be honest – corporations here.
Or, if it really made a difference.
I can to provide food for my family, and I want to make sure I create and preserve food safely that will stay in our pantry for more than a few weeks. The overwhelming amount of people that I talked to said that they safely reuse canning lids; most say that you can reuse once or twice.
Let’s dive into this topic, and we’ll also cover some approved reusable canning lid options that I think are awesome.
Why Do Companies Say Not to Reuse Canning Lids?
Before we consider reusing canning lids, it’s important to know why the companies make this recommendation.
According to the North Dakota State University,
Don’t be tempted to reuse canning lids. The gasket compound in used lids may fail to seal on jars, resulting in unsafe food. When jars are processed, the gasket on new lids softens and flows slightly to cover the jar-sealing surface.– Extension and AG Research News, NDSU
So, what does this really mean?
It means that the only reason we aren’t supposed to reuse canning lids is because it might not seal properly.
Reusing canning lids doesn’t mean that your food will be unsafe; it means the lid might seal incorrectly or not seal at all. The lids might come unsealed faster than a new one.
No matter what brand you use, you won’t find metal canning lids with a producer that recommends reusing them. Now, there are reusable lids, but we’ll discuss that in a bit. What to know right now is that reusing canning lids could result in a sealing failure, and that could result in food spoilage and loss.
Is it worth it? That’s up to you.
How to Reuse Canning Lids Safely
Despite what producers say, I know tons of people who reuse canning lids, and given the shortage in the last year, I suspect more are doing so.
If you decide to go that route, you need to know how to reuse canning lids safely to protect your food storage and the safety of your family.
Inspect Your Used Canning Lids
Before you reuse canning lids, take a close look at them. I find that a majority are dented or bent when they’re opened. Any Knicks, dents, bends, or cuts in the lid or rubber means that the lids cannot be reused.
If you want to keep them, only use them to store leftovers in the fridge or dried goods.
When you inspect canning lids, look for:
- Problems with the rubber gasket
- A dent or bend in the metal where you might have pried it open
- Rust or corrosion anywhere on the lid
- White enamel that might be scratched
Basically, it should look like an unused lid for the most part. When in doubt, don’t reuse it.
Clean the Lids Well
Next, take the best used canning lids and wash them well in hot, soapy water. Watch for any blemishes; sometimes, you find them when you clean them. The orange, rubber seal should be free from any stickiness or food products.
Boil Your Used Lids
Here is another controversial topic.
Years ago, we were told to boil the lids before use, but updated standards now say that you should simply clean your lids in soapy water.
However, when reusing lids, most people recommend that you boil them again. That’s because when you use your lids, the rim of the jar leaves an indent. The hack I learned from other homesteaders is to boil the lids for 20 minutes before reusing them because it softens the seals.
No, the rubber seal will never be as full as they were originally, but some of that indent goes away somewhat.
Can Like Normal
After you boil all of your lids and let them dry, you can store them or can them like normal.
Something to note.
Everyone disagrees about whether or not you should reuse canning lids for pressure canning or after pressure canning. When you pressure can something, there is more heat and pressure, so in theory, the rubber would be used more than if you reuse lids from water bath canned foods.
Some homesteaders say that you should only reuse canning lids for water bath foods, like jams or jellies. Others say that they reusing is best for pressure canning because the high pressure will help to reseal the rubber better.
I haven’t seen much of a difference. I think everyone has different experiences, but I do mark the ones that have a reused lid and monitor them more closely for any looseness.
Store and Check Frequently
When you reuse canning lids, I highly recommend that you make sure you store them properly and mark the lids, so that you know which ones need to be checked.
I’m not gonna lie – reused lids DO have a higher seal failure rate. I find that they’re more likely to fail for things like jams or jellies that don’t have a long processing time. Typically, they seal when first canned, but they might come unsealed in the pantry.
That’s the problem with reusing canning lids, so here are my suggestions for being safe after reusing canning lids.
- Store without the bands on the lid. While this is typically recommended anyway, make sure you follow this when reusing canning lids. You want it evident when a lid comes loose.
- Don’t stack jars on top of each other.
- If the lid comes loose, throw the food away. Don’t try it; you have no idea how long it was off and what bacteria entered your food.
A Few Things to Know Before Reusing Canning Lids
Now, I don’t opt to reuse canning lids all the time. Before they were harder to find, I never reused them; I didn’t see the point when a box of lids was $2 at Walmart. I personally think we should save this for time when you cannot find canning lids.
For those of us who garden for self-sufficiency, our garden is how we feed our family, and canning is a big part of that. Having lids is a big requirement.
That being said, I want to point out a few more things before you reuse canning lids.
- Don’t try to reuse the lids for the third time. Chances are they won’t reseal.
- If you want to reuse canning lids, try to remove them with as little damage as possible. Some people swear by things like jar openers.
- Try to only reuse canning lids for foods that you don’t mind losing. For example, if I lose a few jars of mulberry jelly, I won’t be too upset, but losing jars of my home-canned green beans would be much more upsetting. We use those all year long and need them for meals
- Don’t reuse canning lids if you intend to give the food to friends or other people.
Reusable Canning Lids ARE a Better Option
Now, with all of this being said, if you want to reuse canning lids, I recommend buying lids that are meant to be reused. For years, the only brand that was available was Tattler, but that’s no longer true.
Here are a few options for reusable canning lids.
Without a doubt, Tattler is the best-known choice; they’re really the OGs of reusable canning lids. These lids fit regular-sized jars, and despite people saying that they don’t seal well, it’s typically due to user error. The lids need to be tightened AFTER canning, not beforehand.
The lids themselves will last forever, but the rubber gasket doesn’t. They need to be replaced, but they’re super affordable. Tattler says that their rubber gaskets lasts between 12-16 times.
I find that tattler lids are unreasonable expensive. Amazon sells them for $18 for 12 lids; that’s over $1 for each lid. While I know that they’re reusable so the cost will be spread out, that’s a lot of money if you can as much as I do.
However, Tattler started in 1976, so if you want to use a brand that you feel totally confident with and know will work, then I suggest Tattlers. You cannot go wrong.
Let’s talk about the new kids on the block of canning lids. These are the brand that I ultimately decided to use.
Harvest Guard Canning Lids look similar to Tattlers, and they work the same way. The lids last forever, and the gaskets should be replaced after six to eight uses. A bag of 100 rubber gaskets is $20, making them highly affordable.
The price is so appealing, and people are going nuts over them. A bag of 50 lids costs $34. That’s very affordable, and if you want 250 lids, they cost $160.
Honestly, I think the only downside to Harvest Guard Canning Lids is that they are newer than Tattlers. They have to show that they’re trustworthy, but for now, we are continuing with this brand.
So, What’s the Verdict?
Here’s my final verdict on the debate of whether or not you should reuse canning lids.
Metal canning lids are meant for a one-time use, and the rubber gasket does have a noticeable indent after canning. I have had success reusing canning lids, but I would suggest doing this only if you run out of lids and need to preserve something ASAP. I’m making a switch to using reusable canning lids and keeping a big supply of rubber gaskets on hand over the next few years to make sure this problem never arises again.
However, if you have to reuse canning lids, chances are your food will be totally fine. The worse that happens is you have to toss out a jar of food, which everyone hates, but it’s really not the end of the world.