Reusing "one time use" canning lids

Sweet Tatorman's picture

Short version: I have good success with doing this. I do examine the used lids carefully and discard any that were distorted upon their initial removal when first used. When using I carefully follow the Ball company recommendation of heating in water to 180F [but not boiling] for at least 10 minutes immediately prior to use. This softens the rubber sealing compound to facilitate a good seal. I have not had a rate of failure to seal any different than with virgin lids which is to say, very rarely. I just in the past week finished my cucumber pickle canning and for fun tried a single jar with a twice used lid. Worked fine. I am marking the lids that are on their second use so that I can do a larger number of twice used lids next year. I chaff at the idea of spending ~30 cents on a lid when the total production cost of the jar contents is much less. If I can reliably get 3 uses out of a lid then not so much.

Sweet Tatorman's picture

A small update on this practice. I canned 9 jars of okra pickles this morning. On 8 jars I used lids with one prior use and 1 jar a lid with 3 prior uses. Lids were a mix of Ball brand and generics [which I believe are likely also made by Ball]. I obtained a good seal in all cases. I noted from the previous labeling on the once used lids that 4 of the 8 had been last used in either 2011 or 2012. Typically the contents of any canning I do gets used within a years time so these 4 once used lids had 4 or 5 years of post use aging after removal. They had been stored for a few years post use in a barn so were not in any type of a climate controlled environment. They still worked fine.

Magpie's picture

Good to hear that you have also had some success! I've written about some of my experiments before in this previous post. Check it out for a full report.

Thirty cents per lid? When I was in the US, I could pick up packs of a dozen for less than three dollars (in Oregon). I wonder if it's a regional differences or prices have really risen that much in the last three years. In any case, it is still better than New Zealand prices, which are running 50+ cents per lid. In addition, the glass company that made our canning jars quit some time ago, so used jars are going for $2-3 each and new ones are $6+ each.

As a result, I've re-used store jars with quite a lot of success. I have a very low seal failure rate, and have only had maybe 5 jars go bad on me these last three years (out of 300+?) I've even had stuff preserved with the (not recommended) overflow method last two years no problem. I am using my knowledge of food science and chemistry to make safe choices using the materials I have available. I only can high acid and high sugar stuff. The only thing that goes in the regular canning jars I managed to scrounge up (at great expense) is my tomato sauce, which I don't trust to store jars.

I've done a lot of alternate preserving because of my issues with collecting enough real canning jars (I only have ~50). Dehydration in my solar dehydrator worked a treat, but I couldn't do it this year because my flatmates run a daycare out of the house and the dehydrator was not engineered to take that sort of abuse. Fermentation and rootcellaring have been relatively successful, so I've decreased my need for canning. I'm not really sure how long canning will remain a viable strategy, honestly. If you can afford them, I recommend Tattler lids, which are canning lids designed to be reused. In my experience, they last quite a bit better than the regular metal ones (10 times seems to be the maximum for those)--I regret not bringing mine with me!

Sweet Tatorman's picture

Magpie, you are quite correct in questioning my memory of what I had been paying for these. It had been a long while since my last purchase. I may have been conflating the cost of these with another food preservation consumable, vacuum sealing freezer bags. I was at Wallyworld today and checked the pricing. At lots of a dozen lids with applicable tax included cost came to 11.8 US cents/lid for the Wallyworld store brand, "Mainstays" and 15.7 US cents/lid for the "Ball" branded ones or roughly 16 and 22 Kiwi cents respectively. While I did not have an immediate need, I bought a pack of the Ball lids for the purpose of comparing with the Wallyworld ones I already had on hand. My suspicion was that since Ball bought out Kerr some years ago and consolidated all lid production in a single factory that the Wallyworld ones were likely made in the same factory as the packaging was marked "Made in USA". After close inspection under a stereo microscope I would bet 100:1 odds that this is in fact the case.

I priced the Tattler reusable lids. If I can reliably get three uses out of the "one time use" lids there is no way the Tattler lids can be justified on a cost of use basis for me.

Magpie's picture

I remember doing a price-out between Tattler and regular canning jar lids before I asked for them as a Christmas present from my relatives. Maybe I'm not remembering correctly either!

Tattler claims that the rings/lids are reusable indefinitely. The type of plastic they are made of is similar to Tupperware, so I am confident in giving it a 40+ year lifetime estimate. The rubber rings, on the other hand, have been noted to start failing between the 10 and 30-year mark, depending on local conditions (they are 3 cents each to replace). If you bought a dozen wide-mouth lids at the single-box price of $8.50, the price is 70 cents per lid, plus 3 cents to replace the lid after 20 years--which means you get 40 uses (at one use per year) for 70 cents (1.8 cents per use). For your unbranded lids at three uses each, you'd get 3.9 cents per use for the first three uses (purchased today), and then add on the 3% or whatever inflation per year after that--at the end of 20 years, it's up to 6.8 cents per use, and by 40 years, it could be over 12 cents per use, assuming a relatively stable economic situation. The average cost over 20 years would be 5.2 cents per use, and 7.4 cents per use over 40 years.

I've run a calculation in a spreadsheet of inflation vs. cost/year for the two types of lids. The cost will equalize at 12-13 years, after which the reusable canning lids become a better initial investment. The better choice will depend on your resources, your age, and your predictions about the future economy and availability of lids.

The main issue for me was that I can (and have) replace the rubber gasket by making one myself, whereas I can't fix the rubber around the metal lid if it goes. I got the lids in my mid-20's, and hope to remain canning as long as it is possible to do so.

Best of luck!

I tried using the Tattler lids for about three years. It didn't matter what I did to tighten the ring to the correct tension and I even contacted the Tattler corporation for instructions, I had too high of a failure rate, especially on hot water bath. 20% per load was just too much. I put too much time and effort in growing and prepairing the food for processing to loose any in the canner, so I gave them up. I will use them in the pressure canner because I don't loose all the food if the ring fails, but I have gone back to metal lids for everything else. Very few failures with them. I think I will try reusing some of my metal lids.

Sweet Tatorman's picture

Magpie, I had a few different values in my calculation not least of which is life expectancy [mine, not the lids]. There is no local vendor for this product unlike "one time use" lids so shipping was factored in. Current pricing on the Tattler website:

agrees exactly with your memory of the pricing for a dozen widemouth lids with seals at $8.50. The replacement for the ring seals however is $4.50/dozen = 37.5 cents each. You don't get much of a break for a larger quantity of 100 replacement seals which is $35.50. Buying only a dozen lids+seals incurs a shipping charge of $5 and a purchase of 2 dozen a shipping charge of $9.50. The unit cost of shipping does decrease for larger purchases.

I do concur that the possibility of fabricating your own seals is a potential benefit.

ClareBroommaker's picture

What material did you use to make a new gasket? Were you able to match the thickness of a Tattler brand gasket?

Magpie's picture

I made the gasket by cutting sheet rubber. On my (long) list of things to do is learn how to make dandelion rubber for the future.

Sweet Tatorman's picture

Magpie, thanks for pointing to your earlier thread. It was an interesting read. I feel sorry for the younger folks that are victims of the real estate bubble there. It will end in tears I believe. It also makes me grateful that I can run my 10 ft^3 freezer for ~$30 USD per year.

I've always wondered about that. What did people use before they sold one-time-use lids? Or is home canning new enough that they've always been around?

Sweet Tatorman's picture

YG, check out the link "this previous post" in Magpies comment up thread. Some of the comments in that thread mention some of the alternate canning methods. You may also find of interest this link from the Ball company website:

Per that link, the metal lids with the attached seal date from 1915.

Blueberry's picture

Growing up my mon would use wax to seal jam, jellies and pickles. She would pour hot wax in to the jar to seal the contents, the wax was about 1/2 inch thick. When the wax was removed from the top of jar it was washed and remelted for the next batch of what ever, The now open jar was placed in fridge covered with wax paper and a rubber band. My folks had some real old canning jars which used a glass lid and wire bail and rubber rings for a tight seal mom used these for pressure canning of meats and veggies. We have my moms pressure canner and some of the old style jars you can still get rubber rings for the jars or if you want to make your own, order rubber from McMaster-Carr.


ClareBroommaker's picture

Glad to hear that. I think Magpie has been experimenting, too.

We just re-used one lid out of a batch of twenty jars, and like, you, marked it so we will kow which one it was. It seems well sealed. But it was only on jam which keeps pretty well anyway. Everything else gets pressure canned and I rarely can get a lid off one of those jars without denting it. Plus the gum sealant is really deeply furrowed after pressure canning.

My mate likes to put jam and jellies in small jars (8 oz), but I like to use fewer lids by putting them up in pints and even quarts. At least I've convinced him to put green beans into quarts instead of pints, so we use half the lids. Moreover, I'm am liking both fermenting and dehydrating beans, each which can be stuffed into any ol' jar. (Won't have enough beans to preserve this year.)

Did you know that for their current lids, Ball no longer says you need to heat them before use?

Sweet Tatorman's picture

Ms ClareBroommaker, your comment made me look for the first time at the Ball company website,

They have quite a bit of discussion about their dropping the prior recommendation of preheating the lids. Apparently it is a result of changing the formulation of the sealing compound back in the year 1969. I guess I am a bit behind the times but I am an old guy who still misses the rotary dial telephone. They did allow that there is not harm in continuing the practice. I found myself wondering if it might have benefit for the case of reusing lids. To investigate, I examined some of the lids in my collection of once used ones under a stereo microscope which is useful in assessing depth of features, specifically the depth of the indentation in the sealing surface. I selected two that were closely identical. Holding one in reserve as the control, I subjected the other to 10 minutes water bath at 180 (-5, +0)F. Upon post heating examination the indentation was clearly "relaxed" relative to the control. This may or may not have benefit in the case of reuse as one could argue that the same relaxation of the indented sealing surface would occur during the processing of the jars. I will likely continue the practice at least in the case where I am reusing lids as I have had sucess to date and it does not add any additional time to the overall process.

ClareBroommaker's picture

Yes, Sweet Tatorman, they took the directions to heat the lids off of the boxes that the lids are sold in maybe in 2014.-- recently anyway. I think I looked at a new box of jars with lids and saw that instructions was removed from those boxes, too.

It has been a relief to me not to heat the lids before use. Not just because of the energy use, but because of the addtional heat and steam in the house. But also because we are canning on an apartment sized stove and it is already hard enough to fit a canner, a pot of hot water for the jars, and a pot of whatever is being canned.

However, I'm going to start saving some of our used lids and see if we can revive them through heat treatment. So thank you very much for sharing your observations (microscope and all!) and practices.

Sweet Tatorman's picture

>Did you know that for their current lids, Ball no longer says you need to heat them before use?<

No, I did not. My "go to" canning reference is a reprint [considerably updated] of the 1909 Ball "Blue Book". Even the reprint is about 10 years old. I mostly use generic unbranded lids from Wallyworld.

Magpie's picture

I found that heating the lids for an extended period made the rubber become very indented when applied to the jar. I typically use spaghetti tongs to hold the lid in boiling water for ~10 seconds to sterilize it and soften the rubber just enough to get a better seal. Works a treat with older lids as well!