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A common question that comes up in canning circles is, “Can canning lids be reused?” Canners have asked this question for years. But the desire to learn how to reuse canning jar lids intensified in 2020, due to canning supply shortages. In this article, l provide different opinions on whether you can reuse jar lids for canning. I also share best practices for reusing canning lids.
First, I’ll give you the short answer.
According to canning experts, you cannot reuse canning lids. Canning lids are made to be used once. However, many seasoned home canners provide safe ways to reuse canning jar lids. There are also canning lids such as Tattler, which are meant to be used more than once.
Pro Tip: To protect yourself against running out of lids, I recommend stocking up on reusable lids and gaskets. These are good to have on hand even if you like using metal lids such as Ball. You can get the reusable lids that I use here:
Can Canning Lids be Reused?
Now that we have the short version of the answer out of the way, let’s answer the question of do you have to use new lids when canning.
Why Experts Advise Against Reusing Canning Lids
Let’s start off by looking at what some of the experts have to say about reusing canning jar lids.
The North Dakota State University Extension office urges their readers to not be tempted to reuse canning lids.
They provide the following reason you should just say no to the question, “Can I reuse jar lids for canning?”
The Gasket Compound May Not Seal
The primary reason not to reuse canning lids is that the gasket compound on the lid may not seal. Jars that are not sealed properly result in unsafe food.
What are Canning Lid Gaskets?
In case it’s unclear what is meant by “gasket compound,” all canning lids have compounds or gaskets. In Ball, Kerr, and other brands of metal lids, the gaskets, or compounds are a made of rubber. They are typically red or orange in color.
The rubber compound wears down when you use the lid in canning. This is especially true with pressure canning.
Here’s an image to show the difference between a new canning lid, and one that has been used to pressure can:
As you can see, the rubber compound on the used canning lid is worn down, compared to the unused canning lid.
The concern is that the canning lid gasket on a used lid won’t provide a proper seal.
What About Reusable Canning Lids?
There are some canning lids that are made to be reused. The two most popular brands are Tattler, and Harvest Guard.
Their lids come in two pieces: the plastic lid, and the gasket.
The lid can be used indefinitely, unless it shows some signs of damage, such as chips or cracks. The lids are made from hard plastic and are exceptionally durable. The gaskets are made to be used between 6 and 10 times. If they are stretched out or damaged in any way, it’s time to replace them.
The Cost of Reusable Lids
Both Tattler and Harvest Guard lids are initially far more expensive than the cost of metal lids. Since prices vary, I won’t give precise prices. However, I’ve found that reusable canning lids typically cost about three times as much as metal canning lids. But, since you can reuse the gaskets as many as ten times, the cost per use ends up being about one-third the cost of Ball and other metal canning jar lids. The savings are even greater, since all you need to buy in the future are replacement gaskets. While prices vary based on many factors, I typically spend an average of about five cents per use, when canning with reusable canning lids.
Reusing Metal Canning Lids
But let’s say that you want to reuse your metal canning lids. Is there a safe way to go about it? While official agencies such as various state extension offices warn against reusing canning lids, many seasoned canners promote the reuse of canning lids, with certain caveats.
Inspect the Used Canning Jar Lids for Damage
If you’re going to reuse canning lids, it’s important to first inspect the canning lids. If the canning lids are chipped or damaged in any way, don’t reuse them. For instance, if you damage the lids when removing them from the jars and they are bent or creased, toss them out.
Other types of damage to watch out for include scratches or corrosion on the underside of the lid. Canning lids have a coating on the underside, and if you can see through the coating, it’s unsafe to use.
Also, if there is obvious damage to the rubber compound on the lids, don’t reuse them.
Preparing Lids for Reuse
Once you’ve inspected the canning jar lids for damage, there are a couple of steps to take before reusing them.
First, wash them thoroughly. You want to make sure to get any grease, grime or specks of food or dust off them before attempting to reuse them.
Second, boil the lids for 20 minutes. You may think that boiling the canning lids is for the purpose of sterilizing them. However, the real reason to boil the lids before reusing them is to soften and plump up the sealing compound. They still won’t look as good as new canning lids, but they should be in much better shape after boiling them.
The Best Way to Reuse Canning Lids
There are differing opinions on whether you should reuse canning lids for both water bath canning and pressure canning. Some say that it’s best to only reuse lids for water bath canning, and others say that pressure canning increases the likelihood of a proper seal.
I personally think that either way is fine, and there’s only one thing to watch out for, and that is the seal.
Check Seals Regularly
Even when reading the warnings from experts that say it’s unsafe to reuse canning lids, the only reason they give is because used lids may not seal properly.
The interesting thing about this is that I’ve had brand new canning lids fail to seal properly. I’ve also had this problem with reusable lids such as Tattlers.
And what do I do when a jar comes unsealed? I toss it! Regardless of if the unsealed jar that I stored in my pantry had a new lid, a reusable lid, or a previously used lid, if it comes unsealed, it goes in the trash. No ifs, ands or buts about it! If a jar of home canned food has come unsealed, toss it.
Risks Associated with Reusing Lids
The bottom line is that the only real risk associated with reusing canning jar lids is that they may come unsealed, and if they do, you have to throw the food away. Having to throw food away is a waste of both time and money and is very discouraging.
Reusing Metal Canning Lids with Tattler Gaskets
Before I end this article, I wanted to share with you one approach that some canners are using that combines the use of metal canning lids, with Harvest Guard or Tattler gaskets.
Now this is indeed a controversial topic, but one YouTuber that I respect and recommend named RoseRed Homestead, has been testing this out. Here is a video where she talks about her process.
She has been periodically checking the seals on her jars where she reused metal lids combined with Tattler gaskets, and so far, none of her jars have come unsealed.
My Personal Recommendation for Reusing Canning Jar Lids
My personal recommendation is that I typically only reuse canning lids to seal my jars of dehydrated food, and other dry food such as dry beans, popping corn, and sprouting seeds. In case of emergency, I would reuse canning lids, and then carefully inspect the seal before consuming whatever I canned with the used lids.
I do use Tattler and Harvest Guard lids multiple times, since they are made to be reused.
I’ve also made it a point to stock up on canning lids of all kinds, so that I always have more than enough.
Buy Lids and Other Canning Supplies from Smaller Companies
I want to close off this article by addressing one other issue that arose with the canning lid shortages.
Shortages resulted in a whole slew of poor-quality knock-off lids. Even new, these knock off canning jar lids have a remarkably high failure rate. The worst thing about this is that many of these lids were branded as Ball or Kerr lids, when the reality is that the quality led everyone to believe that they were more likely cheap lids made in China.
The problem is that if lids are sold by third party sellers on places like Amazon, it’s hard to know whether they are legitimate. Because of that, I recommend placing online orders for canning lids from a small, U.S. owned business such as Lehman’s, rather than from Amazon. I also feel that it’s safe to buy canning lids in reputable stores such as Walmart.
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Here are some of my favorite canning tools
Thank you for reading this article. I hope you found it helpful as you strive to stock your pantry with delicious home-canned food! Here are some tools that I use as a canner that I’m hoping you’ll also find helpful. These are affiliate links, so if you do decide to use any of them, I’ll earn a commission. Please know that these are the tools that I actually use and recommend and believe in 100%!
Nesco Smart Canner: You can see that many of the posts on my site show me using the Nesco canner. This is by far my favorite canner to use, and because of that, it’s the one that I recommend. Note that the Nesco and Carey Smart Canners are the exact same thing. So, if you go to Amazon and see that Nesco canners are out of stock, but the Carey is available (or cheaper!), then by all means buy a Carey. As long as you have either a Nesco or Carey, you can follow along with what I demonstrate on this blog.
Tattler Reusable Lids: I use both Tattler and Harvest Guard reusable canning lids. They are both American made, made by the same family. I prefer to buy my Tattler lids from Lehman’s, since they are a small, family-owned company. You can get Tattler lids from Lehman’s here, but if you prefer to buy from Amazon, you can get them here.
Metal Canning Lids: I have always been a fan of Ball canning lids. However, due to cheap knock offs on Amazon that claim to be Ball lids, I no longer purchase them from Amazon. You can get them from Lehman’s here. Another solid brand that Lehman’s sells is Superb. They are thicker and seem to have better quality gaskets. Here are the regular mouth lids and here are the wide mouth lids.
Norpo Canning Tools Boxed Set: I love this set of canning tools because it truly includes all the basics that you need, whether you’re water bath or pressure canning. Occasionally I’ve lost one of the items in the set and to replace it, had to buy it separately. It’s definitely more cost effective to buy the entire set.
The Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving: This is the first canning book that I purchased, and it’s still the one that I refer to most often. Especially when you’re first learning to can, it’s important to use trusted recipes and instructions that you know are safe. This book provides some great canning recipes to get you started, and also gives a lot of great “how to” canning information. When in doubt, look it up in the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving!