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7 Hacks for Dealing With Hard-to-Open Containers

Don’t let packaging stand between you and what you want.


Some food and product packaging is insanely difficult to open, and it can be even more so for people suffering from the joint pain, stiffness, and swelling caused by osteoarthritis. Sure, that packaging serves a purpose, but getting rid of it should be easy breezy, not something that causes you pain. Whether it’s inside an airtight, vacuum-sealed jar or a super-secure plastic clamshell container, everything you need to open those tough-to-open containers can already be found right in your own kitchen.

1. Use a can opener to open plastic packaging. What’s more infuriating than impenetrable clamshell plastic packaging? Even scissors don’t make it that easy to get to the product inside. Try using a handheld can opener instead. Just place it on the edge, then work your way around the packaging the same way you would a can. Get it three-quarters of the way around and voilà—that packaging will crack right open.

2. Use a rubber band or rubber gloves to open stuck jar lids. Opening a jar for the first time can be a lesson in patience and strength. If you’re not looking to get your arm workout in the kitchen, you’re going to need to create some friction to keep your hands from slipping on that smooth glass container. Try placing one rubber band around the lid and another around the jar, then place your hands on the rubber bands and twist. You’ll hear that satisfying “pop!” in no time. Rubber gloves—or even plastic wrap—will do the same trick if you don’t have any rubber bands on hand.

3. Or use duct tape to unseal stubborn lids. What can’t duct tape fix? To unscrew a stuck jar cap, you can create a pulley system with duct tape. You’ll need a strip of duct tape about a foot long. Line up the edge of the tape with the bottom of the lid and start wrapping it around the lid. After you’re at least a quarter of the way around, fold the top part of the attached tape down to cover the lid. Fold the rest of the tape in half to reinforce it, then give it a good yank—that should loosen the lid right up. If the tape breaks, add multiple layers before trying again.

4. Turn a spoon into a lever. Pop a metal lid off a jar with just the tip of a spoon. All you need to do is slip the edge of the spoon, held the normal way, in between the lip of the lid and the glass container. Start applying pressure by pushing the handle of the spoon toward the jar (make sure you’ve got a strong grasp on the jar with your other hand). Soon enough, you’ll hear the “pop” of the pressurized seal breaking; after that, twist the lid off.

5. Run metal lids under hot water. If you’re dealing with a vacuum-sealed metal lid and glass container, save yourself all the arm-wrenching and run the lid under hot water for about 30 seconds. Because metal expands faster than glass, the metal lid will loosen enough for you to pop that seal. This is also a good trick for previously opened jars with food that’s hardened inside the lid (looking at you, jam), the warm water will soften any crust right up so you can get the jar open again.

6. Use two quarters to open flimsy snack bags. How embarrassing is it when you can’t rip into a stupid little snack bag? Because they’re made with aluminum and polyethylene, they can be tough to tear. If you don’t have scissors nearby, place two quarters on opposite sides of the bag so their edges are almost touching. Place your thumbs and forefingers on the coins, then pull apart as normal; the resistance works just like scissors. (If all else fails, make your own chips!)

7. Buy reusable containers with easy-to-remove lids. No one says you have to store foods in the containers they came in, so save yourself the hassle of dealing with hard-to-open jars by opening them once and dumping their contents right into another container with a pop-on/pop-off lid. It’ll do the exact same job without giving you such a headache.

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