Canning Storage: How to Store Mason Jars in the Pantry

If you’ve embraced home canning and have a pantry full of canned goods, you’re probably wondering about canning storage. How do you properly store all of that home canned goodness for the most optimum shelf life?

Originally published March 2012; this post has been updated.

Jars of raspberry puree with lids and rings in place.


Prepare Canning Jars for Long-Term Storage

What does this mean? There are some things to consider when putting your home canned goods into the pantry. 

First, how long will home canned foods last? There’s not a hard and fast rule about this, or an exact number of days. 

The National Center for Home Food Preservation (NCHFP) suggests using canned goods within a year of processing for best quality. That doesn’t mean that the food inside the jars becomes unsafe after a year passes, though.

As long as the food was processed properly and remains sealed, it is safe to eat. The quality of the food in the jars may begin to deteriorate over time. 

To make sure you’re using jars of food in a reasonable amount of time, employ the “first in, first out” method in your pantry. This assures that you’re using the oldest jars first.

Choose a Cool, Dry, Dark Place for Canning Storage

Keeping jars cool will help retain the quality of the food you’ve preserved. Temperatures between 50°F and 70°F (10 to 21 C) are ideal. 

The contents of jars stored on shelves exposed to daylight can oxidize more quickly and lose some vitamins. They may also fade in color. None of these are safety issues, necessarily, but storing in a dark space improves the shelf life of foods.

Jars stores in humid or moist conditions may develop rusty lids, which can compromise the seal. 

canning jars full of preserved food

Clean Canning Jars Before Storage

Once jars have cooled, check the seal and remove the rings, then rinse the jars thoroughly to remove any sticky residue from the outside of the jars.

The Handcrafted Pantry

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Should You Remove the Rings for Storage?

The NCHFP recommends removing the rings for storage, but it’s not a hard and fast rule. I remove rings for storage. 

  • If there’s a problem with the seal, it will be obvious right away. With the rings on, it’s harder to discern if the seal has been compromised.
  • Removing the rings allows me to use those for processing more jars.

If you prefer to store jars with the rings on, be sure to thoroughly clean and dry both the jar threads and the rings before re-attaching them.

jars of applesauce on a wooden table ready for canning storage

Store Jars Upright

This means that the contents won’t touch the lid for an extended time. Some canned items — tomatoes, for instance — are corrosive.

To Stack or Not to Stack?

Obviously, stacked jars are more likely to fall and break. If you’re short on space and want to stack the jars, the generally recognized safe method is to place a thick layer of cardboard or thin sheet of wood between the layers. Placing filled and sealed jars inside the boxes the jars came in is another option.

This helps to keep the stack sturdier and helps to avoid disturbing the sealed lids of jars on the bottom layer.

Another thing to be mindful of: stacked jars can deceive you into thinking a jar is sealed when it’s not.

blank canning label.

Planning on doing lots of canning this year? Grab a FREE download of these cute printable canning labels — complete with a gentle reminder to return the jar, in case you’re giving some as gifts!


graph with canning storage system

Keep Track

Knowing what’s in your pantry allows you to utilized what’s in your pantry. I use this system to keep track of our home canned foods.  

Using this method with my canning storage helps me spread the various canned goods across the winter months, so we don’t end up with too much — or too little — of an item before winter ends.

glass canning jars with lids and rings

Earthquake Food Storage

This is an issue specifically for earthquake-prone regions: Safe canning storage when the ground shakes.

A Doomsday Preppers episode once featured a group concerned about the possibility of an epic earthquake. Fine and good to prepare for an earthquake, I say.

But folks, if you’re going to have shipping containers full of food preserved in glass on shelf after shelf to survive an earthquake as these folks did, open shelving with nothing holding those jars in place is probably not a good idea. Storage for canning jars full of your precious preserved foods needs to be more secure.

canning jars filled and sealed with strawberry jam


Here are some methods to consider to make your jars a little more likely to survive some shaking:

  • Slip each glass canning jar into an orphaned sock before storage. This serves two purposes. It protects the glass from damage, and if there is breakage, the glass won’t scatter. You’ll be able to just pick up the jar inside the sock and dispose of it.
  • Store glass containers only on shelves that have doors that latch securely. Shelves closest to the floor are best for this.
  • If you’re storing glass canning jars on open shelves, run a 1″ x 2″ board across the front of the shelves to prevent the jars from crashing to the floor in the event of a quake.
  • Instead of storing glass jars on shelves, reuse the boxes that those canning jars came in or pack them in boxes with a protective piece of cardboard between each jar. As long as they are down low and not situated below your bowling ball collection, the likelihood of breakage should be minimal, I would think. The space under a bed would be ideal for this.

Now, of course, all bets are off if we’re talking about a really intense earthquake. But for moderate quakes, taking precautions like this may be what you need to feel good about food storage in glass.

canning jars with red ingredients

More on Food Preservation


  • How long will canned food keep?:
  • Storing without rings:

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About the author: Kris Bordessa is an award-winning National Geographic author and a certified Master Food Preserver. Read more about Kris and how she got started with this site here. If you want to send Kris a quick message, you can get in touch here.

30 comments… add one
  • Nylah Feb 25, 2024 @ 7:47

    I live off grid and don’t have a basement cellar or garage. So I am storing in a closet right now. But I gave an old refrigerator on my patio. Before I get rid of it could I use it to store my jars?

    • Kris Bordessa, National Geographic author/certified master food preserver Mar 14, 2024 @ 14:14

      It seems like that could be a good way to use it!

  • Bill Barnes Apr 16, 2022 @ 0:44

    We just started canning. We don’t have a cool, dark place for storage. We are currently storing them on shelves in our dining room, for lack of a better place (bedrooms are being used). I am concerned about the indirect light and would like to know if you have some ideas on how we can protect our stash, so that it doesn’t degrade too quickly. – Thanks!

    • AttainableSustainable Apr 19, 2022 @ 6:43

      If it gets warm where you live, you could consider black-out curtains on your windows. Good luck!

  • Bonnie Heald Feb 13, 2021 @ 10:38

    One way to protect canning jars is to place each one inside a 2 liter soda bottle, which has been cut off at the top. You can tape the top back on after inserting the mason jar, and label. Then if it should fall or knock into other jars, they shouldn’t break. This also helps keep dust and debris of the jars, reuses plastic bottles, and keeps those plastic bottles out of the landfill.

    • Kris Bordessa Feb 21, 2021 @ 17:05


  • Elaine Jun 30, 2020 @ 11:12

    I have discovered “jar boxes”. All jars are separated and there is a jar lid that fits over the glass jars. Two sizes are available- quart and pint.
    I’m hoping this will help with earthquake issues.

    • Elaine Apr 16, 2022 @ 8:26

      These are what I have and I store as many under the bed as will fit. There are holes to tie the top and bottom together. They are heavy plastic but they should last a very long time.

      • AttainableSustainable Apr 19, 2022 @ 6:28

        Great idea to store them under the bed.

  • Illini Warrior Jun 24, 2020 @ 3:30

    in regard to earthquake prep and canning >> shelves themselves need to sturdy enough to survive and more importantly fastened down to avoid the entire shelving unit going down …

    a big “retaining cleat” like a 1 X 4 across the shelf front will get the job done – but a much smaller one coupled with a bunge cord makes access eazier for everyday use >>> another restraint across the entire shelf unit is a piece of poly snow fence stretched tite …

  • shirley Jan 12, 2019 @ 6:26

    i was wondering if there was a safe way to store you home canned goods in a storage shed?

    • Kris Bordessa Jan 13, 2019 @ 8:26

      Just as you would inside a house, I imagine. If there are no shelves, you can put the full, sealed jars back in their original box, or another box. Just make sure they’re not glass-to-glass.

  • Sam Oct 16, 2017 @ 2:49

    We live on a sailboat that has a wooden built-in wine cabinet. Sounds fancy but it isn’t! It’s an old boat and we’re a big family. Anyway, I can fit 1 pint and 1 quart jar in each wine bottle hole. And I can see the bottoms, so it is a gorgeous solution for at least some storage (the jars that are currently being used). I bet there are some storage systems designed for wine bottles that would work on land, too.

  • Exfilia Feb 27, 2017 @ 12:31

    So, we have some great ideas on how to protect glass jars in a 7-ish earthquake.

    But how do we protect the seals? Jars full of spoiled food don’t help much, and we all know that the rubber seal on that metal lid is the most fragile part of the whole food-preservation equation.

    • Kris Bordessa Mar 2, 2017 @ 10:12

      The orphaned sock method could protect them some. At some point, though, there’s just going to be loss if the quake is strong enough.

  • Judi Mar 14, 2016 @ 1:29

    Have lived in a couple of humid areas where boxes sometimes deteriorate in the humidity. If you need to replace them and don’t want to spend money for moving boxes or storage boxes with dividers:

    A good source for boxes with sturdy dividers is a liquor store. Several in our town just pile the boxes up in the front as they unpack them and stock shelves. If you find out they days they get shipments and go late that evening or the following morning, you can grab some sturdy boxes for storing glass jars. 🙂 for smaller jars like jelly jars you can often stack 2-3 in one column in a liquor box. Just remember to put cut cardboard between each jar, too. Grab an extra box or two for this purpose. You are helping them recycle!

  • Dianna Jul 29, 2015 @ 10:57

    if you are storing dried food stuffs in plastic or storing water in plastic soda, water, peanut or other plastic bottles, be sure not to store these directly on concrete. It is corrosive and will 1. Change the taste of what you sure storing, especially water, 2. Cause the plastic to start to degrade faster. A piece of carpet, cardboard or a few layers of newspaper between the plastic and the concrete is sufficient.

  • merr Apr 3, 2012 @ 5:00

    The idea about the glass jars in socks is clever. Have to consider that here in so Cal.

  • Sheri Cline Mar 31, 2012 @ 23:44

    @ Jane, The world mass is composed of shifting plates so I’m not sure there is a place that exist that is exempt from earthquake activity. Here’s a video that i just came upon.
    Mother Keeps her Child Calm During a Frightening Earthquake


  • Jane Boursaw Mar 31, 2012 @ 15:27

    We’ve been watching that Doomsday Preppers show, too, and it’s fascinating. I’m glad we don’t live in earthquake country, but you’ve got some great ideas for working with glass storage. 

  • MyKidsEatSquid Mar 30, 2012 @ 15:24

    I use #10 aluminum cans. Some are lined, I’m not sure what exactly is in the lining, but once you use up what’s in the can they’re easy to reuse or recycle. Per box of 6 #10 cans there’s just one plastic lid to use once you open the can.

  • Irene Mar 30, 2012 @ 5:41

    Love the sock idea! so creative….

  • Sheri Cline Mar 29, 2012 @ 7:56

    I’ve been saving 5 gallon containers to store my full canning jars into. You can fill the air space with other bags of dried food, rice, beans, corn and so on…..then put the lids securely back on and stack them up and label & date the containers for rotation. I always pack Bay Leaves into my dried goods to stop hatch-out.

    • Attainable Sustainable Mar 30, 2012 @ 16:36

       @Sheri Cline Jars within a bucket is a good idea, too!

    • Kathleen Jones Jul 2, 2020 @ 13:45

      Hi Sheri Cline,
      Excellent idea!! That could even be used in non-earthquake area. Thanks for sharing it.

  • SoniaR Mar 29, 2012 @ 7:33

    Kris, I too watched that one episode of the preppers and thought the same thing…glass jars/open shelving…duh!  This program is a bit too alarmist…or the preppers who are being featured are a bit too alarmist and over the top.  I have caught bits and pieces of 2-3 episodes and can’t stand to watch any more than that…I think we will continue with our own modest plan…

  • Cali Girl Farms Mar 28, 2012 @ 20:17

    One of my concerns as well, living in Southern California. Definitely some food storage ideas to consider — thanks.

  • FrugalKiwi Mar 28, 2012 @ 16:40

    GREAT post! I’ll be passing this on to my readers here in earthquake prone NZ.

  • Linda Forsdick Mar 28, 2012 @ 16:23

    No wonder the men in our lives can’t understand where their socks are going! lol

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