Reusing Canning Lids: Is it Safe?

One of the most-asked questions from those new to canning: Is reusing canning lids safe? I’ve been canning for many years, plus I’m a certified Master Food Preserver. Let me explain. 

New to canning? Be sure to check out this guide to canning supplies and be sure to read about different canning jar sizes.

hand placing a canning lid on a jar.

Can You Reuse Canning Lids for Canning?

The simple answer is no. But I think it’s important for you to understand why

There is a very vocal contingent of home canners on social media who embrace the motto, “my kitchen, my rules” and vociferously argue that their grandma never died from the old ways, so they’re going to continue using those methods. My goal is not to convince these folks that their safety is at risk, but to help first time canners understand how to do so safely and with good success. This is one of those occasions. 

The canning jar system allows for reuse of the glass jars and the metal bands that hold the lids in place during processing. There’s an initial investment up front, but once you own this equipment, you can use it for years and years. (The metal screw bands can rust over time, though.)

Metal canning lids (aka flats) need to be new for every jar of food you preserve, whether water bath canned or used for pressure canning. 

canning lid with new sealing compound.

The sealing compound on this new lid is smooth and unmarred.

New Lids

New canning lids have a sealing compound (usually red) around their perimeter. When heated during processing — in a water bath canner OR pressure canner — this sealing compound softens and molds to the rim of the jar. This is what creates the vacuum seal to make those jars shelf stable. New lids will readily create that airtight seal. 

These unused lids are meant to for a single use only. Once they’ve had their first use, they become unfit for the canning process, though they do have a variety of uses. See below for some ways to use old lids.

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!

 

Used Lids

Used lids will retain the imprint of the jar rim from its last use. As you can see on the lid below, the gasket compound is compressed and indented. Setting this on Mason jars results in less area actually touching the jar rim and may prevent a good seal. Using them a second time means that seal failure is a real risk.

A used canning lid.

The sealing compound on this used lid is compressed and will impair proper sealing.

What is Seal Failure? 

There are two levels of seal failures that you may experience. One, is that upon removing canning jars from the canner, there’s no vacuum because the jar never sealed. These jars can be placed in the refrigerator; use the contents within a reasonable amount of time. 

The second kind of seal failure is when the jar seems to be sealed, but over time the poor seal allows the lid to loosen and allow in oxygen. Jars with a compromised seal may develop mold or harbor dangerous bacteria. With this, home canners risk losing the canned product and a lot of work is wasted

🍅 Safety First!

Canning is an excellent way to preserve food for the pantry, but there are some important safety considerations to keep in mind. The recipes on this site have been made following safe canning procedures by a certified Master Food Preserver.

  • Know the difference between water bath canning and pressure canning. Low acid items must be pressure canned for safety. 
  • Altering ingredients may change the recipe’s pH, posing a safety issue. I highly recommend investing in pH paper to test your products for acidity level when canning. Note: For safe water bath canning, the Hawaii Master Food Preservers suggest a pH of 4.2 or lower in the tropics. In other regions, the recommended pH is 4.6 or lower.
  • Use the proper jars and lids. Never reuse lids, with the exception of the Tattler or Harvest Right hard plastic lids that are intended for such a purpose.
  • For more on canning equipment, please go here
  • Want to learn more? The National Center for Home Food Preservation is the go-to resource for safe canning information.

Preparing Canning Lids for Home Canning

The guidelines for safe canning procedures change over time. It used to be recommended that lids and rings were simmered in hot water before using them. This is no longer required. It won’t hurt to put the lids in hot water, as long as you don’t boil them, but it’s unnecessary. (This is good news for those of us who are in the habit of heating the lids before canning!) 

Overheating canning lids by boiling can cause the plastisol to become too thin to create a good seal. 

It’s a good idea to inspect new canning lids before use to make sure they’re in good condition. If you use high quality conventional canning lids, it’s unlikely that you’ll see any flaws, but it does happen on occasion, and this can prevent the proper seal from happening. 

Once you’ve given the canning jar lids a once-over, wash them in soapy water and set aside on a clean towel so they’re ready to use. 

Reusable Canning Equipment

The good news is, the lids are the only portion of the conventional canning jar system that can’t be reused. 

Glass canning jars can be washed and reused from year to year. I’ve collected a good quantity of jars over the years by keeping my eyes open at garage sales for canning equipment.

If you’re looking for second-hand jars, just remember that jars with small chips around the rim should not be used for home canning, as the chip can compromise the seal. (They’re fine for storing dry goods, though.)

Like canning lids, metal rings (also called bands) also come in both standard and wide mouth sizes. These are screwed over the lid to hold the lid in place during the canning process.

Once your jars have cooled and the lid is sealed, rings are removed for long-term storage and can be used to process another batch of jars.

Saving Money with Reusable Lids

If you’re intent on using canning lids more than once for home food preservation, think about investing in some reusable lids. There are a couple of brands to consider; both Tattler and Harvest Guard make two-part lids that can be reused from year to year. Because they are more expensive, I use these on home canned goods that I know I won’t likely give away as gifts, such as broth

Having a stash of these reusable lids for canning purposes can come in handy if we ever see another shortage of canning equipment, as we did in 2020. 

plastic canning lid with a separate rubber ring.

The two-part lid from Tattler is reusable.

How do Reusable Canning Lids Work?

These reusable lids are a two part canning lid made of a plastic disk and a separate rubber seal. The plastic lid has a lip on it that helps to secure the rubber ring in place.

It’s set in place just like the metal lids, so that the rubber part sits right on the jar rim. Twist a metal screw band on to hold the lid in place. 

Tattler canning lid ready for use.

With the rubber ring in place, this reusable lid is ready for canning.

The guidelines for required headspace are a little different when using these lids. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions to assure a good seal. 

The big difference with these lids is that it’s harder to tell if they are sealed. Instead of the pop tight metal lids like those from Ball, you test these by using your fingertips to lift a cooled jar by the lid. If the lid remains intact with the weight of the jar pulling on it (hey, gravity!), it’s considered sealed. It feels a little risky to hold a full jar above the countertop with such a small hold on it, but if Tattler says this is how to check for a proper seal, this is how we do. 

Note that there will be some changes in headspace when using these jar lids. Follow the instructions included with the reusable lids to make sure the jars seal properly.

Weck Jars

Another, different type of jar to consider is the Weck brand jar. These jars are in a category of their own, and frankly, much prettier than their more pedestrian counterparts. Both the jars and lids are made from glass, and thus reusable. The sealing ring is a separate rubber piece and also reusable.

The sealing process with a Weck jar requires a couple of metal clips that hold the rubber ring and glass lid in place during processing. Weck is a European company and while the jars are available online, you won’t find them as readily available in the USA. These jars tend to be substantially more expensive than ball jars, too, so using them is an investment.

What to Do With Old Canning Lids

While used lids cannot be used for canning, don’t toss them into the recycle bin quite yet.

hand placing lid on jar of applesauce.

More on Canning at Home

Do you have questions about home canning? First time canner? Check out this list of 101 frequently asked canning questions!

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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.

8 comments… add one
  • Shar Aug 3, 2023 @ 9:12

    I buy honey from a local shop, when getting refills can I use the same mason jar two part lid each time?

    • Kris Bordessa Oct 10, 2023 @ 14:20

      Absolutely. They shouldn’t be reused for CANNING purposes, but for storing other items, they’re fine.

  • Kathy Flint Dec 6, 2022 @ 4:59

    Harvest Guard Reusable lids only gave me about 50% success rate after trying over and over again following the company’s email suggestions to me. Once I got 60% success. Unfortunately, I bought in bulk on sale after reviewing all the positive hype. I cannot afford to waste all the time and produce on a lid that doesn’t work half the time. If you must try them, please buy only a few first to see if you can get a success rate you are happy with.

    • AttainableSustainable Dec 8, 2022 @ 7:55

      That is good to know and helpful advice!

    • Kristina Jan 3, 2023 @ 7:06

      After reading this, I went to both websites suggested for reusable lids- Tattler offers a ‘sampler’ with 2 of each size lids. I ordered and can’t wait to get them! Sorry, I know this doesn’t help your bulk purchase, but may help someone else in the future!

  • mom of three Dec 5, 2022 @ 6:24

    Thank you for sharing and showing why you should not re use canning lid’s, I have seen toooooo many you tubes, that encourage such dangerous practices, that it makes me mad these people, share and this is how people can get sick or die, is unbelievable and this is why canning get’s a bad name.

  • Kathy May 18, 2022 @ 4:50

    I’ve learned that I can reuse the lids for saving soup/stock for weeks in the fridge. I put the lid on when the soup is very hot and it seals. Knowing it’s not a full seal I then refrigerate, but have been able to use weeks alter with no problem.

    • AttainableSustainable May 24, 2022 @ 12:29

      Yes, using used lids is perfectly fine for refrigerating non-canned items where a seal isn’t critical. Good example!

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