Old (but Unused, in Box) Canning Lids

June 11, 2008


First, I want to say how happy I am to find this Forum! I look forward to learning and sharing. :-)

I am getting ready to start canning for the very first time - I have my DH's Grandma's enameled canning kettle, several cases of canning jars, etc. I've ordered the 23-qt Presto pressure canner, bought the other tools, and can't wait to get going - my strawberries are going to be ready soon, not to mention Rose Petal Jam!

Anyway, there are probably 10-12 boxes of unused canning lids, both sizes. I don't know how old they are, but I do know they are at least 10 years old.

*3 boxes of Ball Mason Regular dome lids

*2 boxes Ball Regular decorative dome lids (I know these are old - there's an add on the side of the box for the New! 29th Edition of the Ball Blue Book... for only 59 cents. :-)

* 12 boxes of BerNARdin wide mouth snap lids

I know the rings are reusable, but is there any way to tell if the lids are still good? I hate wasting, but I'd rather waste the lids than the food.

Thank you!

Comments (18)

  • shirleywny5

    The rings are OK to use. I would toss the lids as the sealant may have deteriorated over time. I wouldn't take the chance of losing my precious canned goods.

  • belindach

    I wouldn't take the chance either. Toss them.

  • ksrogers

    Press a fingernail into the rubber portion of the seal area on the lids. It should spring back and not show any indentation of a finger nail. If it stays there, the sealant has dried. Because these are at least 10 years old, its hard to tell of they were just plain rubber, or a newer type silicone based rubber that lasts much longer. The newest one have red silicone. Some older types were either dark gray/black or a light gray, which are usually a regular rubbber base. If the metal rings are rusted, they should be tossed.

  • joy_unspeakable

    So glad you posted, because I had the exact same question. I came across a box of my grandmothers old canning supplies - boxes and boxes of lids and rings. Rings will be tossed as they are pretty rusty, as are many of the opened boxes of lids. But there are several unopened boxes of lids, and I am sure they are at least 15 years old. I kind of figured I would toss them because they are too old to ensure a good seal. Do you see any problems with using them to freeze in jars? (of course boiling them well first)

    Found a treasure in that box too - cone shaped strainer/sieve with the wooden utensil!

    (Sorry to steal your post robin_d) :)

  • ksrogers

    That cone shaped thing is a 'Chinous. They used to be quite the tool to strain out lumps in things like gravy and small batches of stuff. Today, the Villaware/Roma and Prago Trade food strainer makes more sense.

    For the rubber seals, suggest you do the fingernail test and see if they leave an impression or not. Your your going to freeze the lids, suggest that you use some of the newer all plastc screw on covers OVER the lids. These leak by themsleves, but if they are used with a metal lid under them, they work quite well. I use this for my refrigerator pickles, as they don't get rusty.

  • robin_d

    Thank you so much for your replies! The Bernardin lids had the gray sealent, the Balls were red, but the fingernail test was inconclusive so I tossed them. Kept all the nice new rings though.

    As for old rings, is a spot of rust here and there a problem? How rusty is "too rusty"?

    How long are new lids good for? Should they be stored in zip-locs or something if I buy more than I can use up in a year?

    Thanks again.

  • readinglady

    Generally they recommend buying only as many lids as you think you'll need for a year.

    However, I guess I'm a risk-taker. I keep a big ziploc of extra boxes of lids I found on sale and it may be 3 or 4 years before I use them.

    When we closed out my dear MIL's home, I found boxes of lids thirty and forty years old. I used those too, but not for anything pressure canned, only for jams because jams are so high-sugar there isn't going to be a safety problem even if a seal does fail.

    But none did. I didn't have any greater problem with those lids than I did with the newer ones. However, they did use a different sealant and had to be heated longer and at a higher temperature.

    I'm not recommending others use old lids. I'm just saying what I did. Even if I didn't want to can with them I'd keep them to use with half-gallon jars for dried onions or something.

    Rings are "too rusty" when you see that there's rust on the threads and it's likely the rust will interfere with the seal. A bit of a rusty spot on the edge isn't an issue.

    I make sure I wash and dry all rings thoroughly when I remove them from jars and store them carefully so that no moisture penetrates.

    I have two containers for rings, one for wide-mouth and one for small-mouth. You can see one in the background in this photo:



  • robin_d

    Thank you, Carol!

    I'm thinking that since the first thing I'm going to make is jam, and jam is a small-batch item, I may well try the older lids. If they fail, the jam will go in the fridge and I doubt I'll have trouble finding family and friends to help us eat it. :-)

    I'll sort through the old rings and toss any with really rusty threads. If they screw easily onto a jar, does that mean they are OK even with some light rust on the threads?

  • grandad_2003

    If I interpret Carol's comment rusty is "OK" as long as it doesn't interfere with the lid and the seal. This has been my MO as well. However, I usually will remove any rusty rings and replace with bright shiny ones if when giving to someone as a gift.

    I used old lids last year for canning qts of tomatoes. I recently found 2 seals broken out of 24 qts canned. I was thinking that the old seals was the main reason. I did not use the above fingernail test last year but will do so this year.

    Also, I find that keeping jam & jellies in the refrig (seal or no seal) helps retain the bright color. We have a 2nd refrigerator in an outside storage room for this and other similar purposes.

  • robin_d

    Awesome, Grandad - thank you!

    Yet another reason to wish I'd kept my old 'fridge when we remodeled our kitchen....

  • readinglady

    I noticed one seal had popped on a jar of boysenberry jam that had been on the shelf a couple of years, but it wasn't one of the old lids. They've been just fine.

    Those new to canning might want to think about where you store your canned products. Fluctuations in temperature or temperatures that are too high can cause seals to pop. I stored product on shelves in the garage but I was always aware it was hardly optimal. The more delicate strawberry and raspberry jams I kept in a dark closet in the house.

    I'm very picky (obsessive, LOL) and I really don't like to use rusty rings, period. But practically speaking, a lot of times you'll see rust on the outside of the ring, which doesn't impair function at all as long as the threads are clean. The rings to watch for are those where you're canning and you get venting of product under the ring. The seal may be fine, but by the time the ring's been on the jar 24 hours you may see corrosion. Those I recycle. Usually by the time you've purchased a few cases of new jars you discover you have an excess of rings anyway.


  • shirleywny5

    I don't but wide mouth jars anymore as they are a bit pricey. Therefore, I have hundreds of standard rings and a few wide mouth. I dry the rings thoroughly after washing and store them in air tight containers.

  • Linda_Lou

    The shelf life of lids is approx. 5 years. It would depend upon how they were stored. I would not use them 10 years old, however.
    You can use the rings as long as they don't inhibit them from going on smoothly. You don't want to have to work to get them on. A little rust is OK.

  • ksrogers

    Actually, the newer design of lids have a silicone based rubber that has a 25 year or more lifetime. These red rubber compounds are now more resistent to high heat and do not dry, shrink, or come loose from the lids. If the metal lids had scratches in their anti-rust coating, they should be tossed. I have all recent silicone based lids and if I press in hard with a fingernail into one, it springs back in less than a minute. Older lids before about 15-20 years ago were all regular rubber and would crack and split if they had any pressure applied to them. Most of this info I got rom Ball many years ago, as I had quite a lot of lids, of both the grayish color and the red. Kerr used to be gray and the seal area was a bit wider too. It was about 25+ years or more, that Ball finally added the embossed dimple so it could easily show a vacuum. A few small rust spots on rings is fine. If you do use them, use a wet sponge to remove any loose rust first. Wide moouth jars are the same cost as regular mouth in most places. But the wide lids and rings are a bit more $$.

  • shirleywny5

    I recently visited Big Lots. All their canning jars and lids are in with the same prices as last year.

  • ksrogers

    Must go there to get a bunch of quarts. Hope they also have regular mouth lids and rings.

  • badarbyshire

    I have been making jelly for years and I DO NOT ever use a pressure cooker! It is a waste of money for fruit jelly! I suggest you purchase a good Ball or any other magazine on canning. I do not boil my jelly after it is packed either! I use to do it, but all the books say no, the acid will kill any bacteria in the jelly! I keep my jars and lids boiling all the while I heat my juice on a hot plate NyWave which is a uniform heat. Never had a jar that did not jell after I started using this. When you put the juice into the jar, get out the lid and band from another boiling pot, place on the jar and tip jar over for a couple of minutes. This will kill the bacteria in the lid. Now if you just want to keep on making work using pressure cooker, likely you will make one batch and call it quits because it is time consuming and hot even with the short cuts I got from the Ball preserving book! BTW, all I use is the SureJell Box recipes but I add 15 seconds to the one minute the box tells you use. As for Jam I do not like jam.

  • annie1992

    I also have never pressure canned jam, but I do use a boiling water bath. I don't even have to spend time sterilizing my jars if I process them for 10 minutes, and that actually saves me time. The NCHFP does say that it's better to sterilize the jars and process for 5 minutes, because the longer time sometime compromises the jell/set of the product. My Grandmother used to use paraffin, which was messy and time consuming and not consistent, and even she started to do her jelly in a boiling water bath, and that was at least 50 years ago.

    I know some of my elders (and I'm 64) used to just turn jars upside down and call it a seal, but they had some bad seals and some that didn't seal, others that were fine. If you want to eat that jar of jelly right away because it didn't seal, that works, but I want mine to actually seal and I think 10 minutes in boiling water is a small amount of time and effort to make sure that happens.

    This is what the NCHFP has to say:

    "Some other methods of sealing jars call for inverting a closed, filled jar of hot product for
    anywhere from thirty seconds to one hour. (Inverting is turning the filled jar upside down on its
    lid.) While this inversion process can be successful in producing a sealed jar, it works best with
    very hot product. Individual variation in practicing this procedure or unexpected interruptions
    can result in delays between filling jars, getting lids screwed on, and inverting the jars. If the
    product cools down too much, the temperature of the product can become low enough to no
    longer be effective in sealing jars or preventing spoilage.

    When the inversion process does work, the vacuum seals of filled jars still tend to be
    weaker than those produced by a short boiling water canning process. A larger amount of
    retained oxygen in the headspace may allow some mold growth if airborne molds contaminated
    the surface of the product as the jar was filled and closed. More complete removal of oxygen
    from the headspace also offers some longer protection from undesirable color and flavor changes
    with some types of fruit products. A weak seal may be more likely to fail during storage.
    The canning process is therefore a more foolproof method of making jams and jellies that
    will not spoil."

    Everyone has to make their own decisions, know the risks and make an informed decision as to whether those risks (whether health wise or loss of product or extra time) are significant enough to impact their procedure.

    I'll just keep on spending that 10 minutes with a boiling water bath, but you certainly may do whatever you wish. I make long cooked jam and jelly without any additional pectin, so I just don't find it to be that much work or so time consuming that it's egregious, and I've made thousands of batches of jams and jellies in the 55 years or so that I've been canning.


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