cleaning canning jars

dillydee8930(6)November 3, 2008

hello everyone,

I received 6 cases of canning jars (i threw out about 3 cases) they had tiny spots of what looked like rust, the ones i kept looked great but need a good cleaning as they were kept in a basement, the boxes the jars were in smelled awful so i went through the jars outside so i could burn the boxes right away thats ok because i appreciate the thought and the jars :)

so i was thinking about adding bleach to the dishwasher and cleaning that way and then boil them or should i use white vinegar or neither. I really dont know i have always bought new and i give half the stuff away and you all know what its like getting jars back :( so i end up buying new jars every year.

thank you!


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digdirt2(6b-7a No.Cent. AR HZ8 Sun-35)

There is no need to throw any of them out. A run through the dishwasher or a good hot soapy soak and wash will take care of most dirty jar problems. Glass doesn't absorb things, they just stick to it. ;)

The remaining rust spots take some extra treating sometimes using any one of the many rust removing products like Barkeeper's Friend (it's a scouring powder), Bon Ami, an SOS pad, CLR or Lime-Away. Even WD-40 will remove rust stains but then you need to re-wash them again as it leaves a silicone coating on the glass.


    Bookmark   November 3, 2008 at 9:28PM
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ksrogers(EasternMass Z6)

Rust on jars will wash off. Be careful using bleach in dishwashers as it can cause a breakdown for some plastics that are inside the dishwasher. If you see rust inside the jars after a washing, a Scotch sponge/abrasive pad and get it off easily. Rust at the outside threads will not harm anything, but will also dissove. Once run through a normal dish washing cycle they are clean enough, and should have no odor or stains. I use Jet Dry on the rinse cycle as it reduces any lime or calcium buildup that may occor in hard water areas. If there are residual sticky label adhesives, they can also be removed with Goo Gone before running in the dishwasher. The dishwashing detergent (Cascade) has additives that deodorize too. Many years ago I was pet sitting and found the dog had poop in front of my TV on a shag carpet. I used a bit of water and the Cascade and the terrible smell was quickly neutralized. Pretty powerful stuff for getting rid of bad odors. I have bought at least 150 or more cases of jars so far, and get back maybe 2 out of 20 jars if I remind them.

    Bookmark   November 4, 2008 at 4:13AM
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Looks like i will be digging jars out of the recycle bin :) thank you.
Just not sure how old the jars are, the quart ones say..
kerr "selfsealing" mason and some of the pints say..
ball perfect mason with lines going around the jar.
I have not seen any of these? (or maybe i have i just dont remember)just wondering how old they were (just curious)

    Bookmark   November 4, 2008 at 11:08AM
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ksrogers(EasternMass Z6)

Kerr is now Ball and they are probably old. If the jars accept the current canning lids and rings, you should be fine. If the jars were all glass including an all glass dome cover, with a wire bail to hold it in place, then they would not be very safe to use today. The reason, they have no visual way to tell you that the contents is under vacuum. The later versions of jars, with metal lids and rings all have a slight convex dome and once heated and processed on the jars, the slight dome gets pulled into a slight concave. Also, check the threads of the rings. Some store bought products appear to fit the same canning lids/rings, but the glass threads are further down the glass and the current metal rings will not screw on properly. Mason was the original name given this type of jar many years ago. It used to be that Mason emossed into the glass meant a specific compatibility, but not any more. Today, there is also Golden Harvest which is also Ball and all rings and lids fit all three brands. There is also a half gallon Ball made with the wide mouth, and older ones used to have a regular mouth. The half gallons are very hard to can with due to their big size, so they are better used as storage of dry items or pickles that get refrigerated at all times. The smallest is the 4 ounce and you will see quilted jelly jars, and ones with plain sides. Today the many sizes available are less than years ago. Some people like the 24 ounce wide mouth for long things like pickled beans or asparagus, but they stopped making those too.

    Bookmark   November 4, 2008 at 12:39PM
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rdback(Z6 VA)

Hi Ken,

Do you know if the old "blue" Ball jars with the zinc lids and porcelain liners are safe? I always assumed not, but I wonder if the current style lids would fit them. Just curious if you might know.


    Bookmark   November 4, 2008 at 7:39PM
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Ken can probably give you a more definitive answer. I have just never used the old blue jars for canning. I use them for storage dry foods - beans, etc. I also use the zinc lids. They just look nice in the cupboard.

To be very honest, though I don't know if there would be any danger at all.

I always just try a ring on any jar that I have any doubts about. There was a time, most all jars would work with the rings, but I was surprised to find that they don't fit anymore.

I use the older mayo jars for canning things in the water bath. Some people use them in the pressure cooker, but I've heard they are prone to breakage. I don't use them because they are usually a little 'fatter' than canning jars and I can't get all the jars to fit into the basket of my canner.

If I get dirty jars, if they are really yucky, I soak them in bleach water for a while, brush them inside and out and run them through the diswasher. They usually come out fine.

I have bought used jars that smelled like they had contained some kind of insecticide - those I throw away.

    Bookmark   November 4, 2008 at 10:37PM
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readinglady(z8 OR)

You can use old jars, including those with zinc lids.

However, the glass is more fragile due to age and use and there is an increased risk of breakage, so be prepared for product loss, if you use them for canning. I have used very old jars, but I know I'm gambling.

As far as the rust is concerned, superficial exterior rust is a stain and wouldn't concern me. I wouldn't use any abrasive to clean the glass as that will weaken it.


    Bookmark   November 5, 2008 at 3:16AM
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ksrogers(EasternMass Z6)

No, the zinc has been found to give off some metallic based toxins. Even though they may not actually come in contact with the canned foods, they would not be very safe. The blue jars (I also had some old green color ones) are pretty, but would only be useful for storing dry goods as mentioned, but you would not be able to can with them or get a vacuum created inside. Mayo jars have glass thickness about half as much as a canning jar. Canning jars are also 'tempered' to reduce breakage, kind of like Pyrex, but not quite. Mayo jars for me have always cracked while in the canner. The newer canning jars are now metric and may be very tight fitting in some canners and racks due to the slightly larger size. This affects quarts mostly. Now, I can't fit 7 in my canner anymore, so I just put in 6 quarts at a time. The old blue jars would also need a long lasting seal, like silicone rubber based gaskets attached to metal lids. Some of the old blues also had a rubber seal that would dry out and crack.

Typically, a true, and current canning jar will usually last through about 6 heat processing cycles before it starts to become a little more prone to cracking while applying heat. Chips on the sealing area are the worst, as the the jars MUST have a smooth, unchipped rim where the lid fits on. That top rim area should always be closely inspected for chips before they are filled and capped. I used the Scotch Bright pads as they are not as abrasive as things like steel wool or other stronger abrsives. There is a pad made for cleaning things like teflon coated pans, and Corning Ware. It would only be done as a last resort if a stain was difficult to remove. Outsides of jars are fine, and can have any kinds of stains, without affecting the internal foods. Glass is not porous so anything bad smelling stored inside, even for a long period of time, should not remain once the jars are thoroughly cleaned. Bleach solution is also a good idea at the start, before running through the dishwasher with the detergent ONLY.

    Bookmark   November 5, 2008 at 9:17AM
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A little rust doesn't bother me. CLR or Lime Away removes it. Then into the dishwasher they go. They're too costly to throw away these days.

    Bookmark   November 5, 2008 at 12:09PM
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I read that if you can alot you should throw out your jars after about 10 years? (i think common sense plays a role here).
I think i will just wash them really well (in bleach water then the dishwasher and inspect carefully for nicks and cracks.
thank you!

    Bookmark   November 5, 2008 at 1:00PM
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readinglady(z8 OR)

Ken, I was referring to using the jars, not the zinc lids. I know they're unsafe and I assume other posters do too. The question was whether those old jars could be used if the threads will accomodate present-day flats and rings. I said yes.

There have been recommendations on some sites to discard older jars but as I said previously if you're willing to accept a slightly higher risk of breakage they're still perfectly fine to use.

I think the key is careful inspection before use for chips, scratches, etc.


    Bookmark   November 5, 2008 at 1:08PM
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I agree with most of what has been said but I have no problem using old mayonnaise jars for canning. Like Carol said you may get some breakage but I've done it for years and lost maybe 3-4 jars over time. I've never replaced jars because they were a certain age, I believe in using them until they crack or break. Any jar with chips on the rim is of course done as it's not safe to can in them.

    Bookmark   November 5, 2008 at 3:45PM
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digdirt2(6b-7a No.Cent. AR HZ8 Sun-35)

I read that if you can alot you should throw out your jars after about 10 years?

We can A LOT! and we have lots of jars that are easily 20 years old and some even older as we tend to keep the home canned goods within the family so jar return isn't much of a problem. No telling how many cycles they have been through but we haven't had a problem with using them. Can't recall the last one lost to breakage, just rim chips.

If you aren't familiar with it, Barkeepers Friend is a very mild scouring abrasive made specifically for cleaning glass - thus the name I think. It also works on ceramics and fiberglass without scratching. Corning, Luminarc, Mikasa, and several other glassware brands all approve for use on their products.


    Bookmark   November 5, 2008 at 4:35PM
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ksrogers(EasternMass Z6)

If anyone wants to see some of the photos for these antiques, check out eBay and enter in 'old canning jars'as the text to search on. It brought up many interesting photos. As mentioned, if the jars accept the lids and rings from current Ball jars, they should be fine. Right out of a box of Golden Harvest, brand new, I had a crack at the rim and it was about 1/2 inch long going towards the bottom. Luckily I caught it before it went into the canner, as the light showed it off. Mayo jars for me will crack during even one attempt at canning. I've seen the bottoms crack, or a whole side with a rounded hole crack open. A bit of a mess in a canner full of good jars.

    Bookmark   November 5, 2008 at 5:00PM
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Actually, I just bought some new Kerr pint jars today that say "Kerr" and "Self-Sealing" on the sides of the jars. The flats that came with them says something like, "From the makers of Ball Fresh Preserving Products", so it seems they still make jars with the Kerr name.

    Bookmark   November 6, 2008 at 12:37AM
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I have been using the same quart jars since I started canning - with the Bi-centennial logo on them for 1976!!! To throw them out because they are more than 10 years old must have been started by the jar makers so you'd buy more. There is no logical reason to do so.

I do wish those who didn't can would recycle those expensive jars back to the gifter, or that the dump had a separate section for canning jars instead of just into the deep bin with all the other glass for recycling. Sometimes my "Waste Management Site Manager" lets me use my barbeque tongs to retrieve some while he goes on break, but not often.


    Bookmark   November 6, 2008 at 5:50AM
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ksrogers(EasternMass Z6)

Kerr, also Bernardin, and Golden Harvest. The names are there, but the company that makes them is all the same Ball. On the east coast there are no Kerr jars or lids, only Ball and Golden Harvest.

    Bookmark   November 6, 2008 at 2:53PM
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rosebush(z7 NC)

I have many older jars, some 30 or 40 years, found at my great-aunt's old house. There are some blue ones, as well as Mason, Ball, Kerr and Atlas. I do not use them for canning, but do use to display dried goods or flowers. Last weekend, I even found a few quart jars in the old, abandoned barn! They were in serious need of scrubbing, but it was a neat discovery nonetheless. My great-aunt used to can EVERYTHING from her garden, so these jars are a nice link to the past and a remembrance of all her hard work.

    Bookmark   November 6, 2008 at 3:42PM
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ksrogers(EasternMass Z6)

If you look at what people ask for in price for an antique jar, you would be amazed!

    Bookmark   November 6, 2008 at 3:48PM
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gran2(z5 INDIANA)

I've canned often in the old blue jars and they do just fine. By now, most have nicks in the rim so have been "retired". The threads are the pattern for what we buy today. If you look at the thickness of the sealing surface, you'll find them far superior to new ones, regardless of brand name. The thicker jars mean sturdier jars, too. I'd rather have an old mayo jar than a new Ball, truth be told. The only reason mayo jars are not recommended is because of the thickness of the glass. There again, it's relative. Everything is getting cheaper.

I suspect that the source of the "throw them all out after 10 years" is a manufacturer trying to increase business.

    Bookmark   November 10, 2008 at 4:07PM
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