Canning 101: Can You Reuse Grocery Store Jars?

Stop Before You Recycle Jars for Home Canning

Peppers, carrots and green beans preserved in jars

Jeffrey Coolidge / Getty Images

As tempting as it may be, it is not safe to reuse grocery store jars for home canning. While you may think you're saving money, you may actually be setting yourself up for a big mess or even an injury.

Why Store-Bought Jars Are Unsafe

Grocery store jars that once held spaghetti sauce, pickles and other foods should not be reused for home canning. The glass is usually not as thick and this makes them more likely to shatter or explode when heated. 

If your canning jars explode you will:

  • Waste the food you are trying to preserve, which completely defeats the purpose of trying to save money.
  • Risk cutting yourself on broken glass while trying to clean up the mess.
  • An explosion during the canning process is scary and may cause mild or serious injury if you're in the wrong place when it happens.

Additionally, the necks of jars you buy at the store are often too short to allow for a proper seal. Canning jars have a specific design: a two-part lid with deep grooves and a wide mouth—this is meant to give consistent results when preserving food.

Grocery store jars, on the other hand, come in every shape and size imaginable. The lids are often very thin and just one piece. They are designed to be sealed by industrial equipment, not your home canning set up.

For Proper Canning

The good news is that canning jars are fairly inexpensive and can be reused for years and years. Keep your jars clean and store them in a safe place where they will not be damaged in between canning sessions.

The only piece that you will need to buy for the next round of preserves is the inner lid. These have a seal that is for one-time use, but these are also very cheap.

"Mason" Jars

It has become fashionable for jars containing sauces, jams, and other foods to be inscribed with the word "Mason." Don't be fooled by these at the grocery store!

These are often used to give the product a "down home" feel and should not be considered an indicator of the jar's quality.

Tips for Reuse

Instead of trying to can food with empty jars, use them around the house in other ways. They are perfect for storing many small things and allow you to see exactly what's inside.

  • Store herbs and spices in the kitchen.
  • Short-term storage for leftover food like extra sauce or for homemade condiments.
  • Store DIY home remedies, cleaners or personal care items.
  • Store nuts and bolts in the garage or small craft supplies in the house.

If you find that you have too many glass jars, simply recycle those you can't use.