My Jars Didn’t Seal! What Happened?

We’ve all been there. You’re at the end of a canning project, the jars out of the canning pot and are cooling on the counter. As you clean up, you notice that there’s one jar that didn’t seal. Or worse yet, none of the jars have sealed. If this has happened to you, two questions probably popped to mind. Why did this happen and what can I do to fix it. Let’s tackle these one at a time.

Why did this happen?

  • It could be that your canning pot wasn’t at a full, rolling boil for the entire canning process. Without that full boil, it could be that the jars didn’t fully vent the oxygen in the headspace. Without a thorough venting, there won’t be enough of a pressure differential to cause the vacuum seal to form when the jars come out of the canner.
  • Another possibility is that there was a physical barrier to the seal forming. In most cases, this happens when you don’t wipe your rims completely, or some food particle gets pushed out of the jar during processing.
  • Sometimes the lids are to blame. Really old lids sometimes lose the ability to create a full seal. And of course, if you’re reusing lids, the chances that they will provide a high quality seal are very low.
  •  There was a chip or crack in the rim of your jar. This will prevent a seal every time. You can prevent this simply by carefully looking over your jars before filling and canning.
  • Improper headspace. Under or over filling your jars can sometimes cause the seal to fail.
  • Occasionally, the rings are the culprit. While it is important to only tighten to fingertip tight to allow the oxygen to vent, if you leave them too lose, that can cause a seal failure.

How to fix it?

The best way to handle jars that failed to seal depends on the product you’re dealing with and how many jars have failed. If you have just one or two jars that failed, the easiest thing to do is to put them in the fridge and eat or share them promptly. The reason for this is that to reprocess jars always results in some loss of product and quality.

When it comes to pickles, trying to reprocess them isn’t ideal, because any additional heat exposure will soften their texture. This is particularly true for cucumber pickles.

When it comes to jams and other sweet preserves, there are more options. If the entire batch has failed to seal, the best method is to open the jars, reheat the jam, prep the jars, use new lids, and reprocess.

If you have just one or two jars that didn’t seal and you don’t want to go with the refrigeration plan, there’s another way. Once the jars have cooled completely, put new lids on the jars (taking care to wipe the rims and make sure that you’re getting the rings tightened properly). Place those room temperature jars in a canning pot of cold water. Bring that pot of water to a boil slowly, so that the contents of the jars heat along with the water. Once it reaches a rolling boil, process as you always do. The jars should seal properly this time around.

 

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93 responses to “My Jars Didn’t Seal! What Happened?”

  1. This just happened to me last week. I had two whole batches of raspberry jelly that didn’t seal! I had used lids that came with a new pack of jelly jars, so I would have expected them to be ok, but I think they were defective. I was so upset…as you know, raspberry jelly can be time consuming…I had hand picked berries over the course of a week in order to get enough for my jelly. I used new lids and reprocessed the jars, and I heard that wonderful “pop” as I took them out of the canner!

  2. Unsealed jars is something I’ve been wondering about. I’ve read to not check the seals for 12 hours, then to refrigerate anything that didn’t seal. But that means the food sat there unsealed for 12 hours. So I end up visually checking the seal in the first hour or so, then refrigerating anything that hasn’t sealed by then. Is there a particular reason to wait so long to check seals? Thanks!

    • My jars usually seal right away and you can hear them pop into place. Last night I was making yellow plum preserves and one of the jars did not seal. The preserves were still warm and I popped it into the microwave until the top bubbled and I resealed it. Worked like a charm!

  3. Could you address jar breakage? Is there anything to look for when preparing the jars? I have the problem mostly with quart jars that I’m reusing (water bath not pressure). Hate to lose even one jar of peaches or pickles. Thanks

  4. Best post ever! It never occurred to me that I possibly wasn’t tightening the rings enough. I have very little failure but I also am wary of tightening my rings too much so this suggestion sounds likely to me.

  5. I occasionally have a jar that doesn’t seal (have been canning for many, many years) and always carefully check my jars before storing. Every now and then, many months later, I go to use a jar out of the pantry and find the seal has popped. Even though there is usually no mold (so I assume the seal failed recently) I always discard the contents. Would you know why this happens?

    • If a seal fails while on the shelf, it’s typically the result of spoilage or there was a bit of food on the rim of the jar.

  6. Unsealed jars are frustrating, but can be a blessing in disguise. Especially if you want to get your hands on the yummies that are inside said jars. Your refrigeration plan is my goto!

  7. How are you preparing your new lids? The “old” boil to sanitize is OUT!! The new lids have a different product on the rims that does not do well in boiling water. Use the NEW directions on the lid box – wash in sudsy warm water, rinse and set aside – can set aside in warm water if you wish, but not in boiling water. We found this out in 2018 after 40 years of canning, We had some lids stock- piled (purchased when on sale) and went happily on without reading the lid box directions – who reads that every year? We lost 15 quarts of canned peaches which had successfully sealed and were placed on the canning shelves. They slowly lost their seal – one at a time and not all from the same batch. To preserve the last 65 quarts of peaches, we reprocessed them using the NEW directions for lids – all is still great on the canning shelves now.

  8. I’m discouraged. Really not sure if this canning is worth the effort, between inconsistent information on jar lids, rim tightness, jar breakage, and always wondering if I’m going to poison myself or someone else. This is a good site though, I just might decide to quit trying to can things at home. Too much work. 🙂

  9. What if an unsealed jar of otherwise perfectly made jam with a ph of 3.50 sat at room temp for 24 hours undisturbed after being hot water processed? Would it be safe to consume?

  10. Okay, I had something weird happen. I was canning jars of brunswich stew but two of the jars apparently took on liquid from my pressure canner, HOWEVER the jars sealed. Should these be frozen/refrigerated or tossed out?

    • That’s really weird. There’s not enough water in a pressure canner to really leak into the jars. Are you sure it’s not just separation. Still, it’s probably safe, though the stew might be unpleasantly dilute.

  11. Some of my 1/2 pint jars did not seal. I could lift the lid off easily. I placed them in the fridge overnight and I can no longer lift the lids. Can I use they are safe and can now leave them in my pantry? Thanks 🙂

    • How long did you let them sit before you checked the seals? You should let them sit 12-24 hours before testing the seals. That said, if you lifted the lids, they are no longer sterile inside and so cannot be stored in the pantry.

  12. I made peach pepper jelly in 1/2 pint jars. I used new jars,lids, and rings. Only 2 of them actually “popped”. When I checked the others, the lid is not easily lifted off with some pressure. Is it possible they are actually sealed?

  13. Since I’ve given away plenty of jars of jam, I recently bought new half-pint jars for raspberry jam and jelly. I used the lids and rings that came in the package on the empty jars. However, I’m having 1 to 3 jars that don’t seal *in each batch*, and I didn’t intend to eat that much unsealed jam from the fridge this summer. My theory is that these particular lids already have an indentation in the seal, due to being already on the empty jars in the packaging … and therefore are not sealing properly. But is that true, or am I just making this up in my head? I never have sealing problems when I use a box of new lids. Comments and ideas are appreciated!!!

    • Did you make sure to leave the jars in the canner for a few minutes after the process was over to help the jars seal? In my experience, the lids from new jars should work just fine. And while I know they don’t recommend simmering the lids anymore, I sometimes still do it to help ensure a good seal.

  14. Last night, we tried to can ground beef using a Cuisinart pressure cooker. This was our first time using the pressure cooker, and we had trouble getting the cooker’s seal to work. We put 4 pint jars of cooked ground beef into the pressure cooker. After running it for well over an hour, the contents of the jars were boiling but we never got up to pressure. Once we determined where our seal problem was, we restarted the cooker and completed a 75-minute process time. We then removed the jars and set them on a countertop. The contents were boiling at this time. The time was around 12:30AM.
    The next morning, when we checked the jars at 8:00AM, 3 of the jars had a good seal, but the 4th jar did not seal. We put the non-sealed jar in the refrigerator.
    In all, the jars were in the cooker from around 8:30PM until 12:30AM, and were on the countertop from around 12:30AM until 8AM.
    Is the meat in the unsealed jar still OK to eat, or should we trash it?

    • First off, is your pressure cooker approved for canning? You can pressure cook in a pressure canner, but you can’t pressure can in a pressure cooker. If the devise isn’t approved for canning, I would through all the beef away. And I certainly wouldn’t not eat the jar that did not seal. There’s an element of risk there that I wouldn’t want to entertain.

  15. Thank you for your quick reply and your explanation. We will follow your advice on this. After looking at it, we can see that the pressure cooker is not approved for canning.

  16. This is my first year for a garden and it is over abundant in tomatoes.. I did a batch on 7/1 and this is my first time and I have just noticed 4 out of 7 seals are not concaved!!! What do I do? Can I salvage after a week or toss to the compost pile.. They are peeled whole tomatoes with lemon juice and salt. I hate throwing anything away but I also hate being sick.. I have a whole pot of pickles setting in brine waiting to process but I don’t want to ruin them with improper sealing.

  17. This is the first time I’ve ever canned ANYTHING in my 54 years of existence. I decided to can fresh peaches. I ended up with 19 quarts and 13 sealed properly. After 12 hours of waiting, I assumed these 6 were not going to seal properly so I put them in the refrigerator for immediate consumption . However, when I got in my refrigerator the following morning, ALL 6 jars had sealed. Or I assume they have????
    My questions are:
    1. Did these truly seal
    2. If they did truly seal but I refrigerated them, can I safely take them out of the refrigerator and store them for later use
    3. If I can not safely put them on a shelf for storage purposes and they did truly seal, how long can they be stored in the refrigerator before they need to be consumed

    • I really can’t tell you whether they really sealed or not. The best thing to do is to remove the rings, grasp the edges of the lid and lift the jar off the countertop a centimeter or two. If the lid holds tight and fast, the seal is probably fine. If it starts to loosen or release, not fine. If the seals are good, they can be moved from the fridge to the pantry.

    • How much additional headspace did you leave? If it’s only an extra half inch or so, I would leave the jars as-is. To open and reprocess would compromise the quality of the product.

  18. Made a batch of Mrs wages salsa and placed hot in jars and applied lids and rings, which were in boiling water. Did not pressure or water bath. Several jars never popped after 3 hours so I popped them myself. My question is are they safe since they are technically sealed?

    • No. This is a product that needs to be processed in a water bath. I wouldn’t eat any of the jars from this batch.

  19. Thank you for all of the amazing information. We just did 3 dozen jars of beans. Our process was Soak jars in soapy water than in the oven for 20min at 350 to steralize. havea nice homemade brine hot and ready. One jars are hot we put the beans garlic and spice in then the brine. We then boiled the lids for 5 minutes, screwed on as tight as we could and the boiled the jars for 5 minutes. The first 3 dozen everything sealed perfect, not one bad one. Second batch of 3 dozen done the exact way dud not seal at all. All if them have lid movemnt or a buddle. Any advice on the process we are doing? Thank you for your time.

    • This is not an approved process. Pickles such as this need at least ten minutes of processing for quality seals and full sterilization.

  20. Hi Marisa! I love this blog. Last night I made apple butter in a boiling water bath canner. I have Kerr Sure-Tight lids and there’s no “button” anywhere so I don’t know how to figure out if they are sealed. There’s no ringing sound with a spoon either. I took a ring off one jar and the lid is definitely sealed on good, I assume this will be the same with the others but I can try with a fingernail and if they pop off they will go in the fridge. Without a button, is there any way to tell whether these lids are sealed? Thanks!

    • Remove the ring, grasp the edges of the lid, and lift an inch. If the lids stay firmly in place, they are sealed. You should also be able to see that the lid is visibly concave.

  21. I made cucumber pickles one week ago all my jars popped and sealed. Then today I hear popping coming from my pantry and the lids are all popping up again! Why can this be? And will all the pickles be spoiled now?

    • Did you process the pickles in a water bath? It sounds like they are fermenting if they have popped their seals. They are not safe to eat.

  22. I canned 6 quarts of tomatoes (quartered with lemon juice and salt) in a water bath for 45 minutes. 4 of my flats buckled. Can I reprocess these? What should I do to prevent buckling? I’ve never had that problem before. 😣

  23. Is it only advised to reprocess one time, or is a 2nd time (so 3rd water bath total) okay? I made 3 batches of raspberry jam but 4 jars are still being stubborn. I completely forgot to use new lids on the 2nd water bath (duh) and didn’t realize until it was too late. If another water bath isn’t good, how soon should the jam be eaten after refrigerating?
    Thank you!

    • Repeated processing will start to degrade the finished product. It’s not really advisable to keep doing it. The unopened jars will keep for months in the fridge.

  24. Hello!! I’ve recently canned quite a few jars of jam with recipes and methods from NCHFP. After waiting 12+ hours for the jars to cool down, some of the lids buttons are still visibly raised. I’ve pushed on them to test if they’ll move up and down, but as soon as I touch them, the buttons have gone down and do not pop back up. I’ve removed the rings and can lift them by the lids a few cm off the counter and the lids stay on very tight, no sucking noise, release or movement what so ever, seemingly sealed very well especially compared to the other jars that are confirmed sealed.

    Today I checked a jar that had this sealing experience a week ago and the seal is still tight on the jar.

    I just want to be sure that these are still safe seals 🙂

    • Safety experts would probably tell you that those are not safe seals. However, if that happened to me and as long as they were high acid products, I would probably consider those safe seals for my own home use. I might label them to ensure that I didn’t give them away to someone. And then just keep an eye on them because those jars will probably have a higher risk of mold or fermentation (and if either of those things occur, discard).

  25. Is it safe to reprocess a pint of ground beef that has already sealed. The meat was cooked thoroughly and packed hot in the jars but there was a processing mistake and they were only processed at 3 psi in stead of 10. The jars were boiling when taken out and all have a tight seals. Can I reprocess them at the correct psi?

  26. I water bath processed 7 pint jars of Roma tomato sauce this week. The tomatoes were from my garden. The sauce also has onion and herbs added. I realized three days later that I had used Fruit Fresh, not citric acid. All jars are sealed properly, and the lids are not separating when I lift them. My question is, could I re-can them, and add the citric acid correctly this time, or should I just toss them? Thank you.

  27. I haves canned several pints of a variety of foods, pickles, pickled zucchini, diced tomatoes and salsa. I followed recipes 100% from NCHFP using water bath. Jars sterile, processed the correct amount of time and cooled for 24 hours. All “popped”, as expected.

    Several days/weeks later I would occasionally hear a clicking sound, different from the classic pop. I store jars with rings off. I lifted each jar by the lid, no lids appear to be loose. It appears they are all properly sealed but I am unsure what the random clicking is. I should add, we don’t have AC and some days it’s been 83 degrees in our house. It cools off at night and it not persistently hot for long.

    I am just looking for some confirmation that if the lid has not popped up and lid appears to be sealed on, I should be good to go. I wouldn’t even be able to tell which jar “clicked”. Wondering if it’s just related to some temperature changes

    I sincerely appreciate your time and expertise

    • Do you have any empty jars in your home? I find that those clicking sounds are more likely to come from empties with lids on than fully sealed jars. However, as long as the sealed jars are still looking and behaving as if they’re sealed, then I would trust that.

  28. Hi there. I’m wondering if it is safe to reprocess cucumber relish on the same day as the first try. I processed my half pint jars in a water can bath at above 180 degrees for the recommended time but did not bring the water to a rolling boil. This was my first ever try and I thought I only had to make sure the water didn’t drop below 180 instead of having to actually boil the water! I’m wondering if I can do it all over again within 24 hours? Thank you so much for your time and advice.

  29. I made blackberry jelly. Some of the lids didn’t seal. Can I put them in the freezer or do I have heat them up and reseal them

  30. Hi. I just found your site. On June 28th, Marilyn wrote about the problem I’m having. Last year I made over 300 pints of bread and butter pickles and gave most of them away. Every jar sealed last year. I have been canning for 50 years and never had a problem. This year I bought 10 cases of Ball jars with rings and lids attached in the packaging. After my first batch, I had 3 jars not seal and with my second batch I had 4 jars not seal. Marilyn, we have the same theory. I started using the lids that came on the jars for my batches of freezer jam (which aren’t canned);and I bought new lids for my pickles And haven’t had a problem since. Thank you. Callie

  31. I canned hot peppers in oil 7 days ago and for some reason, when I rechecked the jars today I found that 5 did not seal. (I previously thought they had sealed) My mother seems to think that the peppers are still safe to eat since they are in oil. I think they should be pitched. Thoughts?

    • Canning in oil is considered unsafe by the National Center for Home Food Preservation. I would not eat those peppers.

  32. We Canned tomatoes and water bathed for 30 minutes, we always check the rim of the jars before putting the lids on. The jars did not seal for some reason. Can we take the lids off and use a different brand of flats to see if we can get them to seal. The brand of lids we used was a brand we had never used before. Because flats were had to find in our area this year. Do you think the tomatoes will be okay to reprocess them?

    • Thirty minutes isn’t long enough for tomatoes, which is probably why the jars didn’t seal. I’d suggest you look at the National Center for Home Food Preservation page on canning tomatoes, look up your technique, and update your processing timing.

  33. I made jam with thimbleberries, which are similar to raspberries. I used pint size jars, 1/4″ headspace, and processed for 10 minutes.
    Shortly after setting them on the counter to cool, jam started seeping out. I adjusted the next batch to 1/2″ headspace and that seemed to work, but I wonder if the 1st batch can be reprocessed after removing some jam and wiping the rim. Thank you.

    • You experienced siphoning and it’s pretty common in canning. As long as the seals are firm, you don’t need to reprocess the jars.

  34. I canned 5 pints of pickles last night. 12 hours later and 2 of my jars didn’t pop. I lightly touched the lid on the one and it popped – is that ok or should I reprocess?

    • Remove the rings, grasp the edges of the lid and lift the jar off the counter half an inch or so. If the lid holds fast, they are fine.

  35. I have 3 jars of tomatoes that did not seal. I think I didn’t have enough air space. What can I do to recan. Or should I freeze them.

  36. Last night I made prickly pear pepper jelly in 8oz brand new Ball jars. Shortly after removing from the bath I heard what I thought was all but one can pop, but when I looked there were 4 lids looking totally flat and 2 looking kinda concave downward as if it maybe did seal those.. what do I do? I dont want to open any if they are actually sealed but the lids definitely look different throughout the batch.

  37. Yesterday, I made a big batch of tomato sauce (just tomatoes and lemon juice). It was into sterilized pint jars and processed in a boiling water bath for 40 minutes, in two batches.
    In the first batch 4 sealed and 4 did not.
    In the second batch 2 sealed and 4 did not.
    So I have now 8 pints of tomato sauce that has sat out overnight, per the instructions…processed but evidently not sealed…is it salvageable?

    • As long as it’s been 24 hours or less since the first canning process, you can open the unsealed jars, reheat the juice, and recan using new lids.

  38. Hi,
    I canned whole figs in light syrup, one of the jars didn’t seal, it has been on my counter 24 hours. How long will it stay in the fridge and should I change the lid or leave the metal lid and ring? Thank you

    • It’s really not recommended to reuse seals. However, we are living through extraordinary times. I’d carefully sort through your selection of lids that you can reuse and look for the ones where the sealing compound is in the best shape and only reuse those. And then, I’d keep an eye on the finished jars, to ensure that you catch any failed seals promptly.

  39. I pressure canned chili and one of my jars did not seal. Can I re pressure can it again or will I lose nutrients? Do I have to re can it for the same amount of time in the pressure cooker?

  40. It came out of the canner about 4 or 5 in the evening and I didn’t discover that it didn’t seal until about noon the next day. Can I still refrigerate it and eat it or do I need to toss it as it has meat in it?

  41. I was pressure canning spaghetti sauce, and my canner never came up to pressure after boiling a long time. After troubleshooting I wiped the seal with a thin layer of vegetable oil and did an empty test run. It worked perfectly, but the jars I had removed from the canner sealed very quickly. I am assuming that I have to use new lids to reprocess, correct? I just want to confirm before wasting what’s as valuable as gold these days (13 lids!). At least it’s sauce, so at least I don’t have to worry about texture from more processing.

  42. I pickled carrots last night, over 12 hours. I added the hot brine, and put on the hot lids. Unfortunately some have not sealed what do I do! Do I put the ones in a hot bath now to try and seal?

    • Skipping the processing step is never recommended. You really should have processed all of them. At this point, the safest thing to do would be to pour the brine out into a sauce pan, bring it back to a boil, pour it back into the jars (you may need a little extra brine to compensate), apply new lids, place closed jars in a pot with water that’s hot but not boiling, and then bring everything to a boil. Process for 10 minutes (adjust if you live higher than 1,000 feet in elevation).

  43. So I bottled peaches. Raw packed but only processed in a hot water bath 10 minutes I was used to jam. They all sealed by morning will they be ok or should I start over an process for the recommended time of 25 minutes?

  44. I have been canning for years, and have occasionally had a few jars not seal. Not a big deal, as I could share them or we could eat the contents. However, this weekend I made 3 batches of grape jelly. The first two sealed perfectly, but out of the 20 jars that were in my last 2 batches, only 8 of them sealed! I had used new jars with lids and rings that came with. I processed them a second time, with the same results. Any clues or suggestions? I guess I could make a dozen friends happy with a gift of jelly, but I was really hoping to give them in Christmas gift boxes. 🙁
    Btw…when I press down on the center of the lids, they pop loudly and seem to stay sealed, but I am not sure that it’s a true seal when it does that…

  45. I discovered that i had tightened the lids too much! When i used new lids and reprocessed them while not making them so tight, every single one of them sealed within minutes of leaving the canner!

  46. Made Sandwich Spread yesterday, Green tomatoes, peppers, onions, etc and mayo added at the end and boiled for an extra 5 minutes. Discoverd this morning that some looked like the didn’t seal. Pushed the center down and it stayed down, took the ring off and the lid did not come up, asuming it is sealed. Are the safe to keep? My concern is its been over 12 hours. Any thoughts?
    Keith

    • Were you following a tested recipe? I don’t know of any canning approved recipe that includes mayo. I would discard immediately.

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