About a week ago, I pulled one of my very favorite vintage pint and a half jars out of the dishwasher and discovered a big chip in the rim. I spent a moment feeling sad that I wouldn’t be able to use it as a drinking glass anymore (my favorite application for that particular vessel), but then set about finding a new use for it.
The truth of the matter is though canning jars are incredibly sturdy, some do eventually succumb to the bumps and collisions of life. To my mind, these small chips, cracks, and hairline fractures are simply opportunities to get a little bit creative (do use your judgment here and only reuse jars that aren’t an active safety hazard).
This first jar has long been a favorite in my kitchen. It was a birthday gift from my mom, sometime during my early twenties. We’d looked at these jars many times at the Antique Alley (a fabulous antique mall in the basement of a funky rental strip in NE Portland) and she surprised me with one.
One day, I went to fill it with water and discovered that it had sprung a leak. Because it was a precious jar, I didn’t want to drop it into the recycling bin. As I studied it, I realized that a hole near the base could actually be a boon if I used it as a scrub brush holder because instead of gathering water, it would drain. I used a bit of fine grit sandpaper to dull a few sharp edges and put it to work. It’s been serving in this capacity for years now and I have absolutely no plans to replace it.
Next up is a jar with a crack in the top. The funny thing about this jar is that the rim is actually entirely smooth. You don’t know there’s a problem with it unless you look at it from the side. The crack means that the jar lets in a very small amount of air. I discovered this after canning peaches in it a few years back. The seal was perfect but the peaches turned brown. It took me a while to figure out what the heck was happening.
However, this jar makes a fabulous container for Aleppo pepper (or any other spice you tossed in it). Because there’s no sharp edge, there’s no risk in going in and out of the jar regularly.
Another way to reuse a jar with a chip or ding in the rim or threads is to use it as a soap or lotion dispenser. You can either order a mason jar pump lid ready-made from a variety of internet vendors, or you can follow a tutorial (there are a bunch out there) and make one yourself. It’s a great way to extend the life of an imperfect jar, because the only times you’ll expose the broken rim is when you open it briefly for refilling.
How do you guys repurpose cracked and dinged jars?
I have three or four 1 litre jars that were in larger lots that I bought second-hand and are slightly cracked but still water-tight (just not taking the chance on losing anything delicious by using them to can and it not working properly). I use them as vases for the occasional time that I bring flowers home. They’re also good as pen holders. And I have one that I collect wine corks in (one day I’ll make something with them all but I don’t drink a lot so it could take a while to get enough to actually do anything with). And I have a smaller one which holds old batteries waiting for me to bring them for recycling, too.
I also have the opposite problem – I was talking to a friend a few years ago about how expensive it was to build up a collection of jars at the start (especially because I had just missed out on a couple of really excellent deals on ebay due to not having a car to be able to go and collect really large quantities of jars that were practically being given away!) and she went down to her cellar and came back with a box of 1 litre jars that she had ended up with from her husband’s granny. She had no idea you could actually can stuff at home (it’s really not something that was particularly done in Ireland) and that that’s what they were for and had used them as candle holders when they had a garden party once. So now I have six or seven jars with bits of candles stuck in them. Really must get around to at least trying to melt the candles away and see if they can be recovered at all. I keep expecting her to ask me how I’ve used them even though it’s more likely that she has forgotten all about it.
I’ve taken candle wax from candles before – a little hot water and the wax should pop right off!
To remove wax:
Preheat oven to 200 degrees. Place jar(s) upside down on a cookie sheet which has a couple (or 3 or 4) thicknesses of paper towel on top of a layer of parchment paper. Put cookie sheet(s) in oven for about 10 minutes, then carefully remove from oven, and quickly and carefully (they will still be very hot) wash in hot, soapy water. You may need to do this a couple times depending on how much wax is in those jars, but it should do the trick. At any rate, if you can’t remove all the wax, you shouldn’t use these jars for food. Hope this helps!
Another great trick for getting wax/candles out of glass/votives is to pop them in the freezer. The wax contracts and pulls away from the glass, they typically pop out easily. I work in catering and this is how we handle the hundreds of votives we use regularly… 🙂
I got some jars off Freecycle and of the few that were chipped I just threw them away. In the past I’ve tried to keep jars that were flawed/chipped for other uses and they ended up getting accidentally filled while I was canning. I like how you’ve reused your jars though. 🙂
I put a piece of kitchen twine around the neck of chipped jars and tie it off. This way I know, without continuously checking, which ones are nicked or chipped. With this twine in place they even go through dishwasher when needed.
I have a label maker so I print labels that say “DRY” and stick them to the bottom of my chipped/cracked jars. I typically use them for dry storage, is why they’re labeled that way, but it really could be anything as long as you know what it means.
Run a sharpie around the rim of any jars that are flawed and you should not have any problem mixing them with the good ones!
I’m from the South, so we use them for everything. Seriously. We can in them, use them to store dry foods for short periods, they make great containers for nails, wonderful catch-alls, everything. I’m convinced the Mason jar is the most versatile container on the face of the Earth.
i hold coffee beans in an old blue/green one on the counter, nails and screws in another, spools of thread, etc. etc. etc. — if the rim’s chipped, i just don’t use it for canning. they are still good in so many other ways.
We use our chipped jars for pretty much everything… making/storing yogurt, storing leftovers, pencil/pen holders, vases, “hurricane” candle holders (simply place a bit of sand or kosher salt in the jar, place a votive candle in jar, light…. it keeps the flame from blowing out on windy days/evenings), storage for cotton balls, q-tips, craft supplies, paint brush holder, pin cushion/sewing supply holder, kitchen staples, etc…. Its only once the jars get to the point of being a hazard that we recycle them. Oh yes, I also store seeds in them and use one as a twine dispenser.
Jars make great left-overs storage. Little imperfections make no difference here. I use the plastic jar lids made by Ball.
Leftover storage and for dried goods at our house. I like the idea about a hurricane lamp!
I have used chipped and vintage jars for all the same uses, flowers, dry food storage, spices, pens & pencils and even have a vintage blue one on my desk at work with dog treats in it for the boss’s dog. I use them as decorative items with old spools of thread in one, buttons in another, crafty leftovers of ribbon, paper, beads and string, etc., in another (call these imagination jars).
However, just an FYI…from what I’ve heard and read, canning jars and Pyrex can’t be recycled. They are made in a different manner than regular glass used for other foods since they are manufactured to handle repeated uses in hot and cold conditions and not one-time use like other consumer products like pickle jars, salad dressing, mayo, etc.
I love the Good Housekeepers jar reuse, how very appropriate and the hole is in just the right place–it was meant to be…
We use all sorts of jars, not just canning jars, as candle holders in our backyard in the summer. Once you have a critical mass (10-20 or more), the collection of different sizes and types looks very nice scattered around tables or in the garden,, and if one gets broken, or you just can’t get the wax out, it’s not a big deal. We also use jars for all sorts of dry storage, and for flowers, especially those that we give away.
Hi Marisa, I’m intrigued by your “vintage” Mason jar – that says “Good Housekeepers”. Do you know the origin of this? I know we no longer see all the variety of jars that used to be around. Was this associated with Good Housekeeping magazine by any chance. I remember you once did a blog about all the different sizes that used to be available. Wouldn’t it be fun to see the history of all those Mason jars and their producers?
I tend to use them for dry storage – oatmeal, muffin mix, barley, things that I don’t keep huge quantities of on-hand.
so many ways to use – one of my favorites is for throwing coins in- vacation rocks(small)- shells – love jars !
So many great ideas. When I started canning, my grandmother gave me all of her old jars since she no longer cans, however, there were alot of jars that her family had saved from peanut butter or mayo that are no longer safe to use. I have been trying to come up with uses for them, but this entire article is a great help.
I do use this one really cool cut diamond pattered jar that was my Grandmother’s favorite jar to hold my dried tea that a girlfriend puts together for me. Its a great way to use it and I see it daily. I also use a previously “used” lid since I can’t reprocess anything with it.
I have also seen some recipes for salads in jars and I use my “non-processable” jars and lids for these as well. Sometimes holding on to the old jar and lids can come in handy.
Like many of you, I use jars for everything! Scraps of pretty cloth, paper and yarn; seeds collected from last year’s flowers and vegetables; beads, marbles, colored pencils, nails and screws, pens; leftovers, snacks, lunch ingredients, you name it. My five-year-old has caught my fever and always goes to the jar rack whenever he needs a container 🙂
Great ideas all, thanks!
I’ve been known to root plant cuttings in some of my chipped jars….I have a sense of the root development since I can see it happen! Jars seem to be my “go to” now for all things storage…..