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getting the smell out of jar lids (for re-use)

 
steward
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This is a frugal question, too, I suppose.

I like to dry herbs, or buy them in bulk and store them in jars. And recently, I've enjoyed learning to make naturally fermented sauerkraut and the like, which also takes, jars. So, I've been washing glass jars from store-bought goods and stock-piling them for later use.

And yet there is sometimes a problem. That rubber seal inside the jar lid can smell strongly of the food the jar used to contain - even after repeated washing. Pickles, olives, curry paste - these are some of the worst offenders. Somehow, I don't want my peppermint or feverfew tea to smell like curry. Or taste like pickles.

Here's what I've tried:
--soaked the interior of the lid overnight (or over several nights!) in baking soda paste
--soaked the lid in white vinegar.

The lids still reek.

I'm thinking of trying Borax next, but that strikes me as not exactly food safe.

I wonder, would boiling the lids in vinegar work better? Does anyone have any good tricks for this, or should I give up?


 
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I haven't had any luck washing the lids either. I wonder if baking soda would help? But I've just decided to label little cardboard boxes and keep like lids together...sauerkraut and pickles seems okay, but sauerkraut lids with tomato sauce is a stretch. So long as I keep the kraut, pickle, and tomato sauce lids away from the applesauce, I'll survive.
 
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I've tried the things you mention and more! As far as I've experienced, stinky things impregnate the rubber seal for good. I wouldn't boil the lids as it's likely to melt the seal.
If I'm making something potent, I search out the jars with pongy lids.
It's not anywhere near a good solution, but I score people's old jars, with an eye to ex-jam jars, since they don't smell. Sometimes a jar/lid's too whiffy to bother with and it goes in the recycling.
 
pollinator
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Two thoughts:

First, I have had some luck with 50/50 vinegar and water, multi-day soaking to remove lasting smells. But that might well not help you, especially if you're going to put things in the jars that have delicate flavors.

I know it's not exactly what you're asking about but canning lids are cheap and will fit standard jar mouths. If you just seal them finger tight and don't can with them, they seem to be indefinitely reusable.
 
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Although patience may be a even more distasteful, letting the lids air out for a while will definitely do it - but it may take a year in a paper bag? I have kraut and peppers jars stored with lids removed that seem completely ok, and a few stored with lids on still smell..


 
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I also tried all of the above with only moderate success. What works for me is direct sun. I set the lids upside down next to open jars outside and leave them there for 3-5 days. Works wonderfully. I am in Arizona with strong sun though so I'm not sure if it might take longer in other places.
 
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Rub the offending area with a lemon rind. Will take care of most odor problems quickly and easily.
If fresh lemon wedge is not available, lemon juice will work, takes a little more. Its the oil in the skin that does the work. The juice has less oil, hence it takes more.
Other citrus skins will work, but lemon does it best.
 
Jocelyn Campbell
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Great ideas and, I must admit, it's nice to know I'm not alone in some of these seemingly minor things!

Here's a summary so far:
  • baking soda
  • vinegar
  • airing out/leaving lids off jars in a box or bag
  • using with like-smelling foods
  • recycling if can't reduce odor
  • replacing with canning lids (if fits)
  • direct sun for 3-5 days
  • rub with lemon rinds

  • Since the first two didn't work for me, and I have some lemon wedges that need a purpose before composting them, that's what I'll try next!

    Thanks so much everyone!
     
    Leila Rich
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    It's a bit ot, but give me an opening to talk about jars...
    I have lots of old agee jars (like mason jars), as does my mum. I learned from her that Nescafe instant coffee jar lids fit agee jars.
    Nescafe may not even make them any more, but when I see them in thrift shops, I feel ridiculously happy and pounce, thinking "Aha, hard plastic lids so I can store fermenty/salty things". They also don't seem to absorb odours much.
     
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    Have you tried used coffee grinds? I keep a pot of them in my fridge to absorb strong cheese odours and it works a treat.
     
    Jocelyn Campbell
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    Leila Rich wrote:It's a bit ot, but give me an opening to talk about jars...
    I have lots of old agee jars (like mason jars), as does my mum. I learned from her that Nescafe instant coffee jar lids fit agee jars.
    Nescafe may not even make them any more, but when I see them in thrift shops, I feel ridiculously happy and pounce, thinking "Aha, hard plastic lids so I can store fermenty/salty things". They also don't seem to absorb odours much.



    Not OT at all! It's about re-using jars and ones that don't have stinky lids--I like it!

    Stephanie Newman wrote:Have you tried used coffee grinds? I keep a pot of them in my fridge to absorb strong cheese odours and it works a treat.



    Nope, haven't tried that one yet! Still haven't tried Ken Peavey's lemon rind idea yet, either. Took a trip to Montana and the lemon rinds were left behind. Ah well.
     
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    Here are my thoughts on trying to reuse jars with smelly lids. You may well spend more on trying to clean the lids than buying new....

    I use a completely different approach. I buy mason jars from St. Vincent DePaul, and Goodwill. I'm lucky that I actually commute more or less past 5 of them on my way to work every day. I collect all the branded mason jars I can get no matter what the size and take them home and wash them.
    I then sort by size of jar, and size of opening. I get empty potato boxes from work (you can try asking at the grocery store) and cut the box down to the appropriate height. Then I cut and fit dividers for the boxes and crate them up. In a 50lb potato box I can fit 12 quarts, 12 wide mouth pints, 24 wide mouth half pints, 18 pints,18 half pints,18 quilted jellies etc....

    I pay $2.40 plus tax so say $2.65 per dozen, the boxes and dividers are free and I collect 15-20 dozen per year. I have a personal capacity for use of about 20 dozen jars per year. I give away about 3 dozen jars of jelly per year around the holidays and I sell all the other extra boxes on craigslist for $6-$11 a box. The 18 pints garnering the highest price per box and the regular mouth quarts the lowest. All the proceeds from the sales go to buying next years jars, the sugar for jelly making and all the lids I need.

    The best time to collect is the end of January until about late July. I've already gotten 4 dozen this year.

    It can take some time and you do need some space to do it. Don't be discouraged if all you can find is like regular size quarts or something. If you are willing to sort and store the jars you will eventually get the boxes full and then like me you can sell of the excess to people who don't want to take the time to go looking. It's great, it saves them money and makes me enough per year that all my canning is essentially free except for the time it takes.
     
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    I've found a way to remove most odors from lids; at least every odor I've tried it on. The answer is fat! If an odor isn't removed through washing, it's probably not water soluble. However, lots of things that don't dissolve in water do dissolve in fat. So put some fat (I use lard, but I'm sure other fats would work) in your lid, leave it in a warm spot for a couple of days, then wipe clean and wash. I've had great luck with pickle and salsa lids, so far.

    It's also possible that if this doesn't work, the flavors could be alcohol soluble. So try vodka or everclear for really tough ones.
     
    steward
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    Nick, that is brilliant. Better living through chemistry.
     
    Jocelyn Campbell
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    John Crawford wrote:
    I pay $2.40 plus tax so say $2.65 per dozen, the boxes and dividers are free and I collect 15-20 dozen per year.



    I wouldn't worry about smelly lids if I could find mason jars for that price either! The thrift stores around here have ridiculous prices on jars of all kinds.

    Loving the suggestions of coffee grounds, citrus rinds, and now fat and alcohol, too! Thanks Nick! Still haven't tried any though.
     
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    I know it's not-so-permie, but I'm not sure what can resist rubbing alchohol.. And it got me thinking... What about using LAB for the mitigation of odors? Works for many other smells... why not this?
     
    pollinator
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    I can also get some mold when stocked in a wet area... (yes, here is nt dry all the time and not well prepared for rain days!)
    Mold is my only use of bleach, yes chlorine, I know...

    I will try sun! This I have!

    This is an idea, as I did not try, but clay is supposed to be good to quit odors...
     
    gardener
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    I end up with old lemon juice at times (Realemon in big bottles) and use it for getting rid of gasoline smells on hands and clothes, works pretty well.... and tried filling gallon pickle jar lids with it and let them sit for a few hours, then rub the rubber seal with your finger and rinse. It takes 4-5 times but I can put even delicate things in the jar after that. Just redo until after rinse and wipe off you can't smell anything anymore.

    Jars, I scavenge everywhere, I usually pay about 20-25c for a pint and 25-50c a quart. Neighbors had a rummage sale, non-dated ball and kerr they wanted $2.00 each without lids or rings. After the rummage sale I got 11 dozen quart and 4 dozen pint (some widemouths) for free out of the dumpster. Brand new with lids and rings with tax are $1.30-1.50 with tax so no wonder why they didn't sell. Thanks for the link about the reuseables!
     
    Jocelyn Campbell
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    I am so jealous of good buys on good canning or other jars! Nice to hear another example of lemon juice working well, too.

    We get free, 2-gallon plastic buckets with lids from the bakery at Costco (a big box warehouse store here in the states like Sam's Club) that their glazes and frostings come in. They smell very good at the start , then we use them for kitchen scraps/compost. I had a particularly nasty, rotten, anaerobic batch of kitchen scraps sit in a bucket, with the lid on, in the sun, for a few days. A symptom of how busy things get around here some times. Oy.

    The smell in the plastic was INTENSE. I scrubbed the bucket out well and left in the sun, with the lid off, its underside also exposed to the sun, and that sun did the de-odorizing magic! Awesome. The bucket was allowed back in the kitchen again.
     
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    Nick that is brilliant,  I never thought of it that way. Excuse me while I go to the kitchen and give it a try .....
     
    gardener
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    I got a little inspired to add other odor- removing uses, and other uses to this post just in case you want to try them.

    My go to for odors is hydrogen peroxide, either as the liquid most people know, or as sodium percarbonate (the active ingredient in oxygen cleaners). H2O2 gets rid of almost all smells.

    Soak the item in it if possible. If it's an item like a rug, or flooring, just spray it. Always color test fabrics, and also finishes.  Strong enough H2O2 can remove some wood finishes.  Also, you can buy 12% liquid or dry sodium percarbonate on Amazon now, and either is strong enough for almost any use, including clearing drains.

    I could make such a huge list - I use H2O2 and sodium percarbonate for so many things. Actually for cleaning most things! We have spray bottles under the sinks, for easy access.

    3% H2O2:
    - window cleaner.  Works excellently.
    - cleaning any particularly grimy surface, like countertops, kitchen cabinets, the stove

    3% or 10-12%-
    - Blood stains.  3% will require repeated applications. 10-12% can possibly bleach the color of the fabric, but not always.

    Dry sodium percarbonate:
    - cleaning cooked oil off things, sinks, pot bottoms, etc.
    - laundry that's particularly dirty, or laundry that didn't dry well enough and gets that bacteria or mildewy smell
    - kitchen towels - these have to be washed with percarbonate, or the odor they eventually get grosses me out! ha

    The issue with laundry not drying well enough, or getting forgotten in the laundry machine and getting that odor it does, that used to drive me nuts.

    You only need about 1/4 cup of sodium percarbonate for a load of laundry -  a small load if it's kitchen towels, a regular load for most other things.  Sodium percarbonate has to be dissolved in water before putting it in the wash.

    I haven't used Oxyclean so I don't know how it compares, but I believe one of the ingredients is sodium percarbonate. I just buy the percarbonate.
     
    pollinator
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    Leila Rich wrote:It's a bit ot, but give me an opening to talk about jars...
    I have lots of old agee jars (like mason jars), as does my mum. I learned from her that Nescafe instant coffee jar lids fit agee jars.
    Nescafe may not even make them any more, but when I see them in thrift shops, I feel ridiculously happy and pounce, thinking "Aha, hard plastic lids so I can store fermenty/salty things". They also don't seem to absorb odours much.



    We have found that some brands of peanut butter have lids that fit standard sized canning jars.  You can't can with plastic lids (obviously) but they work great in the fridge or for storing non-perishables (such as seeds).  
     
    Thomas Dean
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    John Crawford wrote:Here are my thoughts on trying to reuse jars with smelly lids. You may well spend more on trying to clean the lids than buying new....

    I use a completely different approach. I buy mason jars from St. Vincent DePaul, and Goodwill. I'm lucky that I actually commute more or less past 5 of them on my way to work every day. I collect all the branded mason jars I can get no matter what the size and take them home and wash them.
    I then sort by size of jar, and size of opening. I get empty potato boxes from work (you can try asking at the grocery store) and cut the box down to the appropriate height. Then I cut and fit dividers for the boxes and crate them up. In a 50lb potato box I can fit 12 quarts, 12 wide mouth pints, 24 wide mouth half pints, 18 pints,18 half pints,18 quilted jellies etc....

    I pay $2.40 plus tax so say $2.65 per dozen, the boxes and dividers are free and I collect 15-20 dozen per year. I have a personal capacity for use of about 20 dozen jars per year. I give away about 3 dozen jars of jelly per year around the holidays and I sell all the other extra boxes on craigslist for $6-$11 a box. The 18 pints garnering the highest price per box and the regular mouth quarts the lowest. All the proceeds from the sales go to buying next years jars, the sugar for jelly making and all the lids I need.

    The best time to collect is the end of January until about late July. I've already gotten 4 dozen this year.

    It can take some time and you do need some space to do it. Don't be discouraged if all you can find is like regular size quarts or something. If you are willing to sort and store the jars you will eventually get the boxes full and then like me you can sell of the excess to people who don't want to take the time to go looking. It's great, it saves them money and makes me enough per year that all my canning is essentially free except for the time it takes.



    Great ideas... but I have found that used jars at my local thrift stores are nearly the same price as new ones!  When I see them inexpensive or free, I absolutely pick them up, but have never sold any- we actively can and our family is growing.  A few break each year, but at this point, we'll bank any that I pick up for the future.  I pick up cardboard boxes for the jars: boxes that the local gas station gets energy drinks in are perfect size for 1/2 and 3/4 pint jars, there's some brand of vodka (I think) that works well for quarts, but I struggle to find ones that fit pint, especially large mouth pint.
     
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