Cleaning Antique Glass Jars (Mason Jars)

Introduction: Cleaning Antique Glass Jars (Mason Jars)

About: We are a 25 acre farm about an hour south of St. Louis run by a couple who are gaining experience as we go. With a ton of theoretical knowledge (crap we read in books but haven't had a chance to apply,) we dec…

In this easy Instructable, I will show you how to clean the mud and crud off of antique (and not so antique) jars.

No fancy chemicals or detergents and barely any elbow grease!
Just grab up:
*a dirty jar
*plastic scrub brush
*gently dish soap (if your jar is a princess, otherwise we use good 'ol fashioned blue Dawn.)
*white vinegar
*soaking container

Step 1: Get a Cruddy Jar

Exhibit 1: Calcium encased, rusted, crusted, old, cold and covered in mold Ball Mason Jar and genuine Ball Zinc lid.

Don't have one? Find a grandma and check her basement. There is bound to be one somewhere hidden beneath all of her grandmotherly treasures.

Step 2: Wash by Hand With Soap and Water

Exhibit 2: Aforementioned jar and lid after a good scrub-brushing and some dish soap. Notice all of the crud that didn't come off? (Remember to use a PLASTIC scrub brush and not a “brillo pad” as it will scratch the glass on the jar and the lid. You may also want to use a gentler soap if you are worried about the condition of your jar/lid.)

 This stubborn crud is where most people get stuck. You think it is clean, then it dries and it looks darn near the same. Never to fear...there are more steps!

Step 3: Gather Your Soaking Materials

Really? Yep- that's it.
Exhibit 3: Some regular store brand plain white vinegar. (We know...we is from Walmart. SHAME ON US!)
Also grab a dish that your jar will fit into and you won't mind being filled with vinegar. We used a pyrex baking dish to accommodate a 1/2 gallon jar.

Step 4: Soak Cruddy Areas for Approximately 1/2 Hour

Exhibit 4: Soak the cruddy areas in vinegar for approximately ½ hour.
If the cruddy areas can not be covered by placing the jar in a dish and/or flipping and rolling to saturate crud, try using a small bucket or tea jug. You can soak longer if you think you have extra tough crud, but under 1/2 hour doesn't seem to do the trick.

Since our gross area was on the bottom, this Pyrex dish worked perfectly.

Step 5: Pull Out That Scrub Brush One More Time

Though it shouldn't take much scrubbing at all, give one more go around with the brush. The vinegar should release about everything on its own.
Exhibit 5: Clean, shiny (as Zinc can be,) and pretty darn good-looking (if I do say so myself) 1910-1923 Ball Mason Jar after a simple rinse and dry.

** How did I know this was a 1910-1923 Ball Jar? Check out our blog for the answer!

Happy cleaning from Chopping Block Farm!

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    2 years ago

    I have been collecting old jars for over 40 years. DON'T USE VINEGAR ON ZINC. It is an acid and will eat the zinc.


    Question 4 years ago on Introduction

    how do you remove the lid. very old and a little decayed. your jar looks great


    7 years ago

    You did a great job on that jar making it look from Ewww to Awww! I am happy to see this! I got some old jars that look like that from a yard sale! But also I was wondering if with new lids could these be used for canning if I choose to that is.


    8 years ago on Step 5

    Thanks for the helpful advice on cleaning old jars!