Introduction: Cleaning Zinc Lids for Mason Jar Displays

There are many uses for using old Mason Jars for Display. On there own or even with Marbles or objects in them. There are also many colors and style to choice from but unfortunately over the years the Zinc lids get kind of yucky and not very presentable.

Now some collectors would want the old used look lids, but this look is not so much a patina like you would find on brass or bronze things so much as Baked on corrosives of vinegar and salts that have leached into the water bath.

After I started making this Instructable I found one of cleaning Jars:

I am including this and only going into detail about the Lids. As my method is different and they mostly went into just cleaning the Jars which I agree with.

Step 1:

Step 2: Supplies

OK what you will need is:


Container for Vinegar that is deep enough for the lids and vinegar to cover ( Dollar Tree )


Steel Wool

Metal Polish ( Optional )

Scott's Liquid Gold ( Optional )

Cloth or Paper Towls

Gloves ( Latex or Nitrile ) recommended

Step 3: Soak Lids

Pour your vinegar into your container and put lids face up. Make sure the are covered. Leave in there for minimum of 4 hours but I would not recommend more than 12 hours. Eventually you get pitting .

Step 4: How Much Cleaning?

OK the image above has from left to right Untreated , Treated and Steel Wool, and Treated,steel wool , and Metal Polish.

You can do just vinegar and steel wool to make it all shiny but Metal Polish takes the scratches out.

You should also rinse with water before steel wool and after, IMHO!

To kick it up a little Liquid Gold goes along way for effect. It wont be as shiny per say but depending on the cloth and how much polishing it does add more depth to the embossing!

Also scrubbing the sides try to get the build up in between the ribs of the screw top but polish the ribs more. It makes it clean but gives it more depth!

Step 5: Rings: Totally Optional!

Rarely do you see jars with the rings. Mainly because they have all dried up and fallen apart.

If for some reason you want them like original with rubber bands on the shoulders and get a jar with a rubber band.

There is something called " Something Better" It seems like just Armor All but in a foam form but it works great for bringing back old dried out rubber!

Spray it on and let it soak in for like 15 minutes then wipe off and do the other side.


Ball says you can use new rings and tops in place of the old Ball Zinc Lids and they should work. There are a few jars that I would risk it on but for the most part consider these decorative pieces and not for canning. Get new jars and lids PLEASE!

There are Jars I have that I know I could can with ( At least in Water Bath Canning , I doubt they would survive in Pressure Canning ) and it is cool if you have a good recipe for something and give them a gift in a proper vintage jar but they make so many retro jars now that you can customize with different but proper tops that it is not necessary IMHO!

Step 6: OPINION: Do Not Steel Wool These

I have a collection of Mason Jars but I am not a Collector!

I inherited a lot and I do Can and decided to fill a few years and Types I am missing, plus I live in one of the Antique belts so it is easier for me.

IF you come across a lid that is Ball but looks almost like damascus steel , don't take steel wool to it! You might be able to give it a vinegar treatment but I am not sure about them. Again I am not a collector.

The Ball embossing is the most common that you see other than modern day stuff so from 1933-1962. My theory is that it is 1941-1945 lids. As there would be rations on metals and they needed Zinc for the War Effort for some reason? They could just be later years to be made cheaper but I only have two lids out of close to a 100. So I am sticking by my theory until someone proves me otherwise.

If it is somewhat clean then Liquid Gold works wonders on it!

Step 7: The End

Again this was to tell you how to clean up Lids for your Mason Jars and make them presentable for a living room or presentable environment.

Collectors might not want it clean. You can see currently most of mine or not. Just cause I am lazy actually!

There is also a Legend that will help you if you want to collect or just get Mason Jars ( well BALL Mason Jars )

They actually make great pieces when filled with stuff and can be picked up for $1-$10 a piece for most standard sizes and colors. Olives,Browns,Lavenders,Milk, Cobalt,and Vaseline are usually much more...... Enjoy!