Best Jar Opener for Older Adults
If you need a jar opener to help open jars for whatever reason, this synthesis will tell you which ones our Longevity Explorers liked and why they liked them. Our Explorer circles have had a number of discussions, and show and tell interactions, about jar openers. This is a summary of what we learned.
Which Jar Opener works best?
Older adults often find opening jars and bottles and other containers hard, due to weakness in their hand, arthritis, or just reduced strength in their arms. There are many "gadgets" that have been developed to help overcome this difficulty. When you look on Amazon you see literally hundreds. But which one to pick?
The Explorers at several of our circles wanted to find answers to this question, and we engaged in a series of discussions and some hands-on evaluations to learn which jar opener would work best and for whom. Unsurprisingly, we found there was no such thing as a "best" jar opener. But there were definitely products that worked best for certain people.
Different opener types solve different problems
Broadly speaking there are three things these jar openers are designed to "help" with: Grip; the need for two strong hands and arms; and strength & leverage.
In the absence of a gadget to help, opening a jar requires the following.
- Grip: One hand needs to grip tightly the jar lid. If the lid is slippery or if one's grip is not very strong, then the hand will slip and it will not be possible to turn the jar lid.
- Two strong hands: The other hand needs to grip the jar itself. If the jar is big or slippery this can be hard for anyone. If one's grip is not super strong in the second hand, or if one has small hands, or the jar is slippery, this second hand grip can also fail, and the jar will not open.
- Strength & Leverage: Even if both hands grip well on the jar and the jar lid, one needs adequate strength to turn the lid and jar in opposite directions and break the seal. This can be hard for anyone, and harder still for people who are frail or who have arthritis.
Some of our Explorers cared mainly about grip, some cared more about the need to have two strong hands, some needed leverage or strength, and some needed help with all three of these things.
There are links to these and the other products we tested in the writeup below of the individual products, so you can find out more or buy them on Amazon if you wish.
What we did
Step 1: Discussions
This exploration unfolded over a series of months, and multiple explorer circles took part. It started when one circle decided they would all bring along their favorite jar opener and show them and discuss them. Some brought openers they loved. But some came along and explained why product x did not work, and recommended we stay away from it.
After a series of these discussions, it started to become clear what worked and what did not. You can follow the discussions and listen to what people actually said in the discussions that are attached to this page.
Step 2: Get the most promising products
Once we thought we understood what to look for, we spent some time on Amazon, where you can find many jar openers for sale. We read reviews, and searched until we narrowed down the field to a total of 14 products we wanted to evaluate. We bought them.
Here is the selection we acquired.
Step 3: Explorer evaluation
We took along our collection of products to two of our circles of Longevity Explorers (members are older adults). The explorers tried out each opener on a variety of jars, and discussed the merits and drawbacks. You can listen to that exploration in the discussions attached to this page, and we especially recommend this discussion.
Most Popular Jar Openers
Almost all our explorers liked the rubber (or silicon) sheets, and the red cone of rubber was especially popular. All agreed that the main thing these products do is help with grip. They prevent your fingers sliding on the jar or the lid. This is often a big part of the problem, and so they are often helpful. But they don't help with the need for leverage or for two hands.
Explorers especially liked the fact they are small (easy to store), colorful (you don't lose them), and can go in the dishwasher.
There are many brands available and some explorers mentioned that they had bought some that did not seem to work as well as the ones we brought along. Explorers liked both the Regent Jar Grips and the Jar Gripper Pads from Utensil Pro.
Need grip and Leverage
Our explorers agreed that often the problem is a combination of grip and leverage. The two products that were popular, and which addressed these two issues together, are the Oxo Good Grips Jar Opener and the EZ Off Jar Opener.
Many of our explorers liked the idea of the EZ Off product. It is designed to be screwed onto the underside of a cupboard over a countertop. In operation, you hold the jar with one or two hands and lift it up to the EZ Off, and slide it sideways into the jaws you see in the picture (which would normally be facing down). The rather sharp teeth grab the jar lid so long as you keep pressure on the jar. You can then turn the jar (with both hands) and the jar lid comes unscrewed.
Explorers liked the fact this was out of the way, and always in the same place so you did not have to look for it. We realized that being able to use two hands on the jar was a big plus and helped a lot with the leverage problem. The teeth adressed the need for grip.
There was a dissenting point of view, however. Quite a few of the explorers expressed the opinion it was too gadgety, and they did not like it. Also, you do need to keep the jar lid flat in the V groove and if you tilt the jar, it no longer works properly.
The black Oxo product works on a very similar principle but it is hand operated rather than mounted under a cupboard. It contains a nice silicon rubber pad that slips out of the top of the tool and can be used to stand the jar on, thereby helping prevent it turning. This product does not allow you to use two hands on the jar, but it has a nice lever arm instead.
Explorers were keen it was simple, not too ugly, and would go in the dishwasher. A minority felt it was too tricky to get the right angle of attack, and that it slipped off the jar lid too frequently to be really helpful.
The perfect "tool"
The product that came closest to helping with all three challenges (grip, two hands, leverage) was the Swiss-made product by Kuhn Rikon. This product was very effective, but is a bit bulky and complex looking. As one explorer summarized it: "If my day job was opening jars all day, this would be the tool I would want. But maybe it is overkill for my house".
This device works in two steps. First you place it over the jar lid, and tighten the crank at the top, which moves a set of three jaws along little tracks until they capture the jar tightly (a sort of vice). At that point the jar is attached to the "tool", and you can then use one hand on the long lever arm to easily unscrew the jar lid from the jar. If you only have one available hand, as did one of our explorers who was just back from wrist surgery, this product is especially relevant. It allowed her to open jars better than any of the others.
No-one disliked this product, and all agreed it worked well. The caveats were about size and complexity. Some worried if it would not last well. Some worried about whether it was dishwasher-proof.
If you need the maximal help with opening jars and don't mind size etc, then this product is probably a good choice. Ideally it would be paired with a gripper pad to help your other hand get a firm grip on the jar itself.
Oldie but Goodie: One of our explorers brought along the metal jar opener shown here. She has had it for quite some time. She said "I think it is from the post war era".
It seemed to be very effective, including an ability to clamp onto the lid and a good metal lever arm. We did not initially find it on Amazon, but we later found something similar that you can see below. We have not tested the new one we found on Amazon.
Take this camping: A surprisingly popular option was this small gripper ratchet tool from Trudeau. People liked that it was small and unobtrusive, and also that it was colorful so could be easily found in a crowded drawer.
It was probably less effective than the alternatives above, but a nice compromise when space is at a premium. One explorer said "this is what I want when I go camping".
Want to know more? Listen to the actual discussions!
There was a great deal more detail and fine granularity in the actual discussions the explorers had, and we also discussed all the other products we had acquired. If you want to know more, please browse the accompanying discussions.
You can listen to the actual discussions. They start at the top right of this page if you are on a large screen, or below this synthesis if you are on a small screen.
In the writeup above are Amazon links to all the products we tested and liked. Below are futher links to these "favorites", as well as the products we tested but were less enthusiastic about.
Note: If you click on the links accompanying each the images above (or below), you will be taken to Amazon (or the manufacturer), where you can read more about each product and buy them if you want. [Disclosure: If you end up buying one from Amazon after clicking on these links, Amazon gives us a few pennies from their revenues.]
We have no financial interest in any of the products themselves.
If you don't see Amazon links below it may be because you have ad-blocking turned on on your computer.
These Jar Openers were popular with explorers
These Jar Openers were less popular with explorers
Not tested by our Explorers, but looks useful
Discuss, Comment, Ask Questions
Comments, Questions, Discussion
from Darcie Whitehurst (unverified) at Aug 27 2018 - 8:23am
The "oldie but goodie" jar opener in the article is called a gilhoolie and is still available in the Vermont country store catalogue
from Burt Trowbridge (unverified) at Jul 29 2018 - 9:03am
What is seriously missing from the hundreds of discussions products tools etc. is any way for a person with the use of ONE HAND ONLY to open a jar, bottle can etc. There are some mainly electric can openers that can be just about operated one handed, but often these leave a razor sharp exposed metal edge which is even the more dangerous for a person with limited ability.
Some electric ones battery operated and maybe Krupp one not easily and cheaply available in the UK turn the edge over, these are very good except the UK one being battery operated and having cheap plastic gears (that strip) and not to easy to engage on the tin.
For a person with limited or no use of one hand...........broken arm, arthritis or other damage 99% of the openers are impossible to use as there is no way to securely safely and easily HOLD THE TIN/BOTTLE/JAR.
What is needed is a simple effective way to hold the item, then use a one handed tool to perform the opening. There is one item I have found that holds the can using body weight, just the job for an old person with limited mobility and bad leg etc. maybe the maker has private hospital shares?
This text editor is poor.
from Cookie (unverified) at Apr 9 2018 - 12:05pm
The opener in the "Not tested by our Explorers, but looks useful" category is the one I love. It is made by KitchenAid. We have bought multiple ones to give to friends and family.
from Kim (unverified) at Jan 28 2018 - 1:18pm
Found "The Vermont Store" to have the opener similar to the "oldie but goodie" opener....just FYI
from Delbert (unverified) at Apr 13 2017 - 5:15pm
I have looked at your preferred openers. However I could not find one for handicap person with one arm. All of the openers still require two hands to operate safely. I would like to see one opener which will hold the base of the jar to be opened while a one handed person could remove the lid. this device should be capable of all top lid dimensions. Thank you