Can’t open can of ink

I foolishly allowed some ink to dry on the lid of a can of ink last time I used it, and now I CANNOT open it for the life of me. Are there any hints or tricks I can use, or is this can a goner?

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Possibility, stand the can upside down in about 1” of hot water for few seconds! (beware of expansion doing the job for you)
Followed by tiny squirt of white spirit around the rim, still upside down then with second pair of hands holding the can & using a sacrificed/spare desert spoon cut with a straight flat to match the curve of the lid & commence tapping the top of, repeated if necessary.
Trying the same trick with a screw driver or similar is a waste of time it deforms the lid and still sticks.!!

Sometimes you can strike an ink knife flatly down the side of the can and catch the lip of the lid, and by working around the can, loosen the lid up. Dousing in hot water, per the previous post, sounds like a good idea as well, either alone or in conjunction with my suggestion.

Dynamite will work, in large quantities! Seriously, it makes you want to throw it in the hellbox!

Hold the can by the base, strike the edge of the lid against a metal object. I use the edge of a turtle. I try to always clean the lid and side of the can with kerosene. That really helps.

Mike from Montana is spot on. Sharp corner of an ink knife.

Drill a hole in the lid and use compressed air ….or explosives.

Thanks everyone - I will try these hints. And I will certainly be more careful about wiping the rim next time!! :)
- Lydia

Yup, I always use the ink knife method also!

The corner of an Vandercook SP-15 works rather nicely for a stuck lid. It makes a decent bottle opener too!


OMG! you are all so funny!

I used to have a special tool. It was called a screwdriver

Some clear photographs to show you how to open a can with an ink knife:

When the lids are extremely stuck because of ink that spilled over the edge and dried, I use a thin ink knife (maybe 5/8” wide at the tip) and work it up between the lid and the lip of the can and slowly rock it back and forth (parallel to the side of the can) until I have worked my way all around the can. This breaks the seal and makes it much easier to start prying the lid off.


take it to the FBI. tell them you found it on the street corner. i bet they get it open for you…….
You’ll have to be ready though,,, “It’s ink???? Hey,,, i can use that stuff!!!”

Put on some leather gloves to protect your hands and use that sharp corner of your ink knife.

I’m just posting here to see how far this topic can go. Maybe we can set a new record (in more ways than one).

Cut it open transfer to another container and be tidier in the future.

transfer to tube

sell it on EBay

lay can on its side, hit with hammer, the lid should pop off, of course your can will be not very good.

Really- and was the dress gold an white or black and blue.

If the can won’t open the ink is probably all skinned over anyway. Invest in your hobby/work buy some new ink for goodness sake!

If the can is seamed at the bottom like a normal food can, you might be able to open it at the bottom with a regular can opener. Then you can just use the can upside down and you’ll never have to get the old top off, because it won’t be the top any more, it will be the bottom :)

Just buy a new can opener for your food cans, so you won’t contaminate any of your food. Then hang the old opener in your print shop to open any other ink can bottoms which you might need to open. This has the added advantage of exposing fresh unskinned ink, and having the skinned ink at the bottom where you can put off dealing with it. You may only remember the skinned ink at the bottom of a can when you have a rush job and find that as you dig into the can to get the necessary ink, there isn’t enough.

If you put aluminum foil over your opened can bottoms, and secure the foil with a tight rubber band, or electrical tape where the foil meets the can, the ink will probably not skin any worse than if you had a real lid on the real top of the can.

to extend the comments-put it on the floor, and slowly roll it back and forth while pressing on top with your foot, this will also assist in keeping the tin round.

I’ve always used the ink knife methods as mentioned above, only thing to add to that is I would only use the giveaway knives that are really putty knives, not my good Lamson or Russell ink knives.
However, this method won’t work with an older VanSon threaded lid. And for that I just saw an ad for a type of channel-lock plier with wide jaws shaped for PVC pipe. This tool might work for a twisting removal, if you aren’t too heavy-handed.

Step one: Wedge can under car tire

Step two: Put car in reverse

The hot water soak plus corner of the ink knife worked like a charm - thanks for all the helpful (and amusing!) comments! :)

my ink skims over in the can,,, whether the lid is on or not. i see in many shops where they make up a custom color and just leave it in “dixie” cups on the shelf., no top on it at all.

The Dixie Cup storage of left-over custom colors was very common in commercial print shops, but I NEVER saw uncovered cups on any of the shelves. Most commonly the top was covered with Saran Wrap (sp?) or wax paper with a rubber band around the outside. A smudge or draw-down of the color was also taped on the cups.