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Anne Marie Helmenstine, Ph.D.

How Do You Remove a Stopper?

By May 7, 2012

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Have you ever gotten a stopper stuck? JohnB. posted this question on the chemistry forum:
How do you remove a ground glass stopper from a bottle with a ground glass neck? I have tried cold water (and ice) on the stopper and hot water on the neck, tapping the neck of the bottle, ammonia, holding the stopper with various types of cloths (rubber, cotton, etc.). All have failed, any suggestions?
Aside from breaking the flask, what would you do?

Comments

October 12, 2009 at 9:03 am
(1) Frederick Frick says:

A drop or two around the neck and let it sit for awhile worked fine for me

October 12, 2009 at 11:41 am
(2) James P Battersby says:

A drop of thin oil around the neck, left for a week or two; then if the stopper is still stuck the old chemists used to gently tap the stopper on two opposing sides, and then tap the neck of the bottle on the opposite opposing sides (at 90 degrees to where the stopper was tapped).

It’s a lot harder to describe than demonstrate – but I have always found this to work.
James

October 15, 2009 at 6:29 pm
(3) Mike says:

If the bottle contained alkali, you might as well throw it away, as it causes the joint to fuse.
Otherwise, tapping and heating the outside of the joint with boiling water have worked for me.

February 18, 2010 at 9:26 pm
(4) BigMikeSr says:

I presume that the bottle is empty. As a last resort you might try gradually heating up the neck while rotating the bottle in the flame with a bunsen burner or torch. Wear gloves & goggles and do it where broken glass is easy to clean up.

September 30, 2011 at 5:36 pm
(5) Ginger says:

Find an open door with the door opening away from you. Put the stopper in the space between the inner edge of the door and the door frame, and pull the door toward you gently until it has a good grip on the stopper. Then turn the bottle carefully. With luck, the door will hold the stopper and it will come out. If you turn the bottle too fast the stopper will break off, so be gentle.

September 30, 2011 at 6:09 pm
(6) Neil Hall says:

Be careful about what kind of chemicals were in the bottle. There are chemicals which may have formed crystals in the neck of the bottle which might be explosive if moved by opening the bottle. Picric acid which used to found in school labs was one such chemical.

There are several Picric Acid explosion videos on uTube.

February 5, 2013 at 9:51 am
(7) James says:

I had a stopper that felt like it was fused. It would not budge when applying pressure almost up to the breaking point of the glass.

I live in a cold climate so i put some snow on the stopper and left it outside in -7C temp for an hour. Brought it in and placed it under luke warm water (40c ?).

Stopper came out with ease. no friction.

April 4, 2013 at 8:40 am
(8) Mary says:

I just tried the tapping of the bottle at 90 degrees as recommended by James in comment 2. The first time I tapped it, it did not work. The second time, I tapped it, the glass top of my ground glass Pyrex bottle popped out. To say I was amazed would not be an exaggeration. Thank you, James and thank you, Anne.

May 7, 2013 at 11:40 pm
(9) David says:

I came across this site looking for suggestions on removing a stuck ground glass stopper in a small crystal jug. I tried the tapping method and, on the second attempt, thhe stopper flew off. I had previously soaked the jug in hot water so there may have been a slight build up of pressure which caused the stopper to fly off, but the method certainly worked. Thank you

May 11, 2013 at 6:25 am
(10) Carl says:

I’m astounded. The tapping method worked third time to remove a glass stopper from a perfume bottle that was stuck solid and had defied all other attempts to remove it. It just suddenly came lose.

May 19, 2013 at 1:34 am
(11) Lori says:

I am equally astounded! I was scared to tap on an antique parfum bottle from Paris, but the stopped was jammed in and nothing I tried worked. I used the cushioned side of scissors handle and tapped lightly as described. It fell right out and was none the worse! Thanks so much for the awesome info!

May 27, 2013 at 9:30 am
(12) Maria says:

I purchased an old liquor bottle at an estate sale and couldn’t get the stopper out. Soaked it in warm water for about an hour then tapped on the stopper with the handle of a wood spoon, the stopper popped out into the bowl of warm water!

June 13, 2013 at 4:29 am
(13) Katinka says:

Oh my goodness me! It worked!. I could not for the life of me remove a glass stopper. I tried everything. I just read the comment about the tapping method. I laughed and thought; well i tried everything else … After three tries it came out, just like that. Thank you for this information,

June 24, 2013 at 11:38 pm
(14) Ellen says:

I received an old apothecary jar. The stopper was firmly stuck. I thought the remnants of the jar had “glued” it shut. After trying a couple of other methods I tried the tapping method. It worked on the second try. I was amazed.

July 4, 2013 at 7:55 pm
(15) Paul says:

The tapping method just worked perfectly for me less then five minutes ago. I used a spoon I had just used for cereal. I’ve tried oils and cooling it and neither worked. It took three rounds of tapping and it came out easily.

August 13, 2013 at 8:49 pm
(16) Carole says:

Wow! I just tapped the stopper in two places and didn’t even get to tapping the neck or putting on the oil, because the stopper just slipped right out! I’m just amazed. Thank you, James. I’m so happy, because this is a cut glass bottle my grampa used in his barber shop to hold hair oil.

August 17, 2013 at 5:52 pm
(17) Deborah A. Dick says:

I have an large antique bottle, maybe half liter size, brown glass. The stopper is broken right at the top of the neck. Any thoughts on removal?

Deb

August 24, 2013 at 11:05 am
(18) Russ says:

Cant thank you enough I have an 18th c. Decanter that we use for cognac and over the summer it lacquered itself stuck. The oil and tapping method worked perfectly, I thought the stopper was stuck forever. Thanks!

August 25, 2013 at 3:36 pm
(19) robynlee thuemmler says:

after having tried EVERYTHING I could think of the tapping method worked like a charm

August 30, 2013 at 2:44 am
(20) David Turner says:

Fantastic James and others
Thank you SOO much!
I have a Tantalus decanter with a stopper that had been stuck for many years
Tried heating bottle and freezing neck. Oils, WD 40 etc no luck.
Googled to this site.
Just tried bit of oil and did 3 taps only…..and popped out.
Savour
Cheers
David from Bali.

September 28, 2013 at 12:19 pm
(21) Blair says:

IT WORKED for me too. First I tried hot-cold and silicone spray and nothing. Then I read James idea and I tapped while slowly rotating it and on the forth or fifth turn it fell right out. Do it over a towel and just tap gently. Who knew wooden spoons were for more than baking and discipline lol

October 16, 2013 at 5:16 am
(22) Wendy says:

Well that worked!
Don’t let the stopper fall on the floor though!
Thanks.

October 28, 2013 at 4:27 am
(23) Michal says:

The tapping method is great! I poured hot water over the neck of the flask and then used a wooden spoon for tapping. It took me just 3 minutes until the stopper came out.Thanks for your help, James as well as the others!

November 29, 2013 at 2:40 pm
(24) Mara says:

Thank you James! the tapping worked beautifully!

December 3, 2013 at 2:09 am
(25) tapper says:

genius… stubborn bottle, tried (i thought) everything. soaking, surfactants, snake oil,,,,, three taps and it opened, easy as pie

December 24, 2013 at 12:45 am
(26) Lori says:

Excellent!!!! tapping worked a treat!! purchased a gorgeous brown chemistry bottle (quite a large one) got it super cheap because the stopper could not be removed and it has something inside it but thanks to the wonderful tapping advice it is now open!!! now to figure out what the contents is and dispose of it accordingly, any ideas anyone?

January 12, 2014 at 3:14 pm
(27) Richard Brownlie says:

Tapping alternately on each side worked on my Tantalus stopper which has been stuck for years. Apart from some small dents in the plaster in an inconspicuous place on the wall, all’s good!
Thanks.

January 15, 2014 at 4:19 pm
(28) Silas Taylor says:

Just adding to the many amazed posts. I had a wine decanter with a stopper stuck fast. The tapping method got it out second attempt.

February 18, 2014 at 6:38 am
(29) Noel Colley says:

I have a mid 19th C (1854) communion set and the stopper was completely stuck, or so I thought until I found this method. Wooden spoons are so useful. This will save me struggling to open the bottle containing consecrated wine.

February 22, 2014 at 5:03 pm
(30) Pepper says:

It worked! I bought a bottle of Arpege with a “Frozen” stopper. Took me about an hour. Used a pipet to drop the oil and used my broken wooden spoon. After many tries it came loose. I did not want to wait the week or two as instructed, Oh, in between time I tried to rock the stopper back and forth. Now I might be brave enough to buy other bottles with frozen stoppers.

March 2, 2014 at 1:40 pm
(31) Frank says:

I purchased a late 19th century storage jar for three dollars because the top was stuck. I tried the cold water and hot water methods with no success. I tried the tapping method and the top came off on the first try. Thank you very much for the information!

March 7, 2014 at 8:07 am
(32) Rachel says:

Thank you, James, for the oil+tapping method. You’ve saved one of my great-grandmother’s jars.

March 9, 2014 at 12:39 am
(33) Gertrude Thorpe says:

Well the tapping worked for me too. I would definitely try the tapping method again before messing with oil&water. Good advice Tar

March 9, 2014 at 5:01 am
(34) Elda says:

Thanks for the advice!! After being stuck for close on thirty years boiling water and gentle tapping saved my two beautiful small chemistry jars bought at a university sale over 40 years ago! Tried every possible method before, bar the tapping. Very chuffed!

March 11, 2014 at 5:21 am
(35) Helen says:

I tapped a couple of times, and bingo … the stopper came out. Couldn’t believe it.

March 22, 2014 at 2:12 pm
(36) Bonnie says:

Thank you! Thank you! Thank you James! Worked beautifully! Three little taps with a wooden spoon around the neck of the bottle and voila! Out in a minute or less!!! Wow!

April 2, 2014 at 4:40 pm
(37) Sarah says:

This method has just worked on an antique crystal perfume bottle within about 5 seconds! 3 taps with a wooden spoon and it came out. Brilliant !

April 20, 2014 at 10:19 am
(38) Hilary says:

It worked!!!
i tried everything too to release a glass stopper from an antique bottle. Suggestion # 2 worked like a charm!
Thanks!!!

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