How Do You Remove a Stopper?

Tips for Getting a Ground Glass Stopped Un-Stuck

Ground glass stoppers can get stuck.
Ground glass stoppers can be temperamental, but it's possible to get any stopper free without breaking the glass. cocoaloco/Getty Images

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?

Try the Tapping Method

Readers responded with suggestions as to how to remove a stopper. Most suggested a version of "the tapping method."


Submitted on 2014/04/02 at 4:40 pm
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!


Submitted on 2014/03/02 at 1:40 pm
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!


Submitted on 2013/12/24 at 12:45 am
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 are and dispose of it accordingly, any ideas anyone?


Submitted on 2013/10/28 at 4:27 am
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!


Submitted on 2013/09/28 at 12:19 pm
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 fourth 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


Submitted on 2013/07/04 at 7:55 pm
The tapping method just worked perfectly for me less than 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.


'Submitted on 2013/05/19 at 1:34 am
I am equally astounded! I was scared to tap on an antique perfume 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!

Noel Colley    

Submitted on 2014/02/18 at 6:38 am
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.


Submitted on 2013/05/11 at 6:25 am
I’m astounded. The tapping method worked the 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.

Use Oil and Tapping

Others tried a variation of the tapping method, using some form of oil in tandem with the tapping.

David Turner    

Submitted on 2013/08/30 at 2:44 am
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 a bit of oil and did 3 taps only…..and popped out.
David from Bali.


Submitted on 2013/08/24 at 11:05 am
Cant thank you enough, I have an 18th-century 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!


Submitted on 2014/02/22 at 5:03 pm
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.


Submitted on 2013/04/04 at 8:40 am
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.

Soaking and Tapping

Yet other readers said that soaking the container first and then using the tapping method worked best.


Submitted on 2013/05/27 at 9:30 am
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!


Submitted on 2013/05/07 at 11:40 pm
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, the 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

James P Battersby    

Submitted on 2009/10/12 at 11:41 am
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.

Other Ingenious Methods

Some readers used their environment and other factors to help loosen that stopper.


Submitted on 2013/02/05 at 9:51 am
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.


Submitted on 2011/09/30 at 5:36 pm
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.


Submitted on 2010/02/18 at 9:26 pm
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.


Submitted on 2009/10/15 at 6:29 pm
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.

Frederick Frick    

Submitted on 2009/10/12 at 9:03 am
A drop or two around the neck and let it sit for awhile worked fine for me

A Note of Caution

One reader concerned for the safety of other stopper removers offered a note of caution, hoping to keep others safe.

Neil Hall

Submitted on 2011/09/30 at 6:09 pm
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 youTube.

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Your Citation
Helmenstine, Anne Marie, Ph.D. "How Do You Remove a Stopper?" ThoughtCo, Jul. 4, 2021, Helmenstine, Anne Marie, Ph.D. (2021, July 4). How Do You Remove a Stopper? Retrieved from Helmenstine, Anne Marie, Ph.D. "How Do You Remove a Stopper?" ThoughtCo. (accessed March 22, 2023).