I don’t normally get childproof caps. For one thing, I almost never have children in my home. For another, I suspect the average 5-year old could open them far more easily than I can.

pliers opening bottleI think my worst experience with these caps was the time I broke my wrist, several thousand miles from home. A cousin took me to the emergency room, where the ER doctor applied a plaster splint from upper arm to fingertips. The cousin was kind enough to run into a drug store and fill the prescription the ER doctor had given me for pain – but I forgot to ask him to get non-childproof caps. And I was staying by myself.

Have you ever tried to open a childproof cap by yourself, one handed, half sick with pain, and somewhat disoriented? I finally managed, with the aid of my chin. And I was careful not to put the cap back on fully.

vacuum breaker

I’m not sure this gadget has a name, other than “vacuum breaker”, but as far as I’m concerned it’s worth its weight in gold.

Unfortunately, either the childproof idea has spread, or my ability to open things has declined with age. I won’t even mention blister packs, which require a heavy-duty knife or tin snips to open them, not to mention the waste they generate. But surely the caps on plastic bottles of water or soft drinks are supposed to screw off. Aren’t they? Not to mention the metal lids of peanut butter jars.

I’m happy to say I’ve found solutions to at least the plastic bottle and peanut butter problems.

The plastic bottles are hard to open because I simply can’t grip hard enough any more to break the molded seal between the screw part of the cap and the collar. (Exactly how they get those caps on the bottles is a mystery to me.) But the solution turned out to be simple – vice-grip pliers. They can be adjusted via the screw in one leg to fit exactly over the cap, and they provide plenty of leverage.

Peanut butter, pickles, sauerkraut and other things that come in glass jars are usually vacuum packed, and it is the vacuum that makes those lids hard to turn. But it is possible to break the vacuum before you try to turn the cap. I found a little plastic gadget in one of the junk catalogs that litter my kitchen table. It’s simple. It’s cheap. And it works! I just lever the lit up slightly before I try to open it, and it turns easily.

Now if someone would just come up with solutions to the dozens of other types of packaging I find myself struggling to open….