How to open Winsor & Newton impossible to open childproof bottles

These are the childproof plastic bottles for linseed oil, artist’s painting mediums, varnishes etc that are manufactured by (or for) Winsor & Newton who make fine art materials. The bottles can just about be opened by hand when new—after that they are almost impossible to open by anyone. You are supposed to press the cap down then twist it open but it requires massive force and even then it may not work if there is any product residue on the bottle-top thread. The risk of physical injury seems high.

There is a solution. I put on some tough leather gloves and prise off the black plastic outer cap with a flathead screwdriver. This breaks the product but you can then twist off the transparent plastic inner cap in the normal fashion. Of course the bottle is no longer childproof but I suppose it might be possible to snap the black outer cap back on temporarily (I don’t bother with this because no-one in my house is trying to drink linseed oil).

Winsor & Newton have failed here in my opinion. They should have tested the cap system properly and made sure it works before putting it on the market. Apparently they know about and have rectified the problem but this is not evident on the products I’ve bought this year (and won’t be buying again I have bought them again; other manufacturers use the same type of bottle).

I do not hold myself out as a child safety or packaging expert and I am not arguing against childproof packaging but I think it should be safe for adults as well—artists in this instance. The method above is what I’ve used as an adult and a child might then be able to open the bottle; it must obviously be kept in a safe place where it is not accessible to children (as is the case with, for example, tubes of paint which do not have childproof caps but contain pigments that may be more hazardous than oils, mediums, solvents etc).

Update: sometimes the inner cap gets stuck to the outer one (if the bottle contains drying oil or whatever). The screwdriver then brings them both off at once and they can’t be separated. If that happens, I remove the sealing disc up inside the inner cap. After that the joined-up cap should unscrew more easily without too much force.

Posted by Sharon

May 23rd, 2016

Thanks for this. I’ve been trying to open the cap on the W & N Acrylic Varnish bottle and it is so dash tough. I still haven’t got it open yet. Will attempt to do this with the screw driver you mentioned. I will also consider trying another company’s varnish next time.

Posted by Sus Owen

July 5th, 2016

Thank you so much for this tip. After much wrangling my husband managed to get the wretched top off and I was delighted to attack the black cover and chuck it in the bin. What a totally stupid design for a bottle of varnish!

Posted by Candace

June 12th, 2016

Thank you very much for posting this solution… Oh my gosh, I’m worn out from trying to open my glazing medium and will never buy a bottle like this one again!

Posted by Pat Thepainter

September 13th, 2016

Oh gosh….you came to my rescue. Glad I found this before I ripped my shoulder out.

Posted by Phyllis

October 5th, 2016

OMG this *&^%$#”:}+:?:##@$ blasted bottle of W N Liquin is giving me a coronary! HATE THIS!!

Thanks for idea with screw driver … will do

Posted by Frank

October 30th, 2016

Great post,thanks. I thought it was just me! I’ve exchanged two at my local art supplier. Will try this and hopefully save myself some grief.

Posted by Faye

November 13th, 2016

This is ridiculous and my hands and arms hurt without any success yet.

Posted by Faye

November 14th, 2016

After my former post I took a knife to the lid since I’m not at home and didn’t have any other tools. I cut my finger so badly I had to get stitches. Definitely will be writing Winsor and Newton.

Posted by Patrick

November 14th, 2016

Daler-Rowney and Roberson have the same type of packaging—they are all required by law to use child-resistant bottles. The solvent bottles I’ve had are okay because turpentine evaporates with no residue but with drying oils or resins the tops get gummed up almost as soon as they are used. The law seems a bit of an ass. There is a real risk of injury from the force of trying to open those bottles, plus the temptation is to disable the locking top (which I did) or decant the product into a jam jar or similar, defeating the whole object. At least paint tubes don’t yet have this device.

I don’t know what the answer is unless artists material manufacturers design a new type of bottle top or maybe a miniature version of the pull-out tubes used for motor oil containers. Push-and-turn doesn’t seem to work for oils and resin.

Posted by Bluefig

November 21st, 2016

Thank you so much for this! I gave up after much twisting and pushing on the stupid cap!

Posted by Miguel

November 24th, 2016

Literally peeled skin on my palm… successfully took off the outer black cap; only to find medium all over the clear cap :/ to top it off, even that won’t open. and the bottle still has about 99% of medium gahhhhhhhhhhh

Posted by Patrick

November 24th, 2016

Yes, the inner cap gets gummed up as well. I twist it off with pliers. But normally, now, I pour the contents of a new bottle into an old jam jar.

Posted by OnceAround

December 1st, 2016

We have had the same problem with these bottles in our art store and I have had to exchange or refund purchases. What a shame!

Posted by amri

December 4th, 2016

you’re a lifesaver thanks! This technique was super effective and easy. I got blisters trying to open their caps the way they instructed, I even tried stepping on it. Never buying this product again.

Posted by Lin

December 12th, 2016

Thank youuuu, after half an hour trying… I was about to cut a hole in the bottle and drain the liquid!!

Posted by J jean

December 15th, 2016

Thank you! The vice grip did not work so I turned to a google search and found your description.

Posted by Keiko

December 21st, 2016

Very appreciate this article. Finally, I could opened the cap!!! I love W&N drying linseed oil

Posted by RAB

December 27th, 2016

I thought I was just being thick!! so glad am not the only one. The best way to open is with a pair of pipe grips. Squeeze the cap with the pipe grip and turn. It opened first time (after days of trying by hand only!!) It may work with a large pair of pliers although not tried yet.

good luck

Posted by Sara

January 28th, 2017

Thank you my hands are so sore from trying to open a stupid bottle of oil. Still havent managed to get it open, but will try your suggestion

Posted by Patrick

January 28th, 2017

The childproof caps we are talking about require two dissimilar motions for opening: press down and turn. Pipe grips or pliers will provide enough force to turn a gummed up cap but you need a third hand to force the cap downwards at the same time. Winsor and Newton might argue that force (and three hands) are not needed if the bottle and cap are kept clean—the threads especially—but that is almost impossible with drying oils and resins.

Breaking and discarding the outer cap means you can then open the inner cap with pipe grips or pliers even when it’s gummed up, and for adults that seems safer than trying to apply force in two directions. Of course it might then mean a child can open the bottle (assuming the cap is not gummed on) so it must be kept somewhere safe.

Posted by Tasha

February 3rd, 2017

HAHAHAHA!!!! I got one open! Put it on the floor, body weight into it, turned and it came open. Imprint of the lid on my hand (well, both hands.) It should not be this hard.

Posted by Matt Loch

February 7th, 2017

Other manufacturers do use this type of safety cap (Pip Seymour, Gambin etc), and they are childproof, but can be opened without too much effort, W&N have taken the difficulty to extraordinary levels. Also, has anyone managed to decipher the illustration on the top? I am going to try the screwdriver method and will avoid W&N screw top containers in favour of other manufacturers.

Posted by Eric Langdon

February 23rd, 2017

Placed the bottle on the counter, took out my Drimmel, and drilled a little hole in the top.

Posted by HS

February 24th, 2017

I could open my linseed oil (500 ml) bottle with a 6″ slip joint plier. Struggled for good 30 minutes trying to open it with my hands until I read RAB’s post here that mentioned a pliers. Thanks RAB! I agree with many of you that the manufacturers should come up with better ways of making child safe container caps. Keep the plier handy because you will need it every time to open it.

Posted by J Bard

March 4th, 2017

I gave up on trying to open a brand new bottle. I have a cut through my first layers of skin and pain. Never buying their product again. That is just ridiculous.

Posted by Kathy Tootelian

March 4th, 2017

Thank you! Got the cap off with a screwdriver. Oy.

Posted by Scout Dawson

March 17th, 2017

Oh my GAHD I am so glad to hear I wasn’t just being feeble – it hurts my hands to get the lid off my Liquin bottle!!

Posted by Alex Sherwood

April 5th, 2017

I had to pop off the black cap, pry a painters knife along the bottom and somehow glued edge of the twist cap, AND use a vice grip to open.

I think the real complaint should go to Michael’s and Joanne’s who don’t carry a better variety of artists supplies. Most of us probably got these bottles from *there* and not art stores.

Posted by Patrick

April 5th, 2017

We’re talking about Winsor & Newton (widely available) but to be fair, this issue probably applies to most artists material manufacturers who use childproof bottle caps. In the UK at least, that includes Daler-Rowney and Roberson, not to mention L. Cornelissen in London. I have items from all those and the caps are similar.

Posted by Cameron C

April 11th, 2017

Bought a Grumbacher Copal Medium at a thrift store today for $1.99! Same type of top, cant open it either… Despite being unopened and unused it might not be such a great deal unless I can use the product…

Thanks for the tip!

Posted by chris

April 23rd, 2017

The adjustable pliers did the trick!!!!! Hooray!

Posted by Aggie M

April 25th, 2017

Thank you, I agree with all of the above. How do we get WN to know and fix this?

Posted by Tina

April 27rd, 2017

Used adjustable pliers. Squeeze it tight with the pliers while pushing down. It worked.

Posted by Barbara Berry

May 4th, 2017

My neighbor guy turned the bottle sideways and applied pressure and the bottle opened easily. I will now leave the lid loose. I have no children at my house.

Posted by BizzyEnuf

May 7th, 2017

TY TY! I have a can of Crown Boiled Linseed Oil that was near impossible to open the first time I used it. I had resorted to squeezing cap tightly with pliers while opening and that worked. But now about a year later I could not get that dang child-proof cap off to save my life. Was ready to puncture top of can and pour into a jar. Decided to google for a solution and voila! Your screwdriver trick worked magic in about 2 seconds. Who woulda thunk! LOL Fortunately there is a nice metal screw cap under that plastic cap.

  1. Posted by C-Marie

    Regarding impossible to open child-proof screw on caps on Liquin… used your suggestion, but also ran very hot water into the cap and that made the inner plastice more pliable. My husband finally used needle nose pliers and voila!!!

    Thank you so much!!!

    God bless, C-Marie

  2. Posted by Susan Irving

    I ended up prying off the outer cap with a kitchen knife, only to find the inner one still would not open. In the end I lost my temper and bashed the top of the inner one in with a screwdriver. Now I can just put the outer one on over the hole. There should be non childproof lids available for those of us with no children or grandchildren. I will not be buying anything with that type of lid ever again.

  3. Posted by Mark Simmons

    Just bought the last bottle of Winsor Newton Liquin I will ever own. As a weight lifter at 210lbs I cant get the lift off their child proof container. This has been a problem for years. You think they would have fixed by now.

    Good bye Winsor Newton! Good riddance!

  4. Posted by Wayne

    Using a plumbers wrench, not vice grips, not pliers, squeeze the lid while exerting downward pressure as you turn the lid with your right hand while holding the bottle with your left. You can feel the clicks. Eventually the lid releases. It takes about five turns to come off. Put The lid back without locking it.

  5. Posted by Jeff

    Pried the cap open witha screwdriver. Took five seconds. Didn’t spill a drop. But I wore gloves just in case.

  6. Posted by Catalina Hermes

    Frustration is the only decent word I can come up with for what I feel 😡 I was so looking forward to start painting this weekend. Well, thanks to this awful oil bottle, I have now given up. I’ve even injured my hands, desperately trying to open it. I even thought there’s was something wrong with me! How can it be so totally impossible to open this little bottle?! Not impressed! Next time I’m buying a different brand! 😡

  7. Posted by Rosanna

    OMG. Thank you for this. So frustrating. 🙁

  8. Posted by Kensley

    THANK YOU SO MUCH. I was about to throw this bottle through my window. Very very easy fix. I just used a butter knife.

  9. Posted by Wendy Moule

    Pop the black cap off with a screwdriver. Soak the bottle upside down in a jar of very warm water. Not too hot or the bottle will melt! The top will open with ease.

  10. Posted by Karen Halbisen

    Same problem with a bottle of Gamblin refined linseed oil.

  11. Posted by Pauline Marshall

    Same problem with spray varnish… had to resort to the screwdriver method.

  12. Posted by Mary Lou

    I’m exhausted. Will try screwdriver

  13. Posted by Abby

    THIS IS SO ANNOYING! Thank you for posting… I figured this was only happening to me.

  14. Posted by Johan

    Thank you, it worked.

  15. Posted by Blue Banana Art

    I tried, to no avail, yesterday. This morning, finally, I pushed the sides while turning and pulling and it came right off (Spray gloss varnish top).

  16. Posted by Fraeya

    Thank you !! Nearly put my wrist out trying to open a bottle of liquin

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