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 (supposedly) 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 – but not Gamblin).

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.

Opinion »


Posted by Sharon

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

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

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

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

Posted by Phyllis

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

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

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

Posted by Faye

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

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

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

Posted by Miguel

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted by Keiko

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

Posted by RAB

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted by HS

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

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

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

Posted by Scout Dawson

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

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

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

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

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

Posted by Aggie M

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

Posted by Tina

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

Posted by Barbara Berry

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

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.

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

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.

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!

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.

Posted by Errol Lloyd

These caps put you in a foul mood just when you're ready to go, having lined up your easel and paints, and then can't access the necessary linseed oil, quick drying medium, turps, etc - all secured in twist cap bottle that refuses to give up its previous contents. Surely this can't be me alone, you think and resorting to a Google search, you discover a whole world of fellow sufferers out there. Hello fellow sufferers!! (There is after all some comfort in martyrdom).

Posted by Fikret

Thanks God i am not alone about this. I am getting crazy every single time when i try to open W&N Liquin bottles cap. It tooks about half an hour every time. My hands hurts while trying to open. Interesting thing i have tryed to put Liquin to different bottles but it get dried, hence i can't even change the bottle.

Posted by Eric

My wife just opened a bottle of the Liquin (actually, while I was reading this post) by taking a tooth pick and running it around the bottle just under the black cap and removing as much gunk as possible. She then pushed down, twisted it, and the cap came off. We'll be cleaning the threads before we put the cap back on.

Posted by Reuben Fellman

Had a mental breakdown trying to open that stupid varnish bottle. I got it open with a screw driver and am storing the rest of my varnish in a cleaned out seasoning bottle. Not dealing with that childproofed shit again. Thank you for the tip, you really saved a grumpy artist's life (my wrists are too far gone tho).

Posted by Sue

After an hour of frustration trying to prise the lid off a bottle of Winsor and Newton, Artisan, Fast Drying Medium, hey presto! I placed the bottle lid end under the hot water tap for 30 seconds and off it came with little effort. At last I can get going on my project! I hope you all have success with my highly scientific method!

Posted by Kelly

I bought the varnish spray bottle. I used garden snip to get between the can and lid and cut a few pieces until I was able to pry it off. Threw the cap away, sprayed my project, wiped off the nozzle and then covered it with glad. Press and seal after.

Posted by J.O

I will try that with my second bottle thank you. I sawed through the other bottle yesterday with a sharp knife and hideous anguish -and eventually decapitated (satisfying) and decanted. Lost the will to do anything by the time I'd finished though. I do not recommend a frantic knife as a method.

Posted by Scott

Tinsnips. After struggling for a couple minutes, I used tinsnips to cut the cap, using one of the thumb tabs as the starting point. The plastic cut quite easily, and I can sort of put the cap back on afterwards. A shame about the costs W&N and their supply partners invested in designing and manufacturing it, costs passed on to us disgruntled consumers.

Posted by Lor Gray

The flat screwdriver worked. I did the procedure in my sink and got the outer top off with no mess. I was so grateful to find this post before I gave up on painting today.

Posted by francy

THANK YOU!!! I thought I was going crazy

Posted by Ac

Haha thanks for this, I mashed up my hand trying to open this, was thinking I must be a child lol but after reading this and finding out there's 2 caps inside one and other, I put my scissors under the black out lid and cut the thing right off and it was very easy, no excuse to try oils now ;)

Posted by Margaret Solyomi

Thank you so much for this information. You saved my fingers. Also, thank you for entitling this tip as Winsor & Newton impossible to open childproof caps. I might still be looking on YOUTUBE and not finding the right answer!

Posted by Julia

Priceless advice. The screwdriver worked where 10 mins of pressing and turning had not. Thanks so much for this.

Posted by Dorothy Knox

I felt the screwdriver solution was too dangerous for a clumsy person like me so i put my bottle upside down in a container of boiling water for 30 sec. i then was able to open it. i guess it loosened the gum.

Posted by Susan Tack

Just taken bus into town, needed fixative for pastel work before I can continue further. What a waste of time, money and effort. I have been trying for an hour to release lid without damaging it. No luck but I have burst a blood vessel in my finger! I know they have to be child proof but this is hideous. Due to Covid I do not wish to return yet again so am left with the only option to go and find a tool and break the lid. I will not be buying this product again. Seems I am one of many with the same issue.

Posted by Jeremy Rogers

Thank you! It worked- I couldn't get the lid off one oldish bottle of varnish, so I optimistically bought another. That also remained inviolate, despite my efforts and naughty words, until I found this site. I usually use Talens spray, but it smells so awful... You'd think that after at least five years W&N would have fixed it. Mind you, it did make me buy two bottles instead of one, so there may be method in their madness---

Posted by Cheryl Peterson

Thought this would be the craziest Google search I'll ever do - how to open a stupid little jar of W&N masking fluid! And here we all are! Thanks so much for the tips. Understanding there were two caps and the inside one was stuck, I just took a needle-nosed pliers, pressed down, squeezed hard, and was able to open the jar. Took a few tries, but worked well. Whew! Why don’t they fix this problem???

Posted by Jennie Loy

After reading these comments I dug through the garbage and pulled my bottle out. The outside lid has been gone for over a year, so that wasn't the problem. The inside lid was dried on. I let it sit in very hot water for about 2 minutes, then my husband was able to twist it off. Hallelujah. I poured half into a small jellie jar. The rest is still in the same container with plastic wrap between the jar and the lid... we'll see how that works.

Posted by Don Dixon

Thanks for this! I thought I was the only one. I was able to use a sharp-tipped soldering iron to melt a slit in the side of the black cap. It was then quite easy to insert a screw driver to pry the silly thing off.

Posted by Christine N

Thank you SO MUCH for this. My Gamblin Refined Linseed Oil 8.5 fl oz has the same top & it was *badly* stuck. I was trying with a sharp cutter and a screwdriver-- dangerous. These are accidents waiting to happen-- sad to see that someone actually needed stitches (posting above). Another name for them is negligence.

Posted by C-Marie

Thank you so much for this information ... has worked perfectly. Also, I store my Liquin upside down ... a suggestion fm online ... maybe here?? ..... and it remains perfect ... but I know not why!!

God bless, C+Marie

Posted by Oli

Thanks! Wasn't expecting any use from searching this online, but what a surprise. Just about shredded up my hand. Not again. Tore the black outer cap off. Hands now safe once more.

Posted by Cas

After trying constantly over 18 months to open my medium found the above well resorted to leather garden gloves & screwdriver got outer black cap off then craft knife distorted the inercap yay!!!

I'm in and the prize is - access to my medium I payed good money for. Now I need to go rest my poor tired arms for a few hours instead of painting as I'm 74 grrr

Posted by Brenda Cooper

thank you for your very helpful hint! I've been trying for a few months to open my W & N linseed bottle, giving up. Today found your advice and hey presto!

I am at a loss why this is a legal requirement. How many children are poisoned by artists supplies across the world in a year? One poisoning is a tragedy most definately!

However, it must be another case of the actions of a small minority effecting the majority, not uncommon today...

Posted by Tina Anderson

Thank you so much! My husband wasn’t home to open the Gamblin medium today. So happy to find a solution to this on going dilemma!

Posted by Hazel Hoggan

Just spent ages trying to open a bottle of Liquin!!!! Glad I found this post. After scrolling and seeing the hot water suggestions I have tried it. It works. Almost boiling water for a couple of minutes. Opened no problem.

Posted by Kar

THANK YOU!!! It has been so frustrating dealing with these bottles. Nice to know the trick!

Posted by Brian Adair

Thanks Patrick! I screwdrivered it! First post for this was 6 yrs ago. Still a problem! Come on W&N!

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