Are Dented Cans Dangerous?

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As part of our food storage we’ve been cleaning off the racks of dented canned food items whenever we find them on clearance. I have a whole shelf stacked full of dented cans. Well, today my husband called me worried ’cause he heard somebody say that dented cans are dangerous. I wondered if we’d wasted all of that money on food we’d have to toss, so I got online and did a little research. Here’s what I found out:

Yes. Dented cans could possibly be dangerous, but the majority of them are not.  Here’s how to tell the difference…


  • The most obvious way to tell if a can of food has spoiled is by pushing on the top and bottom of the can. If the top or the bottom of the can moves, or pops, the seal has been broken and it is not safe to eat.
  • If the can is bulging in any way, discard it. This is a sign that dangerous bacteria has been growing inside of the can, and the gases it is giving off is causing the can to swell. DO NOT open a can which is bulging. Breathing the gases inside is toxic.
  • If there is rust on the can it probably isn’t safe to eat out of. Rust can be a sign that air has penetrated the can, which will cause bacteria to grow inside.
  • When buying dented cans avoid the ones with dents along the seem of the top or bottom of the can.
  • If when you open the can it sprays out, spurts, or somewhat explodes, this is a bad sign.
  • If the dent is a sharp crease, it’s not safe.
  • And most obviously, if it’s leaking, toss it.

The downside to buying dented cans is that even though they are most likely safe when you buy them, over time the cans may be weakened and the above signs will begin showing up. So, the best thing to do is use dented cans right away, or open them up and re-can the contents.

I’m so glad to have learned what the danger signs are to watch out for. Unfortunately, it looks like several of the cans we bought are not going to be safe to eat. Better safe than sorry, right? From now on, I think I’ll avoid the dented can section all together.

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About Kendra 1035 Articles
A city girl learning to homestead on an acre of land in the country. Wife and homeschooling mother of four. Enjoying life, and everything that has to do with self sufficient living.


  1. If you submerge the cans under water in a bowl and no bubbles come up…can one assume that the seal has not been broken and is safe to consume? Thank you.

  2. Like Treva, I worked at a foodbank and many of the canned goods we received were dented cans from stores. Unless they had the signs exhibited by Kendra in the original post they were good to use.

    Also I volunteer for our local CERT group and a group of Mormons gave a talk on food safety. They are kings of canned goods if you didn’t know. She opened a can of 30 year old peaches. They were a bit mushy and slightly brown but tasted fine and were not harmful. She told us the expiration date is used to verify the nutritional label is 100% accurate and after that the nutrition begins to decline. There is no reason to toss expired cans or jars of food if there is no visible signs of damage. Stick with the science.

  3. Yes, most canned things do last well past the due date, but it does make a difference how they are stored, too. It’s best to store them in a cooler, dark area, same as home-canned foods.

  4. Kendra, in other countries as well there are dates on cans (France, Canada, Brazil being the ones I lived in). Actually Brazil has a very strict eat before policy.

    I am sure that for some stuff it is ok, but I would not know which one.

  5. Ive bought dented cans as long as they are only slightly dented at a salvage grocer where I live. I havent been there in several months, just because its not conviently located to me. They also had a special section of the store where you could buy out of date can, when I say out of date, I mean OUT OF DATE- like by 2 or 3 years even. I never bought out of date items, thats where I am particular. I always wondered, where the heck did they get cans so old? I saw a website, I dont remember, it may have even been a usda site saying that some foods are safe very much past their due dates, You wouldent belive it, I was shocked when I saw it. But thats where I sort of draw the line. I like stuff in good date.

    • Sandra,

      Actually, my husband was telling me the other day that the US is the only country which requires dates on our canned goods. That the food will actually stay good for many, many years. As long as the can is not bloated or rusty, the food is good. I haven’t looked into this, but I can believe it. I’m sure there’s money in it for somebody regulating dates on our canned goods.

  6. ONe idea is if you feel it is a “safe” dent, open the can and freeze the contents. Of course, you need a freeze to dot his. I was trained the same as Treva about how to tell if you should use the dented can. Barbara

  7. I used to work at a food bank. When we trained volunteers we had them keep cans that had “brush dents” in them. These are dents are more smooth, like the concave side of the spoon. “Crush dents” are where the metal actually creases (almost like in your photo — though I would have to actually feel the can to be sure); these have a higher rate of getting dangerous bacteria b/c pinpoint holes can form in the crease. And then, like you stated, we threw away anything that couldn’t be opened b/c the rim was badly damaged and anything bulging or with rust on it.

  8. Kendra,

    You may wish to do a bit more checking around. It has come to my attention that most cans are lined with BPA/Lead. Allegedly this is “not” leaching in to the food contained with in the cans. There are several schools of thought though. Better safe than sorry.


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