As strange as it may sound, there are good reasons to muffle the sound of a can opening. Such as opening a cool can of beer you smuggled into a chick flick inside a theater.
Beverages in cans have become so normal in our lives that people rarely give consideration to the noise they can make when being opened. But when the time comes that you want to open one quietly, here are a few suggestions you can use.
4 Best Ways to Quietly Open a Can With a Tab
Quietly opening a can with a tab just takes a little forethought and planning. Don’t shake it before you start.
Put the Can in the Freezer
If you know you are going to try to open a can quietly, put it in the freezer for a while first. This will help equalize the pressure between the can’s contents and the environment outside the can. Getting it close to freezing is ideal, but even 10 to 15 minutes is very helpful in taking some of the fizz out of the contents.
You will still have to deal with the popping part of the program, but a cooler can will come close to eliminating the noise of compressed carbonated air escaping. Once it is cool, you can try slowly and gently opening it by pulling up the ring. Hopefully, you have enough control to just get it to open a very little to relieve the pressure. Once it is no longer fizzing, continue to pull the ring until the can is completely open and ready to use. Make sure you are working on a flat surface and have a good grip on the can with your other hand.
Once your can is cold, give some thought to using one, or more, of the following can-opening methods with the cold can for even quieter opening.
Puncture the Can First
If you are not comfortable using the pull tab–even with a cold can–to ease the can open, gently puncture to top to relieve the pressure. Some of the useful gadgets you might use:
- Old Fashioned Can Opener. I tried one of these last night when I started the article. It punctured the cola can easily and almost silently, but could not find any purchase to take off the lid. The weird tapered design of the can prevented the opener from getting a grip. Unfortunately. For a second there, I thought the problem was solved.
- Sharp Knife. Beer and soda cans are made mostly of soft aluminum. Any knife with a sharp point will penetrate them fairly easily. Without needing a lot of force. The only thing required is enough dexterity to hold the can down on a solid surface, and hold the knifepoint down somewhere close to the edge. Use the palm of your other hand to drive the knife through the aluminum. (This does not really take a lot of strength or power.) Once you have punctured the top, work the knife blade around a bit to enlarge your hole. Remove the knife and let the pressure equalize.)
- Fork. Hold the can and fork in place with one hand on a solid surface. Drive the fork through the can top with your free hand. Make sure you only have one tine of the fork inside the rim. You can wiggle it around to enlarge the hole to allow gas to escape quicker. Or just remove it. Once the pressure is equalized, gently lift the pull ring to open the can.
Those are the three most obvious items you can use inside your house, although almost any sharp, stiff implement will do the job. Outside in the yard, in the garage, or on a job site your options multiply in a hurry. Slotted screwdrivers, utility knives, awls, all kinds of sharp and/or edged tools. Anything you use needs to be used the same way as the knife. One hand to steady the can and implement. The other hand to tap it through the can. Enlarge the hole, let the pressure equalize, then work at getting the can open.
Note: The last time I used my screwdriver, it was neck-deep in a caulking tube, and the utility knife was cutting fiberglass insulation. So if you or any of your drinking partners are a bit squeamish, you might want to carry a pocket knife around–for many things including opening cans quietly and a little more sanitarily.
Use Soundproof Material
If blankets are good for soundproofing windows (see our article Soundproof Blankets for Windows), fabric of some type will quiet the opening of a can with a tab. Dishtowels are great because they are thick enough to absorb most of the sound, yet thin enough to allow you to get a finger under the ring. If you can double the towel up where it passes over the top of the can–so much the better.
Even when using a towel, it is still important to be a little judicious and not just grab and yank. Get the towel wrapped around the can and hold it tight on a hard surface. (Although most of the sound comes from the top, some noise will pass through the beverage and sides of the can. Having the towel around the complete can should take care of any flanking noise.) Pull the ring up slowly until it cracks the lid. Wait until the pressure is equalized, then slowly pull the ring the rest of the way up to get the can all the way open.
In the case of most soundproofing, thicker and heavier is better. But in the case of pull ring cans, you still have to be able to grip the ring after covering it. So whatever you decide to use, please keep that in mind. In the house you can use any type of cloth that satisfies your needs. Outside you can use shirts, jackets, Tee shirts (which may not be pretty), or any other cloth that is handy.
Use Thumb Pressure
Forcing the lid tab down into the can with the base of your thumb is another option that should keep the process quiet. Depending on the strength of weakened scores on the tab, you may be able to push it down and open, or you may require a little mechanical help from the pull ring.
Usually using the pull ring to crack the can open and release the carbonated pressure works best if you can just give it a slow gentle pull to get it started. Once the pressure is equalized, use the base of your thumb to push the opening lid section down into the can. (Using the base of your thumb instead of the end, or using a finger is a good way to prevent spilling your blood into your drink. Aluminum can edges can be very sharp.)
Make sure you have a good grip on the can on a solid surface.
Why Open a Can Quietly?
Generally, few people even think of the noise made when opening a can. Mostly they just want the stuff out of the can and into the stomach. But here are a few occasions you might want to be quieter than normal.
- Everyone in the house is asleep and you want one more cold one.
- You are sneaking a beer without your parents’ permission.
- Your baby finally fell asleep–on your lap.
Can Opening Noises
When opening a can with a tab, you will hear 2 distinct noises–the tab popping sound of the scored portion of the top being forced open, and the fizzy sound of released pressure. More aggressive opening will make more noise because everything happens at once–and quickly.
Realistically, I think that using the first three suggestions together will give you the best results.
- Cool the can to reduce carbonated air pressure.
- Then use something to puncture the top of the can to gently relieve pressure
- And finally, cover it with a towel while you pull up the ring to open your drink.
Opening Non-Drink Cans Quietly
There are many other cans that we open regularly. Almost without thinking about it. Most of them are not carbonated or under pressure, which eliminates half of the sound that comes from opening most cans with tabs.
The quietest way to open soup cans, corn cans, fish cans, etc. is to step away from the electric can opener. You will get more noise from the opener than the actual opening of the can. Just use a manual can opener slowly. Realistically, the most noise occurs when the opener punctures the top of the can. And even that can be made quiet with patience.