What is the best way to open thick clamshell packaging, like this:

clamshell packaging

I usually use scissors, but it's difficult when the plastic is particularly thick or the item is oddly shaped.


Wikipedia has a nice solution:

Household scissors or a utility knife are sometimes used to open difficult packaging.

Tin snips are effective for tough plastics; the higher mechanical advantage of compound metal snips make it possible to cut such packages open even using little hand strength. These packages can also be opened with an ordinary household can opener.

Use a can opener to open blister packs and avoid cutting yourself

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  • Hello nicael! I just wanted to say that using a Can Opener for this task seems pretty ingenious :) However, can you show any pics of it actually working, because it seems like it may not work that well in hindsight and for me unfortunately(unless I was doing it wrong). That is just a suggestion, Thank You for your awesome contribution and I hope to see you around Life Hacks! – Pobrecita Jan 11 '15 at 2:00
  • @dar Indeed, as of now, my answer looks weak. I'll support it with images as soon as I can :) – nicael Jan 11 '15 at 6:40
  • I did not mean any offence, just I had trouble seeing how the can opener method worked. You wouldn't of gotten a 500 rep bounty if it was weak, lol! – Pobrecita Jan 11 '15 at 7:16
  • @dar No, you comment wasn't offensive at all :) I mean that my answer is very small itself :) – nicael Jan 11 '15 at 7:19
  • According to Inventor Spot article, using can opener doesn't work. – kenorb Jan 24 '15 at 11:35

I have found it easiest to run a razor knife / utility knive along two adjacent sides, avoiding the sealed edge. The plastic is very hard and durable where the seal is, but it is relatively thin if you move in a bit from the seal. Cutting along two adjacent sides in an "L" formation allows for easier access to the product, and helps to avoid getting cut by the plastic's edge.

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You're probably not necessarily looking for the 'best' way to open it, but one that will work when you're in the middle of nowhere, you just purchased an item from a store, and for obvious reasons don't carry scissors with you.

Chances are you don't care for the cardboard packaging or imagery (and want to vent your frustration on a bad design). If you're out and about, one thing you are probably always carrying with you is a house key (if you use one of the square ones, you're out of luck).

  1. On the flattest, widest part of the surface (double check there's no cables or useful parts underneath or hidden by the cardboard - physically feel it), apply the 'sharp' point of the key and cut up and down (preferably in the centre as a line). You'll have to repeat this process as a key is fairly blunt - but it does mean you will avoid any serious cuts.

  2. Once you get a line in (the wider the open line, the easier this will be), place either hand or fingers like you would pull apart two curtains. Apply brute force and pull apart in opposite directions. What will happen is the line will further split and allow you to worm out the item and contents.

This might seem inefficient, but cutting a slot and pulling apart is sometimes actually easier than scissors, and it's a neat trick if you're in a remote area.

(If you don't have such a shaped key, it might be worth getting one.)

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  • I used a similar approach but without a key getting into a package containing earphones on a flight recently. Took about 20 minutes of frustrated prying. – Martin Smith May 30 '15 at 15:24
  • key worked awesomely, rather than trying with not-so-pointy end, i used more sharp key teeth part, after 4-5 lines in same path it started to divide plastic. Rest is history – Padvinder Apr 12 '16 at 11:23

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