A recurring theme in the nightmares of many preppers and zombie apocalypse aficionados is a scenario in which survivors hunker down in their bunkers, surrounded by cans of food that should help them wait out the storm, only to realize that they’ve forgotten to pack a can opener. Quite a frightening thought, isn’t it? Well, it doesn’t have to be—there’s an easy way to open a can without any handy little implements, and the only thing you need in order to do so is a material that’s found all over the world:

Concrete.

If you have any canned goods in the house, take a quick look at the cans’ tops for a second. You’ll notice that there are two edges that have been sealed together in order to keep the contents fresh and edible, which is why people generally use a can opener or other sharp blade to pierce through to the tasty contents within.

To get to the delicious niblets inside those cans without any tools, you need to break through that bonded seal, and that can easily be done by rubbing the top of the can over a concrete surface. The way this works is quite simple: if you’ve ever fallen on concrete, you might have ended up with scraped knees, elbows, hands, etc. Why is this? Because concrete generally has a rough texture that is as ideal for opening cans as it is unkind to skin surfaces.

Opening the Can

To open your can, place it top-side down onto a piece of concrete. This could be a cinder block, a sidewalk, or any other cement surface that happens to be nearby.

Place the palm of your hand on the bottom of the can, apply a fair bit of pressure to it, and then scrape the can back and forth across the concrete surface. Doing so will wear away the seal on your can, but be patient—it’s better to take your time and wear it down slowly than to scrape it too hard, too quickly. You don’t want to end up forcing the seal open and getting concrete dust and grit in your food.

Once you’ve worn away the seal, all you have to do is squeeze the sides of the can gently and the top should just pop open. If it doesn’t, scrape away at it a little bit more and then try again. I know this sounds almost too simple to be true, but I’ve tried it myself and it does actually work.

Be careful after popping the edges apart as they may have been sharpened by the friction and you probably don’t want to slice your hand open. In situations where you may not have immediate access to medical supplies, getting tuna juice or beef stew into an open cut is an invitation for some nasty infections. Let’s consider this a reminder to ensure that you always have a basic first aid kit in the house: not only can you patch yourself up with its contents, but you can use an alcohol swab to clean off your concrete surface if any canned goods spill out over it. Keeping things as clean as possible will lessen the chance of illness from rotting food particles and cross-contamination.

If you’re having difficulty visualizing how this could work at all, check out this video. In it, a couple of terribly cool Russian guys (they call themselves “Crazy Russian Hackers”) give a demonstration on this very technique.

Just think of all the people in zombie films and Cold War shelters who could have benefited from knowledge of this technique! Talk about a true life-hack. Although some people may laugh off this technique as being ridiculous or extreme, you really never know when you might be in a situation where it might come in handy.

Love this article?