Professional Tool Reviews for Pros

5 Ways How to Open Clamshell Packaging

5 Ways How to Open Clamshell Packaging

If You’re Like Us, You Need These Clamshell Packaging Lifehacks

You probably haven’t lived much unless you’ve come up against the dreaded clamshell packaging. Its tough, rigid nature is nice for manufacturers since it makes the product easy to display, cuts down on shoplifting, and reduces returns. On the other end of the sale, it’s a nightmare for us as consumers. It has its origins somewhere in the bowels of a corporate meeting at either Sam’s Club or Costco as a method of reducing shrinkage (retail theft). Knowing how to open clamshell packaging remains one of life’s greatest mysteries.

Originally created as a protective shell that could be easily opened, clamshell packaging eventually morphed into something inhuman…sadistic, even. While it achieved its ends, it did so at the expense of the consumer’s sanity.

We’re here to help you fight back.

Method 1: How to Open Clamshell Packaging with a Can Opener

The method that really intrigued me was the can opener method. Yep, your plain old household can opener can be a Godsend when it comes to opening that clamshell packaging. Admittedly, I was skeptical. But then I tried it.

It worked.

I kind of wished that I had more clamshell packaging to open up after that. Alas, I needed to get on with my day. Four brand new batteries needed charging and I had other new toys to play with.

Method 2: Makita 12V Max Multi-Cutter

The Makita 12V Multi-Cutter cuts almost anything. Clamshells prove no match for the spinning angular blade on this tool. We took it to town on several packages and always came away pleased with the results.

Makita 12V Max Multi-Cutter - cardboard, plastic—you name it!
Use the Makita 12V Max Multi-Cutter on cardboard, plastic—you name it!

Method 3: Metal Shears or Aviation Snips

The same metal shears or aviation snips that can cut through thin sheet metal also tackle plastic clamshell packaging. Just work your way around the outer edge of the packaging and pop open the middle when you free the middle. We’re reached for this tool too many times to remember. It works every time and doesn’t make a mess—or leave you with any injuries!

open clamshell aviation snips

Method 4: How to Open Clamshell Packaging with a Utility Knife

This method delves into the more dangerous methods—so use good judgment and don’t say we didn’t warn you! Always cut away from yourself and pay attention to where the blade is at all times. Finally, if you want to know how to open clamshell packaging with a utility knife, be sure to only expose a very small portion of the blade. Most utility knives let you do this, and it can really help minimize injury if the blade slips or goes where it isn’t wanted.

OLFA MXP best snap-off Utility Knife

With a utility blade we typically trace the contour of the tool until we cut it free and can easily peel away the plastic. Just be sure to note the position of your hands while you cut and don’t put yourself in a position where the blade can get loose on you and cut across your hands or fingers.

Method 5: Last Resort—the Pocket Knife

We actually hate this method unless nothing else is available. You need a really sharp knife for it to work—in which case follow the directions above. The problem with a pocket knife is that you cannot minimize blade exposure. It’s all or nothing.

I remember one time when I was without my favorite EDC, the ZT 0707 knife. I had an unfortunate accident that resulted in a bent clip, and I hadn’t had time to fix it. So there I was stuck trying to open four brand new batteries without a knife. Did I mention that I was in the middle of moving and didn’t know where my scissors were, either?

It was during this 15-minute epic man-vs-plastic battle that I realized a technique that seemed to work well. Insert your knife into the packaging point-first, but parallel to the flat side of the packaging. Once the packaging is pierced, the blade is inside. Work it around the package—always keeping the blade moving away from you.

Eventually, you’ll have enough of the material sliced to peel it open and remove the contents safely.

Bonus Method: Heavy-Duty Scissors

Some manufacturers, like Crescent Wiss, make heavy-duty scissors (which they call “tradesman shears) that can quickly get through even the toughest clamshell packaging. Our method using these tools has us cutting off the entire top. Next, run down each side to create a flap that you can pull open and remove the contents.

5 Ways How to Open Clamshell Packaging

Don’t try this with your regular kitchen scissors, however. You’ll likely bend or break them the first time you try them on clam shell packaging.


If you’ve ever had sweat dripping off your forehead and a couple of cuts on your hands from opening a few batteries, you’re not alone. There are better ways! Follow the steps above and try to avoid the more dangerous methods and you can become the clamshell master you always dreamed of.

Try out these clamshell lifehacks for yourself. If they work for you (and at least one of them will), let us know.

And then tell us if you started keeping a can opener in your shop like we do… I have it on good authority that using your wife’s can opener on tool products will make for an unhappy Lady—so get your own!

So guys, when I see you in the kitchen section at your local Bed, Bath, and Beyond, just give a two-finger salute with your right hand. That’ll be our signal that we’re there for man stuff. Just don’t do it while wearing skinny jeans and carry a latte. That’ll get your man card revoked immediately.

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the person that invented clam shell packaging is probably the FBI’s most wanted, and is the worlds most hated person. EVER.

Cheng Liu

I use a Ryobi 4v cordless electric shears. It cuts through clamshell packaging easily.


Trama Shears will cut through anything, even plastic packaging. And they are even TSA friendly. I always have a pair of these with me:


Skinny jeans, latte in one hand AND a shopping list for salad ingredients will certainly get your Man card revoked indefinitely!


I use a hook blade roofing knife it zips around the outside almost as cleanly as the can opener but a quarter of the time

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