Opening a 5 gallon bucket lid for the first time is a frustrating experience, but the right tools can make the job easy. The force needed to remove the lid varies depending on your choice of tools. Some require a bit more strength to manage the task, but overall it's a quick job. Things like cake icing and dill pickles also come in 5 gallon buckets, but most of us will only be dealing with paint or household maintenance items.
Removing the Lid
Place the bucket on a stable protected surface before you open it. A full 5 gallon pail weighs about 50 pounds and jockeying it into position is easier if the container is closed. Place the 5 gallon pail close to where you will need to use it for easy access.
Use a paint bucket opener, if possible. It is a hard plastic tool shaped like a "C" with a handle available at paint and hardware stores. Hook the top part of the "C" over the top edge and the lower part of the "C" under the rim of the lid.
Pry upward with the handle at intervals around the lid. If the can has flanges, or tabs with a slit between them, pry at the center of a tab. Work around the lid a couple of times, if necessary, to loosen it completely. When the lid is loosened, gently pry it up and grasp the edge to remove it.
If a bucket opener is not available, use a screwdriver and pliers. It is easier to pry up the flanges if they are first cut apart at the slit. Carefully cut downward using the utility knife.
Place the screwdriver under flanges or lid rim and pry up gently. Use pliers to pull the flanges up further. Work around the bucket until the lid is loose enough to be removed with pliers or fingers. Try not to damage the edge of the bucket with the screwdriver. Levering too hard can break down the bucket edge making it difficult to replace the lid.
Keep the lid clean and available for closing the bucket. When replacing it, use a cloth over the top to catch paint squirts and gently tap around the rim with a mallet or hammer. Wipe off wet paint drips.