How to Clean Bottles For Your Homebrew

Posted on March 23, 2010 by

Bottle cleaning for your homebrew can be a tedious process and really no matter how you cut it, it is going to be a time commitment. I know when I was a beginner, I was wondering how I could save all these bottles I was drinking of craft brew for my homebrew. I started with some Dawn and water and spent a lot of time scrapping labels off with a knife and then sanitizing the bottle before filling it. As I searched the internet for help and, tried a couple of things on my own, I found the following to be a great process for cleaning bottles for my homebrew without spending a bunch of money on fancy tools like a bottle tree or a bottle rinse head for my faucets, plus I saved a lot of time with labels and pretty much guaranteed no stuck on gunk in my bottles or chlorine flavors from bleach.

The following is one avenue on how to clean bottles for your homebrew. If you have other ways that work really well, I’d love to hear about them. So please feel free to comment or send me a message on twitter.

I know a lot of people hate cleaning bottles, but I rather enjoy it. I find that no one wants to help me so its a time for me to grab a beer, turn on some tunes and have some me time doing something extremely easy.

How To Clean Bottles For Your Homebrew

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  • anonymous

    Dude, when you were a beginner? Didn't you start brewing in Nov '09?

  • anonymous

    And don't you still only brew with extract kits?

  • http://twitter.com/thebeerb1tch The Beer B1tch

    Thanks for the tip! The timing couldn't be better, as I'm bottling for the first time this weekend (2 batches done at once, yikes!).

    1 question – According to How to Brew, the dry cycle on a standard dishwasher is actually hot enough that it sterilizes the bottles. So couldn't you put them on a rinse and dry cycle and skip the sanitizing (that's what I'm hoping to do).

  • mikebiewer

    You are correct bigwig. I guess I don't really consider myself a beginner any more. I suppose more of a novice as I'm still experimenting with my process.

    I also don't believe there is anything wrong with brewing extracts and you seem to be throwing it in my face like I'm not as good as you are based on that. I hope that isn't the case.

    I created this article because there were a few people that have contacted me through email asking me how get the labels off their bottles and how to make sure they are clean and ready to go. Beginner or not, I believe my information is correct and helpful.

    Please let me know if you disagree.

    Thanks for the comment!

  • mikebiewer

    You sure could.

    My dishwasher doesn't have that kind of setting. The rinse is hot and probably would be sufficient, but they end up drip drying. So I toss them into sanitizer anyway based purely on the fact that I'm a chicken when it comes to sanitation.

    Thanks for the comments, glad you found it useful!

  • http://twitter.com/mattfurtado Matt Furtado

    I usually just fill a bin with some hot water & soap, wash/rinse all of the bottles and then bake them at 350 for 90 minutes & let them cool over night. This is said to be the best way to make sure they're completely sterilized, granted it might take a little longer.

  • Dylan

    Make sure you clarify that the bottle jet washer just rinses the bottle, and will still need to be sanitized. It's a fantastic tool and makes sure your get all the cleaner out of the bottle, but they'll need a bath in sanitizer to kill any bugs in your water.

    Good call on the OxyClean. RIP Billy Mays

  • http://www.simplybeer.com Simply Beer

    First, don't let people get you down about your experience level. you are what you consider yourself. Once you get a couple batches under your belt your no longer a beginner. Novice, maybe, but that really wasn't the point of your post. I commend you for sharing your finding and new found learning. Help other beginners, novice, or whatever homebrewers is great.

    I wrote a post about bottle washing and sanitizing about a year ago. http://www.simplybeer.com/blog/2009/02/03/de-la… When I found oxyclean it was like a god send. Granted I keg most of my beer, but still like to bottle some. The one thing I'd like to point out is try to avoid using soap when washing your bottles. If you rinse them after using and then rinse them again before sanitizing in the dishwasher there is no need for soap. It is just a matter of discipline and planning ahead. soap will kill the head retention in your beer.

    BTW, I've been brewing for over a decade with over 300 batches under my belt and I would still consider myself a beginner compared to some of the homebrewers and brewers I've met along the way. I still learn something new every time I brew.

  • me

    I find that most labels come off easily after just sitting in regular water for 48 hours

  • mikebiewer

    Yea, I heard about baking as well. I just can't bring myself to cooking my bottles. I bet they are pretty much 100% sterile after something like that though.

    Great tip man!

  • mikebiewer

    Yea, I believe I've got at the end of the post that you are ready to sanitize after these steps, but I suppose you could get a lil confused because I put those two little tools at the very end. I really like the oxyclean because it takes off all the gunk to aside from labels.

    Thanks for the comment!

  • mikebiewer

    It reminds me of what happens when you leave bottles in a cooler for an undetermined amount of time. The labels usually come right off. However, that isn't cleaning much. I like to get the gunk off from previous batches as well or whatever may be growing inside after the amount of time I spend in between cleanings.

    Thanks for the tip!

  • mikebiewer

    Thanks for the kind words my friend.

    It looks like your article is very similar to mine. It is a solid way to clean and de-label your bottles with minimal expense and space. I still rent and by no means have a lot of room to work half the time so I've started just cleaning batches one tub at a time. This seems to work best for me, which is why I posted it. I'm hoping that it helps anyone else out there searching for how to do this.

    I've found there are a lot of sites out there, like homebrewtalk, that have just a ton of great information, but its just a big wall of text with no pictures. I aim to change some of that information for the next generation of homebrewers. However, it has to be something that makes sense and actually works. So I guess you could say, while I learn, I'm sifting through bad information to present only the best solutions. I really enjoy when people come on here and give me a bunch of other tips. I've got a great way to start a siphon now that I'll be sharing in the future!

    Thanks again for the kind words. Its all about sharing information and enjoying a great beer!

  • http://dannisbet.com/ Dan Nisbet

    I'm sort of doing the same thing right now. I found that for the 'commercial' beers, the labels slide right off after about 30 minutes. I tossed the stubborn ones in OxyClean and I'll let those sit for a bit just to get the labels off, and then re-do the whole batch again in OxyClean before rinsing them. Seems to be working for me.

  • mikebiewer

    Cool! It is awesome that someone took my advice and is using it achieve their homebrewing goals! I really appreciate that!

  • guest

    You don't worry that baking the bottles might expand tiny air bubbles and compromise the integrity of your glass? I would never risk that personally when you can use PBW, scrubbing, and then StarSan to achieve nearly the same kill (10 log in 30 seconds with StarSan).
    Most glass has really small bubbles you can't see. If it isn't pyrex and in contact with water it normally isn't safe for that kind of heat IMO.

  • carpet cleaning melbourne

    Good synopsis of one way to clean your bottles for homebrewing.

  • 18eastbrewing

    I let all my bottles soak in regular old soap water, rather than using expensive pbw or oxy clean to de-label. After that all the bottles get hit with the jet, and then soaked in pbw for at least a half hour if not an hour. I have a big round container, like what a frat would use to cool a keg, that all the bottles will fit into so I get to do all of them at once. After the 30-60 minute soak they get pulled out, and the container gets filled with cool water and iodophor. The bottles go back in and stay in there until it’s time to bottle. I literally pull them straight out of the bucket, dump out whatever is left in the bottle, and then fill. The time between iodophor and beer is minimal, reducing the chance of anything taking refugee in a clean bottle.

  • Anonymous

    Sounds like you have some pretty clean bottles! I don’t use the oxy clean to de-label, it just happens to work as a de-labeler while I’m cleaning. In looking at what you’ve got here, you seem to have another step. You take the labels off, then clean, and I just clean and de-label at the same time.

    I do love your idea of keeping the bottles in iodophor until you are ready to use them. Seems like a nifty step. I usually just keep them upside down in a box until I’m ready to use them, then they get a dunk in StarSan and they are good to go. To each their own :)

    Cheers!

    Mike

  • Goudron

    Unless you heat your bottles to near the annealing point of the glass, it isn’t going to hurt – providing you allow the glass to cool slowly to ambient temperture.  Don’t throw the hot bottles into water and you’re good.  The annealing point of soda lime glass is around 1200F so I don’t think your oven is going to do that.

  • Anonymous

    Thanks for the info! Much appreciated.

    Mike

  • SpeedyCast

    Here is a few tips that work for me, I go through the normal
    process of removing the using the Oxyclean, a good brushing and then good rinsing
    with a jet washer. I store my bottles upside down until needed. Then the night
    before I bottle I place the bottles in the dishwasher and run it through the
    rinse and dry cycle. This will do a good job of sanitation. I also do my bottling
    over the open dishwasher door, the bottles are then right there handy and any
    drips land on the door, when I am through I just close the door and no more
    mess. Since I let my bottles cool before I bottle, I do give them a shot of starsan
    as I pull them out of the dishwasher just to make sure no unwanted critter had
    decided to take up residence there.  

  • Highlander

     Snob ….

  • Bob

    I think the dishwasher is doing a great job of cleaning the outside of the bottle, you need to have water spray inside the bottle to clean it properly.

  • Bob

    I think the dishwasher is doing a great job of cleaning the outside of the bottle, you need to have water spray inside the bottle to clean it properly.

  • T Smith

    I am going to try your method (just bought 3 lbs. of Oxi Clean), but wondered exactly what the “correct amount” of Oxi Clean you typically use (per gallon of water)??

  • Themorgyn

    A little ammonia works too.

  • alex hatcher

    just make sure the drying agent is removed or emptied

  • Anonymous

    Super-useful tip Mike – thanks!!! I used 4 scoops (about 1/3 cup) in my 10 gallon tub and that seemed to work fine.

  • Anonymous

    48/12oz. bottles fit perfectly in our dishwasher, so I blow them ouy with a bollte rinser then clean them in the dishwasher.

  • c.henderson

    i just soaked my bottles in hot water then, steel wool scrubbed the glue and crap off. so far its easy going.

  • Sam

    I know this post is pretty old, but I’d like to share my technique for removing labels on beer bottles. For cleaning my equipement I’m buying a Chlorine detergent from a local homebrew equipment supplier. I mix 2 tbs per gal of hot water in a 7 gals tub and I leave all the bottles submerged in the chlorine detergent a whole night.

    The day after, all the labels are in the bottom of the tub and there’s not even a trace of glue on the bottle, all is cleaned up without even rubbing ! All that is left to do is to rinse the bottles to remove any of the chlorine detergent, and let it dry !

  • IAmGruit

    Be sure to sterilize your bottle tree before hanging your bottles on its pegs to dry to avoid recontaminating them.

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