Cleaning and Sanitation
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If you like doing dishes, you'll love brewing beer!

This is mostly true! as usual I won't duplicate the good information out there, but I will tell you what I use, and why...

OxyClean Versatile: Because they sell it at Sam's Club and it works to get most residues off all types of brewing equipment. I use this for the firs soaking of carboys, fermenters, kegs, etc.

Powdered Brewery Wash (PBW): It is essentially like OxyClean with Tri Sodium Phosphate (TSP) for extra cleaning power. You can add Red Devil TSP substitute to OxyClean to get similar results, but I'd rather not screw with mixing and I buy the 8lb just of PBW from Northern Brewer. I use this when OxyClean doesn't get all the residues off, mainly for sticky residues in the stainless fermenters.

Star-San: Foaming acid-based no-rinse sanitizer. Awesome sanitizer that stays on vertical surfaces due to the foaming, and requires no rinsing before contact with food or beer. Best all-around sanitizer. Doesn't affect head-retention in beer or affect the beer in any way, so rack your beer right into the foam. Don't fear the foam! Effectiveness of the working solution can be verified by a PH test. Check the viability with a PH test if you are unsure. A PH of 3 or lower is good.

Sani-Clean: Non-foaming acid-based no-rinse sanitizer. Same as Star-San without the foaming action. I like this for sanitizing bottles before bottling as it can be pured out with no foam remaining. Although the Star-San foam is harmless, it is nice to have nothing but my beer in the bottles.

Iodophor: Iodine-based sanitizer. This is the "old-reliable" of sanitizers. It works, but has a longer contact-time requirement than the acid-based products above. I'd use this if it were my only choice. You cannot be certain if a mixed solution is still effective as there is no test.

You have to clean everything before you can sanitize it, so don't take shortcuts! You can't sanitize a dirty object, and any bit of debris sticking to your tools or vessels can carry contamination. Dishwashing liquid is fine for a first cleaning if there are no heavy residues, but make sure you rinse thoroughly before sanitizing. I don't use cleaner/sanitizer products such as "One-Step" as there is documentation that they are not really good as a cleaner or sanitizer. Cleanliness is a key factor in brewing, and I'm not willing to take chances on using anything but the best stuff available. I don't use gimmicks!!!

How long does something remain sanitized? As the contaminants we are concerned about float around us in the air, something can only be considered "sanitary" as long as it is in contact with active sanitizer, or has been sealed while damp with sanitizer. Why is this important? It is important because some folks may sanitize a vessel or tool, and then leave it on the table, or touch it with unsanitized hands. Then they post on Brewboard wondering why they have am "infected" batch! :-) In reality "infection" is an incorrect term, and should be "contaminated."

Can I save sanitizer for next time? Yes, for a short time. We always keep a spray bottle of sanitizer around for any time we might need some spot-sanitization before touching or opening something. The acid-based sanitizers can be kept in plastic buckets for a few days, but no longer per the manufacturer. Check the viability with a PH test if you are unsure. A PH of 3 or lower is good. Avoid storing acid-based sanitizers in any metal vessel including stainless steel for any length of time as pitting and corrosion can occur. No, you won't eat a hole in your keg, but you will eventually pit the surface enough that bacteria can get a hold and be very difficult to kill. If you do the math, each 5 gallon batch of Star San costs about 50 cents, so toss that crap if you have any doubts. Even buying PH test strips is just wasting money.

All homebrew contains bacteria and contaminants! This being said, you must do your best to reduce the chance of contamination. This includes having excellent cleaning and sanitation practices, and proper storage of the beer you make. Although beer does not support any pathogens that harm humans, it will support a great variety of organisms that will alter the taste, and make it undrinkable at worst.

I never understand why people try to cut corners that may ruin a batch of beer! Doing it right is just too easy!

Email me at if you find errors, bullshit, or have questions.