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todd_k 02-21-2006 05:24 PM

Cleaning/sanitizing bottles
I have a 25 gallon rubbermaid full of my bottles w/ bleach water. I want to remove the labels, clean them, sanitize them, then bottle. Should I dump the bleach water, rinse/scrub the bottles and old labels, then soak them again in sanitizer? I would prefer to dump the bleach water as soon as possible but I'm not sure if I should scrub the bottles while they are still in the bleach water or after I dump it.

El Pistolero 02-21-2006 05:33 PM

Scrub them as necessary, then rinse them well and let them air dry. Sanitize them separately just before you're ready to use them...preferably with a no-rinse sanitizer like star-san or iodophor.

todd_k 02-22-2006 03:36 AM

Here are some observations on cleaning bottles, removing labels. I soaked the bottles in bleach water for almost 24 hours.

Heineken bottles now user stickers for labels so the water/bleach do nothing to get that stuff off.
Magic Hat, Hop Hog IPA, Sam Adams, and Dogfish Head IPA labels came off real easy.

Saranac labels are apparently fused to the bottle with some form of kryptonite-laced glue. These were the biggest pains to get off the bottle.

I used a scraper to get the labels off that didn't just fall off. It's basically a flat razor black with a handle. The blade can come out and be replaced if it gets dull. This scraper was a big help.

Be careful with accepting bottles from friends. Some people don't clean out the bottles enough (or at all) and you find some fuzzy friends when cleaning them.

Thor 02-22-2006 05:15 AM

I find that bleach is a terrific cleaner in that it tends to remove or at least substantially loosen the gunk that can accumulate in used beer bottles. So, if you've been soaking the bottles in a bleach solution of at least 2T bleach/ 5 gallons or so, wear some thick rubber kitchen gloves and, using a Jet Washer if you have one, blast out the insides with hot tap water for about 10 seconds each.

If you don't have a Jet Washer, just rinse and shake each bottle a few times, then let drip dry. Sanitize later with Iodophor or your preferred no-rinse solution. Of course, check the bottles and make sure they look clean inside and out (inside is most important).

You can, of course, just rinse with hot tap water right from the bleach solution and drip dry. You'll need to make sure the bottles are thoroughly rinsed. Some folks disagree with the use of bleach, but if you have hot tap water, it shouldn't be a problem (I use bleach often, no problems with taste, etc).

GABrewboy 02-22-2006 12:32 PM

OXYCLEAN will remove those labels and the glue within a couple to few hours!! That stuff works like a charm. Then you can re-soak them in the bleach water then sanitize them with whatever you are using for sanitation purposes.

cweston 02-22-2006 02:09 PM

Plain old washing soda from the laundry detergent section of the supermarket is good for soaking labels off: I think about 1/3 cup to 5 gallons, soak a few hours. Most labels fall right off easily. You can take a scotch-brite pad or some such thing and easily wipe any gummy residue off.

Make sure you rinse well afterward, because it does tend to leave a white residue on and in the bottles if you don't.

SteveM 02-22-2006 02:12 PM

Stoudt's Brewery bottles use a glue that appears to be chemically related to the stuff they use in Post-It notes. I am vaguely surprised that they stay on a bottle wet with condensation. It is like they thought of us home brewers when they put them on. These are the exact same bottles that my HBS sells for about ten bucks a case too. In the future, if you can get Stoudt's (which makes a hack of a brew), you might think of going this route.

cweston 02-22-2006 02:23 PM


Originally Posted by SteveM
These are the exact same bottles that my HBS sells for about ten bucks a case too.

I'm a cheap person--I find it hard to fathom that people actually pay for bottles.

OTOH, we don't have a bottle deposit here in Kansas, so it's relatively easy to collect bottles from friends, from the recycle center, and of course, from drinking beer.

When I started brewing, I amassed 8 cases or so of bottles over the course of six weeks or so. I never bought any (except the ones that came with beer in them).

cgravier 02-22-2006 02:29 PM

a few hours...try 30 min.
my bottlle de-labeling procedure is simple and fast. Just soak the bottles in really hot water with dish soap for about ten minutes. after this time i peel as much of the label off as i can (usually all that is left is the glue) then i let them soak another 10-15 min. Then with a rag and a little elbo grease i scrub the rest of the glue off.(it helps to wear gloves, unless youve got heat resistant superman-hands)

i mostly use sam adams bottles which i would say are meduim to hard to get the labels off. some bottles are ready to be scrubbed after only ten min.

i dont mess with bleach, except as an eye drop (it gets the red out)

Lou 02-22-2006 03:50 PM

i agree with the sentiments on stoudt's and saranac...they are definitely the opposite ends of the spectrum when it comes to label adhesive. i use the same method as cgravier because i'm too cheap/lazy to go to the store and get this highly touted oxyclean you've spoken of... works well enough

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