Alternative to PBW for cleaning SS fermenters

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Spivey24

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Hey all, just looking for an alternative to PBW for cleaning SS fermenters. I have 5 Anvil bucket fermenters, and find PBW kind of a pain. Plus it’s not great for my septic system. I would prefer to scrub with a cleaner and soft brush, rinse, and be done. Always StarSan right before use.
I read the unscented dish soap can lead to head retention issues, and BKF is probably too abrasive for use everyime, so looking for a good cleaner that rinses well. Also have well water with a softener so some cleaners may not be as good with that.
 

IslandLizard

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and find PBW kind of a pain
What is the pain/issue, except for an astonishingly high price if not bought in bulk?

PBW is basically 70% Sodium PerCarbonate (Oxiclean Free) and 30% Sodium MetaSilicate (TSP/90), and a dash of EDTA.
A homemade version is made from the components in parenthesis. Most leave the EDTA out.
 

IslandLizard

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Plus it’s not great for my septic system. I would prefer to scrub with a cleaner and soft brush, rinse, and be done.
Maybe after cleaning most of the debris out with water and some PBW, Oxiclean, or cheap Washing Soda, collect the 2nd round of cleaner solution into a bucket and reuse a few times. Then dispose of the waste water outside the septic system?

I use a stiff hand brush to scrub off krausen and boil rings.
How much are you using and sending down the drain?
 
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Spivey24

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The pain is the filling the fermenters with 7 gallons of hot water, mixing in the PBW, finding somewhere to sit for 30 minutes, then draining and rinsing with hot water. It either ends up sitting in the kitchen sink or if doing a couple fermenters, find somewhere else to rest, or lug 5 gallon buckets of hot water to the fermenters outside. Again, would rather scrub and be done in a few minutes, rather than a 45 minute process that I have to come back to.
 
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Spivey24

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Maybe after cleaning most of the debris out with water and some PBW, Oxiclean, or cheap Washing Soda, collect the 2nd round of cleaner solution into a bucket and reuse a few times. Then dispose of the waste water outside the septic system?

I use a stiff hand brush to scrub off krausen and boil rings.
How much are you using and sending down the drain?
using 7 gallons to fill fermenter which seems to require 4 tablespoons worth of PBW.

It’s difficult to reuse PBW due to the hot temperature requirement unfortunately.
 

IslandLizard

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Again, would rather scrub and be done in a few minutes, rather than a 45 minute process that I have to come back to.
That's what I'd do. ^
I never fill entire kettles, fermenters, or kegs with cleaning solution, or even sanitizer.
I'd rather use a stronger gallon to scrub with than weaker one for a full soak.

If you want to soak, you can do it "overnight" (12-24 hours). You'd only need a 1-3 tablespoons of washing soda per 5 gallons. A 3 or 4 pound box of washing soda ran $4 last time I bought one. Or use generic Oxiclean.
 

eric19312

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I am ok scrubbing my kettles with a stiff brush or a green scrubby but I will not do that to my fermentor. It's got a mirror polish on the inside and I want to keep it that way. I use a soft sponge to get off majority of the gunk and then CIP because it is 18 gallon fermentor. But if it was a 7 gallon bucket CIP would be silly and I'd clean it on my Mark II just like I clean buckets, carboys and kegs.
 

IslandLizard

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I am ok scrubbing my kettles with a stiff brush
Yeah, a stiff and dense brush, with many tightly packed bristles. The (cheap) Dollar Tree nylon hand brushes (~2" x 4") have been working well for me.

I also use their (thin) "scouring" pads (10 for $1 !). They're not very abrasive (nothing like a Scotch pad), even less so after a few uses elsewhere. I even use those inside my plastic bucket fermenters. There's no scratching, a (s)light polishing, if anything.

On the inside of stainless fermenters, not much should stick that a stiff brush and some Oxiclean/Washing soda can't remove.
 

DuncB

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Hose out with tap water and get the general debris off with sponge, then CSP sprayball and a strong solution of oxiclean recirculated. Then rinse round with starsan does the trick for me. Chuck any other small heat tolerant bits in at the same time.
 

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Someone posted that Oxiclean loses its effectiveness pretty quickly after being mixed. I have not been able to confirm that assertion. Can someone confirm or deny? I mix it up and store it in plastic containers is why I am asking.
 

rushpapers

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I am so glad I found this thread. I read it, then did more research, and bottom line is... PBW is overpriced. I can spend 1/4 of the $ I spend on PBW and basically get the same chemicals.
 

IslandLizard

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Someone posted that Oxiclean loses its effectiveness pretty quickly after being mixed. I have not been able to confirm that assertion. Can someone confirm or deny? I mix it up and store it in plastic containers is why I am asking.
Oxiclean, being Sodium PerCarbonate, is washing soda (Sodium Carbonate) that includes a loosely bound Oxygen atom.

When dissolving Oxiclean in water, the loosely bound Oxygen atoms form Oxygen gas (O2)*. The O2 helps destroy organic deposits, but will dissipate over time (say, within 24 hours). It's most abundant right after dissolving, especially in hot water. Makes for some spectacular TV too!

So Oxiclean loses the bubbly (O2) after some time, like when recovered and stored after use. But the leftover washing soda solution is still a powerful and effective cleaner.

I use washing soda for most general brewery cleaning, only reach for (generic) Oxiclean or (homemade) PBW for where it counts the most. Such as cleaning hop bags used in the boil, recirculating boiling hot through hoses and plate chiller, etc.
 

Curtis K.

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[edit - oops, I see that IslandLizard posted much of what I said while I was writing my reply...]

The thing with oxyclean (Sodium Percarbonate Peroxyhydrate) is that when mixed with water it releases hydrogen peroxide, which decompose into water and oxygen - that is why it bubbles and will build pressure in a sealed container. As I understand the decomposition process is what does the cleaning. Increasing the temperature of the solution increases the decomposition rate.

I buy Sodium Percarbonate Peroxyhydrate in 55lb bags (currently $63/bag) from a TCW Equipment, a winery supply company (I live nearby): Sodium Percarbonate Peroxyhydrate (ProxyCarb) - 55 lbs.

I use it along with all sorts of other cleaners (TSP, sodium meta-silicate, borax, washing soda) and haven's settled on one best mix. I keep it warm/hot by heating it back up in my boil kettle.

Cheers!
 

Sundy

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Thanks for the info. I will mix my Magic Goo as I need it rather than have it stored. Is there a link to "(homemade) PBW" that you can share?
 

IslandLizard

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Thanks for the info. I will mix my Magic Goo as I need it rather than have it stored. Is there a link to "(homemade) PBW" that you can share?
You can store it as a cleaning solution. Although it doesn't retain the O2 oomph, it's not always needed anyway. The O2 action is quite a bit overrated, IMO.

Homemade PBW:
70% Oxiclean "Free."
  • Generic is fine. But the % of Percarbonate it contains varies widely. The balance is made up with Sodium Carbonate (common washing soda).
  • The "Free" points to "fragrance free." ;)
30% TSP/90 (Sodium MetaSilicate).
  • You could use original, real TSP instead, or partially, if you prefer. The "phosphor ban" seems to have been lifted/relaxed quite a while ago, after it had been removed from most, if not all, laundry products.
I usually mix a pound of it at a time. Accuracy in the mixture is not all that important. Close it good enough. Runs about $2.00-3.00 a pound that way.

We also buy the actual FiveStars PBW in 50# buckets through our bulk grain buy. It comes out around the same price per pound as mixing your own. We then split those buckets among those who signed up (and paid) for it.
 
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Spivey24

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So is PBW or washing soda or oxiclean effective for scrubbing and not soaking? I guess I didn’t consider I could just dissolve a tablespoon or so in a little hot water and use that to scrub the fermenter down instead of filling the whole fermenter with water and soaking it. I’ll give that a try. That will cut down on the amount of PBW I am flushing down the drain too.
 

IslandLizard

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So is PBW or washing soda or oxiclean effective for scrubbing and not soaking?
Absolutely! Especially for larger vessels.
Sure, it takes a little elbow grease. Just brushing it on, then let sit for a few (5-10) minutes then scrub again. Repeat until clean.

I clean corny kegs with a good gallon of hot (homemade) PBW. I usually clean 3-5 kegs at a time, lined up in successive stages of cleaning/sanitizing/pre-purging. I can completely clean 3 kegs, leaving them 100% liquid pre-purged, ready for filling with beer in 45 minutes. Yup, it's a bit of a workout!

(I really need to build that keg washer...)
 
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Spivey24

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Nice. Do they make any semi- industrial high temp dishwashers that would fit a corny keg or fermenter? That might be my ultimate solution. Unfortunately my kitchen dishwasher won’t even fit the 7 gallon fermenter because the top rack is not removable.
 

Sundy

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Nice. Do they make any semi- industrial high temp dishwashers that would fit a corny keg or fermenter? That might be my ultimate solution. Unfortunately my kitchen dishwasher won’t even fit the 7 gallon fermenter because the top rack is not removable.
I looked at commercial dishwashers and $3500 was the cheapest I saw. You might want to try something like this. Bucket Blaster - Keg and Carboy Washer | MoreBeer
 
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Nice. Do they make any semi- industrial high temp dishwashers that would fit a corny keg or fermenter? That might be my ultimate solution. Unfortunately my kitchen dishwasher won’t even fit the 7 gallon fermenter because the top rack is not removable.
Build yourself a small wash rack of sorts with a pond pump, a CIP ball and a container large enough to fit a rack and how solution in.
 

IslandLizard

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IslandLizard

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DavidWood2115

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I was looking at something more like this:
And without the float switch, of course.
From the user manual:
Your pump has thermal over-load protection built in. It is not recommended for pumping liquids over 120 F. The thermal overload protector will automatically shut down the pump in an overheat situation. It will then reset itself once the pump cools down. This overload is designed as a safety device and it will fail after repeated use. Normal operation is for fluids between 32 F & 120 F.

The recommended temperature range for PBW is 130F-180F, which is above the range for this pump. It might still work, but I would look for one that is rated for the range you intend to use it in.
 

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I really like this pump for a few bucks more. It fits a 5 gallon bucket nicely for a keg washer and is quite powerful. It doesn't take much depth to prime so 2 gallons is plenty to clean several pre-rinsed kegs. I'm not sure of the max temp but I mix my cleaning water with 140F tap water and haven't had an issue. I built a PVC contraption that screws onto the top of the pump. It has arms to support the keg, lines to the gas and liquid ports to clean those (and they work really well!) and a spray ball at the top.
 

Birrofilo

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Hot water, very hot water, boiling hot water will dissolve anything and their dog.

A SS fermenter can be cleaned with hot water and a bit of soap. It can then be rinsed with hot water. I have never found anything inside a kettle or a fermenter that cannot be cleaned with hot water and a little bit of soap. PBW is for cleaning the pump without disassembling it. And even that, only once in a while. My normal way to clean the pump is hot water and a little of soap.

You never need to fill the fermenter or the kettle with water. A soft sponge with hot water will take away everything. If you have scorched caramel on the bottom of your kettle (which is the most difficult thing to take away), vinegar will also help a lot. Let the vinegar sit on the scorched caramel, scrub a little bit to allow the vinegar to penetrate the mass. It will go away in a few minutes.

The advantage of a SS fermenter is that it can be cleaned with hot water.
 

eric19312

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I really like this pump for a few bucks more. It fits a 5 gallon bucket nicely for a keg washer and is quite powerful. It doesn't take much depth to prime so 2 gallons is plenty to clean several pre-rinsed kegs. I'm not sure of the max temp but I mix my cleaning water with 140F tap water and haven't had an issue. I built a PVC contraption that screws onto the top of the pump. It has arms to support the keg, lines to the gas and liquid ports to clean those (and they work really well!) and a spray ball at the top.
Hey matt that pump specs says it is rated for maximum working temp of 120. I also use a sump pump rated at 120 and pump CIP solution up to 140 with it but really wish I could go to 160. I also saw this on the warnings
This pump is not designed to handle salt water, brine, laundry discharge, or any other application which may contain caustic chemicals, highly chlorinated water, and/or foreign material.

I'd think PBW and other cleaners would fall in the laundry discharge category.
 

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What is that tool?
I can't believe that the water stays hot for long being sprayed into cold kegs and vessels or do you heat it somehow?
Must be ambient by the time you've done 5 kegs or so.
Just goes to show how well it works even cool.
 

eric19312

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Not sure who that question was directed to but yes I use an immersion heater to keep my PBW solution hot whether I am cleaning a bunch of kegs with my Mark II or running a CIP ball in my fermentor with my sump pump. I wish these cheap pumps could handle hotter but PBW at 130-135 works fairly well.
 

matt_m

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I'm using homemade PBW (the older oxyclean/TSP90/7th Generation recipe.). After 4-6 kegs its still quite warm but not hot. I pre-rinse all my kegs sometime between pulling them out of the kegerator and the day I wash a pile of them so yes they are room temp, but also I'm not really trying to remove crud either by the time they see the washer.
 

lauran910

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Hey all, just looking for an alternative to PBW for cleaning SS fermenters. I have 5 Anvil bucket fermenters, and find PBW kind of a pain. Plus it’s not great for my septic system. I would prefer to scrub with a cleaner and soft brush, rinse, and be done. Always StarSan right before use.
I read the unscented dish soap can lead to head retention issues, and BKF is probably too abrasive for use everyime, so looking for a good cleaner that rinses well. Also have well water with a softener so some cleaners may not be as good with that.
image.jpg


I was about to post about a cheap alternative I found for pbw and is septic safe. Seventh generation dishwasher detergent powder free and clear. Used it for a couple batches. Doesn’t foam so I can use it in my Mark’s keg washer. I use it to soak and clean bottles too. It’s maybe 3$ for 3 lb and works just as well as pbw. It’s also easy to find at most grocery and big box stores.
 

NSMikeD

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View attachment 725377

I was about to post about a cheap alternative I found for pbw and is septic safe. Seventh generation dishwasher detergent powder free and clear. Used it for a couple batches. Doesn’t foam so I can use it in my Mark’s keg washer. I use it to soak and clean bottles too. It’s maybe 3$ for 3 lb and works just as well as pbw. It’s also easy to find at most grocery and big box stores.
I just did a post in @lauran910 thread on this. They remove the laurel sulfate which is the foaming agent in most soaps, detergents and shampoos. While sodium carbonate will also disinfect (which IMO also makes it a good sanitizer) and a cleaning agent, this looks effective. Make sure it’s the free and clear. The other 7th generation uses the foaming agents

oxy will get in deep and the O2 will break down organic and cell walls making it an effective cleaner, I use a lot less these days with a good rinse with hot waters and scrubbing away pouring oxy solution all about and nit entirely filling the vessel. I brew smaller batches so I can pick up shake.

i put about a half gallon aside to soak lines, connections, airlocks etc. I cut my use to about 1tbl of powder.

Oxy has that second benefit of killing bacteria in advance of a Star San.
 
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