Mold in Sanitizer

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Mekchu

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In recent months I started saving and reusing sanitizer. I was surprised today when i noticed mold growing in one of the three gallon jugs I had been using to save the sanitizer. On the surface, on the plastic jug the mold is black, but white mold is also floating throughout the liquid.

I'm a little distressed because I'm pretty sure this was the container I used to sanitize everything for my last yeast starter. Today,
mold in sanitizer.jpg
I racked the pale ale that I used the starter in and dry hopped it and everything looked and smelled ok.

I think I have pretty good sanitation practices, but if my sanitizer is growing mold I'm not sure what to think. The brand is one I'm sure everyone is familiar with: Easy Clean, distributed by LD Carlson, contains Sodium Carbonate Peroxyhydrate.

So my question: Is reusing sanitizer a common practice, a bad practice or what?
 

Surly

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I save my Star San in a five gallon bucket. I will mix up two and a half gallons And use it over the next three brew days or so. Although I have observed mold at times on the cover never in the sanitizer. I am fine with this process and have never had an issue. I only keep it a month or so then dump it and start over. Yes, saving sanitizer is a common practice.
 
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Mekchu

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I guess my error would be in keeping it too long. I don't remember exactly when I started saving it, but it is older than a month and more likely 2 months +.
 

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Sanitizer won't last forever. Evaporate, change chemistry, etc. all could happen. Star san has a thing about lasting longer with DI / RO water. But even then a shelf life.

FWIW I've even had old bottles of bleach get to a point where they're dead. Won't clean any more, don't have a smell, etc.

Youv'e exceeded the shelf life, clearly. Hope the beer is OK. Probably will be.
 
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Mekchu

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Sanitizer won't last forever. Evaporate, change chemistry, etc. all could happen. Star san has a thing about lasting longer with DI / RO water. But even then a shelf life.

FWIW I've even had old bottles of bleach get to a point where they're dead. Won't clean any more, don't have a smell, etc.

Youv'e exceeded the shelf life, clearly. Hope the beer is OK. Probably will be.
I was trying to make up for dumping 10s of gallons of fresh sanitizer by making this batch last forever. Apparently it doesn't work that way. Thanks for your comment.
 

day_trippr

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fwiw, I maintain roughly 6 gallons of Star San mixed with my RO water (tds < 10) for months at a crack just out of convenience. The volume is to allow purging cornelius kegs, and I'm not trying to stretch my 32 ounces of Star San, just trying not to be silly about mixing fresh batches weekly or something. I test pH bi-weekly, but will mix up a fresh batch if there's any debris on the bucket bottom...

Cheers!
 
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Mekchu

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fwiw, I maintain roughly 6 gallons of Star San mixed with my RO water (tds < 10) for months at a crack just out of convenience. The volume is to allow purging cornelius kegs, and I'm not trying to stretch my 32 ounces of Star San, just trying not to be silly about mixing fresh batches weekly or something. I test pH bi-weekly, but will mix up a fresh batch if there's any debris on the bucket bottom...

Cheers!
When you test pH what are you looking for? Because I'm using tap water (I'm unlikely to use RO water anytime soon) would testing pH help me? And again, what would this tell me?
 

day_trippr

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A standard Star San/Water mix is effective as long as the pH remains below 3. Or 3.5 - iirc I saw a reference to something Charlie Talley said that the threshold is actually 3.5, but I still would use 3 as that's been the most consistent number I've seen, and tbh I've never had a batch rise above 2.5, even after six months (that was an extreme case here).

Whether your tap water chemistry will tend to "age out" a mix earlier than later probably depends on the residual alkalinity. RO has essentially zero RA, so the PA in Star San can easily have its way with the water for an indefinite time. Otoh, if you have a ton of carbonates in your water that could push the pH above the desired band. Have you ever had your water tested for "brewing" needs?

Cheers!
 

day_trippr

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Arrgh - I intended to note this earlier: in times of high humidity my Star San bucket lid can start growing black mold dots - presumably mildew. It doesn't happen all that often and you have to look to find a colony or two - it's not like there's a black patina or anything that gross :)

If the batch is young-ish I'll clean the lid underside, and check above the "water line" for any other spots. Occasionally there'll be one or two on the bucket sidewall - always above the fluid level - and I'll wipe them off then rinse with the Star San...

Cheers!
 
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Mekchu

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A standard Star San/Water mix is effective as long as the pH remains below 3. Or 3.5 - iirc I saw a reference to something Charlie Talley said that the threshold is actually 3.5, but I still would use 3 as that's been the most consistent number I've seen, and tbh I've never had a batch rise above 2.5, even after six months (that was an extreme case here).

Whether your tap water chemistry will tend to "age out" a mix earlier than later probably depends on the residual alkalinity. RO has essentially zero RA, so the PA in Star San can easily have its way with the water for an indefinite time. Otoh, if you have a ton of carbonates in your water that could push the pH above the desired band. Have you ever had your water tested for "brewing" needs?

Cheers!
So test sanitizer before use and if pH is above 3 pitch and make a new batch. Presumably this will happen before it starts growing mold. is that right?

I had a Ward analysis in November when shifted from extract to all grain.

pH 7.8
TDS (ppm) 232
Cations/Anions, me/L 3.9/4.2
ppm
Na 25
K 4
Ca 38
Mg 10
Total Hardness, CaCo3 137
NO3-N 0.8
SO4-S 14
Cl 37
Co3 <1
HCO3 134
Total Alkalinity CaCo3 111
P 0.75
Fe <0.01

My extremely limited knowledge of water chemistry suggest to me my water is moderately alkaline. But then this water could come from the Potomac River or Occoquan reservoir and 3 different treatment plants.
 

day_trippr

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Mold may grow where there is no sanitizer - in my case I've never found evident mold in contact with the Star San mix, always above that line, mostly on the lid...

Cheers!
 

IslandLizard

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The mold is due to evaporation (of the water), that then re-condenses onto the headspace surfaces (including the inside of the lid).
Air does the rest.

I noticed the same issue as @day_trippr describes. And use a similar approach to remove it. The Starsan itself contains no mold. I looked at surface samples through a microscope.
 

bracconiere

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if this is a cost saving thing...what about canning quart jars in mason jars?just pressure cook a dozen and open one for every brew day? not sure how the temp would effect the santizer, but a thought....
 

day_trippr

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A bit hard to do a Star San purge with mason jars of solution, not to mention sanitizing my 24" O2 wand (whoops - I mentioned it ;)) or sanitizing transfer tubing, etc. Sprayers are ok for some things but you can't practically sanitize five feet of tubing with a sprayer nor purge a keg.

And again, in my case at least, it's not about saving money, it's about not having to make a fresh batch every time I want to sanitize something....

Cheers!
 

day_trippr

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Going from your accounting it appears your brews never live long enough to exhibit an evident infection.
So you have that going for you...

Cheers! :D
 

bracconiere

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Going from your accounting it appears your brews never live long enough to exhibit an evident infection.
So you have that going for you...

Cheers! :D

i live in the desert, gotta stay hydrated....(and i've tried 3 or so times to clean and sanitize in my 16 year career, every time, i get sour beer. last time, i think i gave up for good....i just get dusty which i can live with)
 

IslandLizard

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The brand is one I'm sure everyone is familiar with: Easy Clean, distributed by LD Carlson, contains Sodium Carbonate Peroxyhydrate.
That's similar to Oxiclean, an alkaline cleaner, not an acid sanitizer such as Starsan.
But the same principle applies, water from your solution evaporates then re-condenses on the walls of the headspace, filled with air and containing mold spores.
 

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All these comments involving star San don’t apply to easy clean I believe. It isn’t an acid sanitizer and doesn’t work the same. So simply looking for a pH below 3 doesn’t apply. I can’t be any more help then that because I have only ever seen easy clean in a beginner beer startup kit and didn’t even use it then. But for what it’s worth star San in a spray bottle is very easy to use to sanitize lines as well as fermenter. Just put the nozzle up to the line and spray. They foam then travels throughout the hose and hits every surface. Star San is an instant sanitizer so that’s all that’s needed
 

Murrayatuptown

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I tried to read most of the replies, and saw CSMURDOCK pointed out Easy Clean is not a sanitizer.
I was looking for someone to say that before I did.

I looked on the ldcarlson website and it says very little beyond being labeled as a cleaner, being oxygen-based, requiring no rinse, and good for removing labels.

Perhaps the 'no rinse' wording implies it is ok as a final step before...something...it doesn't say and I can see how people could assume '...before brewing...'.

I personally don't like ambiguity regarding chemicals and would keep thinking about it.

There was an MSDS (Material Safety Data Sheet). It says the product is a powder bleach destainer, and contains Sodium Percarbonate and Sodium Sulfate.

The 'per-' prefix in '...percarbonate' means molecularly it has an extra carbonate compared to Sodium Carbonate. The two chemical components are not the same as sodium peroxyhydrate cited.
Maybe the formula has changed, but I'm basing my comments on the one I found today.

Maybe it works, but I personally would not feel comfortable calling it sanitizing.

I haven't used it myself. Just based on what I read I don't see that it is intended for repeated reuse.

If you find residue, is that after the first time you use it, or after it began to reveal other visual characteristics?

I used up my powdered sanitizer and my current product is Star-San. I have found instructions somewhere (hopefully the bottle or they are not instructions but advice) that say how long it is good before it (chemically deteriorates). I don't remember what word was used...maybe 'oxidizes'.
Ed.: From what someone said later, the 'active' oxygen disappears with time, so it doesn't 'oxidize'...I guess it 'reduces'...it that's improper terminology, well, it's effectiveness is reduced.

When people say you can sanitize with bleach, they are implying chlorine bleach. Bleach is a functional term, not a chemical one. You should look at the chemical name. The laundry chlorine bleach I just looked said 7.5% sodium hypochlorite, 92.5% other ingredients...I assume water, but the on-bottle instructions for sanitizing DO say to rinse well afterward.

Even if you find a product that states it is usable for cleaning and sanitizing, those two functions may be at different concentrations.

If reusing a cleaner by pouring it into a container for reuse, I would assume it would transport undesirable residue if it was not used alone as 'sanitizer'. If reusing after cleaning which involved removal of visible debris, it may contain solids, small/invisible and/or dissolved materiald

But I am a pretty literal instruction-follower...to a degree others are not.

I agree with Mekchu's realization there is probably a practical limit to how long a previously used chemical compound can be stored & reused.

I edited my earlier (above) rambling because parts of it were incomprehensible to ME!

Auto-correct is evil enough...my phobe/phone auto-edits because it thinks it's a smartphone. Obviously it's a dumfone.
 
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IslandLizard

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I tried to read most of the replies, and saw CSMURDOCK pointed out Easy Clean is not a sanitizer.
I was looking for someone to say that before I did.
I agree:
[Easy Clean] That's similar to Oxiclean, an alkaline cleaner, not an acid sanitizer such as Starsan.
It's also not no-rinse. Although a little sodium carbonate carrying over probably won't harm the beer or can be even traced or tasted.
 

IslandLizard

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I agree with Mekchu's realization there is probably a practical limit to how long a previously used chemical compound can be stored & reused.
Exactly, the oxygen component in Easy Clean will dissipate over time. What's leftover is a solution of Sodium Carbonate, commonly known as washing soda. A good, cheap all round cleaner and the main component in powdered laundry detergent.
 

tld6008

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Aside from checking PH the starsan will likey get cloudy when going off. I commonly have little black mildew spots above the starsan level in plastic storage containers, I just wipe it down with a paper towel wetted with startsan.
RO water definitely extends the storage life.
 
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Mekchu

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Thank you everyone for your replies. I now realize the mold was likely limited to the surface and the white globs floating in the liquid was not mold but remnants of a chemical breakdown of the cleanser overtime. And as csmurdock and murrayuptown point out, Easy Clean is a cleanser and not a sanitizer. (I kind of thought of it as a private label StarSan.) I'm almost through a 5lb container of Easy Clean so apparently you can use it as a no-rinse sanitizer without major mishap. But as others have pointed out, consuming beer quickly can mitigate infection issues down the road. Again, thank you everyone for sharing your insights.
 

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I used to use One Step which is a similar oxygen based product. This is a one and done cleaner/sanitizer and depends on the hydrogen peroxide produced when it is dissolved in water. I would guess it is effective for no more the 24 hours due to gassing off the oxygen, so saving and reusing is not possible.
 
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Mekchu

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I used to use One Step which is a similar oxygen based product. This is a one and done cleaner/sanitizer and depends on the hydrogen peroxide produced when it is dissolved in water. I would guess it is effective for no more the 24 hours due to gassing off the oxygen, so saving and reusing is not possible.
I've got two 5 gallon batches in the works: a brown ale three weeks into bottle conditioning and a pale ale 14 days in the fermenter. If they come out ok I'll have to chalk it up to to 'beer is very forgiving'.

But I will change my ways. I was just reading the directions for use for Io Star Sanitizer. I haven't been using it because it just wasn't as convenient to use as Easy Clean's 1 Tbs to 1 gallon warm water prep.
 

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The good news is that cleaning your equipment is more important than sanitizing it. If there isn't any residue left in the fermenter or bottles, then you will likely get acceptable beer even without sanitizing. The reverse is also true, if you have dirty equipment and only use a sanitizer, you might still get infected beer.
 

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The good news is that cleaning your equipment is more important than sanitizing it. If there isn't any residue left in the fermenter or bottles, then you will likely get acceptable beer even without sanitizing. The reverse is also true, if you have dirty equipment and only use a sanitizer, you might still get infected beer.
Even Charlie Talley said this in a podcast - sanitizer is insurance. But I really like the insurance.
 

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I've got two 5 gallon batches in the works: a brown ale three weeks into bottle conditioning and a pale ale 14 days in the fermenter. If they come out ok I'll have to chalk it up to to 'beer is very forgiving'.

But I will change my ways. I was just reading the directions for use for Io Star Sanitizer. I haven't been using it because it just wasn't as convenient to use as Easy Clean's 1 Tbs to 1 gallon warm water prep.
Iodine based sanitizers also don't store well.
 
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Mekchu

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The good news is that cleaning your equipment is more important than sanitizing it. If there isn't any residue left in the fermenter or bottles, then you will likely get acceptable beer even without sanitizing. The reverse is also true, if you have dirty equipment and only use a sanitizer, you might still get infected beer.
I can't argue with that or Charlie Tally. I tasted my brown ale today. I was planning to let it condition for 4 weeks but decided to try it today. In a word it was gorgeous. First time with this recipe but it was everything I was looking for. Nutty, biscuit flavor, great mouth feel, spot on carbonation. I feel a little silly talking up my beer, but what I'm trying to say is that even when you use old cleanser as a sanitizer you can make pretty good beer. Beer, indeed, is forgiving.
 

IslandLizard

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I think I'm off storing sanitizers/cleaners for a while.
A working solution of Starsan can be stored for several months, even longer.

To prevent mold growth in the headspace you need to use it from time to time. Mop the headspace sides and lid with it and there you are, re-sanitized! Good for another few weeks!
There's really nothing that can grow in Starsan itself, not even mold.
 

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I've got two 5 gallon batches in the works: a brown ale three weeks into bottle conditioning and a pale ale 14 days in the fermenter. If they come out ok I'll have to chalk it up to to 'beer is very forgiving'.

But I will change my ways. I was just reading the directions for use for Io Star Sanitizer. I haven't been using it because it just wasn't as convenient to use as Easy Clean's 1 Tbs to 1 gallon warm water prep.
Would you please share your recipe? That sounds like heaven, my second favorite beer style. Miabock being first.
 
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Mekchu

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Would you please share your recipe? That sounds like heaven, my second favorite beer style. Miabock being first.
Brown Ale
from John Palmer, How to Brew. I've had good luck with his recipes.

7 lbs. pale ale malt (i use maris otter)
2 lbs. amber malt
0.5 lb. crystal 60L malt
0.25 lb. chocolate malt

BG for 6.5 gal. 1.041
OG for 5.5 gal. 1.049

60 min. boil

Hops
0.5 oz. Nugget (12%) 60 min.
0.5 oz. Willamette (5%) 15 min.

Yeast
WLP13 London Ale, Primary fermenter at 68 for 2 weeks.

Mash - Single - Temp. Infusion
152F for 60 min.

He calls it Oak Butt Brown Ale. I'm not sure how long it took him to come up with such a horrible name, but I doubt he could make it worse with more thought. Nevertheless, I absolutely love my first batch. Good luck and cheers!
 

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I might have that book. I don't think I ever brewed that though. I was planning to ask the questions you have been asking about Starsan. I might go back to hot water for sanitizing. If I knew how to store my tubing properly it would almost be unnecessary to sanitize. I stored them in Starsan and now they are milky and funky looking.
 

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I was told not to use chlorine bleach on stainless that it will pit the surface. I don't want to use chlorine but thought someone could use the information.
 
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