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Not Sure How To Clean Your Wine Bottles? Then Read This...

Posted on December 1, 2015 by Ed Kraus There have been 14 comment(s)

Cleaned and sanitized wine bottles.Preparing wine bottles for bottling wine is sometimes glossed-over or minimized by some home wine makers. That's not a good thing. That's a bad thing! Starting out with clean and sanitized wine bottles is paramount to having healthy wine. The alternative can lead to a spoilage and embarrassment.

Cleaning Your Wine Bottle
Even if the wine bottles are new, out-of the-box they should be thoroughly rinsed to wash off any box dust that may have made its way inside.

If the wine bottles have been used then there is the dirt and grime to deal with as well. This can be cleaned off with regular dish soap. Clean the wine bottles as if you were cleaning the dishes. A wine bottle brush comes in very handy during this step. You may also find that it helps to have two wine bottle brushes to entice others to pitch in as well.

If the wine bottles are extremely filthy with dried crud and dirt, you may want to clean them in two steps. The first step would be to clean the pieces of dirt. The second, to clean the surface grime and rinse. Having this second bath of water will help to leave the serious filth behind.

Sanitizing Your Wine Bottles
Many beginning wine makers confuse "cleaning" and "sanitizing" to mean the same thing, but they are very different.

Think of "cleaning wine bottles" as getting rid of what you can see and "sanitizing wine bottles" as getting rid of what you can't.

When you are sanitizing a wine bottle you are destroying the mold, germs and bacteria that may exist on the glass. You are making the glass as sterile as possible. Sounds serious, but it's really very simple.shop_wine_bottles

There are several products that can sanitize your wine bottles with little effort on your part. Some that we recommend are: Basic A, One-Step and Star-San. You mix any of them with water to create a sanitizing solution. In addition to the wine bottles, these solutions can be used to sanitize gallon glass jugs, wine carboys, and even plastic fermenters.

All three products are oxygenating-type cleansers. What this means is that the sanitizing of the wine bottles is actually being done while the solution dries or evaporates from the wine bottle's surface. And, no residues are left on the wine bottles.

What this means for you is that these cleansers are quick and require no rinsing. Just submerge the wine bottles and let them drain and dry. One product that works perfect for drying is a Bottle Tree. Just as the name sounds, it is a single column with pegs. Each peg holds a wine bottle. Not only is it handy it's also a great space-saver.

It should also be noted that the traditional solution of sodium metabisulfite and water can be used for sanitizing wine bottles, but only if the wine bottles are new, or the wine bottles were washed right after being emptied. Cruddy, scavenged wine bottles with "questionable backgrounds" should always be treated with a cleanser similar to the three mentioned earlier, not sodium metabisulfite.
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Ed Kraus is a 3rd generation home brewer/winemaker and has been an owner of E. C. Kraus since 1999. He has been helping individuals make better wine and beer for over 25 years.


This post was posted in Wine Making Blog

14 thoughts on “Not Sure How To Clean Your Wine Bottles? Then Read This...”

  • Knute

    I want to check with you on my cleaning and sanatizing wine bottles. I first soak them in dish soap and chlorax solution. removing all labels. Wash in the dishwasher. and store. when ready to bottle, I rense with the step-one( Hydrogen peroxide solution) drain, and then rense with a bottle renser on the faucet ( very hot water). drain and rense with meta solution and drain. then I bottle. Is this ok? I have not had any problems with spoilage yet. Knute

    Reply
  • carol

    If you have to get rid of ANYTHING that you see, recycle the bottle and move onto another. It is not worth the risk of contamination and cross contamination to subsequent bottles of wine. After you finish drinking a bottle, rinse it, drain it well, then let it dry thoroughly. I store my bottles upside down (so to avoid dust accum.) in wine boxes. When ready to use, sanitize and fill'er up. If you like wine, you'll have plenty of bottles to reuse. A votre sante!

    Reply
  • Richard Platt

    I rinse bottles immediately after emptying, then soak for 1/2 hour in solution of 1/3 cup clorox to 5 gal water, then rinse immediately prior to filling with new wine. Have never lost any wine in 10 years and saved a lot of money not buying expensive products.

    Reply
  • Customer Service
    Customer Service December 1, 2015 at 11:22 am

    Knute, everything you are doing sounds good except for the fact that you are using both the One-Step solution and sodium metabisulfite before bottling. Both are not necessary unless you absolutely want to. One or the other is fine.

    Reply
  • FRANK

    Usually I wash the bottle after the wine is gone and when I have 36 bottle
    I load them in the dishwasher upside down you must remove the top
    tray for this. Place each bottle in the peg use a non bleach washing
    solution on normal cycle. When done I let them sit in there until complete
    dry. Remove them an sanitize them with meta. Have not had any problem yet.

    Reply
  • Eric

    You may want to stay away from the bleach products, The chlorine can be traced to Trichloroanisole, or TCA, which makes wind "corked" or cork tainted.

    Reply
  • Brian

    I get used empties from a local winery. I rinse them when I get them. When getting ready to use them, I wash with One-Step and a bottle brush, let them drip dry a while on a bottle tree and then sanitize them with K-Meta. Just before bottling, I rinse with spring water. I don't want an overload of K-Meta in there.

    Reply
  • George

    I get bottles from a local wine bar. I rinse them, remove labels and then I put foil over the opening secured with tape. I then store them in garage and barn. I have yet to make any wine, but when I do if I wash bottles and sanitize the them will that be sufficient? I cannot hoop a bottle washer to any sink in my house and I have reservations about putting them in dishwasher. I just have doubts about water getting inside the bottle.

    Reply
  • Customer Service
    Customer Service December 1, 2015 at 1:53 pm

    George, it sounds like everything is on the right track. Your best course of action at this time would be to get a wine bottle brush so that you can scrub the insides of the bottles with soapy water. Once the insides are grime-free, you will then need to sanitize them. This can easily be done with a soaking in a bath of one of the many sanitizers we offer. Basic A is a good one:

    Wine Bottle Brush
    http://www.eckraus.com/wine-bottle-brush.html

    Basic A
    http://www.eckraus.com/no-rinse-cleanser.html

    Reply
  • Robert Cappelletti
    Robert Cappelletti December 1, 2015 at 2:04 pm

    Does it make any difference whether I use sodium or potassium meta... to extend storage life?

    Reply
    • Ed Kraus

      Robert, you can use sodium metabisulfite, potassium metabisulfite or campden tablets to preserve your wine at bottling time.

      Reply
  • Dave

    I am experimenting with placing French oak sticks in my 5+ gallon carboy during the racking
    process, just before the last rack and then bottling. How long should the wood be left in the wine?

    Reply
    • Ed Kraus

      Dave, when using oak chips such as the type that we sell, allow the wine to age with the oak chips for 1 to 9 months. Monitor the wine`s flavor throughout the aging process to determine when to remove the oak chips.

      Reply
  • Joe Magnan

    After many years of cleaning and removing labels from recycled wine bottles, here is the method that I have found to be the easiest.
    You will need: Lots of very hot water / scotchbrite or brillo pads / mrclean magic eraser pads
    some kind of a razor scraper with handle / cooking oil spray / a mild cleanser / a bottle brush.
    1. With the bottles dry and cool, use your razor scraper to scrape the labels off one small stroke at a time. Push downward while holding the bottle at a 45 degree angle on an old towel in your kitchen sink.
    2. Some labels will come right off, these will be the paper labels with water based glues.
    3. On other labels, especially on those with gum based glues, running cold water over the sticky spots while scraping actually works better as it makes the gum less gummy !
    4. Scrub off the leftover glue residue with a scotchbrite or brillo pad and a little spray type cooking oil. (It works wonders on both water and gum based glues)
    5. Once you have most or all of the glue removed, give the entire bottle a good going over with one of mrcleans magic eraser pads and a bit of scouring powder, or baking soda and a little dish soap.These mrclean pads are truly magical and if you haven’t used one you will be amazed at what they can do. This will remove all traces of glue and cooking oil and also get rid of any shiny ghost images of where the old label was.
    6. Wash and rinse the inside and outside of bottle using very hot water, a mild cleanser (baking soda) and a bottle brush if needed.
    Using baking soda and very hot water as an inside cleanser works great as the soda is easy to rinse completely out and leaves no aftertaste.
    7. Rinse-rinse-rinse the inside and outside of the bottle three times or more with very very hot water.
    8. Drain bottle (no need to completely dry) and add 1/2 cup of prepared sodium or potassium meta-bisulfite sanitizer solution (mixed at 1/4 cup to 1 gallon water) to the well rinsed bottle.
    9. Leave sanitizing solution in the bottle, dry off cork area and cap bottle with a 3 inch square of saran wrap. (Yes, the annoying clingy kind)
    Wrap and squeeze to seal then tape the saran wrap around the neck with some vinyl tape, scotch tape, or a good quality rubber band.
    10. Place the clean and sanitized bottle in your bottle storage area to await your next bottling session. After a few days with the sanitizing solution in there, you can rest assured that the inside of the bottle is totally sterile.
    11. On bottling day, after making sure that you have enough bottles for your batch, remove saran wrap from about 5 bottles at a time, dump out sanitizing solution, and rinse out well with very hot water, drain well.
    12. Fill the bottle with your new brew and cork.

    Reply
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