Cleaning your homebrewing equipment isn’t glamorous, but it’s a crucial step in making great beer. Don’t confuse cleaning with sanitizing. Cleaning is done before sanitizing and its purpose is to remove dirt and grime. Sanitizing is performed to eliminate most of the bacteria that can infect your beer and potentially ruin it.
They are separate steps, and I’ve already done a video on the best sanitizers for homebrewing.
Here are the products most commonly used for cleaning homebrew equipment, and my picks for the best cleaners.
I bet it’s sitting next to your sink right now. Dish soap will do the trick but you must rinse thoroughly to make sure none is left behind. Otherwise, it will leave a soapy taste in your beer and ruin head retention. If you do use it, try to find a perfume-free variety. Other than that, you’re better off using a different cleaner for the rest of your equipment.
- Easy to find
- Difficult to remove all of the suds
- Anything left behind will affect flavor and head retention
- Not as good a cleaner as PBW and OxiClean
My #1 homebrewing cleaner. Cheap, very effective, and good for a variety of household uses. It’s even great at removing beer bottles labels. Just make sure you rinse it thoroughly.
- Very good cleaner
- Leaves equipment slippery
- Best to use versatile free, which isn’t always easy to find
A common homebrewing cleaner, PBW is oxygen based and cleans very well. In fact, I’ve found that it’s the best cleaner out there. The only drawback is that it’s expensive and OxiClean is almost as good (plus much cheaper).
- Performs better than all other cleaners
- Almost all homebrew shops and websites carry it
- Leaves equipment slippery
- You can find it at homebrew shops no problem, but the local Wal-Mart won’t have it
Like soap, bleach is another item you probably have around the house. I’ve already mentioned that I don’t like it for sanitizing, and I feel the same way about its use as a cleaner. This is nasty stuff and not something you want to splash around on a messy brew day. It will clean, but so does PBW and OxiClean, and without the drawbacks of bleach.
- Good cleaner
- Must rinse like crazy
- A small amount will hurt your beer’s flavor
- Stinky, nasty, shirt-staining stuff
If you have a kegging set up, you should have BLC on hand. You can put it in your kegs and pump it through your system to get your beer lines crystal clear. The generic alternatives work well too.
- Great cleaner for beer lines
- A little goes a long way
- Not cheap, and just one more cleaner to buy
Bar Keeper’s Friend
A powder that is great for cleaning stainless steel. I use it on my converted kegs, pots, and corny kegs. It’s a light abrasive that you can scrub with a sponge to get out those tough stains. It’s smart to keep a container of this handy.
- Best cleaner for stainless steel
- You’ll go through it fast
- Again, one more cleaner to buy
My Top Picks – Summary
- Best All-Around Homebrew Cleaner – OxiClean
- Best Cleaner for Beer Lines – BLC
- Best Cleaner for Stainless Steel – Bar Keeper’s Friend
What cleaners do you use for homebrewing?
Hey everybody, this is Billy Broas, from BillyBrew.com, and I’m down here in the basement of my new Denver house, or as I like to call it, the “beer cave.” This is where I do all my crazy homebrew experiments, and you’ll probably be seeing a lot of this place in upcoming videos.
So let’s talk about homebrew cleaners. Now you might have seen my video on sanitizers, so I should clarify the difference. If you don’t want to ruin your batch of beer with a nasty infection, you have to both clean and sanitize, and in that order. So you clean for the same reason that you clean your house, to remove dirt or grime or gunk, or anything visible like that from your equipment.
Now, you sanitize to remove those invisible germs or bacteria that can infect your batch of beer and ruin it. So the key thing here is that if your equipment is not clean, it can’t truly be sanitized. That dirt or grime can hide bacteria that your sanitizer can’t reach. Also, there are different products for both cleaning and sanitizing.
So what are the best cleaners? Well, there are a bunch, but I’ll show you the most common ones. I’ll start with what I call the general cleaners, and I use these on the majority of my equipment, like buckets, siphons, and carboys. And then I’ll mention a couple of what I call special-use cleaners.
So first up we have common household dish soap. The pros of this are that it’s really cheap and you probably already have it in the house. The cons are, you have to rinse like crazy to get rid of all those bubbles, and if you’ve used it before, you know what a pain in the ass that is. Now, the bad thing is, if any of this dish soap is left behind in your equipment, you’ll taste it in the beer, and it’ll kill your head retention.
Now, overall, I don’t recommend the soap. It’s okay if you really rinse it, but there are better cleaning products, and it’s really not worth dealing with the hassle.
So next up we have Oxi-Clean, and you probably already know how much I love this stuff. I talked about it in my video on how to remove beer bottle labels, and how great it is for that. But it really is my favorite overall homebrew cleaner. It’s really effective, it’s cheap—this is about $9.00 for this big tub, and you can use it for all sorts of stuff around the house.
Now, the cons are that it makes things a little bit slippery and hard to handle, and you also have to rinse pretty thoroughly, but it’s not as bad as dish soap. One thing about Oxi-Clean, make sure you get the kind with the green label, what they call Versatile Free. The other type has a perfume, and that can stick to your gear, and you don’t want that.
So next up, we’ve got PBW, and this is a similar product to Oxi-Clean, it’s an oxygen based cleaner. It works really, really well; in fact, I found that in some situations it works better than Oxi-Clean. The cons are that it’s a little bit expensive. It’s seven or eight dollars for this one-pound jar, and also you’re not going to find it at Walmart. It’s not readily available. You’ve got to get it from a homebrew store or online. So overall PBW is good to have if you have something really tough that you have to get out, but Oxi-Clean is my go-to cleaner.
Okay, now we have bleach. If you know me, you know I’m really not a huge fan of bleach. I talked about it in my sanitizer video, and I feel the same way about it for a cleaner. The pros are that it’s cheap and readily available, the cons are that it’s dangerous, it’s stinky, and you have to rinse like hell to get it off your equipment. You really don’t want this stuff getting into your beer. It’ll make it taste horrible. So just say no to bleach.
Now we’ll move on to the special-use cleaners. I use these for certain situations. The first is if you have a kegging setup and you want to clean your beer lines, and it’s a product called BLC. This is actually a different one called Superflush, it’s a more generic version. You’ll find that any good tap or line cleaner will work. It’s great to use, you put it in your keg, you pump it through with CO2 and you have crystal-clear beer lines. So it’s a great product.
So my other special-use cleaner is something called Barkeeper’s Friend, and I use this for everything I have that is stainless steel, so all my converted kegs, like this, my corny kegs, my pots, they all get Barkeeper’s Friend. It’s a light abrasive, so you can scrub it on with a sponge or a rag, and it’s also dirt cheap. This thing is about two dollars.
So to wrap it up, my favorite cleaners are Oxi-Clean for general cleaning, Barkeeper’s Friend for stainless steel, and BLC for beer line cleaning. So let me know what cleaners you use, and talk to you down in the comments. Cheers!