Best Homebrew Cleaners: Spotless & Brew-Ready Cleaning Agents & Sanitizers

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.

Here are the products most commonly used for cleaning homebrew equipment, and my picks for the best cleaners.

My Top Picks – Quick Summary

Best Cleaning Agents for Homebrewing

PBW

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. And I’ve tried them all.

Homebrewers Favorite
Five Star P.B.W. Cleanser - 4 Pounds
$39.99 $29.98 ($0.47 / Ounce)

PBW is an alkaline, non-caustic, environmentally and user friendly cleaner that is very effective in removing thick, difficult, and caked-on organic soils.Safe on skin as well as stainless steel, rubber, soft metals, and on plastics.

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03/17/2023 02:06 am GMT

The only drawback is that it’s expensive and OxiClean is almost as good (plus much cheaper).

Pros

  • Performs better than all other cleaners
  • Almost all homebrew shops and websites carry it

Cons

  • Expensive
  • Leaves equipment slippery

Star-San

Most Popular
Star San - High Foaming Sanitizer
$24.99 $21.80

Odorless, flavorless, biodegradable,and environmentally friendly. The Homebrewers top choice for all things stainless steel to plastic. Will not harm septic systems.

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A very effective acid rinse sanitizer. Find it at any homebrew store or buy online.

Pros:

  • Foaming helps get in cracks and crevices
  • No rinse
  • Colorless and odorless
  • A little goes a long ways
  • Can be reused as long as pH is below 3

Cons:

  • Will make your hands very dry
  • The foam scares people, which is silly

Dish Soap

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.

Pros

  • Cheap
  • Easy to find
  • Multi-Tasker

Cons

  • 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

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.

Pros

  • Very good cleaner
  • Cheap
  • Multi-Tasker

Cons

  • Leaves equipment slippery
  • Best to use versatile free, which isn’t always easy to find

BLC

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.

Pros

  • Great cleaner for beer lines
  • A little goes a long way

Cons

  • 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.

Pros

  • Best cleaner for stainless steel
  • Cheap

Cons

  • You’ll go through it fast
  • Again, one more cleaner to buy

Best Sanitizing Agents for Home-Brewing:

Homebrewing sanitizers are a crucial ingredient to brewing great beer. But with so many on the market, which one do you buy? I’ve done the research for you and will explain the pros and cons of each, and give my recommendation for the best sanitizer.

Bleach

Very common household chemical and super cheap. Only a small amount will make a strong sanitizing solution.

Pros:

  • Easy to find
  • Cheap
  • Powerful

Cons:

  • Must rinse it out thoroughly. While rinsing you risk contaminating the equipment if your rinse water is not sterile. Rinsing also takes a lot of time and water, which costs money.
  • Harmful to skin, eyes, and clothes.
  • If any amount gets into your beer it will ruin the taste.

Overall: Bleach has a lot of uses around the house but sanitizing homebrew equipment shouldn’t be one of them. The rinsing is a time and water waster, and unless you use sterilized water you risk contamination. Also, if you’re like me, you tend to make a wet mess – not good with bleach. Go with a sanitizer that is made specifically for homebrewing.

One-Step

Common oxygen based sanitizer that comes with many starter homebrewing kits.

Pros:

  • No rinse
  • Good cleaner

Cons:

  • No longer classified as a sanitizer by the FDA.
  • Many homebrewers treat it as a strong cleaner, and will not sanitize with it.

Overall: From what I’ve read, it sounds like One-Step isn’t classified as a sanitizer by the FDA because they don’t want to go through the approval process, so they may get a pass there. Still, if there is doubt, why risk it when there are better alternatives? You’re probably OK using One-Step, but I’d recommend you buy Iodophor or Star-San when it runs out.

IodophorIodophor Sanitizer

Very effective iodine based sanitizer that can be found at any homebrew store or bought online.

Pros:

  • No rinse
  • Short contact time
  • Cheap

Cons:

  • Will stain plastic equipment over time. Will also stain skin and clothing.
  • If too much is used (easy to do), it will leave a funny odor and stain badly.

Overall: A great sanitizer and one that I used for years. It’s used by a ton of homebrewers and if Star-San didn’t exist, I would easily rank it #1.

Overall: Don’t fear the foam! Star-San is my #1 pick for the best sanitizer. Put it in a squirt bottle and you will use much less, and make it easier to sanitize your equipment. Mix it with distilled or reverse osmosis water and it can be reused many times.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Are the Pros and Cons of Using PBW as a Homebrew Cleaner?

PBW (Powdered Brewery Wash) is a popular alkaline cleaner in the homebrewing community. It is oxygen-based and highly effective at removing stubborn organic soils.

It’s safe for both the user and the equipment, including stainless steel, rubber, soft metals, and plastics. However, it is relatively expensive, and some users find that it leaves equipment slippery.

How Does Star-San Compare to Iodophor as a Brewing Sanitizer?

Star-San and Iodophor are both highly effective sanitizers, but they have different properties. Star-San is an acid-based, no-rinse sanitizer that is colorless and odorless. Its foaming action helps it get into cracks and crevices.

Iodophor is an iodine-based sanitizer that also requires no rinse and has a short contact time. However, Iodophor can stain plastic equipment and clothing over time. Both are excellent choices, but your specific needs may make one more suitable than the other.

Is It Advisable to Use Homebrew Bleach Sanitizer?

While bleach is a common household item and powerful sanitizer, it’s not recommended for sanitizing homebrew equipment. The main drawbacks are that it must be rinsed thoroughly, risking contamination if the rinse water is not sterile.

It’s also harmful to skin, eyes, and clothing. Moreover, any residual bleach can ruin the taste of the beer. Therefore, it’s better to use a sanitizer specifically designed for homebrewing.

Can Dish Soap Be Used for Cleaning Brewing Equipment?

Dish soap can be used for cleaning brewing equipment, but it comes with caveats. It’s essential to rinse thoroughly to avoid leaving a soapy taste in the beer and affecting head retention.

It’s also not as effective as specialized cleaners like PBW and OxiClean. If you opt for dish soap, choose a perfume-free variety to minimize the risk of flavor contamination.

What Are the Benefits of Using OxiClean as a Homebrew Cleaner?

OxiClean is a versatile and cost-effective cleaner that is highly effective for homebrewing purposes. It’s particularly good at removing beer bottle labels.

However, it’s crucial to rinse it thoroughly as it can leave equipment slippery. It’s recommended to use the versatile free variant, which may not always be easy to find.

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