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 covered those in this post: 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?