Fermentation Friday: Cleaning and Sanitizing

Posted on 02.27.09 9:29PM under Sanitation

The last Friday of every month is Fermentation Friday, the homebrewing group blogging day. And I’m happy to participate with this topic, hosted by A World of Brews. It’s a great topic that can be a real source of confusion and uncertainty for new brewers as well as veterans. What follows is my cleansing and sanitizing story and my current position on the topic.

When I first started brewing, I bought a preconfigured kit, like most do, I suppose. It came with a bucket, a carboy, some bottling and racking stuff, and other tidbits that escape my recall at the present moment. It had One Step as the cleanser and/or sanitizer. And so I used One Step for a while.

But “cleanser and/or sanitizer” had me nervous. It didn’t say on the packaging that it was for sanitizing, but it seemed to be accepted in some circles as a sanitizer, so… OK… I guess.

But I kept hearing (actually, reading) about StarSan and Iodophor. Those seemed like the sanitizers of the big boys – people who were obviously making much better beer than I did were using them. There was also this mythical product to take the place of dish soap for cleaning – PBW (powdered brewery wash…or something like that).

Finally, my One Step ran out, and I splurged on the StarSan. It was nice, but it sort of hurt when it touched my hands. So I picked up a bottle of Iodophor. That was real nice. No hurting. In fact, it seemed to be a good idea to put my hands in it in the case that they were injured in any way. After all, it is a dilute iodine solution.

I tried PBW a little, but dish soap seemed to work just fine for me, so I didn’t really pursue it too much.

This left me with dish soap for cleaning and Iodophor for sanitizing. And that’s pretty much where I stand today. I use PBW for keg cleaning when I first get a new keg, but mostly it’s dish soap for all the brew day equipment. PBW can be a little hard to rinse off, and seems to prefer hot water. I do still have a little StarSan. I make a spray bottle solution with it, and use it occasionally on a keg post or something. But Iodophor is my sanitizer of choice.

In summary: dish soap is fine most of the time. PBW is good for deep cleaning and kegs in particular. Iodophor is great because it works fast and doesn’t hurt when you touch it.

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