View Full Version : Small Scale Sanitizing

11-20-2006, 03:14 PM
I'll ask my question first (for all you GotMeaders who like to skim) and then give you the full story below:

What methods do you use to sanitize individual pieces of equipment like lees stirrers, hydrometers, and wine thieves? (without making a whole sink full of sanitizing solution every time)

I'm new to homebrewing, and I have made 4 batches of homebrewed beverages (1 beer, 1 cider, 2 mead) so far. For these batches, I never bothered to touch the must/wort during fermentation; no stirring lees, no hydrometer readings, no theiving, etc.

Therefore, the only sanitation method I've used is: fill up the kitchen sink with 5 gallons of water, add 1 tablespoon per gallon of bleach (that's about a third of a cup for my five gallons, thanks Google Calculator! (http://www.google.com/search?q=5+tablespoons+in+cups)), and soak everything in it. Then rinse everything with the hottest tap water.

This method has worked beautifully for me so far; but I want to move on to more advanced homebrewing. Now I'm wondering how to sanitize items such lees stirrers, wine thieves, hydrometers, and sample tubes. Filling up the entire sink seems like a waste. I did a little searching in the forums and found two threads of interest:

Non-Stopping Stoppers (http://www.gotmead.com/index.php?option=com_smf&Itemid=2&topic=3750.msg31859#msg31859) - In this thread, Oskaar mentions sanitizing the neck of the carboy and the bung by spraying with a spray bottle filled with Iodophor sanitizing solution.

Sanitizing with Alcohol (http://www.gotmead.com/index.php?option=com_smf&Itemid=2&topic=3924.msg33137#msg33137) - In this thread, the use of isopropanol (rubbing alcohol) is duscussed, and jaysbrew suggests using this in a spray bottle.

I like the sounds of using a spray bottle to sanitize individual pieces of equipment, since you don't have to fill up the whole sink. But I'm concerned about using this method on equipment that has moving parts like lees stirrers with folding paddles, and wine theives with the little valve at the bottom.

Has anybody had luck with this method? Does anyone have an alternative they prefer? Or should I just bite the bullet and fill up the whole sink every time? Thanks!

11-20-2006, 04:51 PM
I use Star-San for all my sanitizing needs. It works as I understand by wetting the surface and allowing it to sit wetfor (here I have heard from 30 seconds to 2 minutes)for some length of time.

I also mix my Star-San up in an old plastic juice bottle. I can slip my lees stirrer into it and just let it sit if need be. I make sure what ever I put in the main bottle has been washed well so I don't put junk in the bottle. And I make it up fresh for each session. For my thief I use a length of plastic tube. I just pour the solution over it a couple of times.]

So far, so good.

I don't know about bleach, but I imagine the same "wetted surface" would work. Can you contact the "Clorax" company with your questions? I know that a spray bottle of bleach solution is used to sterilize surfaces against AIDS.

BTW, NEVER pour the hydrometer sample back into the carboy. From chemistry, once something is poured from the main container it is never returned to the full batch. That is a really good way to contaminate your entire batch. I usually just pour the sample into a glass and enjoy it!

Good luck with your upgrade!


11-20-2006, 04:55 PM
On Carboys I tend to use bleach, but for most other things, including tubing, I have a large pot in which I heat water to 180-200 (f), everything that I'll be using gets soaked a minimum of 5-10 minutes... lees stirrer, Wine Thief, measuring cups/spoons, tubing, etc.

It takes longer, but I like using as few chemicals as possible.

One possible alternative I've been considering for the lees stirrer is picking up a 2 to 3 foot section of pvc pipe capped at one end so that I can use less water when sanitizing. The same would work if using bleach or other chemicals. The lees stirrer gets the most use so I'm looking at a better solution myself.


11-20-2006, 06:25 PM
StarSan will last a long time if it's mixed with RO water and isn't used with dirty things.

I keep a 5 gallon pail of it (which I've had for 6 months) and use it, a wallpaper tray, and a spray bottle for all my sanitizing needs. As long as the pH is under 3 it's fine. I believe that the contact time is actually less than 10 seconds if it's under 3 pH, but they can't really publish that, and you're safer if you leave it in contact for 10-30 seconds.

I make sure I clean everything very well and then put my long items into the wallpaper tray, pour in some StarSan mixture, then pour it back into the bucket when I'm done.

From my experiences with Diversol (B-Brite I think it's also called), bleach, One-Step, and StarSan, StarSan wins by a country mile. That's over 1.6 kilometers ;)


11-20-2006, 11:14 PM
For my lees stirrer, I put Star-san into a thing called Pasta Pronta. Its a long clear plastic tube designed to cook pasta by putting it into the tube and pouring boiling water over it.

It is perfect for this lees stirrer. Like Leonora, I make sure that it is well washed before I put it into the Star-san. I just keep the top on it between times.

Don't know how long this Star-san will stay good. The Star-san might make this Pasta Pronta thing unusable for anything else too, but that's ok. I've got another one to cook with. :toothy10:

11-23-2006, 12:58 PM
Thanks for the advice everyone! I like the PVC pipe, wallpaper tray, and Pasta Pronta ideas. I'll have to pick up some Star-San the next time I hit my LHBS. It sounds like everyone here likes it, and the fact that it's reusable is really handy. Bikebrewer, do you use litmus paper to check your Star-San? (I assume that's available at the LHBS?) Thanks again, and HAPPY THANKSGIVING!

11-27-2006, 08:54 PM
After reading Bikebrewer's extended use of star san with great interest(six months on one batch), I checked fivestarchemicals' site. They do mention it remaining effective under ph 3 but also recommend mixing a new solution daily (I believe that was pro brewery use). Given they make their money selling product, more use equals more sales. There is still quite a discrepancy between daily and six months. I'm curious if anyone else has used the same batch of sanitizer(any brand) for a prolonged period.

Basically, what is the effective "shelf life" of a mixture of sanitizer?
Thanks, Jon

11-27-2006, 11:06 PM
Now I am all for pinching a penny until it emits a tiny puff of smoke, I don't think saving a buck or two on sanitizer is a good idea.

I got a little bottle of StarSan for about $8. It says to use an ounce per 5 gallons. I mix up a much smaller amount so I end up using about a tablespoon. I brew a lot and after almost a year of vigorous sanitation, I still have about half of the bottle left.

It just doesn't make any sense to me to spend $40+ on honey and 6 months minimum of your time to cheap out on pennies worth of sanitizer.

I actually went through the thought process about saving money by re-using sanitizer as one of the brewers who taught me said that it was what he did. I started to continue what he had taught me when I started my next batch on my own, but it just seemed really risky to me. I contemplated $40 of honey and all the time and effor and I decided to use a lot of sanitizer and mix it up fresh as often as possible. That is why I mix up smaller batches more often. I have not had any problems with contaminated batches and I have found that is not true with the person who taught me.


All the best,

12-02-2006, 12:16 PM
My interest in keeping a container of ready mixed sanitizer has much more to do with not wanting to mix up and then dispose of sanitizer every time I need to dip a spoon into a batch of mead(two or three times a day for the first week or so for some raspberry mels not too long ago). Not that money is not an object, but as Leonora points out sanitizer is cheaper than honey. I can't speak for JephSullivan's concern, but it seemed to be similar to my own interest. Time and effort savings.
Thanks, Jon

viking thunder
12-02-2006, 01:52 PM
Hey guys, here is a question I may be able to shed some light on for you.

I Test and sell commercial sanitizers to hospitals and resteraunts, brewery's, places like that.

your main sanitizing methods you would use During brewing are:


Each method has it's ups and downs, and holds its efficacy(strength) for different periods under different kinds of storage.

Quat is a cheap, easy to use formula with the following stats:
Safety-Drinking it will not hurt you even in large amounts
contact time: 60 seconds at 250ppm
use time:
Sink--6 hours
sealed spray bottle--2 days
Max use in fully sealed container--3 days.

You must test quat at room temperature(70), testing it away from room temp will cause great variance in readings. The chemical tested in quat is not the same as the active ingredient, so your test strip will say it is still good after the prescribed times, IT IS NOT!!

Iodaphor is a cheap easy to use sanitizer with the following:

Safety--Drinking as little as eight ounces of this will give you stomach and intestinal problems for weeks, there is also an ulcer risk.
Contact time--30 seconds at 15-25ppm
use time:
sink--12 hours
sealed spray bottle--1 week
max use in fully sealed container--2 weeks

Iodaphor sanitizer is safe if used correctly. main complaint is staining on contact with textiles. Again, with iodaphor, just because your tests strips say it works, doesn't mean it works.

Chlorine is a cheap, readily available sanitizer with the following:
Safety: if you drink a glass of it you will have to replenish the bacteria in your digestive tract, other than that, at the prescribed strength it is safe(drinking concentrate can have other issues)
note--some Bleach companies put other things in their bleach besides chlorine which may cause a greater effect upon the body if ingested.

contact time: 30 seconds at 50ppm
use time
sink--2 hours
sealed spray bottle--a week
max time in sealed container--perhaps a month

chlorine is fairly safe if used in the correct manner. main complaint is staining of any soft material.
with chlorine you are actually testing the active ingredient when you use a test strip, so if the strip says it is ok, you are probably good.
special safety note--Bleach is not chlorine, and chlorine is not bleach. chlorine is the main active ingredient in bleach, but many companies add other things to their bleach to make it work or smell better. these extra ingredients can interfere with the sanitizing power of the bleach, and they also carry extra health risks. using straight chlorine bleach without additives is an important part of using chlorine sanitizer.

Heat is an easy and proven method of sanitizing using the following.
Bad burns and long term damage to the body can be caused if care is not used.

contact time: 2 mins at 180 degrees
use time-till it falls below 180 degrees
max use-2 hours--after using a pot of water to sanitize for two hours it should be discarded and replaced because of the risk of heat active bactirial infection.

notes. one of the problems with heat in brewing is getting it to all the places you need it to go. all the way through lines and hoses and into theives. doing this causes you to have to actively move HOT water around, which I do not feel is safe for the average person.


Most all of the methods of sanitizing prescribed above have a place in the homebrewers arsenal. each one may be used for different things at different times. I personally use Quaternary for all my needs on brewing/racking/bottling days. but I use chlorine to sanitize the necks of the bottles and any tools I will be inserting into the must(spoons/theives/etc). Following these guideline should help you to have a favorable, infection free brew.

As always, conditions vary between locations and situation, if you have luck using something for months, this is possible, but not likely to be recreated in someone elses conditions.

to me, sanitizer of all forms is cheap, the ingredients in your carboy are not cheap. if you made up a seperate batch of sanitizer each time you touched a 5 gallon batch from start to bottle, it would cost less than five percent of the total ingredients. it is worth it to do it by the book and not risk your batch.

If anybody has any questions, please let me know. hope this shed a little light on the situation.

Viking Thunder

May Thor's lightning protect you wherever you brew!!!!!!