View Full Version : How do you handle (clean) large carboys?

11-02-2007, 03:15 PM
Okay, I have been thinking of bumping it up a notch, and buy equipment for 5 gallon batches. I was thinking of going the cheap route, and get a 6.5gallon bucket/lid, let a batch ferment, then when I need to rack it, buy a $20 5 gallon carboy. However, I was thinking... How in the heck am I supposted to wash the five gallon carboy? If my 1 gallon jugs 'just' fit in the sink, do I use my bath tub?

(maybe I should consult with my LHBS but I thought I would approach real experts, the mead makers.) :)

11-02-2007, 03:18 PM
I'm no expert, but my "hand sprayer" stretches far enough to stick past the counter. So I can set the carboy on a stool or such and use the hose.

11-02-2007, 03:58 PM
And I just use the bathtub. ;D

11-02-2007, 07:15 PM
Be sure to get a carboy brush too for those hard remove remains! I use the tub too, it works great.

11-02-2007, 10:12 PM
I set my carboys on their sides on the counter next to the sink and use the sprayer to rinse them, dumping the gunk into the sink. When all of the easily removed gunk is out, I set them upright and fill them with water and allow them to set overnight (or more) to loosen everything up. I end up draining them with my racking cane then use the sprayer and a carboy brush to clean the stuff off that wouldn't come out the night before. I then rinse them several times with hot water, then once with One Step, allow them to set for a few minutes to allow the cleanser to work, then rinse them several times with water and set them in the carboy drainer to dry.

In prep for using them again, I rinse several times with hot water using the spray attachment, then hit them with the One Step again, allowing it a few minutes to work, then rinse a few times with full hot water...

I do the same when I prep bottles for use, filling them with water overnight, then rinsing and scrubbing, followed by One Step, followed by more risning with hot water. I put them on the drying tree and pull them off within s few hours when ready to bottle. If the bottles have set in a box at all or hung on the tree for more than a day or so, I redo the rinse and sterilize part...

People with sensitive/educated taste can taste the cleanser in a batch if you fail to rinse it.

11-03-2007, 06:01 PM
Just wanted to add my .02

Carboy brush, sink or hose spray, bathtub, sanitizer, all of these are great, but nothing compares to the cheap pressure washer I've got! I still use sanitizer, but that thing hits the sides with so much force cleaning is a snap.

Note: It didn't work so great on wine bottles. Not that it's strong enough to break them, but they are small and you actually need to hold them a bit--that sprayer will take the skin right off your knuckles!

11-28-2007, 10:40 PM

Stoppering up the end of a carboy with a towel, cork or any other closure after adding boiling water, and then shaking is a bad idea.

I personally know of more than one glass carboy that has exploded as a result. I do not recommend that anyone try this as it presents a very real danger of the carboy exploding and doing serious physical harm. The whole reason the cork would shoot out of the carboy is because of the building pressure. The pressure must go somewhere if it cannot escape, and glass carboys are basically shrapnel waiting to happen.

This is in no way shape or form a recommended way to sanitize a glass carboy.

Original Post:

boiling water and a towel cork the top shake like a dickens till the thing gets to hot to hold then dump. Make shure the cork is in real good or it will shoot across you kitchen. If theres still stuff that wont come off I throw in about a shot glass of liquid soap and fill it to the top let it sit for 2 days. And the really tuff stuff I get with a coat hanger ruber band and paper towel. I always use the boiling water though befor I put them up and away and befor use.

11-29-2007, 12:38 PM
Thanks for the replies. Teljkon, your method scares me into wanting to use the better bottles, because I would probably drop the carboy. The coat hanger rubber band and paper towel sounds too McGuyver for me, so I would probably buy a brush to do that job.

Medsen Fey
11-29-2007, 01:51 PM
I use my garden hose with the spray nozzle for rinsing and cleaning carboys. I then pour the rinse water on the plants and flower beds, both conserving water and convincing my wife that I am doing something productive. ;D


11-29-2007, 02:24 PM
My favorite, "lazy man" approach:
1) Pour in one full scoop of Oxiclean (a percarbonate-based oxygenating cleanser). Fill with HOT water; add water to take up all space left behind as the bubbles from sudsing of the cleanser dissipate.
2) When the carboy is full to the brim, cover with a piece of plastic wrap, and secure with a rubber band.
3) Let it soak at least overnight -- Longer if there's a lot of grunge built up inside.
4) Pull the plastic and give one quick swish with a carboy brush. Everything left behind from your brew will come easily off the inside wall of the carboy!
5) Invert, swirl and dump the contents. Rinse with fresh, warm water.

That's all there is to it for me. No hard scrubbing -- I let the O2 and time do the work for me. One quick rinse with a sanitizer of your choice and you're ready to go again!

11-29-2007, 02:24 PM
For the very dirty jobs, first use some gravel and soap+water, shake/roll toroughly, then rinse out.
After that repeat using coarse, then fine sand.

This can clean even a years-old dried layer of cruft.

Dan McFeeley
11-29-2007, 03:04 PM
Answer to the question -- very carefully. ;D

I've always used a sink for cleaning 5 gallon and 7 gallon carboys. It seems easier to me -- everything is at waist level, approximately, which makes it easier to shift full carboys back and forth. I don't have to bend and lift quite so much.

A warning -- fully loaded carboys are heavy. Water weighs a little over 8 lbs a gallon, multiple that by 5 or 7, then add the weight of the glass carboy. Lift carefully, hold the carboy close to the body. Put a wash cloth over the edge of the sink to cushion the carboy while you're emptying it out.

11-29-2007, 11:56 PM
I guess i dont have oskars stamp of aprovel eh CoughwussyCough. Any hoot the only reason ive been holding off on the whole bottle brush thing is that Im trying to get a hogs hair brush and not a plastic one. Ive never been a person to spend my money on somthing I dont want and soaking your carboy like I said in my post takes out about 90% of the crud away any way! Maybe i shouldnt say I shake it like a dickens Ive refined into more of a spin if you ever made one of those chessy liquid tornado things when you were a kid you get the idea as long as the scolding water touches all off the insides its starile.

11-30-2007, 12:57 AM
[color=purple]I guess i dont have oskars stamp of aprovel eh CoughwussyCough...snip...

Don't know if this "CoughwussyCough" is directed at me or not. I don't really care either way.

boiling water and a towel cork the top shake like a dickens till the thing gets to hot to hold then dump. Make shure the cork is in real good or it will shoot across you kitchen.

That is bad and potentially injurious advice and I called you on it. Whenever someone posts advice that can cause harm to anyone following it I'll call them on it. Press the issue and I'll moderate the post. Get pissy about it and flame me or anyone else pointing out that your advice is dangerous, and I'll ban you. Drop it and move on.


11-30-2007, 10:50 AM
I like the hand sprayer that is on my sink facuet. Dish soap to clean, B.T.F Iodophor (http://morewinemaking.com/view_product/16028/103305) to sanitize for me.

My 'big fear' is when I get old(er) and I can no longer pick up a 5 or 6 gallon carboy full of mead. Then how to handle the carboy will be a much different task.

Thinking of that, and to move the thread along, I am 6'4'' and 260 lbs. Not small. How do you small people move these things around? Do any of the straps and/or grips work well for you?

11-30-2007, 01:43 PM
Carboy brush, hot water, and soap. Scrub well. Pour into basement sink. Rinse out with lots of water using short hose connected to faucet. Drain and dry. Iodophor when ready to use. The carboy brush really is easy to use, cheap and quick.

My 'big fear' is when I get old(er) and I can no longer pick up a 5 or 6 gallon carboy full of mead. Then how to handle the carboy will be a much different task.

Oh, how many times I have wondered this same thing when lifting a 6.5 gallon carboy. If there was ever a reason to learn the powers of the force.......

"Do or do not, there is no try"


11-30-2007, 02:04 PM
I generally rinse my carboys out directly after using and get any stubborn stuff with a carboy brush. Basically, same process as Angus and iodophor when ready. One time, though, I wanted to use an old carboy that someone had allowed to become crustified on the inside for a long time. I filled it up with water and the required amount of Powdered Brewery Wash (PBW.) After letting it sit for less than an hour, it was stripped clean! PBW is amazing for stubborn crusties :icon_thumleft: One swipe with a carboy brush and some iodophor and I was in business. I, too, am concerned about what will happen when I'm too old to pick up a full carboy and shake it. I guess I'll cross that bridge when I get to it. Hell, by that time I'll likely be using large stainless conical fermenters and won't need to pick them up. Hot water and high pressure can be directed pretty easily in that situation. Come to think of it, the sooner the better for that transition.

11-30-2007, 02:27 PM
I use my enolmatic to rack into and out of the carboys, then move them while they're empty. When washing I use a good set of rubber "grippy" gloves as I call them. They're the type that don't get slick when they're wet. I use the carboy blaster (pressurized water jet available at most LHBS) and hot water pressure wash the inside of the carboy. My sink in the garage will accomodate a carboy so I can actually drain the carboy by just laying it over on it's side and when it is half-way empty I just pick it up and swirl it to creat a vortex which empties out the carboy much faster than just letting it glug out. I use a carboy brush to knock off the muck on the inside of the carboy, and if it won't come off with that I let it soak with some PBW or Oxyclean. I also use grit to swirl and knock of any stuff that I can't get with the brush. When in doubt, I soak, jet blast clean, use the brush and swirl grit to get whatever may be stubborn. Generally that works.

I wash the outside of the carboy with PBW or Oxyclean, and the inside as well. I don't use dishsoap on my carboys or bottles as they are too slippery to handle with dishsoap all over them. Once the carboy is cleaned I have a couple of the Rubbermaid Roughnecks (big tubs) that have the carby drying stands inside of them and I just invert the carboy and let them stand in the drying rack which is contained within the tubs. If the carby falls over or tips to one side or the other it's no big deal because it won't fall since it is restricted within the inside diameter of the tub and can't fall to the ground. At very worst it will just be leaning up agains the inside wall of the tub and will still drain pretty much completely.

I use the enolmatic to drain the cleaner I use out of the carboy final rinse/wash as that also does a nice job of cleaning out any muck that may have taken up residence in my enolmatic. Then I run a gallon of distilled water through the enolmatic and store it.

Hope that helps,


Dan McFeeley
11-30-2007, 02:54 PM
My 'big fear' is when I get old(er) and I can no longer pick up a 5 or 6 gallon carboy full of mead. Then how to handle the carboy will be a much different task.

Oh, how many times I have wondered this same thing when lifting a 6.5 gallon carboy. If there was ever a reason to learn the powers of the force.......

I wouldn't worry about it too much. So long as you stay reasonably active, watch your diet, maintain good health, avoid the couch potato routine, etc., there's no reason why you shouldn't be hefting those big carboys in your elder years.

Oskaar's method looks like it covers all the bases -- cleansing, sanitation, ergodynamics, and safety.

I almost had a serious accident once with a loaded 5 gallon carboy. It was wet and slipped out of my hands. I caught it midway to the floor, bobbled it again, then caught it just inches off the floor. I'm a small person myself so the only way I can explain this one is fear, and memories of the stories I'd heard of horrible accidents from shattered carboys.

12-02-2007, 12:46 PM
I highly recommend carboy handles. In the past I have nearly lost a carboy while cleaning and it has scared the hell out of me. Carboys are large and awkward to handle, especially when wet.
Nearly everyone of my carboys have a handle on it now and it is the best $6 I have spent on everyone of them. I typically clean my carboys with a bottle jet washer and the kitchen sink sprayer. With on e hand on the handle and the other on the body of the carboy.
I scrub the best I can with a brush and then I will add PBW and water to let them soak.

03-09-2011, 01:58 PM
Carboy handles are known for causing stress, especially when full of wort, and can lead to snapping off the neck of your carboy. I have heard stories of the necks snapping off even when empty and it is not pretty. I suggest that you consider using something else, a carboy carrier or milk crate. I use a product called brew hauler which is made of polypropylene webbing. Makes it much easier to carry when full of my precious beverages or when cleaning and no stress on the carboy! Got mine for about $11. Your back will thank you and you might avoid slicing yourself up when that carboy explodes on impact after the neck snaps off.

03-09-2011, 02:19 PM
I use both carboy handles and a carboy Carrier


The carrier was probably one of the best 14 dollars I've ever spent. The handle is just to give you a firm hand hold, not to hold the weight. As the previous post says the necks will snap off. I've seen it happen luckily not me or my wort and no one was hurt other than being covered from head to foot with wort and looking very embarrassed because he was warned against it about 10 seconds earlier.

I usually do it outside so the water ends up on the grass, if I have to do it inside then I find that if I set it upended on an old brewing bucket next to my sink I can siphon from the sink into the bottle and from the bottle to another bucket. Prevents me from having to move really heavy carboys. A 1/2 diameter piece of tubing will siphon as fast as my sink will fill.

Also I lost my first glass carboy simply buy pouring hot water from the tap into. It cracked the bottom out of so neatly it was amazing, since then I avoid any form of hot water in them.