How to Clean Beer Bottles for Homebrew

Updated on December 7, 2019
rick combe profile image

Rick Combe is a jack of few trades and master of none from the southeastern US.

a large number of empty beer bottles
a large number of empty beer bottles

Don't Buy Bottles; Reuse Them

One of the first issues to come up when you get into beer brewing is where to get bottles. Homebrew stores sell new ones; however, they aren't very cheap. There's no reason to pay for empty bottles when you probably throw them away on a daily basis. Clean used bottles are just as good as new ones, and they're free.

Find Bottles With Pop tops, Not Twist Offs

From my experience, the most important factor is that the bottle has a pry-off top. Twist off tops don't seal well with a wing capper, which can cause your beer to not prime (carbonate) properly and/or spoil. I have heard of some people having success capping twist offs with a bench capper, but I have no experience with that so I can't recommend it.

Some common beer brands with pry-off/pop tops include Corona, Sierra Nevada, Samuel Adams, Heineken, Modelo, and Becks. The majority of craft brews and Mexican beers have pop tops. Most macro brews, such as Budweiser, Miller, and Coors have twist-off tops.

Step 1: Soak Your Bottles Overnight

Once you have accumulated enough bottles to brew beer (a five-gallon batch yields around 50 twelve-ounce bottles), you will need to soak them overnight in a solution of OxiClean or a generic version of it, which can be found at the dollar store. I don't have any large watertight containers, so I use the bathtub in my guest bathroom to do this.

  1. Plug the tub and turn the water to mostly hot. If you have sensitive hands, you might want to use gloves for this.
  2. As the tub is filling, add 2-3 scoops of your oxygen cleaner, more or less depending on the size of your tub/container. It doesn't have to be exact, just enough to make the water "slippery."
  3. Once the cleaner is mixed evenly, and you have a few inches of water in your tub/container, begin filling the bottles with the cleaner/water solution. I set mine upright at this point so I have room to clean them the next day, but if you want to leave them laying down to save water, that's fine. Either way, fill the bottles with the solution and run just enough water to fully submerge them. If you're married, go ahead and cook a delicious dinner before your spouse finds that the tub is filled with beer bottles.
  4. Leave the bottles to soak overnight.

soaking to reuse beer bottles and remove labels
soaking to reuse beer bottles and remove labels

Step 2: Clean and Remove Labels

  • Once the bottles have soaked overnight they will be ready to clean. Get a steel wool pad, a trash can, and a chair.
  • You will also need something to transfer the bottles to your dishwasher if you have one. If you have a bottle brush, you can use it too. I don't own one and on the rare occasion that I can't get a bottle clean without a brush, I just toss it.
  • Again, you might want to use gloves for this as the cleaner can dry out your skin.
  • First, dump a little more than half the water out of the bottle, then plug it with your finger and shake it vigorously for a few seconds. This should be all it takes to get the inside of the bottle clean. I've used this method on many batches of beer and have never had one contaminated, and I've cleaned some pretty filthy bottles. Occasionally, one will still have visible staining after shaking it a few times. I just throw those away.
  • Now you'll need to remove the labels and glue unless you are using a bottle with the label painted on, like Corona. By now some of the labels might be coming off on their own.
  • Use your fingers to peel off what you can and throw it in the trash.
  • Now, dip the steel wool in the water and scrub off the rest of the label and the glue. I drink Samuel Adams and Modelo regularly and have found that Sam Adams cleans up really easy, where Modelo takes a little extra work. Even the harder-to-clean bottles can be scrubbed clean and shiny in less than a minute.
  • Once the outside is clean rinse the bottle with clean tap water inside and out and set it aside.
  • Repeat until all of the bottles are clean.
  • Remember that you will only have to do this once, from now on you can reuse your label-free bottles.

how to remove beer bottle labels
how to remove beer bottle labels
clean beer bottles with steel wool
clean beer bottles with steel wool

Step 3: Sanitize Your Beer Bottles

There are many ways to do this, but I'm going to focus on the two I am familiar with. If you have a dishwasher you are in luck. Just put the rinsed bottles in (I can fit about 55 in my dishwasher, using the short bottles on top) and run a high-temperature wash and dry with no detergent. If your dishwasher has a sanitize cycle all the better, but it's not necessary. A regular high-temp wash kills anything in the bottles. If you don't have a dishwasher you'll need to put in a little more effort. No-rinse beer brewing sanitizers are available at homebrew stores and online. Just follow the directions on the container. Before I learned I could sanitize with the dishwasher, I just used bleach.

How to Sanitize With a Bleach Solution

  1. Rinse out the tub/container you used to clean the bottles and begin adding hot water. One of the most respected books on homebrewing, How to Brew by John Palmer, suggests using one tablespoon of bleach per gallon of water and soaking the bottles for 20 minutes; others suggest using two tablespoons per 5 gallons and soaking for 10. I myself used the Palmer method.
  2. After soaking, rinse the bottles will. Palmer says to rinse with boiled water, but the times I sanitized bottles with bleach, I just took a chance and used tap water to rinse and had no trouble. I still sanitize my brewing equipment with a bleach solution and rinse with tap water. I have yet to have any problems.

Now you're ready for bottling beer. Rinse the empty bottles a few times right after you drink them and store them upside down to make your life easier in the future. Be sure to comment with any tips or experiences you'd like to share.

sanitizing beer bottles
sanitizing beer bottles
how to sanitize beer bottles
how to sanitize beer bottles


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment
    • profile image


      2 years ago

      Sterodent makes a good cleaner for demijohns

    • profile image

      M. Larsen 

      3 years ago

      A 20 min. soak in water with 1/3 cup of Washing Soda per 5 gal of water will remove labels with very little effort.

    • profile image

      D Kristof 

      3 years ago

      After I soak the bottles the labels usually slide off, but there's some adhesive residue left behind. Instead of using steel wool and risking scratches, I use a paper towel. I have had very few that required any great effort.

    • profile image


      4 years ago

      I've tried the oxy-action type suggestion but found baking soda a far better solution to removing labels.

      Three dozen bottles, ~half a cup of baking soda and hot water into the bath tub. Left for 45 minutes and every single label came off with great ease.

    • Larry Rankin profile image

      Larry Rankin 

      5 years ago from Oklahoma

      I've brewed beer a few times, and find this article very helpful.

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      Hey I got a great video showing how to easily remove labels and glue residue here:

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      Hey I got a great video on cleaning bottles here:

    • rick combe profile imageAUTHOR

      rick combe 

      7 years ago from USA

      Yeah, the dishwasher makes life a lot easier. The service station by my house sells 24oz Heineken, Modelo, and Coronas. I've been buying these lately to take even more work out of bottling.

    • JustforWhat profile image


      7 years ago from USA

      This is a good primer for bottle cleaning! I typically rinse my used bottles thoroughly as you suggest at the end of the article and store them in boxes. Once I'm ready to bottle I spray well inside and out with Star-San and let it drip for a few moments before filling. No problems yet for me either! I've had my fair share of issues with the lady over tying up the bathroom before!

    • Kyricus profile image


      7 years ago from Ohio

      Nice write up. I wish I had a dishwasher to do mine in. No dishwasher in the house, so I have to hand wash and sanitize mine. It's a real PITA. It's enough to make me seriously consider kegging.


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
    ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)