Take the 2-minute tour ×
Homebrewing Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for dedicated home brewers and serious enthusiasts. It's 100% free, no registration required.

Are Glass Beer Bottles safe to recycle/reuse? Since I can't know who drank out of it and what could be in it, I want to be sure that this is safe to do.

What type of disinfection reagent would I use, and would I use warm or cold water? (I think warm water - unless it's boiling - actually helps some bacteria to thrive?)

share|improve this question

3 Answers 3

up vote 6 down vote accepted

Reusing beer bottles is safe if they are thoroughly cleaned - after all, the bottles you get from the store are most likely reused bottles.

For bottles to be sanitary, they need to be both cleaned and then sanitized. There are a few ways of doing this

  1. putting them in the dishwasher. The cleaning cycle clears out any deposits, while the steam cycle at the end kills bacteria.
  2. using cleaning agents such as PBw or OxiClean, followed by a no rinse sanitizer, such as StarSan or Iodophor.

You're right that warm temperatures can encourage bacteria to grow, but I doubt this would increase bacteria count significantly unless a new food source was introduced, and even then, the sanitization step reduces bacteria count to insignificant levels, so this doesn't really make a difference there. In fact, soaking in warm water first can loosen deposits and remove labels, getting the bottles reasonably clean before starting the actual cleaning process, helping the cleaning agent to go further.

share|improve this answer
2  
Good answer. Just an FYI, in the US recycled doesn't mean reused. When we recycle glass bottles here they get shipped off to a facility that crushes the glass and then melts it down and fires it into new glass. Its because if we reused stuff we couldn't burn more fossil fuels shipping the stuff, crushing the stuff and remaking the stuff. I could go on but then my comment would get flagged. –  brewchez May 18 '12 at 0:37
    
Thanks, I've edited to reflect. I can understand your frustration with the recycle-reuse thing, but at least as homebrewers we can choose to reuse our bottles and avoid unnecessary carbon emissions. –  mdma May 18 '12 at 8:27
    
@brewchez That's actually how it's done e.g. in Germany as well. The trucks that get the glass containers aren't gentle and do crush the glass. I do think it makes sense because you really, really can't know what's in those bottles. Hence my question if there is a safe way, I might actually look at ways to sterilize rather than just sanitize. –  Michael Stum May 18 '12 at 19:24

Yes, that's how I wound up with a closet full of empty bottles. I've only reused bottles that came into my house full, so who drank from them isn't really a concern, aside from the fact that they'll be cleaned and sanitized before the next use.

What I do:

  • Fill container with bottles turned upright (a 5-gallon bucket will hold 13 12-oz bottles, and I can get 30 in my cooler).
  • Pour 1-3 teaspoons of Oxiclean Free into each bottle (I'm pouring from the scoop, so it's certainly not exact), and dust the inside container with about another 1/4 cup
  • Fill each bottle with hot water from the tap until it's bubbling over (this step is simply to keep them from floating during the next step).
  • When all the bottles have a good amount of hot water in them, fill the container with hot water until it's at least half an inch (1.25 cm) above the bottle tops
  • Let the bottles soak overnight.

The next day (or the next day I get a chance), I rinse and remove labels. Many labels will float off in the cleaning solution (This will probably happen for the easiest bottles to reuse, according to the answers to this question). You'll have to work to remove the glue from some brands. That may or may not be worth your time.

If you're particularly concerned about sanitation, you can soak the bottles in star-san before storage. I'm lazy, though, and figure they'll pick up more dust and such while they sit, so I just wait until a few hours before bottling to worry about sanitizing them.

share|improve this answer

I think the most important tip regarding "re-using" bottles is to rinse them really well RIGHT AFTER YOUR POUR FROM THEM! Of course if you wait a few hours after no big deal, but they become much harder to clean properly if the remaining contents start to dry in anyway. I pour off my bottle, then rinse it vigorously, several times with as hot of water as I can stand. Then they sit upside down and drain for the night in my dish rack. Draining is another important tip!!! Stagnate water is nasty, you really don't want a few ml's of water sitting in the bottom of a bottle for months......

share|improve this answer

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.