I've been brewing for a couple years now, and lately my bottle collection has been more and more difficult to keep clean. I've always been thorough about rinsing the bottles with hot water immediately after pouring, and then turning them upside down to dry in my dish rack. Lately, 3/4 or more of my bottles have been left with a hazy residue in the bottom even after that rinse.

Dirty: Dirty Clean: Clean

I've tried soaking them in OxyClean, StarSan, vinegar, and dish soap + water. My bottle jet doesn't seem to do anything to it, even after any of those soaks. The only thing that's been successful is using a bottle brush and lots of elbow grease. That was fine when I only had to scrub a few bottles per batch, but scrubbing almost all of them every time I bottle is getting tiring.

My brews have been extract + steeping grains, and partial boil (except a couple split boils). My water is moderately hard, about 5 gpg.

What is this residue, can I prevent it, and is there an easier way to clean it?

  • Easy Off and/or TSP might do it when all else fails.
    – Glasseyed
    Commented Aug 1, 2015 at 0:31
  • Have you tried rinsing the bottles with cold water after drinking? Is the film there immediately after rinsing the bottles, or does it appear only after drying? Commented Aug 1, 2015 at 1:02
  • @HerbTarlek, it's only visible after the bottles dry. And I've never tried rinsing with cold water. I still need to empty a few more before I bottle my next batch; I'll see if that makes a difference.
    – Simon
    Commented Aug 1, 2015 at 4:16
  • maybe a really dumb question, but are you 100% sure this is on the inside of the bottles? I remember when I first started, I was scrubbing vigorously only to realize that the residue was on the bottom of the bottle...on the outside! upvote to oxy/TSP soak and rinsing immediately after use
    – Pietro
    Commented Aug 6, 2015 at 13:07
  • I bought used brown PET bottles twenty years ago and have used them ever since. They have beer deposits inside, but who cares? Also, I never clean them (except the first time). IMO, once I pour a beer, rinse the bottle a few times and recap, it's sterile and ready to reuse. Save yourself a major PITA : just rinse and refill.
    – Jacko
    Commented Nov 17, 2019 at 22:30

6 Answers 6


I get to do more bottle cleaning than I'd prefer these days, here are my favorite cleaners:

Percarbonate (oxyclean) + trisodium phosphate (mix at 2:1 ratio, 100g per 20L water). Dissolves label glue and 99% of dried on residues, after a day of soaking.

Undiluted (household strength) bleach. Removes all organics in a few minutes.

If your deposit is a mineral, an acid should work. I use a strong white vinegar (10% acetic) on my brewpot, softens up the minerals nicely, but they don't fall off without some scrubbing.

Last one, I haven't used it at home ever, but 0.1% HCl will make those bottles look like brand new. Handle with care.

  • 1
    Sorry for abandoning this for so long. I had to go through another batch of bottles to try some new techniques. I re-visited the vinegar soak based on my hunch that the residue was mineral in nature. You're right -- it loosens the deposits but I still have to scrub. It looks like I'll have to eliminate the minerals at the source unless I decide to try stronger acids. For my most recent brew, I used bottled water. Hopefully that will eliminate these deposits!
    – Simon
    Commented Sep 26, 2015 at 23:04

I fill each empty with a 20/80 bleach/water solution and allow to soak for a few hours (usually overnight). Come bottling day, I rinse each bottle with cold water before sanitising. Works like a charm.


one should note that hcl on metal is bad it will eat right through it. so make sure you do it some place that is well ventilated. use gloves( latex), goggles you don't want it in your eyes. and a respirator. if you get it on your cloths you will end up with a hole in them. if your wondering where to get HCl . go to your local pool store and get maturic acid. they sell 28% and 31% acid.

  • +1 for the warnings. HCl is often used in mixture with hydrogen peroxide for etching copper out of PCBs. And where I live they took it out form the garden section of the store this year. Very hard to find it actually.
    – kellogs
    Commented Nov 10, 2018 at 8:06

I found an easier way to clean these mineral deposits out of my bottles. While doing some research on removing hard water scale from pots, I read that denture cleaning tablets can be effective for that purpose. Even though switching to store-bought water for my brewing has prevented the residue from forming in any of my batches from the past year, I still had many old bottles that I intended to clean.

The box of store-brand denture tablets I picked up haven't been 100% effective for cleaning my bottles, but it's cheaper and a whole lot less work than the vinegar soak plus vigorous scrubbing.

Here's my new process, which I recently used on approximately 1 case of bottles:

  1. Fill bottles to the shoulder with hot tap water (or halfway up the body for 22oz and larger bottles).
  2. Put one denture cleaning tablet in each bottle. Cracking the tablets in half helps them fit through the neck.
  3. Let the bottles soak until the fizzing has stopped. This is approximately 2 hours.
  4. Dump the bottles out and rinse them thoroughly with my jet washer.
  5. Shake out the rinse water and check for spots. If any spots are visible, scrub with a bottle brush and re-rinse.
  6. Put the bottles on a bottle tree to dry.

About 1 in 3 of the bottles needed scrubbing. The rest were completely clean after just the soak and rinse. A couple bottles had stubborn spots that still didn't come off easily, so I just recycled them. A few old bottles were an acceptable loss.


I am surprised no one mentioned sand. This is the oldest method in the book, throw some in there, mix with water and shake. Probably won't work that well on 10 years old deposits on the bottom of the bottles though.


I'm amazed nobody has mentioned caustic soda, aka NaOH, aka lye. This is an industry standard for removing organic deposits, and works amazingly. It is corrosive, so needs to be handled with care, but I've not found anything that does a better job.

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