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?)

4 Answers 4


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.

  • 3
    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, 2012 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, 2012 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. May 18, 2012 at 19:24
  • That said though, there is plenty of actual reuse in e.g. Germany, as demonstrated by the wear rings ground into most of the bottles where they've repeatedly rubbed against each other and against machinery.
    – Frazbro
    Jan 23, 2020 at 21:57

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.


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......


If you thoroughly rinse and dry your bottles after use and store them in a dust free place, all you need to do before reusing is sanitize them. The sanitation methods above are good, and you can also soak them for 20 minutes in a bleach solution consisting of two ounces of bleach in five gallons of water. Just be sure to rinse them thoroughly after the soak.

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