Best Homebrewing Sanitizers

by Billy Broas



Homebrewing sanitizers are a crucial ingredient to brewing great beer. But with so many on the market, which one do you buy? I’ve done the research for you and will explain the pros and cons of each, and give my recommendation for the best sanitizer.

BleachClorox Bleach

Very common household chemical and super cheap. Only a small amount will make a strong sanitizing solution.

Pros:

  • Easy to find
  • Cheap
  • Powerful

Cons:

  • Must rinse it out thoroughly. While rinsing you risk contaminating the equipment if your rinse water is not sterile. Rinsing also takes a lot of time and water, which costs money.
  • Harmful to skin, eyes, and clothes.
  • If any amount gets into your beer it will ruin the taste.

Overall: Bleach has a lot of uses around the house but sanitizing homebrew equipment shouldn’t be one of them. The rinsing is a time and water waster, and unless you use sterilized water you risk contamination. Also, if you’re like me, you tend to make a wet mess – not good with bleach. Go with a sanitizer that is made specifically for homebrewing.

One-StepOne-Step Sanitizer

Common oxygen based sanitizer that comes with many starter homebrewing kits.

Pros:

  • No rinse
  • Good cleaner

Cons:

  • No longer classified as a sanitizer by the FDA.
  • Many homebrewers treat it as a strong cleaner, and will not sanitize with it.

Overall: From what I’ve read, it sounds like One-Step isn’t classified as a sanitizer by the FDA because they don’t want to go through the approval process, so they may get a pass there. Still, if there is doubt, why risk it when there are better alternatives? You’re probably OK using One-Step, but I’d recommend you buy Iodophor or Star-San when it runs out.

IodophorIodophor Sanitizer

Very effective iodine based sanitizer that can be found at any homebrew store or bought online.

Pros:

  • No rinse
  • Short contact time
  • Cheap

Cons:

  • Will stain plastic equipment over time. Will also stain skin and clothing.
  • If too much is used (easy to do), it will leave a funny odor and stain badly.

Overall: A great sanitizer and one that I used for years. It’s used by a ton of homebrewers and if Star-San didn’t exist, I would easily rank it #1.

Star-SanStar-San

A very effective acid rinse sanitizer. Find it at any homebrew store or buy online.

Pros:

  • Foaming helps get in cracks and crevices
  • No rinse
  • Colorless and odorless
  • A little goes a long ways
  • Can be reused as long as pH is below 3

Cons:

  • Will make your hands very dry
  • The foam scares people, which is silly

Overall: Don’t fear the foam! Star-San is my #1 pick for the best sanitizer. Put it in a squirt bottle and you will use much less, and make it easier to sanitize your equipment. Mix it with distilled or reverse osmosis water and it can be reused many times.

What do you use to sanitize? Is it one of the ones I didn’t mention?

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{ 27 comments… read them below or add one }

Adam April 30, 2010 at 11:12 am

You know anything about B-Brite? The lady at the homebrew shop was really trying to sell me on it, but I had not heard of it. I used bleach now, though, so shows what I know.

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Chris April 30, 2010 at 1:37 pm

My only issue with Star San (besides occasional fear of the foam) is that it leaves stuff slippery. I like to put my airlocks in a sanitizing solution until I pitch my yeast. Once when using a Star San solution I could not get the plug/airlock in the carboy. It would slide right out. I went back to Iodophor, despite it staining all of my gear :)

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Bert Proulx October 29, 2012 at 4:34 am

Chris, first off I have never brewed yet, I’m in afghanistan and researching/studying in my bit of off time. I just wanted to state that the first video I watched spoke of the same problem, that person used Sanitary Napkins to quickly dry the mouth of the Carboy before putting the plug in.

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Billy Broas April 30, 2010 at 5:14 pm

@Adam I’ve never personally used B-Brite but from what I’ve heard it is similar to One-Step – more of a cleaner than a sanitizer. There are a lot of accounts of One-Step being pushed on people at homebrew shops b/c they know you’ll go through it fast. Could be the same deal. As for the bleach, you can definitely make great beer using it, and plenty of people do. If it works for you then that’s cool. I just suggest trying the others that you might like better.

@Chris It’s funny, I’ve heard people talk about how slippery it is but I’ve really never noticed or had a problem with it. That would annoy the crap outta me though! Thanks for sharing the experience.

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Pete May 3, 2010 at 10:00 am

Hey Billy,

Thanks for all your advice, I like the site. I bought my equipment over the weekend and made my first batch. Luckily, the NMA helped me so hopefully it turns out ok.

Pete

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Billy Broas May 4, 2010 at 9:01 am

@Pete Thanks Pete glad you like the site. Congrats on you’re first brew! The NMA knows what he’s doing so I’m you’re good. Be sure to let us know how it turns out.

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Mike - MikeLovesBeer.com May 4, 2010 at 6:21 pm

Thanks so much for this. I’ve been wondering what to get for my next sanitizer because my kit came with B-Brite and I wanted to switch to something that is a real sanitizer since that is running out. I think I’ll go with your suggestion on Star San.
.-= Mike – MikeLovesBeer.com´s last blog ..Dogfish Head Dinner – Thursday May 6th =-.

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SudsyMaggie May 11, 2010 at 6:26 pm

When I started brewing I used iodophor – loved it! Less expensive, easy to use, no problem. It stained my hoses and tubing if I didn’t rinse right away, but they’re cheap and easy to replace. Last summer I ran out so gave Star San a try. I really like it! It’s a bit more expensive, but if you brew frequently it’s the best deal for your money because you can reuse it for quite a long time (just keep an eye on the pH & keep it covered). I haven’t been brewing as often so I tend to make a new batch each brew day, which is expensive and kind of a waste. I’m thinking about going back to iodophor next time I need to buy. And yes – I’ve had the same problem of the airlock not staying put, annoying but harmless.

Cheers!

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Brad August 5, 2010 at 3:04 pm

How long will the Star San be effective once you’ve made it up with RO water? Love the site!

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Billy Broas August 7, 2010 at 10:25 pm

@Brad I’ve gone a few months and that’s only because my stash ran out. It’s still effective if the pH is under 3. You can test it with those pool test strips. Most homebrew stores carry them.

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Dan November 21, 2010 at 4:53 pm

Hey Billy,

Any harm in letting things soak in Star San as you complete various tasks during the brewing process?

-D

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Billy Broas November 21, 2010 at 7:15 pm

@Dan Not at all, I do that all the time. On brew day I typically make the sanitizer batch during the boil and then throw in everything to soak until the wort is cooled. I’d say it’s a smart idea so you don’t forget and have to make a batch at the last minute.

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Randy June 10, 2011 at 9:05 am

Billy,
Saw a guy on youtube using Sodium Metabisulfite. Any opinions on this stuff. I know you have to rinse it.

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Billy Broas June 10, 2011 at 1:34 pm

Hey Randy, I’ve never used sodium metabisulfite so I can’t comment on its effectiveness. I know it’s used a lot in the wine industry. The HBT wiki doesn’t think too much of it: http://www.homebrewtalk.com/wiki/index.php/Cleaning_and_Sanitation

It seems like with all the advantages of StarSan and Iodophor there’s no reason to use SM in place of them. If do choose to use it, let me know what you think.

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Simon June 18, 2011 at 5:02 pm

How do you store your equipment?

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Billy Broas June 18, 2011 at 5:45 pm

I store everything in my basement.

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Brennan September 25, 2011 at 2:14 pm

If you mix the Star-San with water in the spray bottle, doesn’t it raise the pH and neutralize it? Water is a weak buffer. I am asking because you said the pH needs to stay below 3.

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Billy Broas September 26, 2011 at 10:09 am

Hey Brennan. If you mix the Star-San at the recommended ratio then the pH will be in the target range. If you added additional water then you would go above 3 and that certainly wouldn’t be good. Good question.

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Jeff March 4, 2012 at 12:39 pm

I have used B-Brite on all my batches of beer so far. They have all turned out great! Now that I am almost out I am going to go to Star-San. Going to give it a try. B-Brite os OK, Just looking for something better. Going to start making mead on the side and small batches and will try it on that. Knowing that a wine takes longer to make and any unsanitazed area will grow bad, bad stuff.

Billy, Just found your site and love it. Great info!!

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Billy Broas March 4, 2012 at 11:25 pm

I feel exactly the same why – if there is something better, and there are really no drawbacks, why not use it? Thanks for the comment Jeff and welcome to the site.

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Corey July 8, 2012 at 7:47 am

Great site, great info. I used to brew a lot, but haven’t brewed beer in about 5 years. Just recently heard about kegging homebrew so my interest has peeked again :). I always used bleach for sanitizing with no problems, but you made a good point on the possibility of re-contamination and like you I make a huge mess and have ruined some clothes in the process lol. Think I’ll try star-san or iodophor when I start brewing again. Thanks for the awesome info.

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Billy Broas July 10, 2012 at 9:45 am

Hey Corey, glad the post helped. Yes, kegging brings a lot of homebrewers out of retirement lol.

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Matthew September 13, 2012 at 8:24 am

I’ve been homebrewing using bleach as a sanitizer, and yes, it uses a LOT of water. I’m just about to start kegging, and that’s when I heard of iodophor. I had heard of star-san before, but never looked up much info on it. This article has helped me lots, and I’m heading to my homebrew supplier soon to pick up the star-san. Thanks much!

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Billy Broas September 13, 2012 at 9:04 am

You’re welcome. Cheers!

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Jeff February 8, 2013 at 5:58 am

Here is the thing.

I have been brewing for 30 years.
I have never had an infected wash.

If you are doing it right lactobacillus will protect your wash from other nasty’s
If conditions are bad I will use a little bleach and water. The biggest issue with bleach is how much of it people tend to use. A 1/4 teaspoon in a gallon of water is enough to wipe out even just about any bacteria on the planet. If you lightly rinse and by the time you add 5 or ten gallons of wash it will be so dilute that it will not effect your yeast in the slightest.

You want real protection? get UVb lab lights,

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Jim April 17, 2014 at 2:50 pm

Has anyone used Beer Clean sanitizer? It’s main ingredient Trichloromelamine, but it’s supposed to sanitize glasses at the bar I’m working at. Could I use that?

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Zarn May 28, 2014 at 9:43 am

I have been brewing for 14 years. I use One Step to clean and Iodophor to sanitize. Never any problems. One Step for cleaning… I use 2 tablespoons of One Step in 5 gal. of very warm to hot water, mix it well and immerse your utensils for a minute or two or until they look clean. For carboys or cornies dump the full 5 gallons in the vessel and work it with a carboy brush until clean. Be careful with your glass as rapid temp changes between One Step and Iodophor solutions will crack a carboy or burst a Hydrometer ( don’t ask how I know this). Rinse but be careful One Step is very slippery. I always rinse everything even though it is not required. The reason I do is One Step neutralizes Iodophor almost instantly if you place utensils directly into Iodophor if you do not rinse.

Sanitizing with Iodophor… 1 tablespoon per 5-6 gallons COLD water. If the water is orange it is working. Immerse utensils and completely fill carboys and let stand for 10 minutes to complete the sanitizing processs. When done brewing I always immerse my cleaned utensils in Iodophor and dry them before storing.

The nice thing is both One Step and Iodophor can be reused. I use left over, (clear) One Step to clean my fishing gear, buckets and all sorts of gear after it is used for brewing.

Enjoy

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