Cleaning demijohns

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Cleaning and sterilizing demijohns


After all the trouble I had cleaning and sterilizing demi johns I decided to dedicate a webpage about it. With all the mistakes I made so you won't have to make them. I think I came up with a pretty good way of cleaning demi-johns. The final method is listed somewhere at the bottom of the page, but I listed all my actions (including mistakes) in chronological order and hopefully you find it interesting enough to read the whole page so you know what not to do as well as how to clean demi-johns.

Cleaning demijohns
After being given a few more I now have 24 demi-johns in total in addition to the 5 fermentation barrels of 6 gallons each. As you can see, the demi-johns have been on a shelf somewhere with last year's brew still in it.

Sterilizing demijohns

It seemed a good idea to give them all a good clean in a hot bath with some washing up liquid in it to get most of the residue out.

How to clean demijohns

They came out pretty clean. Some of them still had a little bit of filth inside them, but most of them were clean to the eye.

How to sterilize demijohns

A close-up of a demi-john before going in the bath and one after having a bath. Quite a difference.

Cleaning demijohns
After a good rinse the demi-johns were ready to be sterilized. Last year I used a sterilizing agent which I bought of e-bay. I wanted to do it a bit cheaper this year and decided to use bleach. On the bottle it said to use 60ml of bleach for a 1 gallon demi-john. I decided to use a little bit more to be sure that it was all sterilized okay. That was my first mistake (or maybe second if you count using bleach in the first place as a mistake). I left the demi-johns overnight with the bleach.

Cleaning demijohns
This is what the demi-johns looked like after the bleach treatment. If you look 3 pictures up, you will see that the demi-johns don't look as clean as they did when they just came out of the bath. Something clearly had gone wrong (apart from the fact that there now seemed to be one demi-john extra. I cleaned 12 in one go and only put a few on the table for the picture).

Cleaning demijohns
A closer look at the demi-johns at this stage. The bleach had solidified on the bottom, and there also seemed some sort of residue on the inside that wasn't noticable before. I tried to clean this of with hot water and soap and a strong bottle brush but this did not work at all. I decided to use the same sterilizing agent I used last year (VWP Cleaner/Sterilizer) to see if the solidified bleach could come off.

Cleaning demijohns
The demi-johns are now filled with warm water and VWP Cleaner/Sterilizer and left overnight.

Cleaning demijohns
It did not work. At this moment I thought I had ruined 12 good demi-johns because I had no idea to clean them now. I started searching the internet on how to clean a demi-john and found a few different answers. Most of them were similar to what I had done already. There was one about dropping a slug in it and wait for the slug to eat everything inside the demi-john. It was interesting, but I did not want to kill slugs by having them eat solidified bleach.

Cleaning demijohns with vinegar and rice

Then I saw a page about using vinegar and rice. The rice will work as a scourer. Worth a try as the only other option it to get rid of them or use them in the garden!

Cleaning demijohns
It worked a treat. I filled all demi-johns with about an inch of vinegar and a handfull of rice and started shaking and rotating the demi-johns. The result was pretty impressive; everything inside the demi-johns came of easily. I would not have believed it if I did not see it with my own eyes.

Cleaning demijohns
A close-up after using the vinegar and rice. The demijohns are cleaner than ever and ready to be sterilized again with VWP cleaner/sterilizer.

Cleaning demijohns
I did not put the rest of the demi-johns in the bath. Instead, I used the kettle to boil water and a scouring pad to clean them from the outside. With a bottle brush I cleaned the inside as well as I could. With the hotter water than the bath water they came out cleaner.

Cleaning demijohns
I lost 1 demi-john to the boiling water. I should have poured a little bit of boiling water on the outside as well to avoid this. Another lesson learned.

Cleaning demijohns
All demi-johns now cleaned and sterilized.

And finally, this would be my recommendation for cleaning and sterilizing demi-johns.

Cleaning demijohns

  • Clean the soiled demi-johns with near boiling water, washing up liquid and a bottle brush from the inside, occasianally shaking vigourously and let it soak for a while. The bottle brush is optional. The bottle brush I used was a cheap one and totally useless. Maybe an expensive bottle brush does a better job but I wouldn't bother. Be careful not to break the demi johns. Pour some hot water on the outside as well to get a more even expension of the glass. Use a scouring pad and washing up liquid to clean the outside. Rinse thoroughly.

  • In case of well-soiled demi-johns there will still be some residue left in the demi-johns. Fill the demi-john with about 1 inch of vinegar and a handfull of rice and shake hard for a few minutes. Rinse thoroughly. If you had demi-johns with dried up cider from a few years ago or dried up mud then they should now be clean to the eye. All 24 of mine were at this point.

  • Sterilize demi-johns with VWP Cleaner/Sterilizer. I bought this on ebay in jars enough for 5 gallons. Costs about 4 per jar. A cheaper option could be bleach, but my results were a disaster. If you want to use bleach, don't use more than 60ml per gallon and don't leave it overnight. Rinse thouroughly, and put a solid bung on them. The demi-johns are now ready for use.

  • After you have used the demi johns, rinse them again thoroughly so that there are no remains of whatever you used them for left and put a bung on them. This step is just as important as the other steps as it saves you so much hassle when you are ready to use the demi johns again.



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    05-09-2011: Like most years, in the first week of September we have been to the Great Dorset Steam Fair 2011.

    06-07-2011: I have added some photos from out daytrip to Weston Super Mare.

    18-05-2011: We have been on a Tractor Run again.

    23-04-2011: The Lynches in the Spring.

    19-03-2011: On Sebastian's 2nd birthday we went to West Midlands Safari Park.

    09-02-2011: New page with photos from the view of our house to the church and the old village added here.

    08-02-2011: New page about our daytrip to Bourton on the Water added.

    05-02-2011: New pictures of the Sunday Cider shed added.

    28-11-2010: New pictures of the Sunday Cider shed added.

    07-10-2010: You can now view the pictures of the Great Dorset Steam Fair 2010.

    24-09-2010: We have been to the Netherlands again: The Netherlands 2010.

    24-06-2010: The weather was nice and we decided to take a daytrip to the beach at Woolacombe.

    21-06-2010: New pictures of the Sunday Cider shed added.

    08-09-2009: Some photo's of our trip to The Netherlands added and more pictures of the Sunday Cider shed added.

    31-08-2009: The long awaited pigroast at the Saturday cider shed finally happened..

    31-08-2009: Although not as busy as last year, this year's barbecue at Aston sub Edge village club was still a success.

    22-08-2009: Have you ever heard of The Lynches? It is the name of the woods we walk through on our way to Chipping Campden. These woods feature on a few pages on this website. Well, there is now somebody living in The Lynches, Ray Mears style (or is it John Rambo?).

    24-07-2009: As promised, I have now taken a few pictures of the Saturday Cider Shed. More pictures will be added in due course.

    09-07-2009: Finally. I've added a page about the cider shed on Sunday morning. Another page about the Saturday cider shed will follow shortly (I have to take a few more pictures first).

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