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Cleaning Plastic Fermenting Buckets

Ok, I know folks have talked about this before, but - after I ferment in my plastic buckets, I clean them very well (dish soap scrub, then Oxy solution scrub, thorough rinse, then StarSan solution rinse before putting away), but I STILL have residual odors in the bucket. To me, if there are odors, there are “residuals” that are still in the bucket. Which - to me - suggests I could end up having a problem the NEXT batch that goes in there. So far I haven’t had a problem, but…

Other than Bleach, what are folks doing to clean their plastic fermenting buckets???

I love the smell of my plastic buckets! No issues from the smell. I would stay away from dish soap even though you scrub with oxy clean after.

Do not scrub with an abrasive scrubber. What smell?

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Yeah, no harsh scrubbers… And I didn’t say I don’t “enjoy” the smell of the buckets, just that I don’t WANT there to be an odor in the buckets! :slight_smile: …and they simply smell like the last beer fermented in them.

My concern is simply that odor is caused by “something” - bacteria, yeast, particles of trub - SOMETHING - otherwise there wouldn’t be a smell. Any “remnant” in a fermentor “should” have the potential to contaminate a future batch. Yes? No? Like I said, I haven’t had a problem - yet - but I’m just trying to avoid one in the future.

Almost all food grade plastics will retain some odors. We can sense the odor because it is a confined space. The odor is so insignificant that it won’t add any flavor to the next beer though.

Rinse your fermentation buckets immediately after racking. Follow up with a wipe down with a paper towel and dilute Oxyclean or PBW solution after bottling or kegging. Rinse well a few times and store inverted to air dry. Rinse and sanitize just before adding new wort on brew day.

Seems like it may be to simple, but unless you just brewed a sour or root beer this will be sufficient in almost all circumstances. Plastics for sours and root beers should be dedicated to only these uses in the future.

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And the reason for that is that some of the bugs used in sours are more hardy than typical, and thus take a bit more effort to sanitize away. Root beer is the exception to the rule that flars stated: that the odor isn’t enough to influence the next batch. With root beer followed by a delicate flavored beer, you might taste some residual.

Don’t use bleach in plastic. The bucket can retain the bleach odor and possibly the taste. Clean with a soft towel or sponge, no abrasive scrubbers. Scratches in the plastic can harbor bad stuff. When the bucket get looking really bad use it to wash the car and get a new brew bucket.

I suspect that your concern is more about contamination risk than simply imparting some flavor from one beer to the next, and if so I agree it does seem like that’s possible if there is stuff in the bucket that leaves a smell.

With that said, I have used plastic for the vast majority of my 20 year brewing history, always had residual smell (and sometimes visible staining as well) and never had a problem I could trace back to a bucket. Could be that I’m just lucky, but I wouldn’t–and in fact don’t–worry about it.

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Agreed, pick something else to worry about. Definitely a RDWHAHB situation. I rinse my buckets immediately, sometimes do an oxyclean soak, but usually not. I do a starsan rinse and let dry before storage. Before I use it next, I do make sure it looks clean, and would do an oxyclean soak then if necessary. And I definitely do a starsan soak while doing my brewing.
64 batches over 4 years, same buckets, no problems.

I have fermented well over 450 batches in plastic buckets. Yes, there is usually a lingering aroma, but it causes no problems in future batches. If it did, I would have switched hundred of batches ago. Don’t sweat it.


I appreciate the comments - especially for you guys that have done a done a BUNCH of brewing in buckets!!! …like I said previously, I’ve never had a problem to date, it was just something I was a bit “concerned” over. I won’t worry about it any more; I’ll clean as I have been (unless I can find some of this “VIROX” stuff), and not look back. …just dumped another Hefe in tonight in fact!

Thanks again!

I’m not entirely convinced that post about Virox wasn’t spam. It was his first post on the site so it appears he created that account just to post that. I’d be a little concerned about using something like that without doing some research.


I “do” use a water/bleach solution, and I even allow it to sit several hours as such before easily wiping away any residue of yeast, etc.

There is always residual smell, but it never carries over to the product (15 years brewing and dozens of competitions- never dinged for bleach-related issues).

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Virox is a germicide. Labeled for various uses, but mainly surfaces in food processing, food service, medical exam equipment, and institutions where communicable diseases are a threat. .

Here’s my method and it works pretty damn well. After I empty a bucket, I do a rinse with the hose with plenty of pressure. Then I fill that bucket with warm water and add a scoop of oxyclean. I cover it and let it sit in the back yard at least overnight. Sometimes it sits for a few days, even a week till I get around to finishing the cleaning. No rush since I have a few buckets. After some time I empty the bucket and scrub with a sponge and then hose it again. I like to keep a 5 gallon supply of StarSan on hand at all times. So after i have a cleaned bucket, I fill it with 5 gallons of StarSan. If I am not brewing on the day that I finish cleaning the bucket, I just store the bucket dry. On brew day, I bring out the bucket that has had StarSan in it for the days or weeks since my last brew. When I have completed the brewing, I empty the StarSan into one of the buckets that has been cleaned and it sits there being sanitized until my next brew day. I never seem to have any residual odor in the bucket and I am quite certain that after being filled with StarSan for days or weeks that it is as sanitized as is really possible.

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I don’t know whAt all the scrubbing is about. After I dump the yeast I rinse with warm water them wipe out with a sponge and a little oxyclean rinse again done. I don’t store it covered which may be why you have a smell.

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I have been brewing for almost 30 years, always in plastic, always used bleach. I use 1 cup bleach to a fermenter full of water, minimum 1 hour contact time (sometimes leave it for weeks). Before using, empty fermenter, turn upside down and drip dry 20 mins. Works perfectly, no chlorine tastes, aromas etc. Would never use any other method.

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