Some cleaning and sanitizing is more important depending on which part of the brew day it’s for. As a general rule anything you use before the beer is boiled doesn’t need to be sanitized to such an extent because the boiling process itself will kill any contaminants in the beer. That is not to say you don’t have to worry about it being clean.
The Importance of Cleaning
Bacteria are microscopic and hide out in hard to get to places, things like scratches and the corners of your equipment are places that will naturally accumulate dirt and grime. Bacteria will happily live in these scratches and crevices and will be protected from any sanitising you may do. Later on when the dirt is dislodged the bacteria will be exposed and ready to infect your beer. This is why all traces of organic material need to be removed before sanitising.
Common Cleaning Products
Dish Detergent: One thing you want to take caution over is reaching for the dish soap. A large proportion of dish soaps will leave a film that cannot be completely rinsed off and leave traces in your beer, also most soaps contain perfumes that will interfere with your beer. If you do use dish soap then use it in small quantities and rinse thoroughly, it’s better and usually more cost effective to use something like bleach.
Bleach: Ordinary household bleach is one of the mainstays of brewing equipment cleaning. It’s one of the cheapest solutions and is available almost everywhere. You will need to use unscented bleach and a dilution of 1 tablespoon per gallon or 4 litres, this will break down most organic material so it can be scrubbed off and rinsed away. Do not leave metals in contact with bleach for too long as corrosion can occur. If cleaning metals then minimize contact time. All items cleaned with bleach need thoroughly rinsing before use.
Sodium Percarbonate or Oxiclean: You may of heard of Oxiclean or similar products which are touted as oxygen cleaners. Sodium percarbonate is the active chemical in these cleaners and when combined with water, release hydrogen peroxide which will break down nearly all organic material. These types of cleaners should be used according to manufacturers instructions and rinsed thoroughly. The good thing about these are you can get one brand or another at most big supermarkets.
Dedicated Brewery Cleaners: If you go to your home brew shop they will usually have a large array of cleaners suitable for washing your equipment. It goes without saying, just follow the manufacturers instructions.