Cleaning and Sanitizing Barrels

If your barrel is clean does that means it’s sanitary?  Unfortunately, no.  Clean only means free of visible grit, grease and grime.  Sanitary speaks to a microscopic level of clean.  Sanitary means free from bacteria.

So, why is it important to not only clean but also sanitize?  When making wine you need to be in total control of the process that turns your favorite grape into delicious wine.  Any residues leftover from your last wine making effort will impact and potentially ruin your next batch.  Cleaning any  type of barrel is a pretty simple process and should be done prior to each time you get ready to make a new batch of wine.

Cleaning Items:

  1. Soda ash, Sal Soda or Sodium Carbonate
  2. Hot Water
  3. Metal Chain (with ends tied together) (optional)
  4. Medium-sized bowl

Cleaning Instructions:

Measure out 2 ounces of soda ash per every 3 gallons of water to be used in the cleaning process.

Clean the outside of the barrel with a stiff brush and a solution of hot water and soda ash prior to washing the inside.

In the bowl dissolve the soda ash in 2 cups of hot water.  Fill the barrel half full with water that is as hot as you can get it.  Add the dissolved soda ash and metal chain.  (The chain will act as an abrasive and aid in the cleaning process.)  Shake the barrel to properly mix the solution.

Finish filling the barrel with hot water and bung the barrel tight.  Roll the barrel around several times over the course of a 12-hour period.  Empty the barrel and rinse it out several times with more hot water to ensure that the solution has been completely washed out.  Now that your barrel has been cleaned, you are now ready to begin the sanitizing process.

  • NOTE: Sometimes mold can also develop if a barrel is not properly cleaned after use.  If mold has developed it is best if you purchase a new barrel.

Sanitizing Items:

  1. Citric Acid
  2. Sodium Bisulfite
  3. Water
  4. Medium-sized Bowl

Sanitizing Instructions:

Measure out 1/2 pound of citric acid and 1 pound of Sodium Bisulfite for each 50 gallons of barrel capacity.  Use these exact amounts.  Any less will result in an unsanitary barrel.  Any more will result in residual chemicals that will be difficult to rinse out.

To sanitize your barrel, fill it half full of water (the water does not need to be hot as the chemicals are doing most of the work in the sanitizing process).  Dissolve the correct amount of Sodium Bisulfite in water and pour it into the barrel.  Next, dissolve the correct amount of citric acid in some water and pout it into the barrel.  Bung the barrel and mix the solutions well by shaking or rolling the barrel.

Completely fill the barrel with water and bung tightly.  Let the barrel stand, checking on it every few hours and filling it to the top if necessary.

When you’re ready to use the barrel, empty it out, rinse it out, fill it again with fresh water and let stand over night.  In the morning, rinse the barrel out again and it will be ready to be used for your next batch of homemade wine.

About americanwinegrape

American Wine Grape Distributors Inc. AKA A. Silvestro Wine Grape, has been in business for over 5 decades. We are wine enthusiasts just like you and want to share in that enjoyment. This is why we are developing a new and exciting platform for growers, restaurants, sommeliers and home winemakers. Our goal is to bring the wine community together and is the driving force behind our new blog.