⇒ 'PBW cleaner' (and why you should use it)

Friday, December 15, 2023
PBW for cleaning homebrew equipment
PBW cleans beer equipment very well

PBW stands for Powdered Brewery Wash

PBW cleaning product by Five Star is widely used in commercial breweries but countless homebrewers across the country have cottoned on to how they can use it for cleaning their own brewing equipment.

It was originally used by the Coors brewery!

PBW is a trusted brand among most North American homebrewing communities.

If you are looking for some guidance on how to clean your brewing equipment, they will probably recommend you use this powdered wash.

It really is an amazing cleaner for beer brewing equipment.

Don't believe me and you think I'll say anything to make a sale?

Go to any beer brewing forum and you will find season beer makers raving about this product. Go on, Google it now and you'll quickly find we are not exaggerating about how good this cleaning product is.

The benefits of using PBW are many:

  • If you've ever used a 5-gallon stainless steel boil pot after homebrewing sessions you'll know how crusty the remnants on the bottom of the pot can be. A quick round with PBW will sort them out easily. All you have to do when cleaning with hot water, add just a little bit of PBW, mix it up, and let it sit in the pot. All of that burned-on garbage comes right off. Ideally, a good burner will not cause this problem!
  • Stainless steel never looked so clean after an overnight soak!
  • PBW is environmentally friendly, biodegradable, and will not harm septic systems
  • You can also clean your dishwasher with it! In fact, you can clean any stainless steel utensils and equipment with it - that's why it's so versatile as a cleaner for home brewers
  • If you need to remove an odor that is coming from some organic substance PBW will remove the substance and the accompanying odour. So it's great for cleaning up old brewing equipment that might need a bit of love before it's used again
  • Doesn't burn skin as other chemical agents can (like say Sodium Hydroxide) or create a strong pungent smell like other heavy-duty cleaners
  • It's pretty handy to remove labels from beer bottles after a good soak.

But wait, that's not all!

PBW has plenty of uses that might not seem so obvious for home brewing

Say you've been a little bit lazy and you still need to clean your beer bottles and the sediment has dried out at the bottom of the bottle.

Have you ever tried getting that crap out?

It's a real bitch to do, trust me. 

Why waste time with a bottle brush that just can't reach everywhere when you can soak all your bottles in Powdered Brewery Wash.

It's also handy for removing pesky labels from beer bottles that you want to use for homebrew. Give them a good soak and those labels will come off in no time. 

You can also clean your carboy or fermentor too! And we all know how easy is to think, heck, I've bottled my beer, I'll clean the fermenter next weekend...

That weekend becomes a month and suddenly all the brewing scum is as impenetrable as Fort Knox.

A soak with PBW will sort that for you.

If you let that fermenter soak overnight in the solution, you won't need to do any scrubbing, simply rinse it off with the hose and you'll be sweet. 

It's really easy to use PBW! 

The cleaner instructions are simple. It's just three easy steps:
  1. It's best used to soak your brewing gear overnight to easily remove stubborn, caked on organic deposits without scrubbing.
  2. Use 1 - 2 ounces per gallon for cleaning boil kettles, or an ounce per gallon for fermenters, kegs, carboys and other brewing equipment. 
  3. A quick rinse in the morning and you are ready to get brewing again!

So what do other users say about this cleaning agent?

The average review for PBW by Amazon reviewers is 5 out of 5. That's 100 percent of reviewers believing this cleaning agent does the business, and that's what you want. You don't want to muck around, you just want clean and sanitized beer equipment!

Powdered Brewery Wash is not a sanitizer!

Let's get this super clear.

PBW is for washing and cleaning your brewing equipment.

It will not necessarily kill the bugs that might linger, for which you need a good santizer.

Before brewing, and after ensuring you have clean gear, you must sterilize the fermenter and any gear you are using including any spoons, funnels or other utensils. 

Many home brewers, especially fans of the Dune novels, often use Star San. Like PBW, Star San is highly rated in the home brewing beer community as a sanitization agent. A great thing about is that it is a no rinse agent. You spray or briefly soak your gear with it and you are good to go. Star San is very well priced on Amazon.

What are the active ingredients found in PBW?

The main ingredient is about 30% Sodium Metasilicate. Its chemical formula is Na2SiO3 and it's what kicks grease and beer smegma to the curb. If you want to be brave and buy the main ingredient in bulk, there's plenty of value on offer on Amazon.

Another key component is sodium percarbonate. Don't get confused with sodium bicarbonate which is used for things like baking and cleaning! The percarbonate is a really excellent cleaner of beer gear, and we use it often. 

Want to know a secret about percarbonate?

It's laundry soaker.

That's right, the powder you use to get your whites whiter and brights brighter is sodium percarbonate!

So if you want a cheaper substitute for PBW, you could use the second active ingredient in it and simply go into your laundry and grab the soak.

Napisan, Oxiclean and many of those common and generic household brands have percarbonate in them.

To be fair though, the percarbonate is probably best for sanitizing whereas the metasilicate is the stronger cleaner.

Combining them meanings you get the effect of PBW - so if you are looking to make a DIY PBW substitute cleaner then use this combo of TSP/90 (AKA Red Devil) and Oxyclean in a ratio of 30% TSP/90 and 70% Oxiclean.

PBW is great for soaking kettles and pots

Did you forget to clean out the trub from your brewing kettle?

Maybe you got a bit carried away on the sampling of your wares... if the trub is now rock hard and caked on, a bit of PBW in water will work magic on the kettle.

Let it have a good soak, maybe read some Obi-Wan Kenobi Star Wars quotes and you should then be able to remove the gunk very easily. A hose can work wonders here.

If you've been a bit negligent with your kettle cleaning duty, PBW will deal with any beerstone that's occurring inside the drum. If you don't know what beerstone is, it's the build-up of calcium oxalate and water salt.

This build-up can affect the performance of your kettle over time, so if it's any every so often soak with PBW, you'll be maintaining your kettle.

A note on beerstone, other acid-based products arguably can do a better job.

Other uses for Five Star PBW

You can use it to clean your dishwasher or washing machine. Give it a round with nothing in it and a hot wash. You'll clear out the grime and get rid of some funky smells.

Given it cuts through grease extremely well, you can use a solution on a rag to clean all the surfaces in your kitchen > stove tops, fridges etc.

Barkeeper's Friend is probably better placed as a cleaner though. 

Effective CleaningCost
PBW is highly effective at removing organic residues and deposits that occur during the brewing process, such as proteins and hop resins. It's especially good at tackling tough beerstone (calcium oxalate deposits).PBW is generally more expensive than generic cleaning agents, which might deter budget-conscious brewers.
Safe on MaterialsSafety Precautions
It is safe to use on a wide range of materials including stainless steel, glass, plastic, and rubber, making it versatile for all brewery cleaning needs.PBW is a chemical cleaner that requires proper handling to avoid skin and eye irritation. Protective gear is recommended during use.
Non-Hazardous FormulaEnvironmental Considerations
PBW's formula is non-hazardous, biodegradable, and does not give off harmful fumes, making it a safer choice for users and the environment.While biodegradable, its chemical components can still impact the environment if not disposed of correctly.
Requires No ScrubbingRinsing Required
Its oxygen-based formula allows it to clean effectively without the need for vigorous scrubbing, preserving the integrity of the equipment.Thorough rinsing is required after using PBW to ensure that no residue is left on equipment, which could potentially affect beer flavors.
VersatilityUsage Concentration
PBW can be used for a variety of cleaning tasks beyond brewing, including cleaning kegs, fermenters, and other brewery hardware.The effectiveness of PBW depends on using the correct concentration and temperature, requiring careful preparation and monitoring.

So, I'm convinced, where can I buy this wonder cleaner?

It's very reasonably priced on Amazon!

Here's an interesting question - does a acid sanitizer like Star San kill Covid 19?


  1. It is also magic for kitchen pots and pans. I have a beautiful Le Creuset I thought i had ruined beyond repair. PBW soak and it looks brand new.

  2. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.


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