Bottle Washing and Steam Sterilization Methods

It is essential that all glass containers used for foods are clean and in good condition. Many small food processors face additional problems as they often rely, at least in part, on recycled bottles or jars. The following suggest some possible solutions to overcome bottle treatment problems.

All glass, whether new or recycled, must be treated as dirty and considered unsuitable for packaging unless cleaned. Recycled containers must be treated with great suspicion as they could have been used for storing unpleasant materials. It is recommended that all recycled containers are rigorously inspected and rejected if there is any doubt as to their previous use.

Bottles should be washed, if possible, outside the general production unit as glass splinters from the inevitable
breakages should be kept as remote from production as possible.

If labels need to be removed, overnight soaking in plastic tubs full of water will prove useful.

Washing can be carried out in a large concrete sink lined with rubber (eg car mats) to reduce breakages. The actual cleaning can be done with nylon bottle brushes and detergent. Rotating brushes with treated steel or bronze bristles are available and are comparatively cheap, see Figure 1.

A very good small machine, Figure 2, incorporates both a rotating brush and pump. By rotating the handle the brush revolves and water is pumped through its head, finally draining away through a tube to the drain.


The total removal of detergent bubbles can be very tiresome, involving repeated filling and emptying. A simple
multi-head spray system will solve this problem, see Figure 3.


Bottle Sterilisation

It is well worth considering the steam sterilisation of bottles as a final precaution prior to filling. This is particularly true if a hot filling system is to be used. Glass sometimes contains flaws and the hot filling of a cold container can cause it to shatter. This results in splinters getting in the product and represents a total loss of product.

A simple bottle steamer can easily be made by a tinsmith from copper or brass sheet, see Figure 4. It should be noted that the vertical safety tube is absolutely essential. In use, the washed bottle is inverted over the steam spigot for 15 to 30 seconds until steam emerges from its neck. Obviously, the use of protective gloves and tongs will be necessary to handle the hot glassware. It is also strongly recommended that the operator carrying out the steaming should be required to wear safety goggles as occasionally there will be breakages. Additionally, some form of simple screen between the bottle steaming point and the filling point is recommended.

bottle steamer

technology courtesy by:
Technical Brief
Practical Action
Technology challenging poverty

Update as of May 08, 2012 – Read more tips.

4 Replies to “Bottle Washing and Steam Sterilization Methods”

  1. Hi,

    Can you let me know how can I sterilize plastic bottles and if there is an available apparatus or chemical in the market.


    1. @rence- most plastics cannot be sterilized by heat but some are able to withstand sterilization temperature. Polypropylene can stand boiling temperatures, the reason why baby feeding bottles can be sterilized. For plastics that are heat sensitive alcohol and chlorine can be used for sterilization. Other chemicals are listed here.

      Most plastic bottles for food use are disposable. They are not designed for heat and chemical sterilization.

    2. @rence- my friend is also producing peanut butter. He is using the ordinary plastic bought from Divisoria. He is not able to treat it with chemicals and heat. The package is very heat sensitive and absorbs some of the disinfectant he is trying to use.

      Look for heat resistant plastic bottles like polypropylene (with the recycling symbol of 5).

      Plastic bottles are normally sterile after manufacture unless improperly handled. Subject them to swab test as proof of sterility. Then the BFAD officers will allow to used them without further sterilization.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *