Not properly sanitizing your winemaking equipment can affect the taste of your wine or produce foul odors. After cleaning your equipment of visible grime, sanitizing is the next necessary step to remove microorganisms. All winemaking equipment that will come into direct contact with the wine should be properly sanitized prior to use. The term "sterilization" is sometimes used interchangeably with "sanitation," however, "sanitize" is the term winemakers use because true sterilization would require a sterile laboratory, and this is unrealistic in winemaking.
Wash off visible soil and residues from your winemaking equipment. Scrub bottles, buckets, spoons, measuring cups, tubing and all other materials with a soft bottle brush. Remove any scale or grime that could be hiding in nooks or crannies and ensure all items look physically clean before you attempt to sanitize them.
Fill a large pot or kettle with water. Set the pot with water on the stove top and allow it to boil for 15 minutes at 170 degrees Fahrenheit.
Place smaller winemaking materials into the boiling water for five to 10 minutes. Boiling is a good, cheap method of sanitizing items, and anything that fits into your pot can be sanitized this way. Stoppers, tubing, siphons, measuring cups, spoons, funnels and even smaller bottles may fit inside the pot. Use tongs to remove items while they are still hot.
Pour one gallon of water into a large clean bucket. Add 3 grams of potassium metabisulfite crystals and 12 grams of citric acid to the water. Dissolve the crystals fully to create an all-purpose sanitizing solution to use for the rest of your winemaking equipment.
Place larger winemaking items in a safe location such as a clean kitchen sink. Pour the sanitizing solution inside and over the items. Allow the items to sit covered in the solution for five to 10 minutes after pouring. This sanitizing solution can be used for any of your winemaking equipment and will sanitize large items such as carboys, bottles and buckets.
Pour out and rinse off the sanitizing solution from all the materials with clean water. Use the winemaking equipment immediately to avoid contamination from any microorganisms.
Winemaking equipment should be sanitized before prolonged storage. Some people may be allergic to metabisulfite, but there is a similar product called B-Brite that is available at brew shops. Bleach can be used for sanitizing as well, but is not recommended by some winemakers.
Always use sanitizing products carefully and out of reach of children.