Star San Tips, Tricks and Guidelines – Using Star San In a Spray Bottle

Star San

Star San is my sanitizer of choice.  When mixed properly, it’s food safe and no rinse.  Required contact time is one minute.  It has worked very well for me for quite some time and I’m convinced that it’s one of the most economical solutions available if you use the spray bottle method outlined here.  I’ve used a single 32 oz bottle for years.  Like 5+ years.

Cleaning, Sanitizing and… Sterilizing
The first step in sanitizing is cleaning.  Cleaning and sanitizing are two separate steps.  Cleaning physically removes dirt and large contaminants.  After your item is physically clean it can be microscopically sanitized.  Sanitization kills many (but not all) germs, bacteria and microorganisms on an already clean surface.  I typically use a mixture of PBW (Powdered Brewery Wash) for cleaning.  Sanitizing and Sterilizing are different.  Sterilizing is killing every living thing.  In home brewing typically, we’re not interested in sterilizing, we’re only interested in sanitizing.

The Spray Bottle Method
The key benefit of this method is using what you need.  That fact of the matter is… there’s no need to submerge your equipment in gallons and gallons of this stuff.  The open space in the middle of your carboy does not need to be sanitized.  Just the surfaces do.

Fill up a spray bottle with properly diluted Star San solution and you’re good to go.  Liberally coat all surfaces and parts in need of sanitizing.  If you have a larger job, like a keg or a carboy, use what you need to sanitize (already clean items) and pour the Star San mixture back in the gallon jug for re-use.  That’s it.  Spray liberally, let stand and drain any excess.

1 Gallon of Star San – How much Star San do I use for 1 Gallon?
I mix up one gallon of Star San at a time.  Just add 6 CCs of Star San to one gallon of distilled or soft water.  How did I come up with 6 CC/ml?  Dosing rate for Star San is 1 ounce per 5 gallons.  That’s .2 ounces for 1 gallon.  .2 ounces = 5.91 ml.  I round that up to 6 CC/ml.

I use a glass gallon jug for storage.  It takes a while but Star San will eat through thin plastic gallon jugs.  I’ve had it happen and it’s not cool.

Measuring 6 CCs/mLs
I use a syringe to measure the 6 CCs needed.  I’ve used a couple different models over the years.  Some with luer locks and some without.  If you get some with luer lock connections, there’s no need to put anything on the luer lock.

Some syringes…

How long is Star San good for?
Star San (diluted sanitizing solution) needs to remain under pH 3 AND be crystal clear.  If your solution of Star San gets cloudy, according to Five Star, it may not be effective.  Hard water will make the solution go cloudy quickly.  If this is happening to you, use distilled water.

Some will say that the clear part is not important.  Here’s the information I’ve gotten from Five Star Chemicals on that:  “The cloudy solution could be okay, but it could be bad. The cloudiness is the surfactant coming out of solution. It has reacted, or is reacting with the metals in the water. I don’t know if it is still good, because I don’t know how much surfactant has reacted. I error on the side of caution and suggest that you don’t even mess with it. Use DI water.

So, as long as it’s clear and the pH is below 3 it’s effective.  Related: Testing Star San Effectiveness

Testing pH41s3XP8RicL._SX385_
Test your Star San solution to make sure it’s under a pH of 3.  If you source pH test papers for this, make sure they read in that range.  I recommend the Micro Essential Labs strips linked below.  They are also featured in my post on Star San Effectiveness.

pH Strips and Meters…

Spray Bottle
As mentioned previously, Star San can dissolve plastic over time.  The ACC130 is a professional quality, chemical resistant bottle and sprayer.  Check out my [Hands on Review]

Some spray bottles…

PBW
An important part of sanitizing effectively is starting with something that’s already clean.  I use PBW also from Five Star Chemicals.

Unlike Star San, I go through a lot of PBW.  Under the premise of, buy things in bulk that you use in bulk, I suggest buying the largest size of PBW that makes sense for your budget.

Star San

1 Gallon Glass Jug for Star San Storage

Be Careful
Star San is an acid.  You should be careful with Star San, especially in its undiluted form.  It can cause damage to clothing [See: Lesson Learned, Don’t Do This with Star San], countertops, aluminum items and more.  Always read and follow manufacturer’s directions.

What is Star San?
Star San is a self-foaming acid sanitizer ideal for brewing, dairy and other food and beverage equipment. It is an extremely effective bactericide and fungicide and is not affected by excessive organic soils. Star San also reduces water spotting and can be used without rinsing under the proper concentrations. STAR SAN is a blend of phosphoric acid and dodecylbenzenesulfonic acid. This synergistic blend provides a unique killing system that is unaffected by excessive organic soils. STAR SAN is also a self-foaming sanitizer. It can be applied through a foamed to produce self-adhering sanitizing foam for external sanitation. STAR SAN is also an excellent sanitizer for hand application. Sanitizing with STAR SAN on a daily basis will leave equipment in an acid condition that will eliminate water spotting.

Star San Material Safety Data Sheet
StarSanMSDS1 – MSDS Dated 6-6-12

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16 thoughts on “Star San Tips, Tricks and Guidelines – Using Star San In a Spray Bottle

  1. Jacob M Pitsch

    I use the ml measurement on the reverse side of the Star San bottle. It calls for 30ml/gal, so I simply measure up to 6ml.

    Reply
  2. EchoTony

    I’ve been using the spray bottle method for a few years with great success. I normally mix up a 5 gallon batch and fill 2 spray bottles with that. I then use the bucket full that’s left for soaking keg parts, auto siphon bits, transfer lines, airlocks, and bungs. I use the spray bottles on everything else (and on the parts that were soaked if needed as well). My 5 gallon bucket normally has about 3-4 gallons after I fill the bottles and brew a batch. I then put the lid on the bucket and keep it for at least 2 weeks, if not much longer. The bottles I will use until empty. I’ve never had an infection issue.
    My water his very hard and the solution will turn cloudy in just one day. If the cloudy solution was the sign of it going bad, then I’ve been wasting my time trying to sanitize at all. But since I’ve been using this method for over 5 years (since switching from bleach and later iodine) with no infections, I think cloudy solution is not a good measure of the quality of your solution.

    Reply
  3. J

    Star San will cause pitting in stainless according to the information shared on the previously mentioned BREWING NETWORK podcast (as I recall). Long term storage is not recommended in kegs unless that is the purpose of that particular keg.

    Reply
    1. sc

      I believe they said ‘plain water will pit stainless faster than StarSan would’. I keep StarSan in a keg for dispensing, have done for years (same keg, 3+ years). I fill 2.5 gallons (due to my usage rate) – there is absolutely no visible pitting or ‘fill line’ i can see on the keg’s internal wall. I mix per the StarSan instructions (.5 ouce in 2.5 gallons of distilled water – technically I round up to 15ml/cc).

      Think about it – Star San is about as acidic as soda; these kegs were designed for Soda. When I see people claiming it ate stainless, it is usually a small part or something – probably something that is chromed or plated and not actual stainless (chinese ‘stainless’ or chromed or something else). I’ve never seen one report of a keg or other proper stainless object being damaged by StarSan. I have seen a number of other people say they keep it in there for years like I do, no problem. StarSan on tap is fantastic! I can dispense straight to a carboy/keg for sanitizing, re-fill my spray bottle whenever, and put any ball lock fitting/hose/etc on the tap to fill it with sanitizer right-quick (no disassembly required).

      My 2c. If anyone has a confired report of StarSan damaging stainless, please post (including what grade stainless and how long the contact time and what concentration of StarSan)

      Reply
  4. Scott Millican

    So, how long in a plastic jug does it take to eat through it. I mean it comes non diluted in a plastic container…granted not the same type of plastic container, but still.

    I store mine in distilled water jugs that I use for another purpose. Been sitting with diluted star san in them for 3-4months and no leaks as of yet.

    Reply
    1. admin Post author

      It took quite a while the time it happened to me. Longer than 3 or 4 months, but it’s been a while and I’m not exactly sure. I would say maybe I had a bad gallon jug or it was somehow otherwise damaged, but I’ve had other people say this has also happened to them.

      Reply
  5. Toby

    Thanks for the write-up! Always a good idea to reduce chemical waste/consumption. Just a note on the following line:
    “If you have a larger job, like a keg or a carboy, use what you need to sanitize (already clean items) and pour the Star San mixture back in the gallon jug for re-use.”

    In microbiology research, it is basically a cardinal sin to re-use any sanitizing solution. The reason is that once you have used the sanitizing solution, it is contaminated and weakened (even if just slightly). In practice, the solution may still have enough “sanitizing power” to do a sufficient job, but it definitely violates best practices.

    Whatever you choose, I wish you a happy and infection-free brew. Cheers!

    Reply
    1. admin Post author

      Thanks for the thoughts Toby! For a laboratory scenario, I think that guideline is very reasonable. For what we’re doing, I think that you can re-use sanitizer with good practical results. For additional information I would refer people to the 3/19/2006 episode of the Brewing Network’s “The Session”. Charlie Talley one of the founders of Five Star Chemical Company (the makers of Star San) give some thoughts on it’s use for homebrewing.

      Reply
  6. Noiz Boy

    The “thing” is mentioned in their email to you. It’s the surfactant. What that is, is a chemical that lets another chemical coat and get into the knocks and crannies.

    SO the problem is that while the PH is fine and it will kill whatever it touches, if it’s surfactant is not working it won’t touch everything it needs to. THAT is the problem.

    You are talking about saving a few pennies by putting 5 gal of homebrew at risk. Hmmm the math isn’t that hard.

    Reply
  7. Anonymous

    I keep a StarSan solution in an old 5 G bottling bucket. Its easy to dispense into a tray to soak stuff in on brewday and then I just pour it back in the bucket (provided it didnt get mucked up). Its really decreased my sanitzer waste.
    By the way, I emailed Five Star and they reported that starsan will not dissolve plastic buckets.

    Reply
  8. Anonymous

    i would also find out exactly what the “cloudy” “thing” is that you speak of that is not chemically good for sanitization, rather than saying “cloudy thing”..sounds less credible..

    Reply
  9. Anonymous

    how does cloudiness negatively affect star san? i’ve seen videos of experimentation on this subject. as long as the pH stays balance it should work just fine

    Reply
  10. Homebrew Finds

    I don’t completely understand the chemistry, but there are two components to the sanitizing power of star san. One is pH.

    The other is some other thing that I don’t know what it’s called. 🙂 But whatever that thing is, when the solution gets cloudy, it’s that thing coming out of solution.

    So, pH is not the only indicator of effectiveness.

    I used cloudy star san for quite a while before learning about this without an issue. I don’t think anyone is saying it does no good at all. I think it has something to do with how much of the whatever it’s called has come out of solution.

    I say better safe than sorry. Distilled water costs under a buck and with this technique a gallon last a long, long time.

    Reply
  11. Anonymous

    There’s been quite a few tests done on the PH of starsan that has been used in hard water or gotten cloudy after a period of time and the PH level stays where it needs to be. I think it’s a marketing ploy to make you dump it and use more! 🙂 Check out all the threads at HomeBrewTalk for discussions about it.

    Reply
    1. Marcus

      The PH, according to the article is only part of the issue. It is not the PH itself that causes the cloudiness, but rather the metals in the hard water that bind to the sanitizing agent in StarSan that causes the cloudiness. How much of this chemical agent that becomes “bound’ and is no longer present in effective concentration to sanitize becomes the issue.

      Reply
  12. Anonymous

    I put starsan into a corny keg, and have it on tap next to my brewstand. Use distilled water and it will keep forever. I use a spray bottle too, but I just refill it from the keg, it also allows me to flush hoses and anything else without any problems.

    Reply

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