Sodium Metabisulfite As Sanitizer?

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Temple of Seth

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Dear Colleagues,

I have purchased a kit from the Annerly, Qld homebrew shop in order to restart my active brewing now that I've settled in Qld (couldn't bring the brewery with me from the US). I notice that theh sanitizer included in the kit is Sodium Metabisulfite. I understand that there is debate in the hobby as to whether this is at all useful for beermaking vs. winemaking. Is it useful for the preparation of sanitizing solutions to use with beer making equipment? If so, what is the best way to use it? If not, what are your preferred alternatives. In the past I have had good luck with old-fashioned bleach but also have used oxygen-based no-rinse santizers as well as iodophor, which became my favorite back home. Your input is greatly appreciated! Thanks.


when i brew i use several products to sanitise my equipment.

the brewery (cold side only) gets sanitised with a solution of 'Sterbac', its a quaternary ammonium compound and doesnt react with the copper pipes that are in the brewery. ('Sterbac' is prodced by Ecolab, thye make lots of commercial cleanimg products.)

fermenters and any other objects that are used past the brewery are sterilised with 'Oxonia'. this is a solution of peracetic acid, an oxygenated organic acid that breaks down to oxygen and acteic acid. no rinsing is required after sanitising as the acetic acid simply evaporates.

i have acess to these at uni, so im not sure where they are available to the general public.

i dont use Sodium met as the sulphur can cause bad smells/aromas/flavours in the finished beer.
I use sodium percarbonate (Napisan and the like) to clean fermentors post-fementation, rinsing with water afterwards. One brew day, I sanitise with a ~15 ppm iodophor solution; no dramas at all with this method. The most popular sanitising agents with people on this board seem to be "Terminator" (orthophosphoric acid) and "iodophor" (iodophor in orthophosphoric acid solution). Sodium met seems to be useful for limiting HSA, but not so crash hot as a sanitiser.
orth phos ie GRUMPYS ONE SHOT,GOLIATH SLING SHOT and JM terminator are the some product
sodium met. is a bacterial inhibitor, not a sanitiser.

It should be used in acidic solution in order to do much at all.

It will however cause asthma, and cancer if not rinsed out (don't ask in what quantities etc it acts as carcinogen)

In a way, a good wash of the fermenter with hot water and brewing detergent will sanitise a fermenter (esp if rinsed off with boiling water)) the Terminator is good esp for taps, racking hoses etc.

Bleach can also be used as a sanitiser but must be very well rinsed off, including a hot water rinse.

Jovial Monk
Lots of people use Sodium Met because it's sold in supermarkets as a brewing steriliser. Lots don't rinse their bottles after sanitising - I've always done it- I agree that it leaves a nasty taste, one that I couldn't get out of my fermenter between brews.

I've switched to Morgan's Sanitise - much better result.

It will however cause asthma, and cancer if not rinsed out (don't ask in what quantities etc it acts as carcinogen)

Sodium sulfite has been demonstrated to be mutagenic in microbial systems; however, it is not mutagenic in
studies involving insects and is not considered to present a mutagenic threat to multi-cell organisms.
Jovial_Monk said:
It will however cause asthma, and cancer if not rinsed out (don't ask in what quantities etc it acts as carcinogen)
First time I have seem reference to cancer being caused by sodium met! :eek: Where did this one come from, I would have thought some serious labelling would be required given the relatively wide use of this.

Myself I leave a sodium met solution in empty fermenters and rinse on brew daw followed by a quick dose of one shot.
Well I was bored so I googled ... can't vouch for the data in the links but the second one from RTECS - Registry of Toxic Effects of Chemical Substances makes me think that the whole animal testing thing is a bit sick. They don't go into the explanation of the tests but the descriptor is enough to visualise.

Sod Met MSDS

As has already been metioned, sod. met. is a bacteriostatic, it inhibits the growth of bacteria. But that is just my briefly researched opinion.

T of S, why don't you do a Google search and find a hard reference one way or another and let us all know - also go back to your HBS and ask for your money back on the sod met (oops I am assuming your research will back mine up). Also check the MSDS and find out about how it can induce acute asthma attacks in some people.

If you want to follow some of the links I found will checking this topic out a while ago, click on brewiki: cleaning and sanitation

As for my favourite: clean with sodium percarbonate (pure stuff, not napisan) and sanitise with phosphoric acid with foaming agent. Iodophor is also excellent at sanitising.
I'm still using bleach. I havent had an infection yet. I reckon as long as you rinse heaps its a good cheap sanitiser.
I want to eventually get around to using ortho acid so I dont have to rinse anymore.

johnno said:
I want to eventually get around to using ortho acid so I dont have to rinse anymore.
Personally I am not sold on non rinse for any chemicals .... I always rinse
JasonY said:
johnno said:
I want to eventually get around to using ortho acid so I dont have to rinse anymore.
Personally I am not sold on non rinse for any chemicals .... I always rinse
Well there is one way to find out. I suppose I can use all those coles homebrand kits sitting around for the no rinse experiment.

A last rinse with boiling water is never a bad idea. . .

When I have time to do it properly, I run boiling water into the bottle. 99.99% are fine, the odd one cracks and falls into the 22L bucket I have underneath the tap on the 8L Kambrook plastic urn. I figure better burst empty then full :)

One drop of the very dilute Terminator in a 640ml bottle is not very much at all!

JasonY said:
Personally I am not sold on non rinse for any chemicals .... I always rinse
Fair enough - you have to be comfortable with your methods. If you were to do an analysis of your finished homebrew, I am sure you would find traces of some fairly toxic chemicals (eg methanol,

For me, I consider phosphoric acid very safe. Although LD50 for rats don't always equate to humans, from the data I found, you need about half as much phos acid to kill a rat compared with table salt.

phos acid: ORL-RAT LD50 1530 mg kg-1
Sodium Chloride: Oral rat LD50: 3000 mg/kg

Why no-rinse is a winner for me is that it is just one less batch of water to boil.
Personally I am not sold on non rinse for any chemicals .... I always rinse

This is a common statement.

Back to basics, every surface that comes into contact with your beer must be clean and sanitised.

If you are cleaning your bottles, using some sort of sanitiser, then rinsing this sanitiser out with tap water, your bottles are as sanitised as your tap water, or your boiled water, if using boiled water to rinse with. Boiling water is no gaurantee to sanitation. You have wasted your time by sanitising, then rinsing this sanitiser out with water that may be less or more sanitary than your sanitiser

How clean and sanitary is your tapwater? Most kit brewers use it to brew with, they top up their brews with plain old tap water, so as long as you are using treated water from the tap provided by a water company, the level of tap water cleanliness is suited to kit brewing.

All grainers tend to be more fastidious. They have committed a lot of time and effort to brewing, and their wort has spent 90 minutes boiling (which is still no gaurantee to 100% kill rate on organisms and spores.) They tend to go the extra effort of using a sanitiser on fermenters, lines and bottles, everything that contacts their beer.

As sosman says, "You have to be comfortable with your methods."

Is Sodium Met the only 'sanitzer' that you can get at the supermarket? It's hard to get to the HBS without a car at my disposal (though not impossible).

As for bottles, I find that if you've got a washing machine, a good sanitizing step for all your bottles at once is to put them through a cycle with a hot dry at the end (after washing out any bits etc - and always try to rinse bottles immediately after drinking from them). The hot cycle is enough to sanitize them for bottling.

Damn, that keg deal looks good. Too bad I don't have any more money in the states. So if I decide at some point that bottling is a pain in the arse than I understand I need to buy a regulator here for the local tanks?
Why dont you just use bleach for now. Its a good sanitiser and cheap as well.

Although some of your information might be valid, I think after 7 years he should have his cleaning down pat by now. If he hasn't then he should give up.