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Dec 5, 2007 10:59 AM

Cleaning a decanter?

One of my decanters has some condensation or remnants of something inside it. I would have had either Port or Madeira in it last, but it doesn't smell of anything.

I want to make sure it's *really* sanitized before I use it again, and completely dried out. It's lead crystal with a sterling collar. I presume no dishwasher, to protect it *and* avoid detergent residue?

I sometimes use hydrogen peroxide and/or alcohol to sanitize the kitchen counters. Would using either in this leach the crystal to its detriment or affect the taste or quality of the decanter's next occupant?

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  1. Fill the decanter with water and let it sit a day or two. Coarsely crush some eggshells. Empty the decanter. Put the eggshells in with a little water and swirl. Rinse well once the stains are gone.

    10 Replies
    1. re: carswell

      or use a few small pebbles - or shotgun pellets or bb's - and after the residue is out , a il chlorox wont hurt a thing - rinse well of course.

      1. re: dibob817

        A slurry of coarse salt and water works too. But I like eggshells the best.

        1. re: carswell

          Rice also works well. Actually, beans, peas, anything that will bump around and not scratch. It might also help to add a little vinegar to the water.

          But about lead crystal... I have a very attractive set of four matched lead crystal decanters I used to keep filled with vodka, gin, bourbon, and and Scotch. One day my daughter was here when I was topping them off. "Mom, how long since you completely changed the contents of those?" I shrugged. I was sure it was years. She said the lead content would have leached into the booze enough to make it dangerous for people to drink. I didn't believe her, so I called the crystal manufacturer. They said I shouldn't store anything in lead crystal longer than a month! Sooooo... I now have an attractive set of EMPTY crystal decanters.

          For your port or madeira, you might want to look into one of the new lead free crystal decanters. I don't know if they're making decanters yet (just looked, they are!), but there's a wonderful new titanium crystal made by Schott Zweisel that's lead free and pretty much unbreakable. And best of all, not all that expensive compared to some lead crystal.

          1. re: Caroline1

            Thanks for the link, Caroline. I'll look into the Schott Zweisel. I hate to abandon my beatiful l.c. decanters and all the associated memories, but maybe it's time to look into something more suited to the way I like to use them (full and at the ready). I've been reading around a little bit since the topic came up, and it seems the worst offenders are the potions I like to keep in them. I take it the brandies are really bad.

            1. re: MaggieRSN

              I'm with you on giving up the lead crystal, but I'm thinking maybe I need to fill them with different strengths of coffee, tea, and water, then just put them on a higher shelf in the wet bar and keep the usable stuff within reach. Or maybe use them as "decor?" Like on a silver tray in the study? LOL! Hey, they can collect dust in there as well as anywhere else!

              I'm also thinking of replaceing my lc stemware with the Schott Zweisel. It's dishwasher safe! And you can drop it and ninety nine times out of a hundred it will just bounce. What could be better than that? Not to mention the design is much sheerer (and therefore lighter) than my current lc pattern. It's rather "mid twentieth century modern." That makes us a good match! '-)

              1. re: MaggieRSN


                One can hardly have too many decanters. While there is great overlap in their uses, different ones, do certain jobs better.

                I have a half-dozen "ship's style" decanters, that offer great air to wine surface interaction, but they are not ergonomically designed. I only pour from them, over the glass-covered side-board - never passing around the table, as they just do not pour well. Unfortunately, I have this style for all of my magnum sized decanters, so I have to be careful. My favorites (aside from the aforementioned Lyra), are my Port decanters, which are straight-sided, with stoppers. As I said, I have racks/holders for most styles, and use what is appropriate.

                As for the Schott Zweisel line, they make great glass, and it is usually at a good price-point. Blackberry Farm uses their upper-end glasses for most of their wines. They have several sets of Riedel Sommelier Series, for the "expense account" bottles, but it's SZ for the rest, even their water glasses, and breakfast OJ.


                1. re: Bill Hunt

                  Are you familiar with Thomas Jefferson's duck decanter? I was thinking of it the other night when you posted the link to the Lyra. The same kind of graceful lines, but, obviously, less...effusive...more spare and to the point. More...Jeffersonian, I guess one could say! Anyway, I'd love to find one.

                  I agree with you re the decanters, not just for diverse function, but for beauty alone. I seem to have misplaced several in my travels/moves, and, as luck would have it, two of my favorites (Port decanters). I do love my ship's decanter, the one that started this all, but it is *awfully* heavy and therefore as you say not practical for passing around. But it is a beautiful thing. I don't know who the maker was, but the British assay office mark on the silver collar is Birmingham. The date emblem is worn down, and although the maker's mark is clear, I haven't been able to find it online. If I knew it was of a certain age, that would mean it would have been made before the practice started of adding lead to crystal, and I wouldn't have to worry about that whole issue. (Unlike almost all of my stemware, sadly.)

                  1. re: MaggieRSN

                    I do not have any of the "duck" decanters, Jeffersonian, or otherwise, but quite a few friends do. They are ergonomically nice to pour, but a tad less so, to pour into. Still, not that big a deal.

                    As of drying, I do not think that any of my racks would do better with these, than the Lyra. I'll ask around and see what the feelings of others are.

                    I do like the looks, and the ease of pouring - better than my "ship's" decanters.


                    1. re: Bill Hunt

                      The duck I'm thinking of isn't shaped like the Riedel, nor was it the more representional design, where you can practically imagine Daffy shaking his tailfeathers. I believe it had the oblique askos angle, which is what I thought of when I saw the Lyra.

                      Early in the thread, I declared that I didn't care about the lead. Wouldn't you know it, this discussion has lead me to read more about it. Now I'm not so sure. I don't want to have to not use my things the way I want to because the industry put a dangerous substance in the crystal to make it more sparkly. I don't want to think when my girlfriends bring their young daughters over that the oj or soda I give them is subjecting them to lead.

                      Problem don't see much out there that's lead-free *and* traditional. (Think stick-in-the-mud, fluted pillasters, shell motifs, dentils, etc., etc.; high Georgian, Blue Italian/Willow/Geranium, Chinoiserie, murals in the front rooms; low Georgian wrought iron, pewter, milk paint, primitives in the back rooms). I think the stemware that you and some of the others have linked me to, the Riedel/Spiegelau/Schott Zweisel is lovely, sleek, and clearly functional in so many ways...and it looks like nothing in my house. I wish I could shake it up in a bag with my crystal. (Gee, that would be a clinking mess, wouldn't it?)

                      Decanters are much easier. I see lots of design choices out there. Not having as much luck with the stemware/barware.

                      1. re: MaggieRSN

                        Stemware isn't that much of a problem. It's things you store long term in decanters that are dangerous. I just like the unbreakability of th SZ titanium crystal. And according to information I found on the web yesterday, champagne in titanium crystal bubbles more than in lead crystal because the titanium crystal is more textured at the microscopic level. I even found champagne saucers, which I'm ancient enough to remember fondly. Flutes just don't tickle your nose!

      2. TY both for the replies; glad to know about the eggshells for future reference.

        There are no stains. It's...droplets...liquid, no film. It's probably H20, but I'm not going to taste it to find out.

        So it sounds like a weak solution of bleach would be the thing. I never would have thought I could use it in there, so thanks for letting me know, dibob.

        4 Replies
        1. re: MaggieRSN

          I sometimes rinse with vodka - (swill - not the good stuff). It should not impart any smell or taste. It also dries relatively quickly.

          1. re: scrappydog

            That's a good idea, scrappy. I don't have any vodka, though. Maybe I should get some of that, too. :-)

          2. re: MaggieRSN

            Not sure I understand, MaggieRSN. These are drops of liquid on the inside of the decanter that won't dissolve in water? You've tried rinsing it with hot water, haven't you? If it's wine or spirits and it's still liquid, it would dissolve. If it doesn't dissolve, it's something else.

            1. re: carswell

              I'm sure it will dissolve. I was ill this summer/early fall, hubby was in charge of the household, I'm getting re-organized now. I don't know how the decanter ended up with moisture in it with the stopper on, or how long it's been that way. I want to sanitize the decanter without leaving a residue or using anything that etches (or leaches, though I don't worry about that too much) the crystal.

          3. I usually use hot water and a small amount of dry dishwasher detergent (ya, I know you said no detergent, but maybe you can carefully place it in there). The one thing I like most about using dishwasher detergent is it usually has something in it that prevents water spots too.
            Also, when I am done, I place it in a beer pitcher upside down in the sun so it can thoroughly drip dry.


            5 Replies
            1. re: MunkeeCIAO

              I just assumed I shouldn't put it in the dishwasher, but--if it won't hurt it, I'd rather. I know that will sterilize it. Will it hurt the sterling, just doing it this once?

              1. re: MaggieRSN

                Don't ever use soap with lead crystal. Something about the structure of the lead crystal allows soap particles to be trapped in little microscopic crevices.

                For more info, please see:

                1. re: maria lorraine

                  Well, I know that crystal is (microscopically speaking) an irregular surface, Maria. (Ergo, all the disclaimers these days from manufacturers re the lead content, but I don't worry about it much...actually, at all, since I'd rather go after a night drinking out of a piece of art than an ugly glass.) Thanks for the link, which I'll check out.

                  1. re: MaggieRSN

                    I'm not worried about the lead content of glass or a decanter either. However, liquids shouldn't be stored in lead crystal for long periods of time to avoid the lead leaching into the liquid.

                    There are some articles that discuss the lead/soap issue more scientifically than the one above, but I couldn't find one quickly. I thought I'd provide a link anyway just so you knew I was giving you legit info.

                    1. re: maria lorraine

                      I do bad things, Maria. I've always kept brandy or some cognac plus Armagnac in decanters on the dining room sideboard. That's what my parents did, and that's what I've done. I know I'm not supposed to. But it's there if anyone wants a little nip, especially now that it's PDC (pretty darned cold) outside. And, then, I know I'm supposed to refrigerate opened Sherry and Madeira, but there's always quite a bit leftover, so I leave those there in the DR, to keep them room temp for cooking over the next few days. (I like to drink my Sherry room temp, anyway.)

                      So all this lead that's flaking off might explain some things about me. We'll know for sure if I get gout.

                      The sfgate article was interesting on a number of topics. I don't know if I accept the requirement for, or at least the benefit of, so many specialized glasses, but, then, again, I don't know that I *don't* accept it. The reason I could see myself buying into it eventually is more about the wines, and how they behave, than about the tongue receptors. But I'm not a connoisseur, so what do I know?

                      OTOH, here's an column from Joseph Nase expressing some of the same ideas in endorsing matching glasses to wines.


                      I may not be able to find the right wine merchant for me, but once upon a time I found the right restaurant for me, and its sommelier at the time was named, "Joseph Nase". When he speaks, I listen. I may not do some of what he says, but I listen.

                      I don't see myself ordering all these different glasses; however, I've got stemware and barware coming out of my ears, services and sets from various makers, with varied shaped/sized bowls. If I ever learned enough to make it worthwhile, I could at least toss off the old Emily Post red wine-white-wine-water-goblet-Champagne-flute shackles and experiment in choosing something that's more appropriate to each wine, according to all these newfangled guidelines. ( can't be that novel if Winston Churchill liked the precision of Riedel glasses way back when, and he was known to care something about the grape.)

            2. For cleaning my decanters, I have a fairly simple method:
              1.) Always rinse the decanter with warm water, immediately after use
              2.) Clean with Stemshine (commercial glassware cleaning detergent) and scrub, as is necessary with a bendable foam-bristled brush (I’ve got about six different sizes and shapes)
              3.) Rinse in warm water
              4.) Dunk into a large pot (wife’s gumbo pot, in my case) with warm water and a few drops of a surfactant, like Jet-Dry
              5.) Stand upright for a few minutes
              6.) Place on appropriate stand, inverted, to finish draining (I have three stands that suit all but one of my decanters, a Riedel Lyra)
              7.) Polish exterior with clean, dry, lint-free cloth

              If I have stains, I use dilute chlorine bleach and rinse several times


              5 Replies
              1. re: Bill Hunt

                Thanks, Hunt. I don't have a bendable brush,'s one of our ship's decanters. :-) It's beautiful, my favorite one, but a pain to dry--guess I should have gotten a stand, too...

                1. re: MaggieRSN

                  I had purchased many of these from the Wine Enthusiast, but my wife just picked up several new ones, from the local boutique grocer/wine shop. There were two new "decanter-styled" brushes, plus a larger regular one, that works great in the Riedel Vinum Montrachet glasses. Seems that she said her entire set (of 4) was $9.00. Only one was duplicate of ones that I already had. Because of the foam bristles, they are soft and gentle. The long, bendable ones hit every spot in my "ship's decanters," and some have very broad bases. Still, none (plus my racks), do a perfect job with that lovely, albeit difficult Riedel Lyra. Works great, and is easy to hold/pour form, but a real task to get clean, and dry, without spots (AZ water is the worst!). Still, I love it, especially as it was a gift from a wino friend.


                  1. re: Bill Hunt

                    I'll keep my eyes open for the brushes. When I was younger, newly married, the word was to shake up a bunch of rice grains in some soapy water inside the decanter. I was never crazy about that idea, however, figuring I'd end up with that slimy film of starch in there.

                    The Lyra *is* lovely, so graceful. Reminds me of a swan, though I know the shape of a lyre is its inspiration. But it's breathtaking.

                    I don't know what it is, but, except for a set of Cab balloons, which were all the rage in 1982, virtually every piece of stemware or barware I've ever purchased myself or received as a gift is cut crystal. Different patterns, different shapes, but all cut. It doesn't quite show the wine in all its beauty, but there it is. Tradition, tradition, tradition; that's the name of the game around here.

                    I think the profiles of some of the Riedel offerings are beautiful, though.

                    1. re: MaggieRSN

                      We have what what looks like a long bendy padded towely-cloth "brush" that works great with our Lyra. It's about 16" long and does the job great with just water and the brush -- I just use filtered water to clean it.

                      For my older waterford crystal decanters with the stoppers, well, I confess that I just try to keep port in the port one, sherry in the sherry one, and the slivovitz in the slivovitz one...and keep them out of the light.

                      1. re: fussycouple

                        And, speaking of stoppers, fussy...a friend gave me a set of Waterford stoppers that I use in opened bottles of wine used for cooking. The fridge has a couple of bottle cradles so they lie on their sides. Now that we're talking about all this stuff, I looked at a stopper when I finished a bottle of red this week. The crystal plug had absorbed the color. So I'm thinking, yes, there is an exchange of molecules going on there, between the crystal and the wine, so if the crystal has a high lead content, and the wine, acid, that can't be good.

              2. I use DENTURE CLEANER.
                Run to Target and get a box of generic extra stength denture cleaning tablets and fill your decanter with HOT water, throw in about 4-8 tablets depending on how big itg is and let it sit. Rinse. SUPER CLEAN.
                I use them for coffee stains, wine stains, and the toilet bowl.

                5 Replies
                  1. re: Caroline1

                    Thanks Caroline!,
                    Its funny how I figured it out...I figured, if it's good enough to get my retainers clean after some red wine, curry (tumeric and curry do strange things to plastic), and wont kill me or leave a creepy residue, it would work for cleaning the coffee pot and red wine glasses that have sat over night...yup, good stuf and super cheap.
                    You'll start trying it on everything and the Traget people will think you don't have any teeth.
                    Oh, it;s great for cleaning out the bladders for Camel Backs, and Nalgene Canteens.

                    1. re: tatertotsrock

                      I've heard the same thing, but have yet to try it. Thanks for the prodding along these lines.


                  2. re: tatertotsrock

                    That's a great idea, tater! I have an electric percolator. Can I fill it with water and drop one in? I usually run vinegar through it a couple of times. Good to know about for the decanters, too.

                    1. re: MaggieRSN

                      Hmm, MaggieRSN,
                      Not quite sure about the percolator thing since there is an energy current invovled and the denture tablets fizz and all.
                      I've only used 'em on my retainers and glass things but then the tablets are designed for metal on retainers and dental appliances so who knows.
                      I'd just use caution.
                      Let us know, if you try it, how it goes.