How to Clean a Decanter


David asked: How do I clean the inside of a crystal decanter?

The narrow necks and wide bottoms of decanters offer beautiful presentation when serving drinks, but can be a real challenge to remove stains from wine and other beverages. There are a variety of methods that can be used to agitate the inside of the decanter. This agitation will “scrub” the stains away. Choose your own combination from the items suggested below. Then, follow the steps to clean and sanitize your decanter.

You Will Need:

  • Cleaning solution (choose one)
    • White vinegar and water
    • Dish detergent and water
    • Polident tablets and water
    • Baking soda and water
    • Lemon juice
  • “Scrubbers”
    • Rice
    • Ball bearings (small!)
    • Salt
    • Sand (careful with this one as it could create scratches)
    • Crushed ice
  • Water
  • Dish detergent
  • Bleach
  • Bottle brush

Steps to Clean the Decanter:

  1. Begin by rinsing out the decanter with clean water to remove any remaining liquid.
  2. Add the cleaning solution with a small amount of water if necessary.
  3. Add the scrubbing component to the decanter.
  4. Swirl the decanter to mix the solution around the base.
  5. Allow the solution to set for up to a couple of days. Swirl it periodically.
  6. As the solution sets, it will loosen the stains from the walls. Swirling and agitating the liquid will allow the scrubbers to brush up against the sides and remove the loosened stains.
  7. When the decanter is clean, remove and dispose of the contents. Clean with soapy water (especially if lead shot or ball bearings are used).
  8. Use a bottle brush to clean the long neck and scrub as much of the base as possible.
  9. Rinse with clean water.
  10. If all of the stains are removed, fill with clean water and add a small amount of bleach. Allow the mixture to set in the decanter for at least 15 minutes to sanitize.
  11. Remove the bleach water and rinse thoroughly with clean water.

Additional Tips and Advice

  • Do not bleach before the stains are removed. Bleach will remove the color from the stains, but it will not clean them away.
  • For general cleanings, with no major staining, simply swish dish soap and water with a simple scrubber (ex: rice).
  • If the neck of the decanter is short, it may be possible to bend the bottle brush to reach the edges of the bottom.
  • These cleaning methods can also be used for cleaning vases and other narrow bottles.


  1. What an excellent web site. I didn’t really expect to find the answer to my problem, but up it came. Thank you.

  2. Thanks for the advice; will try it out. Great site; will use it again.

  3. Cleanfreak says:

    Tried numerous chemicals and soaps before reading this suggestion here: soaked on/in white vinegar. Added some rice. Swirled around and hey presto; the stains disappeared. Thank you!

  4. Alternatively, just cut up a kitchen sponge into small pieces, add them to the decanter with warm water (add a couple of drops of dish-soap if you like) and swirl.

    Make sure the pieces of sponge are small enough to shake out afterwards!

  5. We have been trying to clean that decanter for years. White vinegar, a drop of water and some rice, swirled around – I could not believe it! Spotless in 5 minutes. Thank you.

  6. Soak for a couple of days with baking soda, empty, and swirl around some dried peas.

  7. Great tip. Worked a treat. Thank you :-)

  8. You should never use bleach in crystal; it will attack the surface through chemical reaction and destroy the gloss finish inside the crystal.

  9. I rinse the decanter after each use and dry upside down, but am always left with a cloudy staining on the glass. Other than keeping it topped up with wine, will the vinegar and rice trick work for this also? Many thanks.

  10. Annabel,
    It sounds like you might have hard water. The vinegar and rice should help with that. Another option is to use distilled water when cleaning your decanter, or using boiled water with the hardness removed.
    Source: HowToCleanStuff – How to Remove Limescale
    Source: eHow – How To Soften Hard Water

  11. Marvelous guide. I was at a loss until i read this.
    Didn’t have rice – used popcorn kernels. Vinegar option. A Beauty!

  12. Just discovered your website. Dismayed to find I’d tried both the vinegar/water and bicarb/water (but not with rice) and, for a short while, the glass looked wonderful, then the white stains returned, if anything worse than ever. I do have hard water here & have not tried boiled water. Is it worth trying boiled water, white vinegar and rice (how much?)?

  13. Phyllis says:

    I cannot get the inside of my crystal decanter to dry out. There are water droplets inside. What can I do to dry the inside? Help!

  14. Melanie says:

    A couple ideas:
    1) You could try using a hair dryer on a cool setting (not hot!).
    2) You could try filling the decanter with fabric. A scarf might work well to get through the slim decanter neck and have enough length to continue feeding into the decanter to fill the body. Make sure you choose one that won’t leave any fuzz inside though.

  15. You can buy a wick to dry it, or make one by drying newspaper completely (low oven, to make sure there’s no loose ink), then twist it into a wick and push it into the decanter. Leave it until the glass is quite dry. Remove and repeat if necessary.

  16. How do you get rid of mold out of an old decanter? Any suggestions would be helpful.

  17. Gayle,
    Use either white vinegar or baking soda – they’re both antifungals that can kill most types of mold.
    Source: The Maids – 3 Non-Toxic Ways to Clean Mold

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