How to Clean Rancid Oil and Smell from Metal Bottles


Chuck asked: How do I clean glass and metal bottles with a rancid oil smell in them? I have several glass and metal containers that olive oil was left in for too long, and they have a rancid smell in them that I can’t get rid of. I’ve tried the dishwasher, but it didn’t do the trick. Can you help?

Small bottles with even smaller necks can pose a problem when it’s time to clean them out, but this little trick will work on virtually any bottle. However, because you can’t see through metal bottles to know when they’re clean, you may want to repeat this a few times for good measure.

You Will Need:

  • Uncooked rice
  • Hot water
  • White vinegar

Steps to Remove the Stains:

  1. Fill the empty bottle about half full of uncooked rice.
  2. Add some white vinegar. You’ll want to add about 1/3 to 1/2 cup. You want to save room for water so that with both liquids the bottle, it will not be more than 3/4 full. Judge the amount accordingly based on the size of the bottle.
  3. Fill the bottle with hot water until it’s about 3/4 full.
  4. Place a lid on the bottle or cover with your finger (use a paper towel or wash cloth to protect your finger from the heat of the water) and shake vigorously. The motion of the rice against the walls of the bottle will scrub and scour the inside of the bottle.
  5. After several minutes of shaking, set the bottle down and leave it to soak until the water cools.
  6. Pour out the contents of the bottle. You may notice the removed particles and build-up in the removed liquid. This is a good thing, and means that the process is working.
  7. Repeat the above steps until the mixture inside comes out clean.

Additional Tips and Advice

  • The use of white vinegar should take care of the smell as it cleans. If you notice the bottle still has an odor even after it rinses clean, fill it with vinegar and allow it to sit for 12-24 hours, then rinse with clean water. Repeat if necessary.
  • Although bleach is commonly suggested to clean metal bottles, it should be used with care as it can corrode metal.
  • Avoid using dish soap, especially with a bottle with a small neck and/or limited access. Thorough rinsing can be very difficult, and you may not be able to get all of the suds out, which will leave a soapy taste or residue behind.


  1. Mr. Sparkle says:

    The methods described above are very limited in their effectiveness and extremely time-consuming and messy (the uncooked rice shouldn’t go down your garbage disposal and therefore must be strained and disposed of separately, etc.) If you are a person who can be very diligent in your PPE use (Personal Protective Equipment), like rubber gloves, long sleeves, splash-proof safety goggles (and it couldn’t hurt to use a face shield), then this is the method that REALLY works: Put 1/4 cup household lye (sodium hydroxide) in a 2-cup glass Pyrex measuring cup and slowly add hot water to the 2-cup mark while stirring slowly to dissolve the lye (with a non-aluminum spoon or tongue depressor – do not allow this solution to come in contact with aluminum). Pour this solution into the bottles so that there is an adequate amount to agitate around the bottle and dissolve the rancid oil. Be extremely careful not to splash yourself with the hot lye solution. I use a dishrag over the mouth of the bottle to allow air to escape and buffer any potential spatters. I then use the lye-soaked rag to wipe any rancid grease/oil off the outside of the bottle. Dilute any remaining solution with cool water as you pour it down the sink. Thoroughly rinse the bottle with plain water and then follow with a little water and white vinegar, if desired, to ensure all the solution is rinsed and neutralized.

  2. I found that using the gel Cascade Dishwasher Detergent works quite well. I soak the caps in a diluted solution of it in my sink, and then squirt a little in the bottles (1 tsp.), add hot water, shake the bottle, let it sit for about an hour, and then rinse it out. This almost always works for me. Just be careful when using the Cascade – read the directions and try to not let too much of it get on your hands! Finally, I pour a little vinegar in there and that’s it.

  3. Pour 1/4-1/2 cup of 90% rubbing alcohol in the water bottle, re-cap, and shake it for a few minutes to coat the inside surface of the bottle. Reopen the bottle and add water to the alcohol to fill it. Re-cap and leave it full and closed overnight. The next day, empty the alcohol/water from the bottle and wash well with water and mild soap. Rinse well. The smell will be gone.

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