PBW vs Star San

PBW vs Star San: Which One Is Best for Brewing Apparatus?

One needs clean equipment for brewing the best bears. But cleaning the utensils can get complex. 

PBW and Star San are the two most popular cleaning agents in the market. It’s hard to choose between the both of them.

You might be asking, which one is better between PBW vs Star San?

PBW and Star San are very different cleaning agents. PBW is an alkaline cleaner while Star San is an acidic sanitizer. PBW is sold in powder form, whereas the Star San comes in liquid form. The soaking and rinsing types of the cleaners are dissimilar too. Also, they work on different mechanisms. 

This is only the beginning. For the best choice, you must know the details. So please dive into an in-depth discussion with us.

Short Comparison 

The primary work of PBW and Star San is to wash and clean the brewing instruments. But they function differently. PBW and Star San have very dissimilar cleaning mechanisms.

Choosing cleaners carefully is as important as choosing the best between torrified vs flaked wheat. To choose the best cleaning agent you must emphasize the main differences. From the table below you can see the key factors at a glance.

Factors PBW Star San 
NatureAlkaline Acidic 
Hard Water Applicability WorksDoes Not Work
Necessity of Rinsing YesNo
Application on PlasticSafe Safe But for Minimum Time
Soaking Time8 to 12 Hours30 to 120 Seconds 
PriceAround $28 (2 lb)Around $30 (2 lb)
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Now you can make a fast decision based on the above table. However, you might want to know more about the facts. In the next section, we will discuss the topic in depth. 

Extended Comparison 

PBW cleaner vs Star San is unfamiliar on different levels. Let’s see a brief discussion on their disparities. Then you can choose the best cleaner for you!


Both the PBW and Star San are made artificially. Chemicals are added to increase the functionality of the cleaners. But the nature of the chemical used to prepare the PBW and Star San is not the same.

PBW is alkaline. Alkali compounds are used to make this cleaner. It is composed of percarbonates, Sodium Bicarbonate, and Sodium Metasilicate. Percarbonates are also used in Oxiclean. Despite that PBW vs Oxiclean are not alike.

Star San is an acidic cleaner. It is made from food-grade Phosphoric acid. Because of the differences in composition, the cleaning mechanisms of these cleaners are also different. 

You can try out some other cleaners other than PBW and Star San as well. Why not take a look at some alternative cleaner brands:

These products displayed impressive cleaning quality during our experiments. We thought that they are the best alternatives for PBW and Star san.


Star San and PBW are two completely different types of cleaning agents. PBW is a type of cleaner or washer, whereas Star San is a sanitizer.

Cleaners are used to get rid of dirt marks and smell from any object. They will not kill all the microorganisms from the surface. PBW works in the same way. It will vanish any marks from the instruments. Star San is the opposite in this case like B-Brite vs PBW.

Unlike PBW, Star San is not a cleaner. It specializes in destroying microorganisms like viruses and bacteria. Star San is used on a visually clean surface to sterilize it completely. 


The physical state of PBW and Star San is very dissimilar. PBW comes in powder form. The full form of PBW is Powdered Brewery Wash. This powder is mixed with water to apply to the brewery utensils. 


On the contrary, Star San is a liquid sanitizer. But it is also used by mixing with water. Many people prefer using liquid cleaners because they can be easily diluted.

However, powder cleaners are just as strong as liquid cleaner.

Hard Water Applicability 

As mentioned earlier, Star San and PBW are used with water. Directly applying them to the brewing pots is not effective. But you’ve to be careful about the type of water used while mixing.

Water that contains high amounts of minerals is called hard water. Hard water is not advised to use with Star San. The minerals present will affect the performance of Star San. So soft water or water with fewer mineral contents is preferable. 

Unlike Star San, you can use PBW with hard water. It is equally useful in both types of water. If you’re from a state with hard water, collect mineral water before using the Star San. 

The Necessity of Rinsing 

One most important factor that is different between PBW and Star San is rinsing. The term rinsing means to wash the pot with clean water after applying the cleaner. 


PBW is a powder cleaner. It is very necessary to rinse the PWB mixture after applying it to the utensils. Or else, there will be adverse effects on your brewing like unfermented cider. Unwashed PBW will also cause health hazards.

On the other hand, rinsing is not necessary for Star San. Due to being a liquid sanitizer, it doesn’t require rinsing. The liquid will evaporate in the air automatically. So PBW and Star San are disparate in this case. However, One Step vs Star San are similar and do not need rinsing.

Soaking Time

Generally, more soaking time means a good cleaning. Dirt marks become softer and come off easily when soaked for a long time. But this condition applies to traditional cleaners. Not for liquid cleaners. 

To get the best result from a PBW wash, soak the utensils in it for 8 to 10 hours. If the dirt still doesn’t go away, you can soak them for a longer period. Compared to PBW, Star Sans doesn’t require a long soaking time.

Star San works to kill the microorganisms through its acidic properties. Once you apply Star San liquid on the pots, your work is finished. Keep the pots in the open air for 30 to 120 seconds and then keep them away. The utensils will be sterilized in this short time.

Application on Plastic

Many brewers use plastic bottles for brewing purposes. Spoon and paddle sets made of plastic are quite popular. Since the composition of plastic is completely different from metals, Carefulness is necessary. 

Star San has corrosive properties because of the presence of acid. This property has no adverse effect on the metal pots. But Star San can be harmful to plastic pots. The soaking time should be minimum to prevent any issue with utensils made from plastic.

PBW does not affect plastics like Star san. You can use PBW for plastic brewing pots without any precautions. It will remove all the dirt marks easily. You can also soak plastics in PBW for a long time if needed.


Washers and sanitizers almost come in the same price range. Cleaners like Star San vs Easy Clean and 10 Star vs Star San have similar prices. The case is not different for Star San and PBW.

Star San price and PBW price are very close to each other. The 2 lb package of PBW comes for $28. Whereas the cost of Star San is $2 more. You can get 2 lb Star San for $30. You can see that pricing is not an issue while comparing Star San and PBW.

These factors are considered to differentiate between Star San and PBW. Now the ball is in your court. Make your call after going through the above discussion properly. 

If you are still confused, we have got you! In the next part of our discussion, we will help you to make the decision. Please keep scrolling to know about our views on the matter. 

Final Verdict 

Choosing between Star San and PBW is not an easy task. Both the cleaners are well-known for their effective cleaning qualities. Still, let’s try to find out the best one from a neutral point of view.

Star san is not compatible with hard water. That can be a deal-breaker for some of the brewers. PBW is very helpful in this situation and can be used with tap water. But PBW needs to be rinsed after use. And Star San is good to go without rinsing. 

Pricing is not a significant factor in this comparison. Because they almost cost the same. The cost of Star San is about $2 more since it is a sanitizer.

However, we don’t consider PBW and Star San as competitors. Rather, the two cleaners have different significance in cleaning stages of the brewing instruments

PBW is needed to clean the brewing pots first. It will get rid of the dirt but not all of the bacteria.

After that Star San is to be used to sanitize the pots. You can not use Star San at first to remove dirt marks. It will fail to clean the stains. So for the best results, use PBW at first, then apply Star San for sterilizing. 

We can conclude that PBW and Star san are complementary to each other.


How long can you reuse Star San? 

You can reuse Star San for 3 to 4 weeks. Star San is used after diluting it in water. This dilution increases the longevity of Star San. The solution remains useful for a long time by holding its acidic properties. You can take 1 month, that is 3 to 4 weeks as the lifetime of this solution.

How long can I leave PBW in kegs?

You can leave PBW in kegs for 8 to 12 hours. PBW is very effective for removing stains and marks from kegs. But for that, the keg is to be soaked in the solution for a long time. 8-12 hours will be enough to get rid of the dirt. PBW marks can form on the keg if it is left for more than 12 hours.

Is Star San toxic?

No, Star San is not toxic. Star San is a sanitizer that needs no rinsing. To ensure utmost safety food graded materials are used for preparing it. The main ingredient of Star San is food-grade Phosphoric acid. This acid kills bacteria and other microorganisms. But it doesn’t harm humans.


We think that now you have a clear idea of the PBW vs Star San debate. We tried our best to supply you with the most logical comparison factors.

Sanitation and sterilization both are important for brewing. So it is better to use both to clean equipments. 

Good Bye!

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