Innovative Steam Cleaning in Winemaking: Preserving Wine Barrel Quality

fact check policy
Updated on:

July 30, 2023

Steaming Up the Wine Industry: How Steam Cleaning Enhances Barrel Hygiene

In the wine production process, maintaining the cleanliness and integrity of wine barrels is crucial to preserve the quality of the wine. Traditionally, wineries have relied on chemical cleaning agents to sanitize barrels, but these pose environmental risks and can adversely affect winery workers. As a sustainable alternative, steam cleaning has emerged as an innovative method that addresses these concerns while ensuring the highest standards of sanitation.

Key Takeaways:

  • Steam cleaning is a sustainable alternative for wine barrel sanitation, replacing chemical agents.
  • Thorough cleaning preserves wine quality by eliminating pollutants and pathogens.
  • Wineries benefit from water conservation, longer barrel life, and improved efficiency with steam cleaning.

Table of Contents (Show)

Table of Contents (Hide)

Residue Removal from Wine Barrels and Tanks

The fermentation and aging process is an essential step in viticulture. The fragrances produced in the vineyard can come to the fore during fermentation and ripening, giving the wines their distinctive flavor. Therefore, it is even more crucial to avoid pathogens interfering with the delicate fermentation and ripening process. This is why it's crucial to thoroughly clean all containers used to preserve grapes, including stainless steel tanks and wooden wine barrels.

What Needs To Be Cleaned?

Most pollutants in viticulture are either microbial pathogens, organic residues, inorganic deposits, salts, sugars, tannins, and colors. The right cleaning technique is truly what makes the difference, not just the kind, number, and age of the residues but also the characteristics of the surface that needed to be cleaned.

The appropriate cleaning tools can make all the difference in the world when it comes to efficiently removing wine scale, fermentation foam, or grape residues from tanks. It is not a good idea to climb into the tanks and barrels.

When Is It Time To Clean?

Wines must go through multiple decanting, filtering, and other steps during the winemaking process. The interior of the container must be swiftly cleaned and made ready for the new contents before each bottle fill or before each variety change. After that, it is wise to inspect the barrel for any leftover smells or residues.

One to two cleaning cycles only a half gallon each, at most, are often advised for cleaning a recently empty wine barrel. Cleaning can be finished in a matter of minutes using tools like a barrel cleaner and a high-pressure gadget.

The barrels can be processed outside in the yard after being removed from the cellar for cleaning. With the correct equipment, large wine barrels or tanks that are difficult to carry can be cleaned right in the cellar.

Traditional Cleaning Methods Or Mechanical?

Oak barrels are typically cleaned with barrel brushes. Hand scrubbing is used to clean the interior wall, either dry or with anhydrous soda. The barrel should then be properly washed once more with hot and cold fresh water before being filled once more.

An alternative is to utilize a barrel cleaner for cleaning that is more effective. When a barrel wand is used in conjunction with a pressure washer, the spraying apparatus is especially well suited for cleaning the inside of oak barrels with a volume between 225 and 600 liters.

A hose connects flow valve from the high-pressure equipment to the barrel cleaner. Pressure washers that use hot or cold water can be applied here.

Hot water appliances are distinguished among other things by their sterilizing effect and speedy drying and cleaning times. Hot water cleaning tools greatly simplify and speed up cleaning, and pressure washing, especially when it comes to removing tough filth like tartar buildup. Cleaning products are not required in this situation.

steam cleaning of oak barrel

What Is Steam Cleaning?

Steam cleaning involves the use of wet steam, generated by boiling water, to cleanse and disinfect wine barrels thoroughly. The process targets both the exposed copper pipes and the barrel's internal pipes, leaving no space untouched. Unlike chemical cleaning agents, steam effectively eliminates chemical residues that could otherwise contaminate the wine, resulting in a more authentic and unadulterated flavor profile.

Why People Are Choosing Steam Cleaning

Beyond the wine's purity, wineries in California have adopted steam cleaning in response to stringent water usage restrictions. With this eco-friendly method, wineries can conserve water without compromising on cleanliness. By utilizing the power of steam, winemakers can significantly reduce water consumption, making a positive impact on the environment.

Moreover, steam cleaning proves to be safer for winery workers. Traditional chemical agents can release harmful fumes and pose health risks to employees. In contrast, steam cleaning eliminates the need for such chemicals, ensuring a healthier working environment and promoting the well-being of winery staff.

Steam cleaning wine barrels presents an environmentally friendly and sustainable solution for wineries. By effectively sanitizing barrels, conserving water, and eliminating chemical residues, winemakers can uphold the quality of their products while prioritizing the safety of their workers and the planet. Embracing steam cleaning technology is a win-win situation for both the wine industry and the environment.

Advantages of Commercial Steam Cleaners

Steam Cleaning Wine Barrels

One of the biggest investments a winery will make is on oak barrels. Industrial steam cleaners are a secure and efficient treatment that prolongs the life of the barrel and boosts the amount of wine that can be produced from each oak barrel. This is economical and environmentally friendly.

Additionally, steam revitalizes wood pores without harming the oak char by removing tartrates, old wine, and harsh tannins absorbed inside the barrel. The barrels can also be rehydrated using steam.

Steam Cleaning the Bottling Line System

Steam sterilizes bottling lines more effectively and efficiently than other methods because it diffuses uniformly down the lines without being hindered by gravity. All components of your bottling line system, including filters, stainless steel monoblocks, the spouts, and the lines themselves, are safe to use with steam.

Disinfecting Tanks

Storage tank walls are covered in chemicals like tartrates. While the condensation naturally drains out the bottom of the tank, the steam naturally melts away all residue and tartrates and leads to wine barrel sanitation. Any leftover residue from the walls is removed by a thermo-shock brought on by a fast rinse with cold water. The tank is entirely sterilized without the use of caustic or other harsh chemicals in just 15 to 30 minutes.

The tanks are also easier to clean and less prone to contamination thanks to steam cleaning systems, which remove the need for anyone to climb inside.

Recommended Steam Cleaner

Fortador PRO - Industrial steam cleaner

Fortador PRO - Industrial steam cleaner

The Fortador PRO offers high steam pressure and temperature levels, allowing for effective and efficient cleaning of stubborn dirt, grease, and grime from surfaces.

The steam cleaner comes with a range of attachments and accessories that enable it to tackle different cleaning tasks, such as detailing cars, sanitizing surfaces, degreasing machinery, and more.

As a steam cleaner, the Fortador PRO uses only water to create steam, eliminating the need for harsh chemicals and reducing environmental impact. This makes it an eco-friendly cleaning solution. Designed for heavy industrial use, the Fortador PRO is built to be durable and reliable, with high-quality materials and components.

Cleaning Oak Wine Barrels

Cleaning Oak Wine Barrels

Some wines undergo fermentation and aging in barriques, which are oak barrels. The size and age of a barrel, in addition to the wood's place of origin, have an impact on the wine's style and flavor.

Some wines are also aged in larger "tonneau" barrels made of oak, which have a capacity of either 300 or 500 liters. These barrels can be used for a long time and feature thicker hardwood walls. The smaller barriques deteriorate more quickly, but if they are gently cleaned, they can typically be reused three to four times.

Most importantly, the organic material of the oak barrels needs to be spotless since wine absorbs undesirable things like a buildup of residual skin on the wood's surface. Barrel sterility and meticulous work reduce germs in the finished wine from the beginning, preventing it from becoming unfit for consumption.

Cleaning Wine Barrel Externally

The outside of wine barrels and tanks is frequently cleaned with high-pressure cleaners. Tanks that are tall can be supported by telescopic rod systems. This helps to ensure that no impurities enter the tank or barrel from the outside when used in conjunction with the right cleaning chemicals.

Through a passage in the floor, extra water and cleaning agent residues are removed. When cleaning barrels and tanks in wine cellars, the drainage system guarantees controlled drainage of the water. In the absence of such a mechanism, the water can be absorbed using a wet and dry vacuum cleaner.

Internal Cleaning Heads and Pressure Rinsing Heads

For larger tanks or if there are several tanks to be cleaned, an internal cleaning head is advised. This is placed into the tank from above and is connected to a high-pressure cleaner. The head rotates while it emits a liquid jet that propels it to all corners.

Cleaning can be tailored specifically based on use and container size. Therefore, a slower rotation speed and a fine spray pattern can be chosen for large or extremely dirty containers. Smaller or less filthy containers should be cleaned using a coarser spray pattern and faster rotation.

The cleaning outcome is influenced by the selection of the proper cleaning agent and concentration, as well as by the ideal mechanics, time, and ambient temperature, in addition to the correct method.

Cleaning Stainless Steel Tank

Cleaning Stainless Steel Tank

For wine fermentation and storage, several winemakers utilize stainless steel tanks. These have a significant benefit over traditional oak barrels in that they are airtight and watertight, preventing oxygen from entering the wine. As opposed to, say, hardwood barrels, this prevents the wine's natural flavor from being altered. Tanks made of stainless steel also have the benefit of being considerably simpler to clean. For instance, it is simpler to eliminate tartar from these aquariums.

Due to these qualities, stainless steel tanks are being employed more frequently in vineyards. However, because of their size, they are frequently challenging to move, thus it is advised that you clean them right in the wine cellar. In this situation, internal cleaning heads can be utilized alone or in conjunction with mobile pressure cleaners.

Cleaning Stainless Steel Tanks with Hot Water Pressure Washer or Steam

A pressure cleaner can be used to clean tanks effectively and remove tough filth like tartar. Use pressure wash a short jet pipe to reach all corners of smaller tanks or while working in tiny spaces.

Cleaning agents can be used to clean stainless steel tanks, as opposed to hardwood barrels. Depending on the level of contamination, alkaline cleaners can be adjusted for concentration to dissolve organic residues.

Applying the proper cleaning agents is possible, for instance, by utilizing a cup foam lance attached to a pressure washer. Because the cleaning foam is so stable, it sticks to surfaces for a longer period of time and may therefore work on the surface for just a few moments or long time. The foam is again washed off with water following a suitable exposure period.

Cleaning Process

  1. Pre-rinse: Use water to pre-rinse the container.
  2. Cleaning with alkaline substances: Apply the cleaning substance and wait for the surface to respond.
  3. Intermediate rinsing: You can collect the water and use it to pre-rinse or pre-soak additional tanks.
  4. Neutralization: To completely eliminate any alkaline coating, wash the tank with an acidic detergent.
  5. Rinse out: Use clean water to completely rinse out the tank.

Steam cleaning is highly effective and sanitary. Here, hot water high-pressure cleaners with a steam stage or expert steam cleaners are advantageous since they kill hidden bacteria naturally. Germs can be eliminated and obstinate dirt can be easily removed with dry steam and then rinsing with cold water.

Once there are no noticeable abrasive residues left on wine bottles, cleaning has been effective. Corners and weld seams need special attention since dirt can lurk there. Typically, an oily surface means that lye residues have stayed there. These must be taken out immediately since they alter the wine's flavor.


In the ever-evolving wine industry, a revolutionary technique has taken center stage - steam cleaning. With an unwavering commitment to preserving the integrity of wine barrels, wineries are shifting away from chemical agents and embracing this sustainable alternative. By harnessing the power of steam, they ensure unparalleled sanitation standards while safeguarding the environment and the well-being of their workers.

This modern approach not only upholds the authenticity of wine flavors but also signals a harmonious marriage between innovation and tradition, making it a resounding success for both the wine industry and our planet.

About the Authors

Kris Traczynski
As the visionary behind Fortador Steamers, I've revolutionized the cleaning landscape across both the USA and Europe. With a profound understanding of the cleaning industry, I've fostered expertise that sets new standards. My journey is one of innovation, commitment, and a relentless pursuit of exce
Kristina Tretyakova
Distinguished as a South Florida Top-10 student in 2021. Studying Marketing and Business Administration at FIU. Proficient in daily operations and skilled in cleaning, auto detailing and copywriting.

Learn More

Mobile Tech Expo 2018


Best steam generators for sale | How to choose steam generator


Top 7 Best Most Powerful Commercial Steam Cleaners | 2024 Review & Comparison


Contact Us
Thank you! Your submission has been received!
This is some text inside of a div block.
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.