how to clean old bottles

by | Jul 12, 2016 | All Things Home, Antiques, Cleaning & care | 38 comments

Before I get going, I wanted to let those who have been waiting for hemp sheets know that I just got a shipment in today!  I will list them in the online shop on Thursday, July 14, at 8:00 pm EST along with some other recent finds.


I shared on my “favorites lately” list that I’ve found an affection for old bottles.  I was never really into them before, but all it takes is meeting one bottle I really like and then the hunt is on for more!

When I was shopping with my mom last week, at one store, I bought five pieces of furniture and a $2.00 “table relish” bottle.


While I haven’t been a big bottle collector, I did learn the trick to cleaning them a few years ago when we went through my Opa’s attic.  He had tons of old bottles and most of them were cloudy and dirty and it was impossible to scrub them with a brush, because of the tiny necks.

It just takes two simple ingredients – vinegar and rice.  It really doesn’t matter what kind of vinegar (I used white) or rice, except the rice can’t be cooked or partially cooked (like instant rice).  It has to be dried grains of rice.


Put some rice, about a spoonful and some vinegar, about 2-3 tablespoons, into the bottle.  Cover with some plastic wrap and shake for a minute.


The rice acts as a “brush” and the vinegar cleans and disinfects.  Rinse out the rice and vinegar with water and there you have it!  A sparkling clean bottle!




Happy bottle hunting!

PS – The winner of the LG SideKick™ is Abby Elizabeth Garcia!  Congrats!  You’ll be hearing from a representative of LG on the details.  


  1. Robin

    Amazing timing on this post! Our plumber needed to snoop around the crawl space of our 1972 home and while he was down there, found an old Pepsi bottle. It’s quite dusty and dirty and not cleaning up very well. I’m going to try the vinegar and rice recipe! Thanks, Marian!

  2. Sharon

    Wow, talented and has E S P. I got a new Demijohn today and it is so dirty. Guess what I’m doing tomorrow ?

  3. Robbyn

    Two other easy ways, instead of rice and vinegar use salt and ice; pour the salt over the ice and shake and spin until clean. Old waitress trick for cleaning burned glass coffee pots or if you have them (especially for ironstone) denture tablets, plop plop, fizz fizz glass and ironstone shine! Just FYI

  4. Becky

    I love these helpful how to tips. I too have acquired some old bottles waiting to be cleaned. Definitely trying this. I have used denture tablets and they work to a certain point. Would love to see more of these ” cleanup” tips. I’ve ruined some great vintage finds bc I didn’t know how to clean them. I have about 8 really dirty ornate pictures frames just waiting for some TLC. Any tips?

    • Robbyn Mendleski

      the best way for me has been silly putty. Sounds odd, but it works. When the putty is pliable (I warm it in my hands for a few minutes) then I smoosh it down into the detail of the frame really good and then pull it back – most times all the gunk comes with it. I have found some with a kinda greasy film then I put cornstarch on a makeup brush a dust the frame with it, let it sit for a day or two then hit it the putty. Hope this helps . . .

  5. Jenny

    Thanks for sharing – I have a few old jars that I’ve been wondering how to clean. This is just the thing I needed!

  6. Kristine

    Perfect! Thanks for sharing!!!

  7. Laurie Weekly

    Ohhhh thanks for sharing the cleaning tip! Have old bottles that never come clean but now am confident they will! Love that all kinds of additional tips come “out of the closet” on this comments section-thanks everybody!

  8. Melissa from Hey,Girlfriend.Net

    I have a collection of antique bottles (many are pretty colored glass medicine bottles) that I use for bud vases. Thank you for the cleaning tip! I am excited to try this!

  9. Betty Roether

    I’ve also used bb’s and water/Dawn liquid dish detergent clean old bottles. Have also read that denture cleaner works but haven’t tried it.

  10. Ellen Shevela

    I have always used denture cleaner tablets. Works like a charm.

    • Jane

      Denture cleaning tablets — works great. Plop plop fizz fizz

  11. Barbara

    Awesome thank you!

  12. Rowena Philbeck

    This is so funny that its come up. I was given some really old bottles that a friend dug up with his backhoe and I was wondering how to clean them…and here you are with this post!!! Perfect timing. Thanks and now to go home and try this out.

  13. Cathie

    Absolutely amazing! Thanks for sharing!

  14. Donna Doble-Brown

    WOW! I’ve never heard of this . . . What a wonderful tip! Thanks Marian . . .

  15. Sandi

    Now I wish there was a way to get rid of old water stains in bottles/vases. Vinegar or lime away don’t work.

    • Lee

      I have successfully used a few denture tablets and hot water. if it is really bad, you might need to repeat.

  16. Alice Blackmer

    Any tips for rust? Tiny neck, big bottle…on the bottom.

    • Lee

      I have always used Whink Rust Remover. My grandmother used it as well. Always check on a small spot to ensure it is safe on your item.
      From Whink:
      Rust Stain Remover
      Rust Stain Remover in the “brown bottle” has been the #1 pure liquid rust stain remover since 1947!!!

      This convenient liquid formula quickly and easily removes rust stains from white sinks and white toilets, as well as colorfast fabric and carpets.

  17. Barbara Livdahl

    My MIL once suggested bleach, dish soap and rice but I will give vinegar/rice a try, thanks! Do you happen to know the pattern of your beautiful spoon?

  18. Naomi S.

    I have used vinegar and water and dish soap to soak some of my bottles, but haven’t been having success with a few stubborn ones. I will try the method you suggest. You use the vinegar full strength, right? I’ve loved old bottles for years, but have passes some up recently because I wasn’t having luck cleaning. Now, I can add to my collection. I use them to hold cuttings of plants that I want to root, mostly. Some I use for little vases, too. The really old ones with some color are my favorites.

    There are so many things that I love and would like to collect, but I have to reign myself in because of lack of space! My family thinks I”m crazy. “But, Mom, you don’t use these half the time!” But I like knowing they are there in case I want to.
    The idea of having a rotating supply or stash just befuddles them! I laugh and keep collecting! Modestly and “within reason”, of course. What does “within reason” really mean, anyway? Whose reason? Mine, of course!

    Thanks for the tip, Marian!

  19. Diane

    Great tips here, does anyone know of a way to get rid of yellow stains on antique linens and now some portuguese crochet bedding? I could really use a tip for this. I have loads of old linens that I have collected from family and flea markets but some of them have some really horrible yellow stains that I cant seem to get rid of. I want to be able to use them but I would like it if they were white. Any ideas would be greatly appreciated.

    • Kathy

      Restoration works great. You can order from Amazon, follow directions and be patient ?

  20. Diane

    I have used this method for years for cleaning my hummingbird feeders 🙂

  21. Kathryn Ross

    Super idea! And I have a host of bottles in line for a bath now. BTW, I have that great blow transfer ware pitcher, too. A family piece from way back. May need to display it now as I forgot how much I liked it.

  22. Milena

    Thanks for the bottle cleaning tip. I have some bottles that I need to use it on. Funny how collections start. I’m beginning my silverplated and ironstone pitcher collection now. I can’t wait to add to it! Milena

  23. Bianka

    Awesome! I have a few old ones and that has been a dilemma. Thank you!

  24. Sonja

    I have a pretty old green bottle that will certainly appreciate your advice…so will I! Thanks!

  25. Mary Noyes

    Thank you. I have lots of old bottles and I hadn’t heard about rice with the vinegar before.

  26. Stacy Hertz

    May I ask the brand of drinking glasses is in the background of the above pictures?

  27. Magali@TheLittleWhiteHouse

    I didn’t know that trick and I’ll sure try it. I use black soap to clean my old bottles and it works great as well.

  28. Judy

    I would love your opinion on cleaning new glass. I have two pottery barn glass lamps that you can fill with whatever you would like. I have had sand and shells in them for acouple of years now and I would like to dump it out and refill it with something else. I can’t fit my hand through the hole so I was wondering if your rice and vinegar mix would help me clean the sand dust off the interior if I dump it out. I’m worried it will water spot and I won’t be able to get my hand inside to wipe it down. Do you think the vinegar will dry without spotting. Thank you so much!!!!

    • Theresa

      Use rubbing alcohol to do a final rinse on bottles, it seems to dry without water spotting. Do use the highest “proof” you can find– I buy 91% isopropyl alcohol at my local chain drug store.


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Marian Parsons - Miss Mustard Seed

I’m Marian, aka Miss Mustard Seed, a wife, mother, paint enthusiast, lover of all things home and an entrepreneur, author, artist, designer, freelance writer & photographer.  READ MORE to learn more about me, my blog and my business…


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