How To Clean Bottles

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How To Clean Bottles
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Would you like to clean those nice perfume bottles you have collected? I discovered that more things in life can be accomplished if you constantly approach problematic situations from a different angle. Youngsters call this phenomena "thinking outside the box." One day, while puttering in the garage on an eBay find that my wife handed me, I came up with a successful method to clean just about any kind of glass bottle you would ever run across.

Much like you, I tried various techniques of getting "gunk" out of perfume bottles with a limited amount of success. That is, until I worked out the following system. I am sure that I am not the first person to discover this little process, but I am also pretty sure that most collectors are not readily eager to share this information with you. The truly amazing part is that it is so easy to do and it is astonishingly effective.

Take a gander of before and after...


Here is a list of the supplies you will need to do the work...

  • Disposable rubber gloves
  • CLR or other "lime-eating" liquid bathroom cleanser
  • Rubbing alcohol
  • Electrical tape and plastic wrap
  • An old plastic medicine dosage cup like the one on a Nyquil container
  • Tea strainer or something similar
  • 3 oz of size 8 lead bird shot used in shotgun shells. (befriend a hunter or trapshooter and get him/her to take three shells apart for you - you only want the lead shot) -- Or you can use small glass "seed" beads found at your local craft and hobby store.

Remove the perfume dauber, stopper, or unscrew the top of the atomizer. Prepare your bottle by rinsing with warm water to remove any surface dirt. Next, get your cleaning supplies organized.

You will need a small flexible container, or a small household funnel to pour solution. I use one of those small plastic dosage caps left over from a nighttime cold-medicine bottle to hold the cleaning solution. It works great because you can squeeze it to form a narrow spout for pouring the solution and the lead shot into the bottles. Do not handle the lead shot with your bare hands at any time. Always use disposable rubber gloves. The gloves should never be an option, rather, they are a necessity.

Protect paper labels on your bottles by tightly wrapping the outside of the bottle several times with ordinary plastic wrap. Once that is done, seal the joint with electrical tape where the wrap meets the neck of the bottle. This is NOT water proof, but will help you keep the paper labels dry and unaffected from splashes.

Pour the lead bird shot into the perfume bottle. Fill smaller bottles 1/4 full. Larger bottles can take the entire 3oz of lead shot. Add cleaning solution to the shot in the bottle. Add enough cleaning solution to saturate approximately 3/4 of the shot in the bottle.
Put the top of the perfume back in place, or hold your gloved finger over the opening of the bottle and shake it in different directions and angles. The lead shot will do the rest. Rotate the bottle from time to time as you shake. The more dirty the bottle, the more you have to shake... the shot will not harm the glass in any way so go ahead and shake it like you mean it. Use a circular clockwise motion to get the bottom of the bottle clean. You can tell the bottle is becoming clean as the solution darkens during the shaking process.  Practice will let you know when the bottle is clean. For real stubborn bottles, let the solution soak in the bottle over night.

Once you feel the bottle is clean, put a small amount of very hot tap water in the bottle so that the bottle is filled a little more than 1/2 full. Shake the bottle one more time to thoroughly mix water with cleaning solution and shot. If hot water does not work well enough, drain the bottle and use alcohol to rinse.

When you have no more bottles to clean dump entire contents of cleaning solution and shot into a tea strainer. Rinse shot thoroughly under warm running water from the tap. Put the lead shot back into a small container for future use. You can use one of those 35MM film canisters with the lid that snaps in place. Do not be concerned if the lead shot has changed color.

I use a compressor to dry my bottles out, but you can use a hair dryer. If you enjoy finding new tools to help with cleaning bottles, go to your local computer store and ask where they keep the Co2 pressurized canisters for blowing out dirt from keyboards and electrical parts.  Hold the bottle upside down when blowing water out. Let the bottle drain upside down on some paper towels if you have the patience to wait for them to dry naturally. That usually takes a day. I am sure you will be pleased with the results of this process. I used to dread the thought of cleaning a “new” dirty bottle, but now I actually look forward to it.

If you use the bottle again for perfume, be sure to rinse it thoroughly with rubbing alcohol to remove all traces of the cleaning solution.

One more look at the results...




So... for you sellers, there is no longer an excuse to put dirty bottles up for sale.

And... for you buyers, now you know how to clean them if the seller doesn't quite have the time to do it for you.

It's not hard to get in touch with me if you go to my "About Me" page.

happy trails...   Bill


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