Bottle Washing and Rinsing

In addition to emphasizing the importance of pure water for bottling in his 1888 publication, The Manufacture and Bottling of Carbonated Beverages, James W. Tufts also advised: “Pure water should be used for washing bottles, as well as for manufacturing the beverages, for it is useless to provide pure water for the beverage if there are impurities left in the bottle by the water used in washing.”


Bottle brushes were used to wash Hutchinson bottles by hand during the entire Hutchinson era.  The following styles of brushes were offered by The Bishop & Babcock Company in their 1910 Bottler’s Machinery – Bottler’s Supplies catalog:

The W. H. Hutchinson and Son 1908 Bottler’s Book advertised scrub brushes to be used for washing the outsides of bottles.  A layer of cork sandwiched into the two piece wooden handle caused the brush to float:


Bottle washing machinery was first introduced in the 1870s.  Most of the early power washers employed a rotating brush for cleaning the insides of bottles.  Here is an example of a direct belt power washer available per the 1908 Bottler’s Book produced by W. H. Hutchinson & Son:

The 1908 W. H. Hutchinson & Son Bottler's Book also offered this more sophisticated Goulding power bottle washer model:

Whew; the “capable boy” washing a dozen bottles per minute was definitely earning his no doubt meager salary!

Larger-sized bottlers required bottle washing machinery that could be used to clean a substantial quantity of bottles in a short time period.  Here’s an example of the “Improved Lightning Bottle Washer” offered by Tufts in 1888:

The advertising copy accompanying Tufts’ advertisement specified:

I have sold to Messrs. Hoyt Bros. & Co., of Lynn, Mass., my patent No. 202,740 (April 23, 1878), on which the above machine was an infringement, and withdrawn the suit entered against them, thereby uniting my interests with theirs.

With this patent, together with those previously controlled by Hoyt Bros. & Co., the Lightning Bottle-Washer becomes the most perfect washer ever produced, and it is now difficult to see where it can be improved.  It is perfect.

As these patents control essential principles which all perfect bottle-washers must employ, it is at once apparent that all washers that are at all serviceable must of necessity be infringements, and so not safe to buy; while those, if any, that are not infringements are unsafe to use…Price, $190.00.

Although Tufts claimed this bottle washer was “perfect,” using it to wash Hutchinson bottles necessitated complete removal of the Hutchinson Patent Spring Stopper, a time-consuming task that many bottlers wanted to avoid. 

Some bottlers experimented with washers that shot a pressurized stream of water into bottles, but the Hutchinson stopper also obstructed this methodology.  Chemical methods such as the use of hydrochloric and sulfuric acids, or lye, were slow, dangerous, and generally reserved for only the filthiest of bottles. 


The most reliable bottle washing equipment bottlers depended on for cleaning Hutchinson bottles with a consistent degree of success were shotting machines.  Using lead, steel, or porcelain shot (and often small pebbles), a Hutchinson bottle’s body, neck, and stopper could all be scoured.  Bottles were filled with about a pound of shot and placed in a cradle that was rocked by either foot or belt power.  After the bottles had been shaken sufficiently to loosen all dirt or sediment, the shot and water were drained and the bottles were hand rinsed.  If a shotting machine wasn’t available, bottles were filled with shot and soapy water and shaken by hand. 

The following illustrations are from the 1910 W. H. Hutchinson and Son Bottlers’ Supplies catalog.  Iron shot was 8¢ per pound, steel shot was 10¢ per pound, and anti-rust cut steel shot was 12.5¢ per pound in 100 pound bags.  W. H. Hutchinson & Son promoted anti-rust steel shot because iron and steel shot “have been objectionable because they become rusty when used in water and leave rust stains in the bottles:”

Late in the Hutchinson era the use of lead shot was banned because it left a lead residue on the interior of bottles.  Early on, Charles Sulz had strongly disagreed with the practice of bottle washing with lead shot, stating in his 1888 book A Treatise on Beverages or The Complete Practical Bottler:

Bottle-Washing with Leaden Shot or Emery.

Leaden shot are very extensively employed for cleansing bottles…but unfortunately lead is smeary and extremely poisonous.  When bottles are washed daily with shot a film of black lead will sometimes be formed…In soda and beer bottles this film cannot be seen, on account of the colored glass; but occasionally a shot can be seen that has become wedged in at the bottom of the bottle, and held there, and thus contaminating the liquid by the chemical action of the beverage on the lead…shot for washing bottles is not to be recommended; and in our opinion the cleansing of glass bottles with shot should be absolutely prohibited where the bottles are intended for beverages.

Iron shot is preferable to lead shot, as it does not affect the contents of the bottle.  This shot has sharp edges, cleaning the bottle more thoroughly than lead shot.

Emery…is a very economical and practical substitute for cleansing bottles, instead of leaden shot.  It occurs native in masses and grains, and is extensively used in the arts for grinding and polishing metals, hard stones, and glass, and can be used alone as well as with diluted acids.  It works much more rapidly than shot, on account of its sharp angles, and is in every way an economical substitute.  Grains No. 5 or 6 are the most suitable for bottle-washing. 

These Hutchinson steel shot-related helpful hints are from The Bottler’s Helper, a 1907 publication by the Blumenthal Brothers:


By J. P. Sell, Capitol City Bottling Works, Bismarck, N.D.

Steel shot that has rusted together, and in which a quantity of small particles of glass have accumulated, may be thoroughly cleansed by placing the same in a pan of hot water.  Wash and rinse the same thoroughly until the water is clear.  Every time that you pour out the water give the shot a good shaking, and all glass and other foreign substances will appear on the top, where they can easily be removed.  After the shot has been thoroughly cleansed in this manner, spread the same out on a board to dry.  By following these instructions, old shot can be made to look just like new.

By Joe Evans, Star Bottling Works, Eau Claire, Wis.

When shot gets dull looking and leaves bottles cloudy after shotting, take one-have ounce Citric Acid solution (the same as you are using in your goods) to 1 pound shot, shake well in a bottle and they will brighten up like new silver.



By E. W. Barnard, Laupahoehoe, Hawaii.

There is a good deal of shot wasted by the washers, and I find the best plan to collect the lost shot is to pick it up with a magnet, which is much quicker than any other method I have struck.  I use an old magnet, which came out of an old telephone battery, and which I took from the waste heap.


Rather than rinsing bottles by hand, many bottlers utilized bottle-rinsers.  Here’s an example of a bottle rinser from James W. Tufts’ 1888 The Manufacture and Bottling of Carbonated Beverages (look closely and note that in addition to Hutchinsons, the illustration also features round bottom, torpedo, and quart bottles!):

Tufts’ accompanying description indicated:

This simple and substantial bottle-rinser is intended to be placed across a sink of any width greater than itself.  This is done by attaching to the sink the supports, marked ‘A’ in cut, of necessary width.  The rinser is constructed of hard-wood and galvanized-iron tubing, and is provided with two inlet-cocks, each side being entirely separate from the other, so that water may, at the same time, be turned on at one side and off at the other.  It is also provided with coupling to attach supply-pipe.

The rinser is arranged to take any size of bottle, and hold it upright, as shown in cut.

When water is turned on at one side a powerful jet is thrown inside each of the dozen bottles placed on it; and meanwhile the dozen on the other size may be removed and replaced with others…Price, $20.00 

The following advertisement for The Sears Bottle Washer and Rinser (patented October 8, 1901) was placed in the October 5, 1903 National Bottlers' Gazette.  Both of the pictured Hutchinson bottles have Hutchinson's Patent Spring Stoppers in place in their necks:

Here are examples of three bottle rinsing machines offered in W. H. Hutchinson & Son’s 1908 Bottler’s Book.  The Hutchinson bottle pictured in the first illustration clearly has a Hutchinson’s Patent Spring Stopper still in place in the neck of the bottle:


These Hutchinson bottle cleaning-related helpful hints are from The Bottler’s Helper, a 1907 publication by the Blumenthal Brothers:


By W. F. Stein, Stein’s Bottling Works, Clarion, Pa.

Use ordinary clothes pins.  This you will find better than a neck brush, as you do not have any bristles to contend with.  I have used this for ten years.



By R. K. Chadwick, Seale Bottling Works, Seale, Ala.

It is a good idea to have your customers pull up the stoppers of Hutchinson bottles when they are empty.  This keeps flies, trash, etc., out.  Of course you can’t force your customers to do this; but as a rule they will.



By T. L. Jordan, Flat Top Bottling Works, Welch, W. Va.

Get just a common scrub brush and one of the small brushes used in cleaning necks, fasten the small brush on back of the larger one.  Double pointed tacks are good things to fasten with.  You can readily see that you can wash out the side of bottle and the neck without having to put down one brush to pick up another, consequently saving time in that way.



By Jeff. D. Warren, Prop., Woodward Bottling Works, Woodward, Okla.

When washing bottles in a rush, wear cloth gloves of some kind rubbing the water on the outside while handling same.  This will clean the outside of the bottle quite as well as the brush and is a great saving of time.  The gloves will also protect the hands from being cut by broken bottles which might be in the tub, as well as from the numerous little scratches one gets.  Gloves made from a common brand of canton flannel usually give best service.



By Frank P. Dalzell, Cold Springs, N.Y.

We make a connection from the boiler direct to the bottle rinser.  The bottles are first rinsed and then the steam is turned on, thus saving a second handling.  Of course some of the bottles break, especially in cold weather when the water is quite cold, but the percentage of breaks is very small compared with the time saved in handling the bottles.