Whether you collect vintage and antique glass bottles or love decorating your room’s sunny windowsill with a couple of old treasures, knowing how to clean old glass bottles properly will help restore their sparkling look.
You can clean your old glass bottles by soaking them in water and dish soap overnight, rinsing them with room-temperature water, and then scrubbing their interiors with a bottle brush. You can also fill the bottle with a bleach solution, let it sit overnight, and rinse it in the morning.
Although old glass bottles might not come out perfectly sparkling in the end, they’ll still be loads better and cleaner than they were before. So let’s look at how you can clean cloudy old glass bottles, how you can tell the age of a glass bottle, and what you can do with old bottles, so you can keep reusing them in resourceful, fun ways.
How Do You Clean Cloudy Old Glass Bottles?
Whether your old glass bottles are cloudy, dirty, or covered with grime and dried earth, several different cleaning methods can help restore the bottle to its original (or almost original) look and condition.
However, it’s important to note that some methods are much more effective than others, depending on your bottle’s age and whether it’s dirty or there are mineral deposits and stains on the glass. Here are some of the easiest and most successful ones:
Soak the Glass Bottle
If you find a truly unique bottle at a garage sale or flea market or dig up a unique treasure at the beach, then the first thing you should do after getting home is soak it.
- Place the towel into your sink to properly cushion the glass.
- Fill your sink with room-temperature water and add a few drops of dish soap. Make sure you pay close attention to the water’s temperature, as anything much colder or hotter than the glass bottle itself can lead to cracks.
- Let the bottle soak overnight or at least for a couple of hours if possible.
- Use room temperature water to rinse the bottle.
- Clean the inside with a bottle brush.
- Properly dry off the bottle and then check if it’s restored to its original look.
This method will be more than enough for most old bottles to eliminate the dirt and grime accumulated over the years.
Most antique enthusiasts use the bleach method to eliminate all the bacteria and grime collected on their bottles.
- Fill your glass bottle with bleach and water in a 1:7 ratio.
- Let the bottle sit for at least 12 hours or overnight.
- Rinse and repeat the above steps as needed.
Clean with Polident
While Polident is excellent for cleaning dentures and false teeth, it also does wonders on old glass bottles.
- Fill your glass bottle with water.
- Add a polident tablet to the bottle.
- Let the bottle sit for a few hours until the tablet successfully works its magic.
- Rinse the bottle and repeat these steps as needed.
Use White Vinegar
If you want to clean your old bottle and return it to its original shine, you can use an abrasive agent and a mild acid, such as white vinegar, to do so.
- Fine-grained sand, BBs, or rice
- Automatic dishwasher detergent or laundry detergent (on Amazon)
- White vinegar
- Fill your glass bottle with white vinegar.
- Either add dishwashing detergent or laundry detergent.
- Add rice, BBs, or sand.
- Shake the bottle vigorously.
- Rinse and repeat these steps until you get rid of all the gunk and dirt on or in the bottle.
How to Clean the Inside of an Old Bottle Without a Brush?
You can easily clean the inside of old narrow-neck bottles, including those with a weird or unique shape, without a brush.
- Dish soap
- A spoon
- Measure out a teaspoon of rice. If you have a larger glass bottle, increase the amount, but remember that only a few grains of rice are required. Don’t add the rice to the bottle yet.
- Squirt a few drops or half a teaspoon of dish soap onto the rice. There’s no need to add a lot—just enough to ‘glue’ or stick the rice together. Don’t mix the soap into the rice.
- Slowly add the contents of your spoon to the bottle. Since the rice is glued together, it won’t spill all over the kitchen counter.
- Fill the bottle around halfway with water.
- Use your finger to cap the bottle’s open end, and then gently rotate, invert, and shake the bottle, so the rice grains scrub and clean the glass.
- Empty your glass bottle and properly rinse it to eliminate all the soap, dirt, and grime.
How Can You Tell How Old a Glass Bottle Is?
Many people collect bottles but don’t have any way of identifying how old they are. Since old glass bottles can be precious, knowing their approximate age can help ensure you price them correctly. Here are a few things you should look out for:
The Base of the Bottle
The bottle base is an excellent indicator of its age. During the mid-1800s, a new snap tool was invented, which allowed gaffers or glass blowers to hold glass bottles without a rod. With this tool, the bottles no longer had a sharp pontil mark on their bases.
So, if you find a bottle with a pontil mark, you probably have quite an old and valuable bottle.
From 1855 to 1975, glass bottles were constructed with key molds, so their bases had something resembling a semi-circle on them. Later, from around 1900, bottles were made with cup molds, so their bases were smooth and had no marks.
Lip or Top of the Bottle
There are several different types of bottle lips, including screw tops, cork tops, and crown tops. Corks have been in use since the 1800s and are still incredibly popular because they can be used to seal almost every form and shape of glass bottles.
Screw tops entered the market in the early 1800s, but they weren’t standardized, so they didn’t gain popularity until the arrival of machine-made glass bottles in the 1900s. Similarly, crown tops were also invented in the 1890s but didn’t come into widespread use until machine-made bottles became popular in the 1900s.
It’s important to note that an embossed maker’s mark or certain letters on the base or side of the bottle are also good indicators of its age. In fact, letters or marks on collectible Coca-Cola and milk bottles can be easily used to determine their age and origin.
Missing or deformed letters, non-uniform spacing between letters, or any other visible errors can also help determine a bottle’s age.
What Can You Do With Old Bottles?
Glass has an extremely long life and can be endlessly melted and reused. So, instead of just dumping all your empty glass bottles into the recycle bin, try repurposing them yourself. Here are a few fun and resourceful things you can make with old glass bottles:
DIY Liquid Soap Dispenser
Simply buy a pump, or use one from a plastic container to make a unique and colorful soap dispenser with any glass bottle in which the pump will fit.
Wine Bottle Bird Feeder
With some wood, a piece of wire rope, a couple of screws, and some DIY knowledge, you can easily make a bird feeder with an empty, clean wine bottle.
Glass Spray Bottle
Clean, empty glass bottles are an excellent way to store cleaning products. Remove the spray nozzle from your old plastic bottle and place it in your glass one.
Homemade Holiday Decorations
With some Epsom salts, Mod Podge, and paint, you can easily reuse glass bottles of all shapes and sizes to make unique, one-of-a-kind holiday decorations. You can then fill these bottles with candles, glittery craft plants, fresh pine branches, or anything else your heart desires.
Purchase a lampshade, get a lamp holder and a tile/glass drill bit from your local hardware store, and you’ll have everything you need to light up your house the DIY way.
Chalkboard Storage Canisters
You can easily reuse old glass bottles to make fun chalkboard storage and create something practical and nice enough to put out on display. You need some chalkboard paint and an old glass bottle of your preference!
Wine Bottle Tiki Torch
Using your old glass bottle to make an oil lamp is an excellent old-school trick. All you need to do is purchase oil, colored glass gems, and wicks from your local craft store. Then, fill the bottle, add the wick, and light it up!
Self-watering Herb Garden
You can even turn your old glass bottles into self-watering planters. However, first, you’ll need to cut them in half. Then, you’ll need a thick string and a small piece of screen to start your windowsill herb garden.