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Sprouting dirty seeds bought from a random shop in a clean jar?
Or sprouting sterile seeds in a contaminated, dirty jar?
Is there a better answer?
We both know this much…
The end results for either won’t be good.
If you’re just getting going with sprouting seeds for food, you may not know the importance of jar and seed sterilization yet.
If sprouting has an Achilles heal, it’s how susceptible it is to microorganism overgrowth.
Whether canning, pickling, storing dry food or sprouting seeds for food in jars (such as Mason or Ball jars),
Their glass jars should first be sterilized.
Microorganisms including bacteria, fungi and their spores are easily a non-issue by boiling jars for sprouting. And there are 2 other sterilization methods better than boiling you can do, too.
Why Sterilize Mason Jars For Sprouting?
Sterilizing mason jars is an important step to prevent harmful bacteria from spoiling your little super-shoots.
Learning how to sterilize mason jars, as well as the stainless steel mesh sprouting lids and bands, will make your sprout-growing adventures more fun and successful.
Not fun to have to boil for 10 minutes first, so you’re going to just skip it?
Check out this list of jar sterilization methods below,
Maybe one of these disinfection/sterilization methods won’t seem like an added chore.
If not, then think about the joy of a perfect batch of sprouts,
Also about all the tiny organisms living inside the unsterilized jars you sprout in,
And the potential health hazards from sprouting in them:
- widespread mold growth
- feces particles
Considering the importance of hygiene in sprouting, all materials used should be sterile, including the jar, sprouting lids and bands, tongs used to grasp the jars, even the room is best left clean to avoid airborne bacterias entering.
Sterilizing v. Sanitizing v. Disinfecting v. Cleaning
Sterilization is at the top of the clean spectrum.
When you sterilize a glass jar, you take away from it all microorganisms and anything else, including spores and viruses.
It’s the most clean you can get
Disinfecting falls under sterilization, but doesn’t get jars as sterile.
More resistant spores can survive this level of cleaning.
Sanitizing is next in level of effectiveness. It brings bacteria numbers down to what’s deemed acceptable by public health standards.
Whereas sanitation drops bacteria numbers down to “safe” levels, sterilization eliminates it all.
Sanitizing glass jars is sufficient in many cases, but sprouting environments are prone for bad growths, so if you’ve had bad growth in a jar, it should be sterilized.
Cleaning is more like your standard hot water and soap dirt and grime removal. It won’t kill microorganisms, but it gets rid of many. Cleaning mason jars won’t sterilize, disinfect, or sanitize them, but it will reduce their dangerous microorganism numbers down low enough to be considered safe to sprout from
Fresh sprouts are so susceptible to bacterial overgrowth that it’s best to sterilize, or at least sanitize.
This means it is best to take your ball jar cleaning to a level beyond hot water and soap.
You have options.
How To Sterilize Mason Jars For Sprouting – 8 Methods Rated
Here are 8 jar cleaning methods often brought up in jar sterilization conversations, rated in order of potential jar sterilization effectiveness:
- Pressure Cooker (Sterilizing) – kills spores with temp/pressures reached.
- Boiling Water (Sterilizing) – kills most bacteria and viruses.
- Oven (Sterilizing) – great option if can’t boil.
- Steaming rack (Sterilizing) – needs consistent temp.
- Alcohol at 70%+ (Disinfecting) – wipes out many bacteria and viruses.
- Dishwasher (Sanitizing) – kills many bacteria, but not as much.
- Vinegar (Sanitizing) – mild disinfectant, but works more to sanitation levels.
- Rice cooker – pasteurization, stays below boiling temp., no pressure.
Preparation: Clean Jars Before Sterilizing
Before sterilizing your mason jar(s), you need clean them in order to remove any residues or grime.
Sterilization can suffer if you don’t clean the jars first because things stuck on the jar can actually protect microorganisms while getting incinerated.
Preparation before jar sterilization will be the same for each of these methods.
To ensure mason jars are clean before sterilizing, a proper hot water and soap cleaning is all that is called for.
Onto the jar sterilization methods list:
1. Pressure Cooker (Instant Pot) Jar Sterilization
A pressure cooker is one of the best pieces of equipment you can have for sterilizing glass jars.
- Jar Sterilization Rating: 10/10
- How It Works: Moist Heat
- Equipment & Materials Needed: Electric pressure cooker
Hospitals use autoclaves.
At home, we can use electric pressure cookers as a poor man’s autoclave.
Pressure cookers top the list as the best tool/method for sterilizing mason jars.
For pressure cooker sterilization to work similar to an autoclave and fully sterilize a glass jar, you need one that hits 15 PSI, the number that increases steam temp inside your pressure cooker beyond that of water’s normal boiling temperature, up to the levels needed to kill the most heat resistant of pathogens and microorganisms on glass jars (250 degrees Fahrenheit).
So find a pressure cooker that hits 15 PSI or close to it, and you’ll have a glass jar sterilization tool good enough to kill botulism.
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To compare with a lesser method on this list, rice cookers have a shut off switch once they hit water boiling temp levels, and no pressure to offer.
2. Boiling Water Disinfection
No canner or specialized rack to hold your jars for cleaning? No problem.
- Jar Sterilization Rating: 9.5/10
- How It Works: Boiling water kills most inactive viruses but it’s not sterilization.
- Equipment & Materials Needed: Tall pot & cloth for under the jars
Just plop them in a pot, put a lid over it and boil them for at least 10 minutes.*
*If you’re at an elevation under 1,000 ft., boil for 10 minutes at least. For each additional 1,000 ft. in altitude requires an added minute of boiling.
Boiling water sterilization doesn’t kill all the heat-resistant spores produced by bacteria (i.e. botulism or tetanus-causing Clostridium tetani). It doesn’t get hot enough. But it does kill most microorganisms.
A 2-hour boil (with boiling water top-offs) may be overkill, but boiling time IS a factor in how many bacteria and their spores are killed. It’s called d-value.
3. Oven Sterilization
Dry heat gets more than hot enough to effectively sterilize mason jars.
- Jar Sterilization Rating: 10/10
- How It Works: Dry heat from oven can surpass 250 degrees F.
- Equipment Needed: An oven that can hit 250 for 30 minutes.
But it requires a bit more sterilization-time vs moist heat. Ovens require 30 minutes, whereas boiling water and pressure cooking are generally around 10 minutes.
Ovens offer even heat distribution that is effective against most microorganisms.
A bonus is you don’t have to deal with the a boiling pot of water.
To sterilize your jars in the oven:
- prep jars (clean them)
- preheat oven to 250 deg F
- add in lid-less jars (baking sheet on tray optional)
- once temp reached, leave jars inside for 30 min.
- let cool down in the oven
- remove for use or storage
Notes on oven sterilization:
- Going above 150 can break the jars
- Placing jars on baking sheet lined tray is optional
4. Steam Sterilization
As opposed to oven sterilization, steam uses moist heat to disinfect glass jars from microorganisms, including bacteria, their spores and viruses.
- Effectiveness: 9/10
- How It Works: The high temp. steam disinfects jars.
- Equipment Needed: Big stovetop pot with lid and steaming rack.
The concept behind steam sterilization is simple. It’s like you’re steaming brussel sprouts or broccoli, but you go a bit harder.
Sterilizing with steam uses boiling water-level temperature (212 degrees Farenheit) for a longer duration.
If using a steaming rack in a pot, duration is the key to killing the invisible critters tainting glass jars.
Specialized canning tools are as effective as pressure cookers, but if using a steaming rack in a stovetop pot, it’s still effective and better than a dishwasher with sanitation features.
To steam sterilize mason jars, you place jars above the water-line onto a steaming rack for around 15 minutes to be safe.
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5. Alcohol Jar Disinfection
Alcohol is able to disinfect mason jars for sprouting, but isn’t a great solution for this as many spores may easily survive an alcohol cleaning.
- Jar Sterilization Rating: 6/10 (low level sterilization)
- How It Works: Microorganisms reached get proteins denatured, lipids dissolved.
- Equipment & Materials Needed: 70% or higher isopropyl or ethyl alcohol
Alcohols are able to kill bacteria and viruses more effectively than vinegar or citric acid.
For food related items like glass jars for sprouting, canning or fermenting, it’s best to stick to an oven or stove-top sterilization.
6. Dishwasher Sanitation
Although they’re water hogs, dishwashers with sanitation settings are useful tools for mason or ball jar sanitation.
- Jar Sterilization Rating: 5/10 (doesn’t sterilize)
- How It Works: Sanitation cycles hit up to 170 deg. F.
- Equipment & Materials Needed: Dishwasher with sanitation cycle feature.
Not all dishwashers will work for disinfecting glass jars. You’ll need one with a sanitation setting. And even then, it’s not the best method. However, it’s plenty fine for sprouting if you’re not dealing with a mold-infested jar.
Dishwashers with a sanitize setting are effective at disinfecting mason jars from most pathogens, but won’t get the spores needed to make it a true sterilization option.
As long as it can reach 170 def F for at least 10 minutes, it’s a useful tool that will give you a lower-level sterilization.
7. Rice Cooker
A rice cooker does hit boiling water temperatures, but it doesn’t hold onto it.
- Jar Sterilization Rating: 4 (doesn’t sterilize)
- How It Works: They hit the 212 deg F mark, then just simmer.
- Equipment: Pressure rice cookers might work to disinfect jars, but others no.
Rice cookers will kill many microbes, but:
- Temp. not hot enough.
- No pressure to increase low-temp.
- No consistent boil.
- No control over the boil.
8. White Vinegar Sterilization
- Jar Sterilization Rating: 3/10 (doesn’t sterilize)
- How to Use: Best as a rinse
- Materials: White vinegar has the most acetic acid.
White vinegar’s acidic properties are strong enough to kill some bacterias and fungi, but it doesn’t compare to moist and dry heat methods described above.
It falls under the realm of disinfectants.
White vinegar’s bacteria and fungi-killing acetic acid makes it a mild disinfectant.
White vinegar is better used as a natural rinse solution for cleaning mason jars AFTER sterilizing them.
It’s more effective than baking soda for disinfecting. Sodium bicarbonate is considered to be just a cleaning agent (it’s great for removing pesticide residues), not a disinfectant.
Vinegar won’t kill as many bacteria, fungi or viruses as boiling, steaming, or pressurized steaming will.
But it will kill a good number of the weaker bacterias and certain viruses.
Chemical disinfectants like bleach are more effective than white vinegar.
A quick How To for the vinegar rinse:
To disinfect a glass jar with white vinegar, fill up a jar above halfway with vinegar, then add boiling water into it, topping it off. Let it sit for 10 minutes. Then just swirl that vinegar solution out and rinse with hot water a few times until all vinegar remants are 100% gone. Let air dry.
This helps remove any remaining mineral deposits and residues.
After sterilizing the jars
To avoid contaminating jars post-sterilization with tongs or tools used to grab your jars, you’ll want to make sure any tool is sterilized and that you grasp jars low, only ever touching the outside of the jar.
Just make sure to avoid the inside and rim areas completely when grabbing them.
Is sterilization truly necessary?
Botulism is very rare, so water boiling and oven jar sterilization methods and even the dishwashing sterilization method should be plenty sufficient.
What about other cleaners like baking soda or citric acid?
- baking soda – does not disinfect, not antimicrobial.
- citric acid – can disinfect to a lesser extent, more of a cleaning agent.
Other materials that can potentially sterilize:
- Microwaves may be useful in jar sterilization. Haven’t looked into it as we have no microwave, but I will and I’ll update this answer when I do.
- Chemical disinfectants like bleach, hydrogen peroxide and many other harsher ones.
Do you need a lid when boiling with water?
What are all the dangerous critters in sprouting jars we need to kill?
Microbes, fungi, bacteria i.e. botulism..
Botulism comes from improperly canned/stored foods.
Other horrible bacteriums we never want to encounter in life include:
- E. coli (Escherichia coli)
- Listeria monocytogenes
- Staphylococcus aureus
What is the FASTEST way to sanitize mason jars?
How do you disinfect mason jar lids?
Drop them in boiling water for 10 minutes. Strain and let air dry with fan preferably (note: read about elevation in the boiling water section above).
What happens if you don’t sterilize mason jars for sprouting?
If you don’t sterilize your mason jars ever, chances are harmful microorganisms will become an issue.
Any growth must go.
Bacteria, fungi, mold spores will thrive in unsterilized glass jars once they’ve been introduced to it.
Especially if you’re actively sprouting in them.
Ok now we all know that sterilizing mason jars is not an option. There are different levels of effectiveness, and the top one isn’t always necessary, but a good form of sterilization is. Avoid letting harmful microorganisms invisibly build up in your jars only to have your sprouts tainted and your health put at risk.
Sterilizing your seeds AND the glass jar before sprouting almost guarantees a flawless end-sprout product (done with proper sprouting practices).
You may be doing everything right..
But overtime things build up.
So sprouting in an un-sterilized mason jar becomes a game of Russian roulette.
Are Your Mason Jars Sprout-Ready?
When your ball jars or mason jars are ready to go at a moment’s notice, it makes sprouting easier if you’re plate’s full. Ensure the cleanliness of your equipment and seeds and you’ll be sure to enjoy successful jar sprouting every single time.
This article shared various different sprouting jar sterilization, sanitation and cleaning methods.
Armed with these, you’ll be sure to wipe away any sprout-destroying microorganisms left behind in your jar.
Thanks for visiting the Sprouting Fam blog!
- Sanitizing, Disinfecting, Sterilizing, and Cleaning Mason Jars… From https://fermentationadventure.com/sanitizing-disinfecting-sterilizing-cleaning-mason-jars-beer-bottles-fermentation/
- Reddit – r/askscience: Is boiling hot water more effective at killing bacteria than steam? From https://www.reddit.com/r/askscience/comments/jsr84i/is_boiling_hot_water_more_effective_at_killing/
- National Center for Home Food Preservation: Sterilizing Jars. From https://nchfp.uga.edu/how/can_01/sterile_jars.html
- Radish Sprouting Guide: How to grow radish sprouts, step-by-step.
- The Best Types of Sprouts to Grow at Home.
- The 10 Best Natural Mold Killers (+ Chemical Alternatives)
Last update on 2024-03-01 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API