Iodophor Vs Star San (Performance, Price, Pros, and Cons!)

As a brewer, you understand how important it is to follow a sanitation process. But with so many methods available to sanitize, a brewer might wonder which way is the most effective to sanitize before, during, and after you brew. 

Iodophor and Star San are two popular options available to brewers to use as methods for sanitizing. They both are acid chemicals that, when used correctly, are highly efficient at sanitizing both brewing equipment and other surfaces.  

Read on to find out the differences between Iodophor and Star San. We will look into performance, price, and the pros and cons of each. We will also give our recommendation as to which method we prefer.

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Bottling homebrew with an auto siphon

Which is Better- Iodophor or Star San?

Star San is one that we recommend. Although they are both effective products, with both being acid-based, the aroma and pigmentation left behind when using Iodophor may have a negative impact on the quality of your beer. That goes along with a recommended contact time less than Iodophor, making Star San the better option.

Iodophor and Star San are both similar in their effectiveness when used to sanitize. What makes Star San a better option is its lack of aroma and color that could impact your brew. Iodophor not only has an aroma that accompanies it, but it also features a yellow pigmentation that stains.

Some brewers claim that the aroma and pigmentation do not affect the beer, but why risk additional contamination with beer being so sensitive.

What is Iodophor?

Iodophor is a federally approved contact sanitizer used in both the foodservice and production industries. It is also one of the more common sanitizing methods that breweries and home brewers use. It is available at Walmart, Amazon, and most drug stores. 

Iodophor is an acid-based sanitizer that is used mainly because of its effectiveness at killing most fungus and other contaminants that pose a risk of infecting your brew. Iodophor works by attacking a cell’s walls, penetrating the membranes of any microorganism present, and preventing them from reproducing. 

Iodophor is available in sizes that range from 4oz to 32 ounces. 

What are the ingredients of Iodophor?

The ingredients present in Iodophor are an iodine complex with a solubilizing agent, such as polyacrylic acids, poly(oxyalkylene) derived nonionic or polyvinylpyrrolidone.

Iodophor is an iodine-based sanitizer resulting from combining an iodine complex with a solubilizing agent, like a polyacrylic acid agent, that helps it become an iodine solution when mixed with warm or cool water, becomes effective in sanitizing.

Performance

Iodophor works very well when used to sanitize brewing equipment, and it is more cost-effective and gentler on the skin.  Iodophor is very reliable at killing yeast, mold, and other fungus’s requiring a minimum contact time of two minutes. It has a sustained-release effect that works by keeping surfaces and equipment sanitized longer.

When mixed with warm or cold water, Iodophor creates a sanitizer with a yellowish color and a slight aroma. Equipment should be immersed for a minimum of 2 minutes contact time to ensure maximum sanitation and then air dry. Its sustained-release effect keeps equipment and surfaces sanitizing longer, allowing you to get ahead with sanitation. 

When mixed correctly ( ½ ounce per 5 gallons ) at 12.5 ppm,  it works as a “no-rinse” sanitizer that will continue to keep equipment and surfaces sanitized well after use. Iodophor is safe to use on all equipment such as kegs, buckets, fermenters, and tanks.  

The yellowish pigmentation acts as an indicator of its effectiveness at sanitizing. As the color fades, so does the iodine that is needed to sanitize. This yellowish pigmentation can stain surfaces, especially on plastic. There is an aroma present to Iodophor that can be off-putting to some.  The solution requires no rinsing, but you can rinse using cooled boiled water to rid the yellowish residue left behind. 

Pros

  • Less expensive
  • Rinse free when used at 12.5 ppm
  • Effective at killing wild yeasts and bacteria
  • The sustained release effect helps to keep equipment and surfaces sanitized longer.
  • Relatively non-toxic
  • Stores well (up to two years)

Cons

  • Leaves behind a yellowish residue
  • Has an aroma
  • Longer contact time
  • Stains plastics, and other equipment
  • One time use

What is Star San?

Star San is an acid-based sanitizer that only requires a 30 second contact time. It is a thicker material that is both odorless and colorless. When diluted, it creates a foam that is environmentally friendly and less toxic. The heavy foam is capable of sanitizing any crevices and other hidden areas effectively.

Another popular choice for brewers is Star San. Star San is an odorless and colorless sanitizer that features a much thicker product than foams when diluted. Once diluted, It is less corrosive and environmentally friendly that is safe and less toxic to use 

Star San requires only 30 seconds of contact time and does not require rinsing. It is odorless even at higher concentrations. Recommended use is one fluid ounce per 5 gallons, and it comes in a measurable bottle to ensure accurate dosing. Foam is just as effective at sanitizing the solution itself, making it highly effective in getting up into crevices present in brewing equipment. 

Star San can be mixed and used in a spray bottle for quickly sanitizing equipment and surfaces. Non-diluted formula stores well long term when kept in a well-sealed bottle. Star San even holds well once diluted as long as ph>3 ( sometimes for months when covered). As it becomes cloudy, it becomes less effective. 

At full strength, it can be harmful to the eyes and skin, and it is recommended to use gloves when diluted. It can be a mild irritant when used over an extended period, with dry skin and a slight rash being the most common complaints.

Sizes of bottles range from 4 ounces to 32 ounces and are available at Amazon, Walmart, and places where brewing supplies are sold.

What are the ingredients of Star San?

The two active ingredients that make Star San are 15% Dodecylbenzenesulfonic acid and 50% Phosphoric acid.

Star San is an acid-based sanitizer with two active ingredients, Dodecylbenzene sulfonic acid and Phosphoric acid. When diluted with water at room temperatures, these ingredients help make Star San an excellent choice to use as a sanitizer.

Performance

Star San is very effective at sanitizing brewing equipment and surfaces. This odorless and colorless sanitizer creates a heavy foam when diluted in water. Although not as effective as Iodophor at killing all live yeasts and bacteria, it does not leave behind a yellowish hue that can stain most equipment. 

Star San, when diluted with water, works to sanitize brewing equipment. The heavy foam it creates is effective at reaching those hard-to-reach places on some brewing equipment. The solution is both odorless and colorless and is able mixed in a spray bottle for quick use. After immersing equipment, allow to air dry since it requires no rinsing. 

You can store Star San for long periods when diluted ( as long as the ph > 3 ) and at full strength in a tightly sealed container. It is environmentally friendly and safe to use.

Although not as effective at killing all live yeast and bacteria (compared to Iodophor penetrating cell walls and membranes), it does not have the aroma or leaves behind the yellowish stains found when using Iodophor.  There is a slight residue visible on equipment after drying that does not affect your beer.

Pros

  • Odorless
  • Less contact time (30 seconds)
  • Foam is just as effective as the solution (Don’t fear the foam)
  • Stores well long term
  • The bottle provided has measurable doses that, when squeezed, helps to ensure proper dosing
  • Environmentally friendly
  • Safe for septic systems
  • No-rinse
  • It may be used in a spray bottle for quick use

Cons

  • Foams (some brewers like visibility when sanitizing)
  • More costly
  • A slight residue left behind on surfaces
  • Harmful if gotten on skin, eyes, or swallowed at full strength
  • Requires frequent testing to ensure proper sanitation levels.
  • Highly corrosive on soft materials, especially at full strength
  • Dry skin and rashes may occur due to frequent use in its diluted form