How To Clean Vintage Glass Jars & Bottles

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Recently in my IG stories, I shared a little treasure hunt of sorts around our farm. I have found so many vintage glass jars and bottles halfway buried in the ground around our farmhouse.

It’s not the first time I’ve gone hunting for old glass around the property… I actually blogged about some of my finds from last winter here in this post.

I love collecting old glass jars and vintage Coca-Cola bottles! I’ve accumulated quite the collection over the years, and often they can be quit hard to clean. So today on the blog, I’m going to show you how I clean really dirty vintage glass jars and bottles.

the easy way to clean vintage glass jars and antique bottles - even the ones with narrow openings or with things growing inside them

Since I had a sink full of finds waiting to be washed, today seemed like the perfect opportunity to share some of my best tips and tricks on how to clean vintage glass bottles and jars with y’all!

It sounds simple enough, just washing them in the sink.

But depending on the size of the bottle openings and the shapes of the glass, it can be really tricky to get old glass bottles like this clean.

I start by brushing off / shaking out as much of the dirt as I can outside. Then I soak them in the sink to loosen up the dirt and grime.

how to clean glass bottles like these dirty vintage glass bottles and jars

After a good soak, I washed the outside of the bottles and jars with hot soapy dishwater. If the mouth of the glass was large enough, I washed the inside with a rag / bottle brush too.

how to clean a glass jar like this dirty antique atlas mason jar
dirty vintage ball mason jar

But for jars or bottles with smaller openings, you have to really work to get the inside all the way clean.

In the past I’ve bought different sizes of bendable bottle brushes, but they ended up breaking within a year. And truthfully, they didn’t really get all of the parts of the bottles clean anyways. They were only minimally helpful, so it felt like a waste.

vintage amber glass clorox bottle found half burried on our farm
old green glass coca cola bottles with plants growing inside of it

Simple Tips to Make Cleaning Old Glass Bottles Way Easier

Now that I’ve cleaned several sink fulls of these glass jars and bottles, I’ve come up with a few hacks that I wanted to share with y’all! Here’s all the cleaning supplies you’ll need.

Supplies You’ll Need to Clean Old, Found Bottles and Jars

dishwashing supplies needed to clean vintage glass bottles and jars including dawn, bottle brush, magic eraser, and aquarium rocks

Remove Stubborn Stains with a Magic Eraser

For stubborn spots on the outside of the glass, I like to use a magic eraser. It takes the stains right off!

cleaning an old amber glass clorox bottle with a Mr. Clean magic eraser

After scrubbing this Clorox bottle, the glass appeared clean. But I took the magic eraser to it and was surprised just how much grime was left on the glass.

I now use a magic eraser on the outside of all my bottles and jars with stubborn stains.

cleaning stubborn stains off of an old glass clorox bottle with a magic eraser

Loosen Stuck on Grime with Aquarium Rocks

For the stubborn grime on the insides, I actually use aquarium rocks of all things!

I have to say that this is the way to go when it comes to cleaning out vintage glass jars and bottles! It’s the only way I’ve found to get all that nastiness out of those hard to clean glass bottles.

aquarium rocks for cleaning glassware

Ok, now let me explain how to clean glass bottles using the aquarium rocks!

After I wash the exterior of the glass, I add a handful of aquarium rocks, a little Dawn dish soap, and a splash of hot water. Then I swirl the rocks and soap around in the bottle.

You have to be really careful to hold on to the bottle and not let it slip while you swirl the rocks and soap around, but you want the rocks to swirl around fast enough that it knocks off the grime that has built up on the glass.

Then I pour the contents of the bottle over a strainer so as not to accidentally pour any rocks down the drain. I gave it a quick rinse and that’s all there was to it!

collected vintage glass bottles and jars

Didn’t they clean up so nicely? I am always amazed seeing how pretty the glass looks when you finally get them all clean!

Don’t forget to pin this for later!

how to clean old green glass coca cola bottles with nasty grime on the inside

Honestly, every time I wash a load of these I question whether or not I’ll be able to clean at least one jar or bottle. I think to myself “this jar probably won’t be one that I keep”. And every time, I end up loving them all! One man’s trash… am I right?

large vintage ball mason jar "perfect mason"

I love decorating with vintage and antique glass here at the farmhouse! But finding them so grimy and dirty like they were in my before photos, it can be hard to see the diamond in the rough.

old atlas mason jar with a big H and a smaller A inside the H

I hope these tips on how to clean glass bottles and jars are helpful to you! And I hope seeing the before and after photos in this post inspires you to see past the grit and grime. There’s beauty to be found underneath friends!

Now that you know a few tricks for getting your old bottle collection clean, you’ll want to check out a post I wrote all about decorating with your glass bottles and jars.

I blogged 11 ways to repurpose and reuse vintage glass jars and bottles in your home’s decor, and there are some really great ideas in the post that you might not have thought of yet!

how to repurpose old glass jars and vintage bottles as decor

You’ll also want to check out another post I wrote where I’ll show you a mini haul of my some more recent glass finds!!

Click the hyperlink to see my latest vintage glass finds and to hear the unique story behind how we’ve found all these jars and bottles right here on the farm.

Speaking of the farm and our farmhouse…

Have you taken the tour?

We re-built our family’s 1800’s farmhouse… and I put together a mini tour of the before photos!

I hope today’s post was helpful, and I hope it gave you a new idea or two for how to get your old bottle collection clean and shined up!

how to clean old amber glass clorox bottles and vintage glass bottles with narrow openings

If you enjoyed the post, and if you are a fellow lover of all things vintage and antique, I’d like to invite you to join my email community!

Being a part of my email list is the best way to stay in touch and be sure you never miss a post.

Here on the blog, and in my email newsletters, I share all my favorite decor tips and tricks, DIY’s and projects, and of course… my love of antiques!

Thanks for stopping by the blog today, and as always, thanks for following along…

Love, Brittany

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  1. I too love old glass bottles from the dump. A Polident tablet dissolved overnight works miracles in some of the old, I assume calcium deposits on the inside of the bottle.

    1. I actually prefer to use rinsed uncooked long grain rice or a bag of small glass seed beads to clean the inside of glass I can’t get into with anything else… My dad owned a pet store with 300 tanks… aquarium rock will scratch the glass.

  2. I will be trying this technique for sure! I also tried the bottle brushes and sometimes you can even bend them to accommodate all of the little areas where it seems to be the dirtiest so I was actually very excited about the aquarium rock! When I first started collecting my bottles I found several sites that said to use water and vinegar and must say that the bottles did not come out as I expected and I’m hoping I haven’t actually ruined them. Some are the very old medicine/tonic bottles. We’ll soon see. Thanks for the tips!

    1. Good luck, and I hope it works for your bottles! Some of mine do have a haze to them, but they were also burried in the dirt for a few decades so that may have something to do with the haze. I can’t imagine the vinegar would hurt as a lot of people use vinegar to clean with! 🙂

  3. I used tiny glass beads and dawn dishwashing detergent for the little and large glass bottles with small openings and brushes for the larger openings. I will be trying the magic erasers for them as well, thank you for your advice! I also soak overnight outdoors in a container to soften any dirt accumulation and find it easier to work with the bottles after the soak.

    1. Oh the glass beads are such a smart idea too! And yes I totally agree with you on the soaking!! Makes it so much easier to get the gunk out. Good luck with the magic erasers! 🙂

  4. Thank you! I’ve had a bunch of vintage bottles for awhile, just waiting for the perfect cleaning ideas.

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