Sanitize and Sterilize
The last thing you want is unsanitary equipment. At best, it can spoil your ingredients and ruin your beer, and at worst it can make whoever drinks your beer ill. Neither really seems like a good option.
To sanitize your equipment, you have a couple of methods to choose from:
First, you can use a chlorine bleach solution [source: Smith]. By diluting common household bleach with water, you have a cheap and effective way to kill bacteria and sterilize your home-brewing equipment. However, there are some drawbacks to using bleach. It's inexpensive, yes, but it's more difficult to use -- you really have to make sure that you rinse and remove it thoroughly before using your equipment again. Any kind of bleach residue can spoil your beer and potentially even be toxic to a person who accidently drinks something with bleach residue.
A better alternative is using iodophor. While a bit more expensive than bleach and a little harder to get (instead of finding it on every laundry aisle, you'll probably have to buy it from a beer-making store or Web site), this sanitizer works very well on home-brewing equipment. Using iodine mixed with a solubilizing agent, this solution can sterilize both your equipment and your bottles [source: Arguello].
Another great advantage of iodophor is that it evaporates and doesn't require rinsing. As long as you use the right proportions as directed, iodophor will sanitize your equipment without requiring the careful rinses of a bleach solution, and you shouldn't taste the difference [source: Arguello].
Read on to discover the next top tip for home brewing.