How Do Bars Clean Glasses? (How to Clean Your Glass)

Most Bars and other food and drink establishments clean their dirty glasses using a commercial glasswasher or the triple sink method.

Both can achieve the same results and are effective ways to clean glassware, but one takes more manual labor, which takes time, and time, is money.

You can easily remove the wine smells from your wine glass, remove lipstick stains, and achieve “beer clean” glassware. 

Let’s look at the easiest way and “best practices” to achieve the best results with your glassware as they do in the food service industry.

We’ll look at the water first.


Hard vs. Soft Water


Nearly ninety percent of U.S. homes have hard water to some degree. 


Hard water can make getting your glassware clean a real task.


Where you live will dictate how hard your water is; areas with more significant amounts of limestone will typically have harder water.


Hard water is water that contains higher levels of calcium minerals along with lesser amounts of magnesium.


The dissolved calcium and magnesium can cling to the glass surface, creating mineral deposits that leave water spots and what is known as limescale, making your glassware cloudy.


If you are unsure of the type of water you have, water hardness test strips are available. 


You can also call the water company, and they may be able to give you this information.


By clicking here, you can visit an interactive map that will tell you how hard the water is for your particular area.

Awareness of your water’s hardness can be central to understanding how to achieve clean results.


The harder the water, the more soap is required to clean glassware.


Adding a water softener such as Lemi Shine to the dishwasher can reduce cloudy glasses and the amount of dishwasher detergent used.


Hard water is a nuisance but usually poses no health risks.


Bar Glass Washing


Not all bars and restaurants use the same method of cleaning their glassware; they may use one, two, or all three of the following in the cleaning process.

  • Commercial Glasswashers
  • Three Compartment Sink
  • Commercial Dishwasher


Commercial Glasswashers


Holding approximately 12 to 25 glasses per glass rack, a commercial glass washer usually runs through its full wash cycles in about two minutes.


Once the bartender or barback (bar help) empties the dirty glasses of their garnish or straws, they are then loaded onto the glass racks.


Use of a low-sudsing detergent glass cleaner made of nonfat cleaning compounds and sprayers; the glass washers remove the remains of the last drink. 


The machine then uses one of two methods to sanitize the glassware, heat via water temperature (minimum 171℉), or a sanitizing solution at a lower heat.


Using the lower temperature saves money on the power bill and is also easier on the glass. 


The glass takes a shorter time to cool down and prepare for the next ice-cold drink.


Some “fancier” machines employ both to sanitize.


When the establishment is busy, a bartender may have to go “old school” and also employ the three-compartment or “triple sink” method of washing bar glasses by hand to keep up with demand.


Three Compartment Sink

Triple sink for use in a commercial food setting.


The triple sink or three-compartment sink method of washing glasses is one of manual labor. 


The first sink to have warm water (110 ℉ minimum) and preferably a low-suds glass-cleaning detergent which aids in achieving “beer clean” glasses.


An overflow tube is used in all three sinks; it’s a safety precaution to keep the sinks from running over.


To aid in scrubbing the glasses, a glass washer brush will be found in the first sink in most Taverns/Bars triple sinks.


This is a simple brush unit that has three brushes, one for the inside of the glass and two for the outside of the glass. 


The brush has suction cups so that it attaches firmly to the bottom of the sink or sometimes the side of the sink.


Many businesses employ the Bar Maid submersible electric glasswasher; it handles much of the effort to remove oils, fats, and debris.


Sink number two has plain lukewarm water for rinsing (105 -115 degrees F.).


Rinse the glass by dipping the glass into the water in a “heel-toe” motion, making sure that the glass is filled with water.


The glass is fully immersed in the rinse water, with the bottom going in first and fully submerged; this is done twice and sometimes three times.


The third sink can contain clean water kept at 180° Fahrenheit or with a sanitizing solution added to it at a lower temperature of not less than 75 degrees Fahrenheit and up to 115 degrees F. to work efficiently.


If using plain hot water to sanitize, the right way is to submerge the glass for thirty seconds.


Sanitizing solutions can be one tablespoon of Chlorine Bleach (use odor-free) per gallon of water, a quaternary ammonium compound, or Iodine.


Also, the sanitizer available from Beer Clean is handy as it comes in pre-measured packets.


Restaurants and Bars following the rules above won’t have issues when the guy in the white coat (health inspector) and clipboard from the Health Board show up for a health inspection. (Improperly cooled and stored foods could be another matter.)


Commercial Dishwasher

Commercial Dishwashing machine with glass racks.

Many restaurants use a commercial dishwasher to wash their water glasses.


It is a very hostile environment inside a commercial dishwasher; it is 180 degrees of pressurized soapy fury.


The machines are designed to clean dirty dishes quickly, usually for about two minutes.


Most employ two wands with multiple spray nozzles on each one.


Without a special rack, wine glasses tend to go flying around inside the machine. 


The high heat, detergent, and pressure are much too harsh for quality glasses and eat away at the glass, causing etching over time.


Water glasses, in general, are a “dime a dozen,” and it doesn’t make sense time or money-wise to wash them by hand.


How to Clean Drinking Glasses


I think the best way to wash glassware is by hand.


Whether it is beer glasses or wine glasses, washing by hand allows you to get inside of the glasses with enough pressure to remove any stubborn remnants.


Household dishwashers are designed to wash dishes with food fats and other food debris that may be a bit dried on and more difficult to remove.


Also, the detergent is designed to “attack” foodstuffs; if the food debris isn’t there, it actually attacks the glass, resulting in etching.


“Dirty glassware” usually has just the last drink’s clear film residue.


Though most household dishwashers these days do have a “light wash” or “glass setting” that is a gentler wash, washing quality glassware in the machine is not such a good idea, and certainly never leaded glass/crystal.


It is kind of a hostile environment for glassware, between the detergent and the high temperatures and the length of the wash cycle.


Dirty glasses usually don’t have food stuck to them, so they don’t need the aggressive action of the dishwasher.


Fill your sink filled ⅔  with warm soapy water (that doesn’t contain too much detergent) to break down fats or oils. 


I have to use a tablespoon of Dawn, and sometimes more, as I have very hard water in my area.


I use Dawn Ultra to wash everything because it works on everything, and I’ve washed “everything” at home and in many commercial kitchens.

Dawn Ultra dish soap is formulated to work in hard water situations.

I have to use a tablespoon of Dawn, and sometimes a bit more, depending on what I cooked for dinner, as I have very hard water in my area.


I like to soak my glasses in the sink for at least five minutes before scrubbing.


Scrub the inside of your glass in and out with a clean sponge, bottle brush, or (I like to use a cloth) in as hot water as you feel comfortable. 


Thoroughly rinse; I find this to be the easy way (I rinse inside the glass, then the outside, and once more on the inside again) with as hot of water as possible.


This will wash away any detergent residue. 


The item should be placed on a glass/dish rack or mat to facilitate the drying process.


Lipstick Marks

Two drinking glasses, one with a lipstick mark and a salt shaker.

This is quick and easy, take a paper towel, wet it a little bit, shake a 1/4 tsp. of table salt onto the wet paper towel, rub the mark until it is gone, and then wash as usual.

If the mark is stubborn, apply a drop of your dish soap to it and rub it again.

I like to use a paper towel or napkin rather than using my dishcloth because I can discard it.



Air Drying Glassware


Dry glassware on a drying rack or corrugated mat; this is essential as it allows for air circulation inside the glass. 


The air circulation quickens the drying process; this is important as you don’t want to give germs time to grow in the warm moist atmosphere.


Avoid flat surfaces/towels that will not allow for proper air circulation that cools and dries the glass quicker.


I like these Bamboo drying racks offered by Amazon; there are two racks, one for your glasses and one for your Dinnerware.



Using a microfiber towel once the glass is pretty well dry can speed up the process of putting the glassware away and reduce any spotting.

Use of the lint-free towel will not leave lint as a regular bar towel will.



Bars and restaurants clean their Bar glasses using either a commercial glasswasher and or the three-compartment sink method. 

Hard water, which contains high levels of calcium minerals, can make cleaning glassware difficult and lead to water spots and cloudiness. 

Understanding water hardness can help achieve cleaner results. 

Washing glasses by hand (not all of us have a glass washing machine) is the best way to clean glassware at home.

Properly washing and rinsing your glassware is essential and the real key to achieving a “beer-clean glass” (industry term), a perfect pour, and a perfect beer.

Drying on a rack or mat with air circulation is vitally important, as it allows the glass to dry rapidly and prevents germs from growing in a warm, moist atmosphere. 

Avoid flat surfaces/towels that do not allow for proper air circulation. 

A lint-free microfiber towel can speed up the process and reduce any spotting that may occur.

Following these suggestions will assure you a clean glass and a good beer or a nice glass of wine,

or your “Double no ice.”





Hi and welcome! When I'm not writing, I can be found in the kitchen as I love to cook; when I'm not writing or cooking, I might be exercising my green thumb; and when I'm not doing any of those things... I might be on a day trip to the mountains or collecting agates on the beach, and sometimes I can be found just reading a book. Have a great day!

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