In a post on my It's Alive in the Lab Autodesk blog, I conducted an experiment to see if decanting wine really affected the taste.
That test revealed that it does. As a result, I use my decanter often.
Wine glasses can be cleaned with soap because their wide open mouths allow them to be thoroughly rinsed, and their overall shape allows them to be hung upside down to fully drain and dry. The typical shape of a decanter precludes this. Decanters are never cleaned with soap because no one wants the taste of their wine impacted by cleaning products that could remain in the decanter. As such, the normal cleaning procedure is to just rinse out the decanter with tap water and make sure it 100% dry before its next use. The rinsing process works well but is not 100% effective. Sometimes a little bit of slightly wine-infused water remains. When the water evaporates, the result is what looks like a wine stain in the bottom of the decanter.
What to do? What to do? There's actually a solution to this problem: cleaning beads shaped like flying saucers. From the customer reviews, it appears that the saucer shape works better than purely spherical ones. The beads are available in many places, e.g., Amazon.com, for about $10.
The beads did not come with instructions, so here's a 10-step process for cleaning a decanter with these saucer-shaped metal beads.
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Step 1: Run Hot Water.
Turn on the faucet and let the water get fairly hot. I didn't use boiling water because I thought it might crack the decanter.
Step 2: Fill the Decanter.
Fill the decanter with very hot water. "Fill" is a relative term. You only need enough water to fill the bottom portion of the decanter.
Step 3: Add the Beads.
Add the cleaning beads. In my case, the opening of the decanter was wider than the little container that the beads came in. Had this not been the case, I would have used a funnel.
Step 4: Gently Rock and Roll.
Use two hands to gently rock the decanter from side to side for about 3 minutes. Don't shake it vigorously as the hot water will splash out of the decanter. Position the decanter at various angles to ensure that the beads roll back and forth, touching both sides and the bottom of the decanter. As the beads work their magic, the water begins to look like an aquarium with fish food as flakes of dried wine separate from the glass and float in the water.
Step 5: Empty Water and Beads.
Empty the contents of the decanter into a strainer to catch the beads.
Step 6: Rinse the Decanter.
Rinse the decanter once more with normal-temperature tap water to ensure that no dislodged stain-particles remain.
Step 7: Clean the Beads.
To clean the beads for the next use, run tap water over the beads in the strainer and move them around with your finger. I did this because I didn't want to re-introduce any wine particles into the decanter on the next cleaning.
Step 8: Dry the Beads.
I assume that the beads are rust proof; however, I didn't want to take that chance. So before i put them back in their original container, I spread them out on a towel and patted them with another towel. That probably did the trick, but I wasn't sure, so I dried the strainer with a towel, put the beads back in the strainer, and used a hair dryer to make sure the beads were 100% dry. I then carefully poured them back into the container (with a bowl underneath) in case any missed.
Step 9: See the Result.
The end-result is a decanter that is squeaky clean. You can see that the result is not perfect, but 99% of the stains are gone. Perhaps the end-result will improve with future or repeated cleanings?
Step 10: Allow Decanter to Dry.
Allow the decanter to dry before the next use.