Mildew-smelling hip flask - can it be salvaged?
January 16, 2009 7:07 AM   Subscribe

The hip flask I haven't used in a year smelled like mildew when I opened it. I last used it to hold a cream-based liqueur. Is it safe to use? How can I clean it properly?

I have a small hip flask that I rarely use. I last used it about a year ago to hold a creamy liqueur (Bailey's).

I thought I'd cleaned it out fully and put it away properly, but apparently I didn't. I unscrewed the cap today and there's a mildew smell inside it.

Is this safe to use? I could try vinegar to get rid of just the smell, but I don't know if it's safe to even use it, period.

And how can I clean it properly next time? The only opening is this tiny centimeters-wide hole in the top - I can't see inside it to check if it's empty/not coated in mold. It's smaller than standard hip flasks - 4.5 or 5" tall. Maybe I should avoid putting in creamy liquids.
posted by cadge to Home & Garden (23 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
This may sound weird, but the answer might be to just "clean" it with higher-proof non-mixed liquor.
posted by aswego at 7:14 AM on January 16, 2009

I would wash it well, and try using a solution of baking soda and hot water inside to see if you can deodorize it. Be sure to also pay good attention to the stopper as well. When my thermos gets funky, I have used repeated rounds of baking soda and boiling water. If things are really bad, I put in a foaming denture cleaning tablet (or half of one if it is a small flask) and water. If the top opening is too narrow for the denture tablet then you can break it up and drop the bits in with water. Use boiling water afterwards to clean again. I would avoid putting in creamy liquids in the future also, or at least clean with these methods afterwards.
posted by gudrun at 7:18 AM on January 16, 2009

Hydrogen peroxide will kill any fungus-type thingies that are left in there, will kill the smell, and best of all will not hurt you if you drink a little later.

I'd fill it with peroxide, shake it, and leave it for a couple hours, drain and repeat until it smelled all fresh and clean inside. Test by using it for plain water (pour out into glass, drink.)
posted by rokusan at 7:19 AM on January 16, 2009

Put it in a pot of water and slowly bring it to a boil and let it boil for about ten minutes. That will kill anything that might be in it, as well as probably shaking out any mold that might be inside.

p.s. obvious, but just a warning, don't pull it out of the boiling water, let the water cool and then get the flask out and dump out the water.
posted by banannafish at 7:19 AM on January 16, 2009

Is it metal? If so, I would toss it in a pot of boiling water and cook it for an hour or so.
posted by electroboy at 7:21 AM on January 16, 2009

Soaking in a warm Oxyclean (or generic equivalent) solution is miraculous for stuff like this. Just rinse it very, very well.
posted by uncleozzy at 7:26 AM on January 16, 2009

Response by poster: Sadly, the hip flask is metal but with green leather band around most of it that can't be removed. Otherwise boiling the whole thing it would be great!
posted by cadge at 7:27 AM on January 16, 2009

I'm not sure if it's entirely applicable, but you could follow the steps that home brewers use to clean and sanitize their equipment. You can also buy sanitizing stuff at homebrew websites.
posted by burnmp3s at 7:37 AM on January 16, 2009 [1 favorite]

Just want to step back in to say: I homebrew a bit, and I wouldn't waste my money on sanitizer for this (as booze is reasonably sterile). I do, however, clean all my equipment with generic Oxyclean, and can tell you that it does do a very good job of removing odors and the occasional stuck-on gunk (since it will bubble on contact). But the solution has got to be warm, and you've got to rinse the hell out of it.

But hell, if the flask is glass-lined, you could probably get away with cleaning it with almost anything.
posted by uncleozzy at 7:57 AM on January 16, 2009

Also, after you clean it, leave it OPEN in a warm dry place for several days. If you're not using it, store it with the cap off as well.
posted by jeff-o-matic at 8:01 AM on January 16, 2009 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: I don't think it's glass-lined. I can't find my original receipt email, but I'm pretty sure that this is the flask (or one just like it without the engraving plate):
Green mini hip flask
posted by cadge at 8:07 AM on January 16, 2009

Oxyclean is sodium percarbonate, which reacts with water to form... hydrogen peroxide.

So save eight bucks and get peroxide for 90 cents. :)
posted by rokusan at 8:30 AM on January 16, 2009 [1 favorite]

Well, it's also got some soda ash in there, which probably doesn't do f-all but make it slippery, but the point stands. If you don't need 15 gallons of the stuff, just get a bottle of peroxide. Fair enough.
posted by uncleozzy at 8:36 AM on January 16, 2009

At the risk of having to follow up with "oh..duh," why can't it be boiled even with the leather band?

(Piggybacking: My flask also has a leather band. It's not mildewy inside, but it is kinda stale and has some mineral deposits. I tried just filling it with vinegar & water, but it's the area around the neck and underneath that's the most crusty, which I couldn't agitate enough by shaking.)
posted by desuetude at 8:39 AM on January 16, 2009

What about a simple bottle brush? You can get in there and really scrub.

desuetude: the leather will likely be damaged, and the glue holding it on may very well be dissolved.
posted by that girl at 9:00 AM on January 16, 2009

It's a tiny little bottle and you don't mind if it winds up smelling like alcohol? Fill it with Everclear and leave it to soak.
posted by nebulawindphone at 9:36 AM on January 16, 2009

Response by poster: You guys are all the best! Thanks for all these suggestions - please keep them coming if you have any more!

Boiling the flask - I like the flask but it really does feel like a cheapish novelty thing. I don't know if the leather would get discolored or if any adhesive/fake metal plating/etc. would be destroyed through boiling the whole thing.
posted by cadge at 10:33 AM on January 16, 2009

Be warned that oxyclean/peroxide/bleach all are oxidizers (duh) and can rust metals very quickly. I'd still at least try a quick wash with peroxide but I would not let it stand long. I would use my dental waterpick to try and knock out any fungus. Just put it in there, turn it on, and move the pick around to try and knock any crud out.

And yeah, don't put liquor in there that can grow stuff: no wine, beer, mixed drinks. Just the hard stuff with no added sugars or dairy products.
posted by chairface at 10:39 AM on January 16, 2009

Response by poster: Chairface: Just the hard stuff with no added sugars or dairy products - so no sweet liqueurs like Midori?
posted by cadge at 11:26 AM on January 16, 2009

With flasks the easiest way to clean them is with peroxide then wash it out with baking soda and water. This will kill everything in there and get rid of the funky smell. Also for future reference never put any mixed drinks or anything sugary in a flask. Use the hard stuff only.
posted by Mastercheddaar at 12:55 PM on January 16, 2009

cadge writes "I don't know if the leather would get discolored or if any adhesive/fake metal plating/etc. would be destroyed through boiling the whole thing."

Leather will be damaged by boiling. It'll get hard and brittle. Even just soaking in water will swell and soften the leather until it dries which could cause all sorts of problems.
posted by Mitheral at 4:51 PM on January 16, 2009

I would put boiling water in it, let it sit for a half hour or so, then put MORE boiling water in, then shake it really good, then empty it and put whatever cleaning product you want, or just start using it.

Never underestimate the power of a good soaking.
posted by Locochona at 5:44 PM on January 16, 2009

Whenever I neglect my nalgene for a few weeks and find nasty stuff inside, I get hot tap water, a tiny drop of dish soap and a few tablespoons of bleach, cap it and shake it.
I keep it closed up, shaking periodically, turning upside down/on the side for a day or so.
Then open it back up, rinse it out and enjoy that fresh pool water scent.
posted by ijoyner at 10:36 AM on January 17, 2009

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