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“Should I use chlorine bleach or iodine to clean my raw milk dairy equipment?”

This question often shows up in my inbox!

Among others about sanitizing raw milk equipment — what to use, why what they’re using isn’t working, how much sanitizer, etc.

I’m a firm believer in that if you’re producing raw milk then you’d better have some food grade bleach flying in your barn sanitizing that equipment.

Bleach Worries Unfounded

Over the years of troubleshooting with people I’ve had raw milk producers who thought they were being “green” by not using bleach, but you get into trouble with high bacteria counts (and nasty tasting milk) when you do that.

Bleach is the absolute best sanitizer for your equipment and the best way to kill dangerous bacteria.

As soon as bleach hits organic material it is inactivated, so you will not have residues of bleach in your milk if you use it as a sanitizer.

Hydrogen peroxide will NOT sanitize your equipment, either, so if you’re using that then you’ll need to switch right away.  I’ve also had some characters using kombucha in their equipment or even just vinegar.  Those are not effective at killing bacteria and will often encourage crazy bacterial growth!

Iodine vs. Bleach

There are also a few people I hear from using iodine.  I prefer food grade bleach for a number of reasons, most importantly it kills more bacteria than iodine.  Also, there can be a residual taste from iodine in the milk and your customers will complain or quietly disappear.

I use an iodine based teat dip pre and post milking, for sure, but to sanitize all my equipment I use food grade bleach from our local deLaval store.  If you’re truly set on iodine, though, as long as you don’t have hard water and your test results are very good, then maybe it’s okay for you.

Scrubbing and Changing out Equipment

Recently someone also asked how often I manually “scrub” the interior of my milk cans or the inside of the inflations.  I use a brush and a sponge to scrub inside my milk can every day.  There will be milk buildup (which will then harbor bacteria) on the side that you pour your milk out of if you don’t scrub it.

I typically do NOT use a brush inside my inflations.  And I have very, very low bacteria counts, so I trust my process.

Also, very important to remember to change out those inflations regularly.  On my 3 cow dairy I change them out every 6 months or approximately 1,000 milkings.

The harsh chemicals and daily usage make the inflations harden slowly and that can damage or at least stress the cow’s teats.  Also, there are teeny-tiny cracks invisible to your eyes that can harbor bacteria.

So again, 6 months seems to be my magic number, but depending on how many cows you have you may want to base it on about 1,000 milkings.

Also, have you seen my video outlining my cleaning process?  It’s been on the blog for a couple years, but if you’ve never seen it it’s worth a watch: click below to watch my cleaning process.

Now it’s your turn – will you do anything differently, or do you have your process down pat?  Are you able to get dairy chemicals locally or will you have to use store bought? (both are effective).  Scroll down below here to the comment section and tell me!!

Remember, if you produce raw milk you do GREAT work!! Providing raw milk to your family and community is a tough job and you are creating healthy, happy families by doing so.

Warm Hugs,

PS:  Proper amounts for store-bought chemicals when you don’t have access to proper dairy chemicals:
1)  1 T dish soap in 4 gallons luke-warm water
2)  4 cups white vinegar in 3-4 gallons hot water
3)  1 cup chlorine bleach in 3-4 gallons luke-warm water (hot water will inactivate it.)

Proper Dairy Chemical Amounts:
1)  CIP, 1 ounce in 3 gallons lukewarm water
2)  Pink Foaming Dairy Acid, 1 ounce in 3 gallons HOT water
3) 1 cap-full (yes, cap-full, not cup-full) food grade bleach in luke-warm water

Last step – sanitation – is done right before milking.

{ 14 comments… add one }
  • Shawna July 27, 2016, 4:55 pm

    I’m in complete agreement Charlotte, and our experiences have confirmed the need for chlorine. Over time, without the bleach sanitization step, we end up with surface bacteria in our milking machine and risking coliform levels in our milk.

    I too had unfounded bleach concerns at one time, but the science backs up what you say. Over the last 8 years, I’ve lost one customer due to our usage of bleach. That’s a price I’m willing to pay for good safety and sanitation.

    I’d like to offer a couple more tips on bleach, based on our trials and errors, for your readers here! Laundry bleach often has emulsifiers and fragrances that don’t break down and aren’t safe for equipment used to handle food. Laundry bleach does not have to list those extra ingredients on the label. So even if your bottle of bleach just says “bleach”, you don’t really know what else might be in it. That’s why you want a bleach with the NSF label. NSF bleach can be tricky to find–HINT: try your spa and pool supply store!

    Also, since bleach does break down quickly, buy it fresh, store it in a cool place, and use it up. Don’t stock pile bleach, as it dei-onizes and basically turns into salt water over time. (Been there, done that.) As always, thanks for the GREAT info Charlotte!!

    • Charlotte July 27, 2016, 7:23 pm

      Hey Shawna thanks so much for your tips!!

      Very good points you make, as usual 🙂

      Hope you and the cows are doing great this summer and keeping cool!!!


  • Brittany July 27, 2016, 10:00 pm

    Where would I find food grade bleach? I don’t have a local delaval store. Do they sell online? Also, what is the exact CIP and pink dairy acid do you use? Thank you!!

    • Charlotte July 27, 2016, 10:15 pm

      Hey Brittany – thanks for your comment! Food grade bleach can be difficult to track down. Do you have a large dairy near you anywhere that you can contact and maybe pick up some supplies from them? I used to do that – just drive 2 miles down the road to the dairy and they set me up, then deLaval put me on their delivery route even though I’m small. But the large dairy was happy to help me out.

      Otherwise you might look into a pool supply store. I had a hard time finding it through them. Hamby dairy supply doesn’t seem to have liquid but they have some dried sanitizer pill things you dissolve in water. You might want to research that.

      Otherwise, keep googling and looking and you might also contact and see if Joe Wiggans, the owner, has a recommendation. I don’t see it on his website but he’s been very helpful to me.

      Thanks again for commenting and good luck!


  • Karen July 28, 2016, 4:45 am

    I have been searching for CIP and Pink foaming dairy acid. It’s all very confusing . Can you please suggest a specific brand or website.? Do you use the pink acid after every milking ?
    Thank you , Karen Matzel

    • janice July 30, 2016, 12:53 am

      You might find dairy supplies at a TSC/ Tractor Supply Company , but the acid should be used sparingly, not necessarily every time and be sure it doesn’t splash on your clothes or you and wash after using it. As for iodine , there is iodine cleaner which when I was younger milking with my dad using pails under the cows belly I would use this along with a dry santizer (Kleen something) and all the equipment was washed in this solution in my wash vat . Then rinsed in the next vat. Then prior to using , rinsed in bleach water and hung up to dry briefly.

  • Sharon Dziekonski July 28, 2016, 2:42 pm

    Wonderful video! I am just venturing into the world of machine milking my goats and tutorials like this are so helpful!

  • Daina July 28, 2016, 3:49 pm

    I am having a hard time finding food grade bleach. I have check Amazon and my restaurant supply house where I buy jugs. Do you order it from somewhere?

  • Farmer July 28, 2016, 4:26 pm

    You may have trouble finding “food grade bleach” because there is no such thing! What you are looking for is NSF certified bleach (safe for food handling equipment). While it can be ordered online, well drilling companies and pool supply stores are reliable sources. If you have a Graingers store nearby, they also carry it.

    • Daina July 28, 2016, 8:58 pm


  • John March 9, 2017, 1:25 am

    Please include me on your Email list thank you.

  • dean February 28, 2018, 9:00 pm

    very good info didn’t know there were girls like you left in the world very refreshing im 78 yrs on the up side of my birthday I just bought 2 Brown Swiss hfrs 1 has calfed and am getting my 30 yr old granddaughter milking so far just feeding 6 bullcalfs with mom milk supplemented with milk replacer until #2 has her calf hope to get into raw milk in future but hear Washington state is not easy Thank You very much

  • Paul Huenefeld March 15, 2018, 4:33 am

    1 do you sanitize with bleach as the last step post milking as well as a pre milking sanitization with bleach?
    2 Do you sanitize the claw or any type of cleaning between cows during milking?

    • Charlotte March 15, 2018, 1:58 pm

      Thanks for your q’s, Paul!

      1) I do not sanitize pre-milking, just post milking.
      2) I do not sanitize in between cows.

      There may be reason for you to do both, but I do not. We milk just 2 cows now and we have not determined it necessary for us to do so.


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