Should You Clean Your Sourdough Starter Jar?

Should I clean my starter jar?
Published on
12 August 2021
Gareth Busby
Gareth Busby

To clean or not to clean, that is the question! Anyway, here’s the answer to many sourdough starter questions regarding keeping things clean and hygienic. So should you clean your sourdough starter jar?

Yes, for a powerful starter, keep your jar as clean as possible. Sourdough feeds on bacteria, but it only wants the good minerals that are found in fresh flour. Dry starter at the top of the jar won’t get consumed and will likely attract unhealthy bacteria into the ecosystem which weakens the sourdough’s leavening abilities.

Should I wash out my sourdough starter container every day?

It’s not necessary to clean your sourdough container every day. If you make a lot of mess, you may choose to do so, but you don’t need to. Once a week is perfect for regular use. Fortnightly or monthly is fine if you keep your starter in the fridge.

How often should you clean sourdough jar?

Use the same jar every day and try to keep it clean. Note the weight of the empty container before starting. This means you will be able to make accurate measurements when refreshing. Simply weigh the jar and deduct the weight that it would be empty to know how much existing starter remains.

What is the best container to keep sourdough starter in?

Transparent containers such as glass jars or plastic containers are perfect for sourdough, but you can use anything with a lid! Choose a solution that’s easy to clean and remove the starter, such as one with a wide opening and rounded edges.

Can I use a Kilner jar for my sourdough starter?

Absolutely! Kilner jars are a rounded shape that makes them perfect for sourdough starters. They look gorgeous too, especially if you have a collection of starters! The square jars can be a little tricky to clean and feed your starter in. Try to get the rounded jars if you can, but there’s nothing a good soak won’t fix!

Can I use a Mason jar for my sourdough starter?

Yes! Mason jars are the perfect container for a sourdough starter. Use a wide mouth Mason jar if you can as they are easier to clean, feed and pour starter from. There’s no reason not to use one!

Can I use a plastic jar for sourdough starter?

Providing the plastic used is food safe, yes! Plastic containers are more flexible than glass. The extra flex makes it easier to clean any dried sourdough starter from the edges. They also won’t shatter if dropped!

Can I change the jar my sourdough starter is in?

If your jar is full of dry flakes of starter or if your starter is struggling to rise, you should change the container of your sourdough. Keeping your starter clean prevents bad bacteria from entering which will help its leavening ability.

Should I cover my sourdough starter?

Yes! Your starter risks infestation by flour flies or other bugs if it is not covered. Loosely tighten the lid of the container to let a little bit of air escape that’s created by the yeast.

Further reading: Sourdough starter troubleshooting

How tight should I seal the lid on my sourdough starter?

Tighten a jar till it’s just tight, then give it a quarter turn to loosen it slightly. The opening should be sealed so nothing can fall or fly in, yet loose enough to allow gas to pass. Carbon dioxide is created through the fermentation process therefore if the container is air-tight, fermentation halts or the jar can explode when pressure rises. Some bakers sandwich a sheet of kitchen paper between the seal to prevent it from being too tight.

Ending thoughts on should you clean a sourdough starter jar

After reading this article I hope you’ve understood why you should clean a sourdough starter jar and when to do it. If you want a top guide on how to do it, see my how to clean a starter jar article.

Sourdough starter maintenance frequently asked questions

Is sunlight bad for sourdough starters?
A sourdough starter can be in direct sunlight without a problem, but not always! Leaving your starter in the window will warm it up when the sun shines on it. This can cause temperature volatility which will weaken a starter.
Why does my sourdough starter have black spots?
Black mould spots are a sign that a foreign object has contaminated your starter. If possible, carefully remove the spots and refresh the starter in a clean container. Where there is a considerable amount of mould that’s spread, consider throwing the sourdough away.
Can you overfeed a sourdough starter?
If you dilute the bacteria and yeast cells by overfeeding your starter you can destroy its leavening ability. Though unless the feeding ratio is 30:1 or higher, this is unlikely to happen.
When should I give up my sourdough starter?
You shouldn’t have to give up on a starter. Unless there is orange or pink mould visible, you should always try to keep your starter going. Switch containers and make regular feedings to build up activity again.
Can a bad sourdough starter make you sick?
A healthy starter is an acidic environment packed full of helpful bacteria. Eating it in small quantities shouldn’t be a problem. A bad starter contains unwanted bacteria and possibly mould, so yes, it can make you sick.

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