I have a decanter brush which works well. If you're getting a white film in it, it's likely a calcium/hard water buildup. I would use a vinegar and water solution, let it soak, then wash it out several times with soap and water, and finally rinse thoroughly.
I downloaded this from somewhere on the internet years ago; I apologize that I cannot cite the source. As I recall, he was a wine-loving chemist. You may find it helpful:


Cleaning Riedel:
removing residue; no stink, no scratches, no spots


Here are some suggestions, but there are pros and cons to each: the most effective and fastest routes entail more risk to the glassware.

To help understand how to remove the stains, keep in mind what the stains contain:

a) tannins [the older the wine, the less water-soluble the tannins can become];
b) pigments originally within the wine skins [and now oxidized and more colored; these dissolve well in alcohol],
c) residual and unfermentable sugars [various types; these dissolve easily in water],
d) acids [tartaric, malic, lactic, citric, etc., all of which are moderately water soluble, and very soluble in alkaline solution, but are physically trapped within the viscous residue]
e) plus an array of other organic molecules.

So the goal is to find something that dissolves these molecules -- or which chemically modifies (derivatizes) them into something else that will dissolve more readily.

Several approaches:

1. Use straight bleach.
Pros: it reacts with colored organic materials so as to not only modify their structure such that they don't absorb visible light (‘bleached'), but, more importantly, produces higher water-solubility in the resultant organic material. Bleach reacts only with what it can physically reach; if the hardened residue presents a hard outer wall to the bleach or other solvent, it will take time for the wall to soften before the bleach-induced chemical reactions occur and water-solubilization of the oxidized materials happens.
Cons: it stinks, it damages your skin, accidental splashes put holes in your clothes, and its alkalinity will, given enough time, visibly etch the crystal. It transforms the originally smooth surface of crystal (and regular glass, Pyrex, etc.) into a rougher surface which looks frosted. This change is permanent, and visually the glass looks ruined.
Tip: use only enough bleach to cover the residue. Replace the bleach several times, each with a fresh pour. And avoid exposing the glass to bleach for more than, say, about fifteen minutes total, especially if it's not the first time you've hit that glass with bleach. Bleaching is a labor-intensive, effective route requiring a bit of caution.

2. Baking soda and water (as suggested elsewhere in this thread):
Pros: Baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) is cheap. I haven't tried this route but I would imagine that part of the effectiveness of a paste of baking soda comes from its mild abrasiveness -- like that of an ultrafine sandpaper. If its mildly abrasive action works, then well and good. You may first want to soak the residue in water overnight to try softening it before using the bicarbonate.
Cons: not only can the abrasiveness of this solid (or as a paste) permanently scratch the surface of the glass, but it might also, but at a greatly reduced rate, chemically etch the surface in a manner similar to bleach.

3. ‘Near-neutral organic solvents'
In thinking about this, why not try to dissolve the residue in the glass by using the same solvent in which the residue was originally dissolved, i.e., wine? Use a cheap dry white that already has, on its own, relatively few of the types of molecules (acid, color, tannin, and sugar) which you're trying to dissolve within the residue. That flabby over-oaked cheap Chardonnay now has a purpose for existence. 8^) Alternatively, pour in a bit of rubbing alcohol, which is 70% isopropyl alcohol and 30% water. The isopropyl alcohol can slowly dissolve some of the colored organics in the residue, and the water will dissolve the acids and sugars.
Pros: convenient; very little effort.
Cons: it's slow. The drier/harder the residue, the slower the rate of solution. This route could easily require many, many hours.
Tip: cap the wine glass with a tight cover of Saran wrap. This will help reduce the rate of loss of water and alcohol from the ‘solvent'. If you use wine, periodically swirl it and ‘freshen' it after a half-day with a new small pour, then re-cover the glass with Saran.

4. Soap and water.
Pros: cheap and convenient.
Cons: slow, sometimes unacceptably slow. And a soap solution, being mildly alkaline, can slowly etch crystal, especially if the glass repeatedly sees overnight exposure to soap. See ‘bleach' above. The first evidence of etching is a purplish color on the surface of the glass, especially when compared to the color of a cheap, thick waterglass. The purple color comes, in part, from preferential scattering of short wavelengths (purple/blue) by, in this case, small pits on the glass's surface. For analogous reasons the sky is blue because of preferential scattering of short wavelengths by dust and other small particles in the air, just as the blue haze of a smoke-filled room is caused by light-scattering by smoke particles. (Smog is a different case, as some of its constituents are colored.)

Riedel and other crystal inevitably receives microscratches when it's dried with any towel; what's worse is that detergent's optical brighteners and cheap perfumes – which remain on a clean, washed dish towel – are transferred to the glass, especially when drying the inside of the glass with a towel. I recommend a no-scratch/no-residual stink method of drying a clean wine glass: after washing with top-quality dish soap, rinse well with tap water, and then rinse the inside twice with small pours of distilled water. Over the sink, pour the water from the first glass over the outside of the next glass. Do the same for the next glass, etc., and let them all air-dry. No spots, no stink, no scratches.
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Cheers.
At a wine show here a couple of weeks ago all sorts of shapes and sizes of decanter-cleaning brushes were available. I'd use one of those with water, or a bit of vinegar if absolutely necessary.

We try to rinse out our decanters ASAP after they are empty. Which is inevitably within hours (minutes?) of them being filled! Roll Eyes

snow sucks.......
I got the wine brush and the crystal care cleansing soap from IWA. As soon as the wine is done, I pour some water and soap into the decanter and use the brush to clean it. Works OK, but doesn't really help with hard water stains (because once it is rinsed, and air dried, the hard water stays on).
I had the exact same problem for quite some time. Even a bottle brush couldn't reach some parts of my crystal decanter. Until someone on the RP board suggested OxiClean (yup, the stuff they used to sell on late night TV).

It's available in stores now (even up here in Canada), and I have to say it works perfectly for cleaning decanters. I had to use 2-3 "soakings" for about 10 minutes each, but it took about a year and half build-up off of my decanter. Looks brand new now. Highly recommended for that purpose.

Colin
Raster, I will have to try the OxyClean as I have tried EVERYTHING else!

I have an ancient magnum Port decanted that is pretty crusted and I have tried bleach, dishwashing detergent, pennies, sand, you name it.

There were many seemingly good ideas bantered around here a few years ago, and none of them worked for me.

Has anyone tried CLR? This is similiar to OxyClean and specifically for calcium buildup?????
Personally, I'm scared of using soaps in my decanter. I shake it around violently with warm water and a touch of crystal cleaning solution, then, rinse it very well and let it dry upside down. Never let leftover wine sit in the bottom--clean it immediately.

Passion turns intentions into habits.
Very cold water and a bunch of salt to act as an abrasive. Swirl around vigorously and then dump and rinse multiple times with very hot water. Should be all you need.

The modest water, awed by power divine, beheld its God and blushed into wine. - John Dryden
Similar to Merris' method - I pour in quite a bit of salt and crushed ice, then swirl it around for a while. The ice and salt really scour the inside surface nicely - and of course rinse.

once in the wilds of afghanistan, we lost our corkscrew and had to live on food and water for a number of weeks.
- w. c. fields

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