Things You'll Need
Rubber or latex gloves
White distilled vinegar
Chlorine bleach (optional)
A large collection of cork stoppers opens the door to an array of DIY projects, from creating an eye-catching backsplash in your kitchen to crafting a unique mat for your bathroom. But cork is porous, and after spending time keeping wine inside of a bottle it may become stained or develop an unpleasant odor. When you clean cork, avoid over-wetting the stoppers. Cork is made from the bark of a cork oak tree, and should be treated similar to how you would treat wood.
Put on gloves. Add two drops of detergent to a small bowl and fill it with warm water. Agitate the solution gently to produce suds.
Dip a clean, lint-free cloth into the solution; wipe each cork stopper down thoroughly, focusing on the end that was inside the wine bottle. Rinse the stoppers with cool water to remove the detergent, and place them on a hard, clean surface in an even layer -- your counter, kitchen table or a plastic cutting board work well.
Let the stoppers air-dry for at least two hours. Sanitizing wet cork minimizes the amount of solution that can soak into the material.
Fill a spray bottle with undiluted hydrogen peroxide or white distilled vinegar. Do not combine the two ingredients.
Spray one stopper lightly on all sides with the sanitizing solution. Apply it evenly but don't oversaturate the cork. Your goal is to wet the stopper just enough so that it's still wet to the touch after 10 minutes, but dries shortly after. Place it on a hard, clean surface and repeat this process with each additional wine cork.
Wipe any excess solution off with a paper towel or lint-free cloth, and let the cork dry completely.
Remove stains if desired. Add 1 capful of bleach and 3 capfuls of water to a small dish. Dip a cloth in the solution and apply it to any stained areas of the cork. If you're bleaching the end of the wine stopper, dip just the end in the bowl.
Watch the stoppers carefully. When you've achieved your desired level of lightening, combine 1 1/2 tablespoons of hydrogen peroxide with 1 cup of water in a dish. Dip the bleached portions of the stoppers in the diluted peroxide to neutralize the bleach. Wait 20 minutes, and then rinse the cork stoppers thoroughly with cool water. Let them air dry completely before continuing with your project or storing them.
Vinegar and bleach release toxic fumes when mixed. Wait until the cork stoppers are completely dry after sanitizing before you begin bleaching.
- The Portuguese Cork Association: Overview -- From Bark to Bottle
- Mrs Clean: Cleaning Cork Tile Floors
- Colorado State University Extension: Cleaning and Sanitizing the Kitchen
- Eastern Michigan University: Discharging Dye with Bleach
- This Old House: 10 Uses for Wine Corks
- Good Housekeeping: Wine Cork Crafts
- Redesign Revolution: Upcycle This! 28 Ways to Reuse Wine Corks
Amanda Bell spent six years working as an interior designer and project coordinator before becoming a professional writer in 2010. She has published thousands of articles for various websites and clients, specializing in home renovation, DIY projects, gardening and travel. Bell studied English composition and literature at the University of Boston and the University of Maryland.