Just like anything else reusable, water bottles require a bit of care to keep them clean and well maintained. Regular cleaning is necessary to prevent bacteria buildup, flush out contaminants and to keep everything nice and fresh. While cleaning a water bottle is a simple task familiar to anyone who has ever washed a dish, sometimes the design of a bottle can include nooks and crannies which are difficult to clean out – but we’ve got some helpful advice to keep your water bottle the cleanest it can be no matter its shape.
Bacteria Be Gone!
Do you know whats growing in your water? The main cause of an unpleasant funk or weird taste from a dirty water bottle is bacteria. These little critters accumulate in your bottle over time, which can be a great home for all sorts of microorganisms. For microbes a water bottle is a nice moist home, dark and well-suited to establishing colonies – it might even have some nice sugars or other helpful nutrients they can gorge themselves on from any water additives or juice products the bottle might have contained.
If you don’t regularly clean your water bottle, this accumulation of bacteria combined with whatever left-over remnants from drinks long gone can cause some seriously foul odors and leave you with a truly gross water bottle. So how do we squash the bacteria?
Cleaning Water Bottles at Home
Soap and Water Rinse: The simplest form of routine cleaning for a water bottle is the soap and water rinse. Just put some dish soap in your water bottle and fill it with water (preferably warm water as it will work better at dislodging and dissolving dirt) and give it a few good shakes. Rinse the bottle until no more soap bubbles come out and then allow it to dry. This is a great everyday practice to keep your water bottle from getting too dirty. However, the soap and water rinse is fairly gentle – anything that is truly stuck in the bottle, or particularly well-established bacteria, won’t be taken care of by soap and water alone.
- Add Some Abrasion: You can add an abrasive material to your soap and water rinse to get some kind of scrubbing action on the inside of the bottle. This can be anything from rice to rock salt, small ice chunks work pretty well even! Try putting a mixture of ice, rock salt, lemon juice, soap, and water into your bottle and swishing it around for a few minutes. The abrasive action of the ice and salt will scrub the inner walls of the bottle, while the lemon juice and soap act to dislodge and dissolve particles and kill bacteria.
- Scrub it Out: If abrasion cleaning isn’t enough to really get the job done, you’ll have to dive in and scrub the bottle yourself. Depending on the shape of the bottle, this can be quite tricky. You may want to look into getting a water bottle cleaning brush or kit, which can allow you to reach into all of the difficult-to-clean spots inside your bottle.
- Disinfect: If despite your efforts scrubbing and soaping the odor in your bottle refuses to leave, you’ll need to ramp up to some tougher cleaning supplies. For an all-natural, DIY water bottle cleaning solution, you can add some vinegar, salt, and lemon juice to your bottle and let it sit for a few hours before rinsing with soap and water. While vinegar and lemon juice is enough to put an end to some types of bacteria, it doesn’t quite knock everything out. Your trump card against microorganisms of all varieties is bleach. An extremely diluted solution of bleach and water is perfectly safe for cleaning water bottles – just make sure to wash with soap after using the bleach and rinse extremely thoroughly until there is no trace of bleach smell.
- Boil It: If your looking for the nuclear option, some glass and stainless steel water bottles can handle being submersed in boiling water. This is certain to wipe out anything living in your bottle – but it can be a bit dangerous! Be super careful and make 100% sure that your bottle can handle being boiled before you try it.
Water Bottle Cleaning Products
There are a couple of items available today which are design specifically to clean your water bottle. If your not quite satisfied with the clean you get from the DIY methods above, or just want something more convenient, these products might be helpful.
- Effervescent Cleaning Tabs: (UPDATE: Check out our full review of Bottle Bright water bottle cleaning tablets.) These tabs are designed to be dropped into your water bottle while it is full of water, where a chemical reaction causes them to effervesce. The action of the effervescence is enough to scrub away stains and grime, while non-toxic disinfectants wipe out bacteria. Several varieties are available such as Bottle Bright or SIGG Cleaning Tablets. However, some astute customers have noted that these water bottle cleaning tabs are more or less identical to common denture cleaning effervescent tabs, which can be purchased much cheaper and in greater quantity, such as these relatively inexpensive Efferdent tablets. You can even have a DIY version with by putting some vinegar and baking soda in your bottle – the resulting effervescence might not be quite as effective as commercial products, but it does help clean and has some antibacterial action. If you decide to go the effervescent tablet route, be sure to wash your bottle with soap afterwards and rinse thoroughly to remove any residues.
- Water Bottle Cleaner Beads: These stainless steel bottle cleaning beads by Riedel are a pretty effective agitator. Just pour the beads into your bottle with some soap and water, shake it around to get a cleaning action going, and voila! The stainless steel balls are much more effective as agitators than something like rice or salt as we recommended above, helping to get your bottle extra clean. Be sure to wash the beads, too!
- Cleaning Brushes: There are quite a few brushes and brush kits available. If you have a water bottle with lots of hard-to-reach spots, something like this super flexible long-necked washing brush might be in order. Simpler cleaning jobs can usually be tackled with your everyday bottle brush. If you have lots of water bottles, or require multiple brush sizes to clean your favorite bottle effectively, check out something like this affordable 3 pack to have an arsenal of cleaning equipment!
More Cleaning Advice
Probably the most neglected step in proper water bottle care is allowing the bottle to dry completely after washing. Don’t immediately fill your bottle back up after cleaning! Bacteria love moisture and keeping your bottle constantly wet promotes bacterial growth. Letting it dry out now and then helps take care of whatever bacteria are trying to make themselves at home in your bottle.
If you plan to store your bottle for awhile before using it, don’t close the lid. Leaving the bottle open will allow the interior to remain well ventilated, ensuring any strange odors have a way to exit the bottle as opposed to being trapped inside. Exposure to the air can also be helpful to stifle bacterial growth and allow for evaporation of any accumulated moisture.
Hard to Clean Areas
Besides getting the inside of the bottle clean, many water bottles have strange shapes or mechanisms on their lids which can be especially difficult to clean. These may require some special attention – always be sure to thoroughly examine the lid and spout of your bottle for build-up and be sure to include them when cleaning time comes. Cleaning your water bottle straw can be especially difficult and may require a special tool, such as a super-fine straw cleaning brush.
Water bottle companies often have some cleaning advice and recommendations available on their website or in their product information – this can be invaluable in the proper maintenance of your bottle. Every bottle is different, but no one knows how to maintain them better than the people who made them! Contact your water bottle manufacturer if you can’t find any cleaning recommendations to get some idea of best practices.
Change your Filter!
If you have a filtered water bottle, make sure to regularly change the filter. Failure to change the filter can actually mean that the filter is doing more harm than good! If your filtered water suddenly starts tasting different, or it becomes difficult to pass water through the filter, it is likely time to swap out the filter. Look up the manufacturer recommendations for how often you should change the filter and try to adhere to them. Replacement filters can be obtained from the water bottle company which produced your bottle.
A Note on the Dishwasher
Dishwasher safe water bottles are everywhere, and this is frequently a major selling point. Yet the truth is the dishwasher doesn’t really do that great of a job at washing your water bottle. Simply tossing your water bottle in the dishwasher is probably far less effective than even a super basic soap and water rinse.
Although occasionally tossing your bottle in the dishwasher certainly isn’t harmful, be sure to regularly give it some personal attention and use some of the methods above to make sure you are getting a proper clean.
Clean Water, Healthy Body
Properly cared for a quality water bottle can last many years more or less good as new. But if neglected and left uncared for, it will quickly become disgusting and highly undesirable to drink from. Establish a routine of regularly cleaning your bottle daily! A light soap and water rinse is good for daily maintenance, but be sure to disinfect the bottle every couple of weeks. And always remember: there is no substitute for a good scrub!
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Comprehensive guide on the many methods of cleaning your water bottle for optimal freshness.
Jacob Hatch is the author and founder of Hydration Anywhere. He has been actively writing about drinking water since 2013. These days Jacob spends most of his time investigating water related news, studying environmental issues, reading health studies, and reviewing products like water bottles and water filters.