How often do you clean your water bottle?

stainless steel water bottle
a stainless steel water bottle

If you drink out of a refillable water bottle, then you probably already know about its benefits. Reusable water bottles are a great way of helping the environment, and they also help you meet your daily water requirements. (Plus, this may just be me, but I have a hard time opening disposable plastic water bottles. Almost every time I twist open the top, water pours all over the bottle and myself. Am I gripping the bottle too tightly, or do they just consistently overfill those bottles? I digress.)

Finding exactly the right water bottle for you can be a process, but once you’ve got that sweet Goldilocks water bottle that’s “just right”…

How often do you have to clean it?

I was wondering the exact same thing about a week ago, when I realized I probably hadn’t formally rinsed out or dish-washed my metal water bottle in about a week (and before that, who knows). Gross, you say? Well, here was my reasoning: I drink water pretty quickly and probably go through about 4-6 refills on my 18 ounce bottle every day. Since I had been drinking out of it constantly over the course of the week, wouldn’t rinsing it with water to clean it basically be equivalent to just refilling it and drinking it? [SPOILER ALERT: probably not.]

So, I searched the web for how frequently to wash out reusable water bottles. As always, the internet provided inconclusive results. I found a lot of forums where people’s responses ranged from “every few hours” to “once a month” to “every two years.”

I edited my search strategy. This time, I searched for care instructions published by the major manufacturers of BPA-free plastic water bottles and metal water bottles.

The general consensus is that you should probably give your water bottle a rinse at the end of each day of use. Whoa. That’s way more frequently than I had been doing it.

Here’s what the experts say. Rinse the bottle and cap under the faucet with warm water and a little bit of soap (you can substitute soap and water for vinegar, or baking soda and water, and then let it air dry with the bottle top off.  You can also do a more thorough cleaning with a bottle brush. We use these bottle brushes – the big one for the main bottle, the shortest one for the ridges around the rim, and the skinny one for straws.

Some, but not all, water bottles are dishwasher-safe, particularly when placed away from a dishwasher heating element on the top rack of a dishwasher.  Generally, many of the bottles that are insulated or painted are not dishwasher safe. To check, visit the manufacturer website.

To review:

  • Rinse your bottle at the end of each day with warm water and a bit of soap. Other cleaning options include vinegar and water or baking soda and water.
  • Use a bottle brush to scrub all the way to the bottom of the bottle for a more thorough cleaning.
  • Scrub the mouth of the bottle and ridges on it’s lid.
  • Consider a top rack dishwasher cleaning if you have a dishwasher-safe bottle.
  • Let your bottle air dry if possible after cleaning.

After I thought about how infrequently I clean my water bottle, I started thinking about how all those metal ridges on my water bottle are probably just an open house for bacteria and viruses to chill out. And then, I cleaned my water bottle. The germ fears dissipated, and the water tasted a whole lot better, too.

How do I clean my camelback / water bladder?

The same basics apply. You’ll want to clean out the bladder after each use.

Tubing: On some camelbacks or other brand bladders, you can remove the tubing – my friends and I like to spin this above our head like crazy cowboys until most of the water flies out and then hang it over a towel rack. If yours doesn’t come off, blow out as much water as you can using your mouth. Brushes and tools can also be helpful here.

Bladder: Consider reaching inside the bladder to scrub around with a brush or sponge. To dry, get creative! You need to create a drying rack that holds the bladder as open as possible so air can get in to dry it. Some ideas – push a spatula end or the handle of a whisk between your stove and countertop and hang your bladder over it to dry. Cut apart a plastic clothes hanger from your closet and use it to hang your bladder. Or you can buy one of these systems from Amazon. O

According to the website, some people (ahem) may not clean their bladder after each use and find mold or other fun spots growing inside. They suggest mixing hot water and 2T of baking soda or bleach inside the bladder, allowing it to also run through the tube. Let it all sit for about 30 minutes. Then dump, and rinse with hot water and soap and allow to air dry. Some stains might remain on the bladder or tube and never come out, but these don’t necessarily mean it’s not safe to use.

Good luck!

Last updated September 28, 2015

5 thoughts on “How often do you clean your water bottle?

  1. Yoona June 1, 2012 / 7:35 am

    Thankyou! I was having the exact same issue, another question is how long can we keep these bottles? I’ve had mine for like a year now and I wash it well and all but I’m wondering if having this bottle for such long quantities of time is dangerous?


  2. dsanchez June 1, 2012 / 1:00 pm

    Great question!

    Although I’m no expert, I did a bit of digging on the lifespan of reusable water bottles. Based on what I found, if you’re using a BPA-free plastic or metal water bottle, there’s no hard and fast estimate for how long you can use them. Generally, they are built to be safe, non-toxic (nearly non-existent leaching) and durable, and can be safely reused for a very long time. [I personally have used mine for over two years.] That being said, there are plenty of issues that might get in the way of you using the same water bottle forever: funny tastes and smells, a dog chewing up the water bottle cap, having accumulated so many dents that it can no longer sit flat on a surface, etc. To address those issues: cleaning your water bottle properly will help with eliminating tastes and smells; most manufacturers offer replacement parts like caps and lids so that you can keep using the same water bottle for a long time; and, in general, structural damage like denting doesn’t compromise the performance of your water bottle. Hope this helps answer your question!


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