In this post, we reveal everything you need to know about cleaning a water bottle, including the reasons why you should clean a water bottle and the best ways to do so. Let's dive in!
Nowadays, reusable water bottles are not only considered “items we never leave home without”, but they are also fashion statements as well as an eco-friendly option for constant hydration! Disposable plastic water bottles purchased at a gas station, grocery store or vending machine may seem like convenient options when you are on the go, but these bottles cannot be used more than once and they are hurting the planet.
In 2017, a science contributor for Forbes wrote that on a global level a million plastic bottles are bought every minute and over 90% of them cannot be recycled. Of the millions of bottles purchased each minute, each day more than 60 million plastic water bottles are thrown away in the United States alone, ending up in landfills or incinerators or appearing as litter in our streets, parks and waterways according to the Container Recycling Institute. Plus, once plastic bottles reach the landfill, they can take hundreds of years to degrade.
So, switching to a reusable bottle for the environment just makes sense. Reusable water bottles are also better for you. For example, many plastic disposable bottles contain bisphenol-A, also known as BPA. Research has shown that this industrial chemical can leak into the food or beverages stored in containers made with BPA. BPA has been used since the 1960s and can have adverse health effects on the “brain and prostate gland of fetuses, infants and children.” According to the Mayo Clinic, BPA has also been shown to affect children’s behavior, fertility and blood pressure. The leaching of this chemical is actually sped up when you repeatedly wash and use disposable water bottles because the continued use physically breaks down the plastic according to a 2007 article in the journal of Practical Gastroenterology. Furthermore, using a reusable water bottle can save one individual over $1,000 a year!
At this point, we have proven that using a reusable water bottle is a fantastic choice all around. However, it is highly likely that you are currently making a bad choice when it comes to your water bottle and it is a choice that can lead to some pretty unhealthy and unsafe consequences. So, what is that choice? Figuring out whether you are making the wrong decision is easy: ask yourself how often you wash the reusable water bottle you use every day or store in your gym bag or car? Most of the time, the answer is “well, not that often”, as we come up with “rational” excuses not to wash it. After all, the bottle only has water in it, right?
Unfortunately, no excuse can negate the build-up of bacteria, germs and viruses that can be found in an unwashed water bottle. Luckily, there are many solutions that will help you kill water bottle bacteria as well as prevent this build-up from happening! In this post, we discuss all the ways to wash your water bottle (no matter what kind of bottle you have), how often you should wash it and why you really should be washing it every day.
This post will discuss:
- Why Clean Your Water Bottle?
- Risks of Not Cleaning Your Water Bottle
- What if You Never Wash Your Water Bottle?
- Smelly Water Bottle
- Black Mold in Water Bottle
- Can Drinking From a Dirty Water Bottle Make You Sick?
- Other Risks
- How to Clean a Water Bottle
- Bottle Brush
- Self-Cleaning Water Bottles
- Copper Water Bottles
- Water Bottle Cleaner
- Is Bleach or Vinegar Better to Kill Mold?
- Baking Soda
- Water Bottle Cleaning Tablets
- Other Cleaning Solutions
- Tips for Cleaning Water Bottles
- How Often Should I Clean My Water Bottle?
- Cleaning Different Kinds of Bottles
- How to Clean Plastic Water Bottles
- How to Clean Metal Water Bottles
- How to Clean Stainless Steel Water Bottles
- The Best Way to Clean Water Bottles
Why Clean Your Water Bottle?
There are lots of items we think to clean, especially today where contact with other people must be limited and hand sanitizer is used many times any time you leave the house. We know there are germs everywhere and that these germs can make us pretty sick. We know to wash something after it falls on the floor. So, why do we so often forgo giving our reusable water bottle a wash each night?
We often think because a water bottle only contains water that it must be clean and does not need to be emptied and cleaned each night. However, this could not be further from the truth! Bacteria, viruses and germs thrive in moist, warm environments like the one inside your water bottle.
In addition, every time you pick up your water bottle or set it down on the floor at the gym or on your desk at the office, pass it to someone else, or open a door knob or other high traffic surface area with the bottle in hand, you are transferring bacteria to your water bottle. Leaving the cap off when you are not drinking from the bottle can also cause germs to contaminate the water inside.
When your bottle remains unwashed, this bacteria can multiply, resulting in moldy, stinky or slimy water in your bottle. Additionally, exposure to the bacteria, germs, viruses and fungi within the bottle can have detrimental health risks as over 60% of these germs could make you sick. Washing your bottle correctly and frequently can prevent or lower exposure to these germs.
Risks of Not Cleaning Your Water Bottle
When you do not wash your water bottle, you risk coming into contact with or ingesting harmful and unhealthy bacteria. So, what exactly is lurking on the surface of your water bottle? It could be pneumonia, staph, a strep infection, E. coli, mononucleosis, colds, the flu, bacterial meningitis and more. Not to mention that this bacteria can lead to symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, gastroenteritis and food poisoning.
Anytime you share your bottle with someone else, you increase the chance of coming into contact with these dangerous viruses and bacteria. This is because we have bacteria that live within our mouths and throats. Our bodies are accustomed to these bacteria and, thus, they do not make us sick. However, if we share our bottles, we risk sharing our bacteria or viruses with someone else who may have not been exposed to these bacteria before, and it may make them sick. Does not washing your water bottle still seem like a good idea?
What If You Never Wash Your Water Bottle?
If you have never washed your trusty, reliable water bottle until now and reading this article gives you a bit of anxiety, we understand. Now, we want to help you understand what exactly goes down when you never wash your water bottle.
First, you can expect a build-up of bacteria inside or around the mouth of the bottle. Moist, warm environments, which can be caused by leaving your water bottle in the sunlight or in your car on a hot day, encourage bacterial growth which leads to these build-ups.
In 2016, an environmental testing firm, EmLab P&K, found that after a week of not cleaning your water bottle there is an average of 300,000 Colony Forming Units (CFU), or bacteria cells, per square inch on your water bottle, and an athlete’s water bottle has even more. To put that into perspective, that is more than six times the amount of bacteria found on pet bowls and pet toys and just slightly less than the bacteria found on the toothbrush holder in your bathroom.
In addition to the bacteria build-up, this bacteria may then develop biofilms according to Lisa Cuchara, a PhD Professor of Biomedical Sciences at Quinnipiac University in Connecticut. Biofilm is the scientific term for the clear, slimy layer of bacteria that rests on the surface of dirty water. Biofilm is a by-product of saliva mixing with water and it can contain disease causing viruses, fungi and bacteria.
Smelly Water Bottle
A water bottle with an odor problem could be the result of the water bottle being stored in a wet or damp area. An odor might also occur if you have kept the bottle closed for a long period of time with water or another liquid inside. Even brand new water bottles might smell a bit too chemical!
To get rid of the smell, try one of the bleach, baking soda or hydrogen peroxide solutions outlined below and let the solution sit in the bottle overnight. If you do not have bleach, hydrogen peroxide or baking soda, you can also soak the water bottle in boiling water overnight. Rinse out the bottle the next day and let the bottle air dry completely before using again. This should get rid of any funky smell lingering in your bottle.
Black Mold in Water Bottle
If you have not cleaned your bottle for some time or have left it sitting out for a while, it is possible that you may find mold or black mold in the water bottle or, more likely, the lid of the water bottle. Black mold is a type of fungus and is considered to be one of the most toxic mold species. If you do not clean your water bottle often or correctly, there is a chance your water bottle may start growing black mold.
If you end up drinking from a moldy water bottle before realizing it, chances are you will be completely fine. This is because our stomach acid is strong enough to kill any of the harmful pathogens you may have ingested. Worst case scenario, you may experience an upset stomach, abdominal cramps or diarrhea. To stop mold from growing inside your water bottle, make sure to rinse it with hot water and clean it each night. If mold is already growing in your bottle, straw or rubber mouthpiece, make sure to check out the Water Bottle Cleaner section for cleaning solutions that can kill mold spores in your water bottle.
Can Drinking from A Dirty Water Bottle Make You Sick?
By drinking from a dirty water bottle, you are constantly exposing yourself to harmful bacteria and viruses which can wear down your immune system and, yes, eventually make you sick.
An independent study commissioned by TreadmillReviews found that over 60 percent of the bacteria found on water bottles can make you sick. These bacteria can cause illnesses from strep, straph, or even meningitis. Drinking from a dirty water bottle can especially harm those with already weakened immune systems, so it is important to reduce your exposure to these bacteria by washing your water bottle every day.
Even if you do not have a weakened immune system, drinking from a dirty water bottle can make you sick. For example, some bacteria found on water bottles can cause diarrhea, vomiting, abdominal cramps and nausea.
How to Clean a Water Bottle
If you get in the habit of washing your water bottle with soap and warm water each night, your bottle should stay fresh and clean without a problem. Taking a few minutes each night to do this will ensure that your bottle will avoid getting smelly or overloaded with bacteria.
At the end of the day, empty the water still in the bottle and take it apart as much as you can. If it has a lid or a straw, disassemble the bottle and then wash the bottle and its parts with regular dish soap and warm water. Just make sure to also use a cloth or brush to scrub the inside and rim/cap of the bottle where bacteria build-up might have occurred during the day.
Afterwards, make sure to rinse well and leave the bottle to air dry completely or wipe dry with a clean cloth. It is important to let the bottle dry completely so that the bottle does not attract any bacteria before being used again.
Additional cleaning measures should be taken when cleaning a reusable water bottle that is used for liquids other than water. Sometimes other liquids can leave lingering smells or tastes in the bottle, requiring a stronger chemical cleaning solution or a longer soak time.
If you have yet to get into the habit of cleaning your water bottle each night and it has been a few days, or even weeks, there are a few ways to make sure your water bottle can be squeaky clean again in no time! Read on to learn about these cleaning methods.
A nylon bristle bottle brush is a great way to clean your water bottle! Many water bottles have small mouth openings which can make washing the inside difficult when you cannot fit your hand and sponge in the bottle. In these cases, a bottle brush can save the day! You can use a large or medium sized bottle brush to reach the inside and bottom of the bottle.
Long, thin wire bottle brushes are perfect for cleaning nooks and crevices in drinking spouts or mouthpieces for bottles with straw-type tops or pull-up/push-down tops. Some popular water bottles utilize rubber or plastic bite valves. These small mouthpieces can be especially hard to clean and are very prone to mold formation. Small straw brushes or even cotton swabs can be used in these cases to reach inside the valve.
Self-Cleaning Water Bottles
With ever advancing technologies and our desire for inventions that make life easier, it was only a matter of time until self-cleaning water bottles hit the market. While self-cleaning water bottles do indeed exist, these water bottles are considered luxury items which can cost you upwards of 100 dollars. These self-cleaning bottles utilize UV-C LED technology to kill bacteria and viruses as well as purify the water in the bottle.
These bottles can also perform on-demand cleaning and purification cycles in addition to self-activated cleaning cycles several times throughout the day so you do not even have to think about cleaning your bottle in order for it to be clean and clear of harmful, disease causing microbes and bacteria. While these self-cleaning bottles may save you a little bit of time and hassle during the day, they are not affordable for everyone. Luckily, there is an affordable alternative that has been used for thousands of years.
Copper Water Bottles
Copper Water Bottle from Copper H2O
If self-cleaning bottles that will break the bank are not an option for you and your family, a copper water bottle is a great choice when you still want a clean, no-fuss reusable water bottle. According to the Copper Development Association, by 2000 BCE copper was being used to sterilize drinking water. From India to the Roman Empire, civilizations across the globe have been using copper pots and copper pipes to store and transport water for millennia. This is because copper is a powerful and natural antiviral and antibacterial material.
Copper possesses the ability to kill harmful bacteria as well as prevent biofilm from forming due to the oligodynamic effect. The oligodynamic effect is a process wherein copper ions attack the cell walls of bacteria and viruses. This membrane damage leads to the inactivation of the microbes.
In 2007, a group of student researchers studied the effects copper pots had on water. They found that copper was the best material at killing bacteria compared to silver or brass. Another study found that copper surfaces can kill over 99.9% of E.coli microbes within just 1-2 hours. Thus, having a copper water bottle is like having a natural and effective self-cleaning bottle!
To care for your copper water bottle, simply wipe the bottle clean between fills. If you wish to perform a more thorough cleaning and/or remove the patina/tarnish that naturally forms on copper over time, make a cleaning solution with 3-4 tablespoons of lemon juice and 1 tablespoon of baking soda or salt. Swish or rub the solution around the bottle, mouth and lid and then wash with water and wipe dry with a clean cloth.
For more information on copper water bottles or to buy your own, check out Copper H2O, which is a top seller of high quality copper water bottles.
Water Bottle Cleaner
Water bottle cleaner comes in many different forms, from homemade solutions using everyday household products to tablets specifically formulated to leave your bottle fresh, clean and free of bacteria. There are many different ways to clean your water bottle and many of them utilize products you already have at home!
Distilled white vinegar can be used in the kitchen, but it is also a fairly popular household cleaner when mixed with water. Vinegar is a natural disinfectant, and studies have shown that it can kill 82% of mold spores in addition to viruses and bacteria. In fact, vinegar has been used to fight bacteria and germs since 460 BCE, when Hippocrates used vinegar to clean wounds and treat sores and infections.
Vinegar’s acidity allows it to break down grease, grime and built-up bacteria. To use vinegar as a cleaning agent for your reusable water bottle, fill half of the bottle, or ¼ cup, with white vinegar. Fill the remaining half with water. Close up the bottle and swish the solution around and then leave it as is on the counter to soak overnight. In the morning, simply rinse out the bottle with warm water and let air dry or dry with a clean cloth. If you are worried about vinegar leaving a smell behind after use, simply soak the bottle overnight in hot water; this should leave your bottle odor-free and and very clean!
Bleach is another household item that can help you rid your reusable water bottle of harmful bacteria. Although bleach can be poisonous in certain amounts and concentrations, it is safe to drink from a bottle that has been cleaned with a diluted bleach solution. To clean your water bottle with bleach, first mix in 1 tsp of bleach in 1 gallon of water. Fill the bottle with the bleach/water solution and let stand for 5-15 minutes. After this time has elapsed, rinse the bottle thoroughly until the bleach can no longer be smelled and then air dry. If you are having trouble getting rid of the bleach smell, rinse the bottle with water and baking soda or place the water bottle in a bowl of boiling water overnight. In the morning, rinse the bottle and air dry.
Is Bleach Or Vinegar Better To Kill Mold?
While both bleach and vinegar are able to kill mold, vinegar is by far the better choice of the two for killing any mold found in your reusable water bottle. This is because while bleach does kill surface level mold, it can actually multiply mold growth in the long term. For example, when bleach is used on mold colonies, the mold reacts to the bleach and can actually use the bleach as a food source that will allow it to grow back faster and stronger.
Thus, vinegar is the better option at killing mold since it is able to kill both the surface and stubborn underground mold spores. If you need further proof, even the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) advises against using bleach to kill or remove mold. So, not only is white vinegar a safe and natural disinfectant, it actually does a better job!
Another option for cleaning your reusable water bottles involves using yet another household product: bicarbonate soda, more commonly known as “baking soda.” Baking soda has all the power of vinegar or bleach but without the smell! Baking soda is a gentle yet abrasive cleaner and natural deodorizer. It can breakdown dirt, grease and bacteria while absorbing foul odors.
To use baking soda to clean your water bottles, mix two to three tablespoons of baking soda into your bottle and pour in warm water. Seal the bottle, shake well and leave the bottle to rest for a few hours or overnight. In the morning, rinse with hot water and you are good to go!
Water Bottle Cleaning Tablets
You can also buy tablets made specifically for cleaning water bottles. These tablets dissolve in warm water and do all the cleaning work for you. Simply drop one tablet into your water-filled bottle and follow the instructions provided on the package of the tablet.
Cleaning tablets are a great option if you want an on-the-go cleaning option, as most of the tablets come individually wrapped and can be thrown in a purse or gym bag and be used anytime, anywhere!
Cleaning tablets for dentures can also work to clean water bottles if you have some laying around. These tablets are also a good option for anyone wishing to avoid dealing with a vinegar or bleach smell while cleaning their bottle.
Other Cleaning Solutions
In addition to the cleaning solutions outlined above, there are even more options when it comes to cleaning your water bottle. For example, 3% hydrogen peroxide can be used. Spray your bottle with straight hydrogen peroxide and let stand for 10 minutes. Rinse with water and air dry.
Hydrogen peroxide can also be used in tandem with vinegar for an extra clean result. First, start by cleaning your bottle with dish soap and water. Then spray the bottle with hydrogen peroxide, let it sit for 3-10 minutes, and then wipe dry. Next, spray the bottle again with vinegar and let it sit for the same amount of time. Lastly, rinse with warm water and air dry.
If you are concerned about using this chemical disinfectant to clean your water bottles, it may help you to know that the food industry uses a hydrogen-peroxide solution to kill off bacteria and microorganisms. Thus, hydrogen peroxide is no more dangerous than using a diluted bleach solution to clean your bottle!
Rice is also an option. To clean your bottle with rice, fill your bottle with rice, warm water and a small amount of dish soap. Seal the bottle and shake. With this method, the rice will remove or dislodge any residue from the insides of the bottle.
Another way to clean your bottle is to grab some antiseptic mouthwash from your bathroom cabinet. Simply pour in a shot of mouthwash with some water and shake. Let the bottle sit for several minutes and then rinse.
Tea tree oil provides another solution for cleaning your reusable water bottle. Fill your bottle with warm water and a few drops of tea tree oil, leave out overnight and then rinse and air dry in the morning. While this method is a bit more obscure, it does give you a chance to utilize aromatherapy while cleaning your kitchen cabinet of reusable water bottles.
Lastly, your dishwasher can be used to clean reusable water bottles in certain situations. Your reusable water bottle should have a dishwasher safe symbol on the bottom to tell you whether or not it can be washed in the dishwasher. If not, then generally speaking only glass bottles are safe to wash in the dishwasher. Otherwise, it is probably best to hand wash other types of bottles. When you do choose to put your bottle in the dishwasher for a wash cycle, make sure to place it on the top rack only, run it with the hottest water settings and turn on the drying cycle so that your bottle will come out dry instead of damp and ready to attract more bacteria and viruses.
Tips for Cleaning Water Bottles
In addition to the cleaning solutions and methods outlined above, there are a few general tips one should keep in mind when cleaning their reusable water bottles. For example, no matter what type of bottle you have, if it has a straw, a slide-top, a pull-up/push-down top, a rubber mouthpiece, a spout or a nipple, it should be given extra attention. These parts and the cap of the bottle are the most touched part of the bottle and where it matters most! You do not want to be drinking from a top or straw that has been touched for days on end, so be sure to give these components a good cleansing, too. For an extra good cleaning, take a cotton swab soaked in alcohol to reach into these nooks and crannies and to kill potential bacteria.
Another tip to keep in mind is that air drying is often the best, easiest and most effective way to dry your reusable bottle. If you have a drying rack, simply turn the bottle upside down and let it be. If not, turn it upside down on the counter, but make sure there is some room between the mouth of the bottle and the counter’s surface. Allowing the bottle some airflow will ensure that the leftover moisture in the bottle evaporates more quickly instead of breeding more germs. If you do not have time to air dry, make sure you are using a clean towel to dry the bottle, as you do not want to re-contaminate the bottle with more bacteria and germs from a dirty towel.
When it comes to storing your clean water bottle between uses, one option is to freeze the bottle. Placing the empty bottle in your freezer can help kill any remaining bacteria. If you do not have room to store your reusable water bottle collection in your freezer, make sure you are storing the bottle without the lid on. Storing the bottle with the lid on traps warm, potentially moist air in the bottle which can lead to bacteria growth.
Lastly, another tip when it comes to cleaning your water bottles is more about prevention: get in the habit of bringing your bottles home each day and cleaning them each night. Letting your water bottle sit in your car or gym bag between workouts only encourages more bacteria growth which can harm your health!
How Often Should I Clean My Water Bottle?
You should plan to wash your water bottle every day. We suggest getting in the habit of washing it each night before you go to bed and letting it dry all night. That way, in the morning when you are fixing to leave for work or to the gym your water bottle is fresh and clean and waiting for you!
If you forget to wash your bottle for a few days, a sign that it definitely needs to be washed is the presence of a foul odor or taste. In this case, do not continue drinking from the bottle until you are able to wash it, as you should not continue to expose yourself to potentially harmful bacteria and viruses.
We also recommend washing a brand new water bottle. While it is new, some bottles, especially plastic ones, can carry overwhelming chemical smells. Furthermore, imagine all the people who had to touch your bottle before you could buy it at the store, from assembly line workers to the retail workers who stocked the shelves, to the other customers who picked up your bottle to look at the cute design before deciding to put it back. In the case of brand new bottles, it is better to be safe than sorry, so make sure to wash your new bottle with a little bit of dish soap and warm water before use.
Cleaning Different Kinds of Bottles
Different kinds of bottles may require different kinds of cleanings. Some bottles, for example, get dirtier than others and therefore carry more bacteria that needs to be washed off at the end of the day. On the other hand, some water bottles are just more difficult to wash than others and that should be taken into account as well.
TreadmillReviews did a study a few years ago to find out which type of water bottle is the cleanest. The infographic below displays their findings. Water bottles that require the tops and caps to be touched more often or vessels with smaller mouth openings tend to be the dirtiest and therefore should be cleaned more often and more thoroughly. Additionally, some materials are better used for water bottles than others and that should be considered as well. For example, stainless steel and copper surfaces are far cleaner than plastic ones.
How to Clean Plastic Water Bottles
When it comes to cleaning plastic water bottles, you will generally want to clean them the most thoroughly out of any type of water bottle. This is because plastic tends to be more susceptible to bacteria growth and is more likely to develop an odor or unpleasant taste.
To prevent your bottle from developing a foul odor or taste, make sure that you are washing your bottle with very hot water each night and are using a vinegar solution to clean it overnight. Do not leave the bottle sealed for long periods of time, and especially do not leave it sitting in the sunlight or in a hot car for very long. When storing your clean plastic water bottle, make sure that it is completely dry and that the lid is not screwed on.
If you have a plastic hydration bladder bag/reservoir that needs cleaning, make sure to rinse it out after using and let it air dry. It also helps to keep the clean, dry bags in the freezer in between uses.
How to Clean Metal Water Bottles
Metal bottles, specifically colored aluminum bottles, should not be cleaned with vinegar or baking soda. This is because if you scrub hard enough the color or design on the bottle is likely to come off. So, not only will you ruin your pretty bottle, but you risk consuming the scratched off pieces later on when you are drinking from the bottle. In order to preserve the water bottle’s color or design, stick to hand washing with dish soap and hot water, or simply soak the bottle in boiling water each night.
How to Clean Stainless Steel Water Bottles
There are a variety of ways to clean your stainless steel water bottle. One of the best ways to do so is to use one of the above vinegar solutions rather than a harsh chemical solution like bleach or hydrogen peroxide. Stainless steel is a much cleaner option compared to plastic and does a good job of staying odor-less and taste-less. When cleaning your stainless steel reusable water bottle, avoid using an abrasive scrubber as it could be damaging and scratch the surface of the bottle.
The Best Way to Clean Water Bottles
The best way to clean a water bottle is to ensure that your water bottle is doing a lot of the work for you, and a copper water bottle is the perfect example of this! Copper water bottles are naturally antiviral and antibacterial. Because copper water bottles kill the bacteria and viruses for you, you can rest and sip easy knowing you are more protected from ingesting any harmful microbes that could potentially make you sick.
If you are interested in buying a copper water bottle, check out the products offered by Copper H2O, which is a leading seller of copper bottles. If you are looking for a high quality bottle brush at a reasonable price, check out this bamboo bottle brush.
If you already have a favorite reusable water bottle that you are not yet ready to replace with a copper one, the next best way to clean water bottles is to use a nylon bristle water bottle brush. While chemical solutions or natural disinfectants are good options for cleaning your plastic, metal or stainless steel bottles, using a bristle brush allows you to really scrub and get into all the nooks and crannies a simple soak might miss. Using a bottle brush to clean your water bottle gives you a lot of control over what parts of the water bottle need the most attention; this is especially important if the water bottle you use is more prone to collecting bacteria.
Using a reusable water bottle is a healthy habit everyone should pick up! It is better for the environment and better for your overall health as long as you remember to wash the bottle! By washing your reusable water bottle daily, you can lower your exposure to potentially unhealthy and harmful bacteria. While staying hydrated is very important and good for your overall health, the health benefits of drinking from your reusable water bottle are diminished when you choose to drink from a water bottle that contains weeks worth of built-up bacteria. You have made the smart choice to use a reusable water, now just make sure to care for your health!
If you found this article interesting, check out our comprehensive guide to the Best Bottle Brushes.