What's not to love about reusable water bottles? They're good for our landfills and environment, true. They're often stylish and reflect our personality, awesome. But mainly we carry them around with us in order to stay hydrated and healthy. Ohhh? Are we sure about that?
Let's ask this question... when was the last time you CLEANED your bottle? For most of us, the answer won't be "this morning" or even "yesterday".
If you remember only one thing from this article, it should be this:
When it comes to your reusable water bottle, "rinsing" is not the same as "cleaning".
If you look close inside of any water bottle, you'll find a dark, moist environment where mold, germs and bacteria can thrive. We don't think about it because we can't see them, they are not visible to the human eye, yet they are there. And when your bottle continually stays wet, it doesn’t have the chance to get rid of these tiny life forms.
According to Rudolph Bedford, MD (Health Magazine):
"Bacteria can build up within the water bottle in a moist environment and nobody wants to drink bacteria laden water." "Clean it daily. The problem is most people rinse with water only."
We found more than one study which found that bacterial growth in athletes' water bottles is way more common than you'd think. Contamination from germs and bacteria, both harmful and non-harmful, are present in reusable bottles, and depending on the immune system of the person drinking from it, have the potential of causing illness.
Needless to say, whether your water bottle is stainless steel, glass, plastic, or made from another hard material, it’s important to wash it at the end of each day. Actually empty it, and thoroughly wash it, not just rinse it out.
Luckily, this can be a simple task and should take about 5 minutes a day.
5 ways to clean (or disinfect) your reuseable water bottle:
1) WARM/HOT SOAPY WATER (we recommend you do this daily)
Fill your bottle at least half way with WARM WATER (or as HOT as you can tolerate) and add a squirt of LIQUID DISH SOAP. Put the cap on, shake the bottle for around 5 seconds. Dump out the soap suds, leave a small amount of water inside, then use a BOTTLE SCRUB BRUSH to clean all the way down to the bottom (and sides). Wash the lip of the bottle and the outside as well. When you finish scrubbing, empty the bottle, rinse it out in warm water until you can't see any more soap bubbles.
Let it dry thoroughly. Because bacteria thrives in a moist environment, it's a good idea to dry the bottle with a paper towel or a clean dish towel (or you'll risk spreading fresh bacteria onto the clean water bottle).
If you prefer to let the bottle air-dry (ie. overnight), just be sure to leave the cap off, or else the trapped moisture will create an ideal environment for germs. To put it another way: If you don’t let your bottle dry completely, it becomes a breeding ground for germs. Yikes!
If your water bottle is dishwasher-safe (check the label), choose the hottest water setting. You also need to make sure the spray will get inside the bottle. The newer Hydro Flasks claim to be dishwasher-safe, but not so for the older versions.
If you do the above each day, that should be enough for you to feel safe that you’re drinking from a clean bottle, without being at risk of getting sick.
2) WHITE VINEGAR
Although it doesn't completely disinfect, VINEGAR is an environmentally and economically friendly cleaner. Because vinegar is so acidic, it can kill certain germs and bacteria and counteract some slimy buildups inside of your water bottle.
After washing with soapy water and rinsing your bottle (as above), fill it halfway with equal parts WHITE VINEGAR and WATER. Put the lid on and give it a few good shakes. It’s ideal to let the solution sit inside the bottle OVERNIGHT.
The next day, thoroughly rinse out both the bottle and lid (and straw if there is one) using warm water. Do this until the vinegar is removed from the bottle, then let it dry completely.
3) BLEACH + BAKING SODA
When the bottle has been neglected for too long, or there is visible mildew and grime, you need a more vigorous handling. Pour one teaspoon of BLEACH and one teaspoon of BAKING SODA (bicarbonate of soda) into your water bottle, then fill the remainder with water. Also use this solution to scrub the lid and straw, inside and out.
Let the bottle sit overnight, then rinse it thoroughly the next day with warm water. Allow it to dry completely.
Note: It's perfectly safe to drink from a bottle that's been cleaned with a weak bleach solution as above, and then rinsed thoroughly. Baking soda is a natural deodorizer and gentle abrasive cleaner, so it's perfect for cleaning out any mold without leaving behind a scent.
4) CLEANSING TABLETS
For a deep clean, no scrubbing required, many companies make a tablet, like this one from Bottle Bright. The dissolving cleaning solution works on all kinds of bottles and drinkware made from stainless steel, plastic, glass, porcelain, silicone or metal. Even gets rid of coffee and tea stains!
The instructions are simple: Fill your bottle with warm water, drop one tablet in, wait 15 to 30 minutes while the bubbles do their magic (also safe enough to use overnight, depending on how dirty your bottle is). Then empty the bottle and give it a good rinse. Now your bottle is super clean, instantly ready to be used again, without any effort on your part.
These tablets are generally non-toxic, environmentally safe, biodegradable and chlorine-free. They use all natural ingredients including baking soda, hydrogen peroxide, citrus fruits, salts, and other plants and minerals. (Always verify information on brand's packaging.)
As an alternative to the above product, you can also get away with using effervescent denture cleaning tablets.
5) BOILING HOT WATER
Boiling water kills or inactivates viruses, bacteria and other pathogens by using heat to damage structural components and disrupt essential life processes. (Note: this method will not destroy other contaminants, such as heavy metals, salts and most other chemicals.)
Simply FILL BOTTLE WITH BOILING WATER. Let it sit overnight, then wash the inside of the bottle vigorously with soapy water. We recommend this for ceramic, glass, metal or stainless steel bottles only, not plastic.
Don’t forget your LIDS, STRAWS and BITE VALVES
Water bottle lids, especially those that have built-in straws or bite valves, can harbor serious germs. Therefore, they deserve extra attention.
Where possible, separate the various parts of your lid and WASH THEM REGULARLY with warm/hot soapy water, at the same time you are cleaning your bottle.
Make sure to use a skinny STRAW BRUSH CLEANER to reach inside the hard-to-reach nooks and crevices of the mouthpiece valve and reusable straw. If you don't have a skinny straw cleaner, order a pack as soon as possible. Meanwhile, you can clean the lid pieces with an unused tooth brush.
Rinse all the parts well and be sure to dry them completely before reassembling—either by air-drying overnight or hand-drying with a clean cloth.
PARACORD HANDLES need cleaning, too!
On most paracord handles (made with nylon and plastic parts) warm, soapy water works great! Wash (or scrub) it by hand whenever it gets dirty. Our HydroCord® handles are 550 grade paracord (parachute cord), made with nylon. You will not harm it by getting it wet, even the plastic components. Just make sure that you let the cord dry completely. We recommend you simply hang it outside to air dry (in warm weather) or throw it in the dryer on low setting. (If you ever have questions, reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
1) Get in the habit of emptying and cleaning your water bottle, lid and straws DAILY. Choose which method above works best for you, acquire the needed supplies and aim to stick with it.
2) Don’t wait for your bottle to start smelling before you decide to clean it.
3) Don’t let your half-full bottle sit in your gym bag or car. Empty it and wash it daily.
4) Keep your bottle as YOUR bottle—don’t share with others unless they are fully cleaned first.
5) To help keep bacteria from growing, use stainless steel, or glass bottles and tumblers when possible, as bacteria can more easily adhere to plastics and other surfaces that are rougher. The smoother surfaces of steel, metal, glass are more easily cleaned and prevent a biofilm (where bacteria can grow) from forming.