Reusable water bottles are a convenient and environmentally-friendly way to stay hydrated throughout the day. But the best water bottles do a lot more than just hold water. They can vacuum-insulate, include a straw or bite valve, be made of plastic, glass and even metal. The one thing they can’t do, is clean themselves.
Okay, so there is one self-cleaning water bottle, but if you don’t have the LARQ Self-Cleaning Bottle, how do you keep your beloved water container of choice clean? Because all of these reusable bottles have one thing in common — they all accumulate grime. No matter who you are or where you and your bottle travel, bacteria and mold accumulates on and inside your water bottle and creates what scientists call a “biofilm.” It’s that greenish-looking goo underneath the grooves in the screw top. Yuck.
What’s in there exactly? Bacteria from your mouth, sweat and external environment, all of which may be harmful. You can even find E.coli (the poop one) on water bottles. In fact, the average reusable bottle has about 300,000 CFU (colony-forming units) of bacteria on it. To put that in perspective, your dog’s favorite chew toy? About 2,000 CFU.
This is why washing your water bottle effectively and frequently enough is so important. So how do you clean water bottles? We’ve got all the steps and tools you need right here to make it happen, and avoid the ick going forward.
How Often Should You Wash Your Water Bottle?
You might not like this answer, but clean freaks will tell you to wash that bottle every day. If you know you can’t pull off such an ambitious cleaning schedule, then washing your bottle every three to four days should suffice. You can also use a disinfecting agent like bleach or vinegar once a week.
We know you probably haven’t been washing it frequently enough. That’s okay — most people don’t. The good news is washing and disinfecting is not very difficult if you’ve got the right tools, and a clean water bottle can potentially make a huge difference health-wise. Here are a few different cleaning options based on time, resources and how dirty your bottle is.
First, A Note About Dishwashers
Many water bottle brands are dishwasher-safe, and if that’s the case, your dishwasher is potentially going to be a very effective option in removing grime and disinfecting your bottle. If your water bottle is vacuum-insulated, though, hand washing will be required. Also, if your bottle has smaller components that the dishwasher might not reach, or you don’t have a dishwasher, then hand washing is going to be more effective.
Here are a few ways to hand wash your bottle and leave it sparkling clean.
Option 1: Rinse in Warm Water
BEST FOR EVERY DAY WASHING
Just like any other dish you’re looking to clean, add a little warm water and some dish soap to the inside of your bottle and scrub. You’ll need a special bottle brush to clean the inside of your water bottle effectively.
OXO Good Grips Bottle Brush
OXO’s Good Grips brushes are some of the highest quality around, and this one’s no different. The 12-inch long handle is perfect for reaching the depths of even some of the highest volume water bottles, and tough bristles will reach every nook and cranny. The bristles max out at two inches wide, making it narrow enough to reach inside the mouth of most bottles. It’s also dishwasher-safe so cleaning it is easy.
Kitchiny Silicone Bottle Brush
If you’ve got a narrow bottle that needs a smaller brush, this product’s a great alternative. The silicone bristles are antibacterial and germ-resistant so grime won’t build up over time and the long handle makes it easy to clean tough-to-reach places deep inside your Hydro Flask. The whole instrument is scratch-resistant so you won’t have to worry about scraping your bottle accidentally mid-cleanse.
Mrs. Meyers Clean Day Liquid Dish Soap
Mrs. Meyer’s dish soap is the perfect gentle soap to use on water bottles (and all other dishes as well). It’s biodegradable and cruelty-free while still tough on stains, grease and bacteria. This one’s got a mild citrus scent that won’t linger on your bottle after the wash.
After you’ve washed it, dry your water bottle with a paper towel to avoid transferring bacteria from your dishtowel onto your freshly-cleaned Hydro Flask. You can also leave it out to dry on a drying rack — just be sure to leave the cap off as sealed off liquid is a breeding ground for new bacteria to grow.
Speaking of germs, don’t forget about the cap! With screw tops or straw tops there are many crevices where germs can lurk. Make sure you clean these pieces as well so you don’t re-infect your bottle all over again once you screw the top back on.
Option 2: Chemical Cleanse
BEST FOR THE NEGLECTED BOTTLES
If your bottle’s been sitting around for a while in your car’s trunk or gym bag, then it might be time for more intense chemicals including vinegar, bleach and baking soda.
First up, the vinegar bath. This water bottle cleaning hack is super simple; fill the bottle halfway with vinegar, the rest of the way with cold water and let it sit overnight.
Calyptus 45% Pure Vinegar
Vinegar is a great alternative to bleach for indoor and outdoor cleaning. If you want to disinfect reusable water bottles, vinegar is 100% natural, making it safer and gentler than most cleaning agents. This mix is a highly concentrated mix of vinegar, so use sparingly. You only need a little to disinfect water bottles effectively.
Next up is a bleach bath if you’re looking to rely on the tried and true cleaner of all surfaces. Simply mix a teaspoon of bleach and a teaspoon of baking soda together, fill the rest of your bottle with water and shake it up. Leave it to sit for a few hours, and then rinse thoroughly. Your bottle will be thoroughly disinfected inside.
Clorox Bleach — Clean Linen Scent
When it comes to bleach, you can’t go wrong with Clorox. This brand knows their stuff and this bleach is filtered three times to deliver only the purest bleach to you for your cleaning needs. It’s tough on any surface you put it on, so the germs living inside the lip of your water bottle don’t stand a chance.
Arm & Hammer Baking Soda, 5 Lbs
It’s America’s #1 trusted baking soda brand for a reason. It can disinfect, remove odors, serve as a key ingredient in baking and cleanses like no other.
Option 3: Water Bottle Cleansing Tablets
BEST FOR A QUICK CLEAN
If you can’t wait a whole night and need a deep clean to happen quickly, cleansing tablets are the way to go. They fizz up in water and cleaning agents go to work disinfecting your bottle quickly without leaving behind any residue or taste. For anyone looking for a quick water bottle cleaning hack, this is one of the best ways to clean reusable water bottles.
Essential Values Water Bottle Cleaning Tablets
Pop one of these fast-acting and effective tablets into your Camelback or Hydro Flask that’s been sitting with the same water for a while and in 30 mins it’ll be like new.
They’re made with natural ingredients, no harsh chemicals and are super effective in removing grime and build-up from your water bottle.
Improve the taste and health of your water easily and effectively with these affordable tablets.
How To Clean Water Bottles: Straw Cleaning Tips
Another place where liquid almost always resides, and therefore a spot where the potential for bacterial growth is high, is your straw. While convenient and super common in reusable water bottles these days, straws need to be cleaned as well.
Run warm water through the straw to start, and then place a little bit of soap on the straw brush, and push it through the straw a few times. Alternate between running it under water and using the brush and then set it out to dry.
Hiware 15-Piece Straw Cleaning Brush Set
This 15-piece straw set is only $4.00 on Amazon and contains straw brushes of three different sizes so no matter how wide or long your straw is, you’ll be able to clean it effectively.
The set includes five 12” straws for large bottle and smoothie tumbler straws, five 10” straws for regular straws, and five 8” straws for baby and toddler bottle straws.
They’re top-rack dishwasher-safe so there’s no need to rinse them when you’re done.
If your water bottle has a soft bite valve you’ll also want to make sure you clean that thoroughly with a straw brush or even a cotton swab. Remove it from the water bottle, swab and rinse thoroughly and place it in the dishwasher if it’s dishwasher safe.