How To Properly Clean Your Water Bottle

Carrying a reusable water bottle around is a great way to ensure that you drink enough water, but, as the Huffington Post reports, you should clean your water bottle every day to prevent the growth of harmful bacteria. That’s right, every day, and knowing how to clean your water bottle properly is essential to keeping it fresh and bacteria-free.

As you’re probably already well aware, drinking plenty of water is vital to your health. Water is essential to keeping every system in our bodies, from digestion to our joints, running smoothly, and drinking some basic H20 can do everything from reducing fatigue to relieving headaches to improving acne. It’s good stuff, to say the least.

Because everyone’s body is different, there isn’t a hard figure of how much water people should be consuming every day. It’s fair to say, however, that for a major portion of the population, the answer to “How much water should I drink?” is simply “More.” A study cited by the CDC in 2007 found that 43 percent of Americans drink less than four cups of water a day, which is low for just about anyone.

According to the Mayo Clinic, the Institute of Medicine recommends that women consume 2.2 liters (about 9 cups) of fluid per day, and that men take in 3 liters (about 13 cups). The old wisdom to “Drink eight 8-ounce glasses of water a day” isn’t too far off of those recommendations, so go with whatever you find easiest to remember. It’s important to keep in mind that reaching these goals isn’t only about drinking plain water. Your total fluid intake includes other liquids, like juice, tea, and even soda (though sugary sodas have their own negative health effects), as well as the water found in food. (Fruits, vegetables, and broths, for example, can all contribute significant fluids to your diet).

However, if you’re trying to up your fluid intake, the easiest, healthiest way to do that is simply to drink more water, and one of the simplest ways to do that is to carry a bottle of water around with you and keep sipping as you go through your daily routine. Just be sure to keep that bottle squeaky clean. Here’s how:

1. Good ol’ soap and water.

A good scrub with dish soap and hot water every day will keep your bottle clean. Just be sure that, if your bottle has areas you can’t reach (Say, it has a narrow mouth), you use a brush or scrubber that will allow you get in there and clean every surface. (More on brushes, below.)

2. The dishwasher.

A number of reusable water bottle companies sell water bottles that are dishwasher safe. Check the bottom of your bottle to see if there’s information about machine washing; you can also look at the manufacturer’s website for info about dishwasher safety. If you’re bottle is dishwasher safe, just pop it in the washer. If it has multiple parts (a lid that separates from the body, for example), be sure to separate them for washing, so that all the little nooks and crannies get cleaned.

If your bottle is not dishwasher safe, don’t put it in the dishwasher — you run the risk of your bottle getting warped or breaking down in the cleaning process.

3. Vinegar or bleach.

If your bottle doesn’t seem clean even after a wash in soap and water — or if it has a funky smell — you may want to go a step further and disinfect your bottle. Vinegar and bleach both have disinfecting properties; bleach is the stronger of the two, but it’s also a bit harder to deal with than vinegar, which is a natural disinfectant, but which won’t kill everything.

To clean your bottle with vinegar, start by giving it a good wash with soap and water. PopSugar recommends filling the bottle a fifth of the way up with white vinegar, and then the rest with water. Let it sit over night, and rinse it out in the morning. For a faster fix, TODAY recommends filling the whole bottle with white vinegar and letting it sit for 10 minutes. Rinse out thoroughly and let dry.

To disinfect your bottle with bleach, create a bleach solution by adding one tablespoon of bleach to a gallon of water. Fill your bottle with the solution and let it sit for between five and 15 minutes. Rinse the bottle out thoroughly and let it dry.

4. Special washes or tablets made for water bottles.

Some companies have developed special cleaners for water bottles. For example, Camelbak sells cleaning tablets for its products, and Shape recommends a bottle cleaner called Skweet that’s made with food-grade ingredients (so you don’t have to worry about getting as well rinsed as you would with, say, bleach).

Camelbak Cleaning Tablets, $15, Amazon

5. Disinfecting sprays.

If you don’t want to soak your bottle to disinfect it, TODAY recommends treating it with vinegar and hydrogen peroxide sprays. (Each of these chemicals will kill different bacteria.) Start by washing your bottle with soap and water. Fill a spray bottle with vinegar, and spray down your water bottle. Let it sit for between three and ten minutes, and wipe the vinegar off. Then do the same with a spray bottle filled with hydrogen peroxide. TODAY warns not to mix the vinegar and hydrogen peroxide together because doing so will render the chemicals ineffective.

6. Don’t forget the right equipment.

Cleaning your water bottle means cleaning all of it, even if it has a straw or a narrow mouth opening that’s too small for a normal sponge. Small, dark areas like the inside of a straw are perfect breeding grounds for bacteria, so it’s especially important to clean them properly. Thankfully, there are a number of brushes on the market made specifically to fit inside water bottles and straws. (For example, OXO has a set.)

OXO Good Grips Water Bottle Cleaning Set, $13, Amazon

At this point, you may be asking, “Does this apply to single use water bottles?” The answer is… sort of. There is some concern than reusing water bottles that have not been designed for reuse may cause chemicals to leach out from the plastic. Business Insider reports that, so far, research has shown that chemical leaching levels for these bottles is very low and not a health hazard.

However, reusing single-use plastic water bottles over and over and over again is still not a good idea. As with any other water bottle, these bottles need to be cleaned every day to avoid bacteria build up, but, because they aren’t made to last more than a single use, they break down easily. When a plastic bottle becomes scratched or damaged, those areas can hold onto harmful bacteria, even after cleaning. So, if you want to reuse a single-use water bottle a few times, it’s probably not a problem — just be sure to clean it every day and recycle it when you see any scratches or breakdown. In the long run, however, it’s a better idea to use a water bottle designed for long-term use and long-term cleaning. And, health risks aside, using a reusable bottle is better for the environment, as it won’t need to be replaced every few days.