How to Clean Reusable Water Bottles (Including the Smell)

Staying hydrated is important and that is probably why you always have your trusty reusable water bottle close at hand. How healthy of you! Or is it? Unless your water bottle is clean, it is not going to be very healthy for you in the long run. Bacteria has a habit of finding its way into water bottles, thus contaminating the water you are so studiously drinking, and of course, negatively impacting on your health.

How to clean reusable water bottles: Use the following methods to sanitize your reusable water bottle.

  • Soap and water,
  • Hydrogen peroxide,
  • Hot water and vinegar
  • Baking soda and water,
  • Dishwasher cleaning,
  • Rice and baking soda,
  • Chlorine bleach,
  • Water cleaning tablets.

Without regular cleaning, you run the risk of sipping on bacteria-contaminated water. Bacteria can cause nasty illnesses such as diarrhea, and nobody wants to deal with that. Want to learn more about each of these reusable water bottle cleaning methods? Find everything you need to know about cleaning your water bottle, how often you should do so, and how to keep your water bottle from smelling bad, below.

Bottled Water Sources

8 Methods for Cleaning Reusable Water Bottles

A bad smell is not the only sign of a dirty water bottle, some bacteria you won’t see or smell, so it is a good idea to clean your water bottle regularly, just to be on the safe (and healthy) side. Stop just refilling your water bottle and start taking care to clean it properly. Below are 8 methods you can use to effectively clean your water bottle:

  • Cleaning Reusable Water Bottles with Soap and Water.

Nothing quite beats getting up close and personal with your water bottle than with a fresh sponge and soapy water. Liquid dish washing soaps are designed to remove buildup while eliminating germs and bacteria, so it is a reliable medium for getting your water bottle hygienically clean and healthy. Soap up the bottle every evening and pay special attention to rub the sponge around the cap area and where you sip from. Once you have finished washing the bottle, rinse it out with hot water and either let it air dry. Alternatively, you can use a clean towel or paper towel to dry it off and ensure that it is clean of contamination before you refill it.

Caution: avoid washing your reusable water bottle with soap and water, with a communal sponge (in the office or at someone else’s house) as unknown germs and bacteria can be passed on from the sponge and drying cloth and straight back onto your bottle.

  • Cleaning Reusable Water Bottles with Hydrogen Peroxide.

Using hydrogen peroxide to clean out bottles is a more intense form of cleaning than just using soap and water washing. Hydrogen peroxide should be your go –to cleaning medium if you find that your bottle has a strange or unpleasant smell, or if you feel a vaguely slimy feeling on the inside of the bottle’s surface.

This is a two-phase cleaning process. The first phase involves cleaning the bottle with warm soapy water and rinsing it out thoroughly. The second phase involves using the hydrogen peroxide. You do not need particularly powerful peroxide to clean a water bottle, and you only need to use approximately a quarter of a cup. 3% hydrogen peroxide should do the job quite nicely. Simply pour the peroxide into the bottle and swish it around as hard and consistently as you can for a few minutes.

Once you are satisfied that you have done enough swishing, you can pour the peroxide out and rinse the bottle a few times with warm water to ensure that all of the peroxide is removed. Both the bad smell and slimy surface should be gone and you can let the bottle air dry before refilling it and using it again.

  • Cleaning Reusable Water Bottles with Hot Water and Vinegar.

If you have a bit of time on your hands, a vinegar soak wash is a good idea for cleaning your bottle. Vinegar is known to be a natural assassin for some bacteria and germs. When you clean your bottle with vinegar, strange smells and stains will also be quickly eliminated. All you need is a quarter of a cup of white vinegar to do the job. Pour the vinegar into your water bottle and then top the bottle up with water. Shake the bottle for a few seconds and then let it soak in the vinegar solution for a while. It is a good idea to let it soak for around 30 minutes for the best results, but if you are pressed for time, an express soak of 10 minutes should also work well. Once the soaking time has passed, pour the mixture out and rinse the bottle a few times until you can no longer smell the vinegar. Do not worry about the smell; it will not stick to your bottle for too long at all. Let the bottle air dry and then it will be ready and healthy to use again. Vinegar is one of the most popular cleaning mediums for dirty water bottles.

  • Cleaning Reusable Water Bottles with Baking Soda and Water.

Using baking soda is another viable option if you do not want to pour vinegar into your bottle. The first step is to create a paste with the baking soda and water. Use just a tablespoon of baking soda and only add as much water as needed to make a sloppy paste. This will need to be applied to the inside of your bottle. Here is where you will need a bottle brush to get the job done – if you don’t have a bottle brush, this isn’t the cleaning option for you. Add the baking soda paste to the bush and then get to work applying it to the inside of the water bottle. Scrub while you work to do a bit of extra cleaning.

Once you have applied it generously, let the bottle stand so that the paste can get to work. 30 minutes should be long enough, but if you are short on time, 10 minutes is also a suitable amount of time for a quick clean. When the waiting time is up, add warm water to the bottle, close it and shake it so that the paste can loosen and dissolve. Repeat this a few times until the bottle is clean of all the baking soda. Let the bottle air dry before refilling it.

  • Cleaning Reusable Water Bottles in a Dishwasher.

If you own a dishwasher, keeping your reusable water bottle hygienically clean and healthy is quite simple. Of course, not all water bottles can withstand the dishwasher, so make sure you check that your bottle is “dishwasher-safe”. If it is, all you have to do is pop your bottle and its cap into the dishwasher every time you run a cycle.

If you use the dishwasher every day, then it is most convenient to clean your bottle this way. Most dishwashers clean with extremely hot water and dry items with hot air. Make sure your water bottle is completely dry before you fill it up and start hydrating again, as a damp hot environment is ideal for bacteria to grow in.

  • Cleaning Moldy Reusable Water Bottles with Rice and Baking Soda.

If you have neglected or not used your reusable water bottle in a while, it may have grown a bit of mold. Mold is not just unsightly, it is unhealthy too. However, if you see that your reusable water bottle is plagued with mold, it doesn’t mean that you have to throw it away. With the right cleaning method, you can use your water bottle safely again. Drinking from a moldy bottle can be seriously bad for your health, especially if you have asthma or allergies. To get rid of the mold and make it safe for drinking out of, first rinse the bottle out with warm water. Sometimes, mold can go quite crusty and stick to the inside of the bottle and if this is the case, you can soak it in some water for about 15 minutes.

Once the dry mold is a bit softer, you will need to pour about a quarter of a cup of dry, uncooked rice into the bottle, followed by a quarter of a cup of baking soda. Let it sit for a few minutes before adding a teaspoon of liquid dishwashing soap to the mix and filling the bottle half up with warm water.

Attach the lid and shake the bottle hard. You might want to be careful at this point as there will be a build-up of pressure and the bottle may explode as you remove the cap/lid. Carefully open the bottle, pour the mixture down the drain and rinse the bottle a few times. Once it is clear of residue, let it air dry before you refill it and use it again. The rice in the mix is used to absorb any dry particles of mold and the baking soda acts as a natural disinfectant and odor remover. This is a great natural way to eliminate mold contamination from any container.

  • Cleaning Reusable Water Bottles with Chlorine Bleach.

Chlorine bleach is a highly effective way of cleaning a reusable water bottle, but it is also quite corrosive, which means it can damage some plastics, remove color and tarnish some metal bottles too. Nonetheless, bleach is still a good way to remove a bad smell and hygienically clean a reusable water bottle. How do you do it? The first step is to mix just one teaspoon of bleach into a gallon of water. Make sure it is diluted properly before filling the bottle with it. Allow the solution to soak in the bottle for up to 20 minutes. You can then rinse the bottle out a few times to ensure that it is clean of bleach residue and safe to drink from. You should allow the water bottle to air dry before you refill it with water and drink from it again.

  • Cleaning Reusable Water Bottles with Water Cleaning Tablets.

The great thing about water cleaning tablets is that they are biodegradable, chlorine free, and non-toxic. You can buy them at many places online, including Amazon. You simply fill your water bottle with water, drop a tablet in and let it sit for a while, even overnight if you can. Then, when you are ready to refill the bottle again, simply rinse it out and fill it up. Denture cleaning tablets work in a very similar way and it is also safe to clean your reusable water bottle with these. If you can’t find water cleaning tablets in your area, denture cleaning tablets are a good second option.

Why Rinsing Your Water Bottle Is Not Good Enough

If you are a serial sipper, like most water lovers are, you probably transition from gulping the last sip in your reusable water bottle straight to the tap to refill the bottle. Maybe you swish a bit of tap water around absentmindedly in order to “rinse” the bottle clean. What is wrong with that? Well, for starters, you are constantly placing your water bottle on your lips and that alone provides the potential for the spread of bacteria.

It is not about what you are pouring into the bottle, but more about what can get into the bottle. Bacteria from your mouth, germs and bacteria from your hands, and anything else that attaches to the bottle when it is dropped, picked up by someone else, or transported, actually stick to the bottle. True to form, they find their way into the nooks, crannies, scratches, grooves, and caps of these bottles and that is where they grow stronger and potentially dangerous. A quick rinse is not going to eliminate germs and bacteria. It will merely rinse over them.

Why Hot Water Rinses Are Good, But Not Good Enough 

Here is the thing… as you grow up you are told to wash your hands with hot water and soap to eliminate germs and bacteria, so it is reasonable to believe that hot water kills germs. The truth is that hot water kills some germs; it does not kill them all. Also, there is the little issue of knowing how hot the water needs to be and how long it needs to be applied in order to successfully kill germs and bacteria.

Human skin does not handle very hot water well. The highest you can tolerate on your hands is probably around 110 degrees Fahrenheit and only briefly. Most recommendations for boiling water to rid it of bacteria (and make it safe to drink) suggest boiling it at around 212 degrees Fahrenheit, for as much as 3 minutes. Not a realistic temperature for you to be working with when trying to clean your water bottle, is it? Therefore, cleaning your water bottle with hot water is not good enough


How Often Should You Clean Your Water Bottle?

It is strongly recommended that you clean your water bottle every single day, but some people just do not get around to it. If you do not clean it every day, you should at least try to clean it every few days. Keep in mind that you are not the only person and object that your water bottle comes into contact with.

Treadmills are notorious for harboring germs and bacteria inclusive of fecal matter. Chances are that you take your water bottle to gym with you – can you afford to carry someone else’s germs and bacteria around with you? You might even leave your water bottle on a communal surface or even carry it with you into public restrooms. The potential for germs spreading and making you and others sick is exceptionally high. That is why it is ideal to wash your water bottle properly every single day.

How do you keep your water bottle from smelling?

Every now and again, reusable water bottles start to smell. It is probably not the inside of the bottle smelling, but the area that you drink from and the cap. This is where bacteria develops and starts to smell bad. To keep this from happening, make sure that you rinse the bottle between each use and let it air dry. Every evening you should wash the bottle, paying special attention to the cap and the area that you drink from. The outside of the bottle needs to be kept as clean as the inside, so focus on giving it thorough attention. If you keep up your cleaning efforts, your bottle should not start to smell between uses.

Last Word

If you are aiming for boosting your health while continuously hydrating with fresh water, you need to ensure that you are doing it hygienically and not suffering at the mercy of a germ and bacteria carrying bottle. Cleaning your water bottle regularly is the best way to ensure that your beloved reusable water bottle is adding value to your life and not simply putting your health at risk.

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