Of all of the household cleaning you do each day, disinfecting your trusty reusable water bottle probably isn’t at the top of your list, right? While you’re tidying up the kitchen, maybe you give it a quick rinse, but that’s about it. You’re busy, so you don’t sweat it — that’s totally understandable. But if your go-to move is to just rinse and refill, it’s time you properly learn how to clean a reusable water bottle. Between the bacteria lurking on the mouthpiece and germs that could be marinating inside, things can get gross in a hurry if you don’t give your bottle a proper wash.
The best way to clean a reusable water bottle
Hand washing is the best way to ensure that your reusable water bottle is properly and thoroughly cleaned without damaging it, no matter what the bottle is made of. Since all bottles are different, however, it is always a good idea to check with your bottle’s manufacturer before you attempt to clean it.
“Some reusable bottles on the market today have multiple parts with small openings and difficult to reach crevices and some reusable bottles are made from stainless steel or treated with exterior graphics that scratch or chip easily,” the team at Nalgene Outdoor, a U.S.-based maker of BPA-free water bottles tells Romper. “Often these bottles recommend that you disassemble and hand wash each part as well as the bottle using a special accessory brush.”
Your bottle may have specific cleaning instructions and some can be safely sanitized in the dishwasher thanks to their construction. However, even dishwasher-safe bottles may require a scrub by hand if it’s been a while since it was last washed.
How to clean a reusable water bottle by hand
To get your bottle sparkling, follow these steps for hand washing:
- Fill your bottle approximately 2/3 full with warm water.
- Add your preferred cleaning agent: a squirt of dish soap, a few drops of bleach, vinegar, or cleaning tablet. (Choose one based on your bottle’s manufacturer directions.)
- Mix by gently swirling or shaking well, depending on cleaning agent used.
- Scrub the inside of your bottle, the lid, straw, and any other components with a bottle brush.
- Rinse well with clean water.
Can you clean a reusable water bottle in the dishwasher?
Certain reusable water bottles can be cleaned in the dishwasher, but not all. You’ll have to check the manufacturer’s cleaning instructions on what’s safe for your specific product: some are top-rack dishwasher-safe only, some can be split between the top and bottom racks, some shouldn’t go in a dishwasher at all.
Depending on how your bottle is made, certain components could be prone to melt at high temperatures. Water can also get trapped underneath the rubber gaskets on the lids of some reusable bottles and create a mold problem, so whether or not you can throw it in the dishwasher will depend heavily on the design of your bottle.
How to disinfect a reusable water bottle
If you’re guilty of the rinse-and-refill tactic, you may need to take a moment to do a deep clean and fully disinfect your bottle.
For bottles that can’t go in the dishwasher, you may need to disinfect your bottle by hand.
For example, Stephen Bruner, co-founder of Corkcicle advises sterilizing their stainless steel bottles with a common household ingredient. “Filling your stainless steel Corkcicle product with white vinegar and leaving overnight should naturally and safely sterilize the product,” Bruner tells Romper. “After soaking overnight, thoroughly rinse and wash with warm water and mild soap.”
Another way to disinfect your reusable water bottle using this soaking technique is to use a drop-in tablet that is specifically made to be used without scrubbing. When combined with warm water, the cleaning tablets will fizz and bubble to gently remove bacteria buildup from the inside of your bottle in about 15 to 30 minutes.
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What happens if you don’t clean your water bottle properly?
I am 100% guilty of not cleaning my aluminum water bottle after every use. After all, it’s just water, right? But, even if water is the only thing that goes in it, the bacteria from your mouth can enter the bottle and get trapped inside.
Mold can also become an issue if you let water sit in your bottle for too long. Like a kiddie pool of stagnant water in your back yard, this is especially true if your water bottle is left in a warm environment like your car.
Invest in bottle brushes (they come in various sizes) to help you reach the nooks and crannies of your bottle and especially the mouthpiece.
How often should you clean your reusable water bottle?
While it won’t hurt to skip daily washing now and then, you should aim to clean your reusable water bottle after each use. Whether this means washing it by hand at the beginning of the day before you fill it up or throwing it in the dishwasher before you head to bed depends on your schedule and your bottle.
Following the above tips will help keep your reusable water bottle in the best shape possible and extend the life of your handy hydration helper.