How to Clean Water Bottles & Hydration Packs
As the weather gets warmer, one of the main reasons athletes get sick is due to poor water bottle hygiene. Leaving a half-finished drink in your water bottle can turn it into an incubator for bacteria and mold.
This is especially true if you’re mixing protein shakes, electrolyte or carbohydrate drinks in your water bottles. The sugars, heat and saliva all help germs spread rapidly, regardless of whether you use a standard sports water bottle or a CamelBak style hydration bladder. These germs can make you sick for many days and keep you from training, racing and working.
But if you clean your water bottle or hydration pack thoroughly after every use, you can reduce the risk of getting sick. The problem is that many of today’s sports water bottles are difficult to clean due to their odd shapes and curves. And the caps of the bottles and mouthpieces of the bladders aren’t any easier to clean.
Check out these 6 different tips for how to clean sports water bottles and hydration bladders:
Dish washing liquid
- Copyright: Clickworld
Fill the bottle or hydration pack with 75% HOT water and half a teaspoon of liquid dish soap. Replace the lid and shake vigorously. Then, for bottles, open the nozzle and squirt out water until it’s empty. Add more water, replace the cap and repeat as needed to thoroughly clean the nozzle by squirting and emptying again.
Tip for keeping water bottles and hydration packs clean: After you wash out your water bottles and bladders, place them in the freezer to keep any germs from coming back between uses.
Dilute 1 teaspoon of bleach and 1 teaspoon of baking soda in 4 liters of water. Fill your sports water bottles or hydration pack with the mix overnight. The next day, thoroughly rinse out the bottles or bladder and let them dry completely before storing in a dry cupboard without the lid on.
Tip for cleaning hydration bladders: When cleaning a hydration bladder, pinch the bite valve with your fingers while holding the bladder above your head to allow the bleach and water mixture to fill the tube. Let the mixture sit in the tube at least 30 minutes before draining and rinsing.
White Vinegar Wash
Rinse out your sports water bottle with warm soapy water then fill with 100ml of white wine vinegar and the rest with water. Leave for 8 hours or overnight. Thoroughly rinse and dry the bottle and it will be ready to use the next time you need it.
Baking Soda & Vinegar
Place 2 tablespoons of Baking Soda (this cleans and removes odors) and 150ml of vinegar (which kills mold and mildew germs) in the bottle. Fizzing will occur. Allow the mixture to settle for 5 minutes. Leaving the vinegar and baking soda mix inside the bottle, use a brush or cloth to clean inside the bottle making sure you don’t miss the groves and corners. Replace lid and squirt out the contents to clean the nozzle. Then rinse the bottle out several times with warm water.
Tip for cleaning narrow neck or long bottles: Some water bottles, especially SIGG liter bottles, have a narrow opening and long body making them more difficult to clean. That’s where a bottle brush can help. Use the vinegar and soda mix, then use the brush for at least 30 seconds, rinse out the bottle and brush, fill with hot water and repeat.
Dental clean tablets
Drop one denture tablet into a bottle full of water and allow it to soak overnight. This way of cleaning kills bacteria, removes stains and leaves no funny taste. When soaking, turn the lid upside down, open the nozzle and place it on the bottle, making sure the nozzle is soaking in the mixture. The next morning, attach the lid, squirt out the liquid and repeat with clean water.
If using a dishwasher, make sure you rinse out bottles first and place them upside down so water can get in to clean them. Place the cap upside down with the nozzle open to allow the dish washer to thoroughly clean it.
Tip for using tap water: If you’re using tap water in your sports water bottle or to mix your drinks, it may be a good idea to boil it first in order to sterilize the water depending on the quality coming from your faucet. Make sure you let it cool before using in water bottles or hydration packs. Consider boiling the water the night before for use in the morning.
Regularly clean sports water bottles and hydration packs for best results
Cleaning a sports water bottle or hydration bladder after a ride, a hike or a trip to the gym appears to be a low priority for the vast number of athletes, as they re-fill them time and time again. Indeed, very few athletes consider water bottle hygiene to be a big priority in the build-up to race-day, but following the tips above could make all the difference. It has never surprised me that the athletes who get sick the most often also have the most unhygienic looking water bottles. I cannot guarantee this information will keep your bottles 100% clean of bacteria or mold and keep you from getting sick, but they will certainly reduce the chances considerably. Here are a few parting tips for clean water bottles and hydration packs:
- The best advice I have is to rinse your sports water bottle or hydration pack out after each use. But you should also thoroughly clean your bottles at least once a week. The rule of thumb is that if it looks dirty on the outside, it’s not worth risking what’s on the inside!
- As with your sports water hydration pack, you should also thoroughly clean your bottles at least once a week. The rule of thumb is that if it looks dirty on the outside, it’s not worth risking what’s on the inside!
- Clear, see-through water bottles are the best. I suggest you change your sports water bottle every 8-12 weeks depending on how often you use it. Avoid dark colors as it's difficult to spot the dirt. Bacteria can also be a problem inside aluminum bottles.
- Using electrolytes and carbohydrates or fruits and vegetables in your water bottle allows bacteria to thrive on the bottom of your bottle. It can be hard to fully clean this in a dishwasher and you may need a brush and hot, but not boiling water.
- Hydration bladders and bottles can be kept in the freezer between uses after they have been thoroughly cleaned.
DISCLAIMER: The above tips are what I have learned from personal experience during the last 30 years. Bacteria can still occur even when you’re just using tap water.