The Right Way to Care for Your Reusable Water Bottle

If you’ve made the switch from disposable water bottles to a reusable one, give yourself a pat on the back! U.S. landfills are overflowing with two million tons of discarded water bottles, so getting one you can refill again and again is a huge deal. But while reusable water bottles are handy and much better for the environment, they aren’t always the easiest things to clean. And cleaning them is important because bacteria love dark, moist areas and your water bottle is their ideal home if they are not disinfected correctly every few days. Below we answer a few of the most common questions regarding cleaning water bottles so that you can sip without stress.

How can I properly clean my hard plastic, glass or stainless steel water bottle?
No matter what kind of reusable water bottle you have, they all need to be cleaned. There are several ways to do so, including:

  • Warm water and soap – This is just about the simplest way to wash your bottle. Add a few drops of dish soap and warm water to your water bottle, screw on the top and shake! Rinse the bottle out and leave open to air dry overnight.
  • Dishwasher – Before throwing your bottle in the dishwasher, check the bottle for the dishwasher safe symbol. Most products are safe to place in the dishwasher but always double check so you don’t ruin your bottle. Make sure all pieces of the water bottle (top, straw, body) get cleaned.
  • Vinegar – If your bottle is in need of a deeper clean after washing with soap and water, fill it 1/5 of the way with white vinegar and the rest with water. Let this mixture sit overnight and thoroughly rinse with water in the morning.

What if my plastic water bottle is discolored and smelly?
A reusable plastic water bottle can develop a smell or slight discoloration over time if it isn’t properly cleaned after use. It can happen faster if the water bottle is stored in a wet area or kept sealed for a long period of time with water left in it. To stop this from happening, rinse your water bottle out after every use and let it air dry with the top off. If your bottle has already developed a smell, REI recommends that you add a teaspoon of bleach and a teaspoon of baking soda to the bottle and fill it with water. Let it sit overnight and rinse it out completely the next day, then let the bottle air dry.

Why can’t I reuse disposable plastic water bottles?
The disposable plastic water bottles that you get at a convenience store or out of a vending machine aren’t meant to be used more than once. Repeated washings of disposable water bottles can cause a physical breakdown of the plastic, posing a health risk to users.


Photo credit: John Loo

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Read 27 Comments

  1. There’s a powder sanitation solution available that just needs drying after rinsing. Not as cost effective as above though.

  2. i dont know if its the bottle or the machine that smells like mold !! i by them at walmart and this one smell like mold ..what do i do ??? exchangeble bottle

  3. Very informative article. Plastic water bottle looks good but I personally don’t prefer them because it becomes smelly and useless after continuous use. Also, they’re not environmental friendly. I prefer to use stainless steel and cooper water bottle so they can be washed easily and long lasting.

  4. This is super helpful. With so many concerns about which bottle to use, it’s nice to find information that details safety issues. Thanks for posting this.

  5. Cleaning reusable bottle is a tough job. Sometimes you have cleaned it all good but still it smells bed. Cleaning it with water and some powder is not necessary. sometimes water bottles also got the mold and that is why it smells bad. It is a better idea to clean it with vinegar and water. Thank for your article.

  6. It was helpful to find information about cleaning water bottles using vinegar. For a deep clean, it makes sense that you’d avoid putting it in the dishwasher too much and instead use a safe cleaning agent like vinegar. We look at how best to take care of water bottles in extreme weather conditions, so these tips are really helpful.

  7. So many tips that I can use. We deal with a lot of water bottles since we have three kids. Some we use for sports; other we use for general outdoor applications. We’ve struggled with trying to figure out which bottles are dishwasher safe, but it make sense that’s something that we should qualify before we purchase. Also, your tip to “make sure all pieces of the water bottle (top, straw, body) get cleaned” is a good one.

  8. I generally keep a water bottle with me when I go to the workplace and it smells very bad because I don’t have time to wash it, I only wash it on weekends but this is the best idea to wash it with warm water and soap it will consume less time and I can clean my water bottle every day. Thanks for the article.

  9. The deep cleaning technique using vinegar for your water bottle works every time. Remember that the key ingredients for mold are heat and moister. Good article

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