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 49 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. Love this water bottle. With the time on the bottle, it really helps to drink more water throughout the day! Normally i wouldn’t get this much water intake. Even though you have to hand wash it, i just use some antibacterial dish soap and I’m good to go! My daughter is 12 and saw it and asked for one.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

  7. 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.

  8. I appreciate the advice, but I’m not putting bleach in a bottle that will hold drinking water. I also don’t understand what people are doing to end up with smelly or moldy bottles. It’s important to use a good quality bottle which is not opaque, use it only for drinking water, and don’t leave water sitting for a long time. I’ve been using the same 3 Nalgene bottles for years with no problems.

  9. 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.

  10. 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.

  11. 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

  12. This article gave very useful and beneficial information about saving nature. As we know there is a ton of plastic bottle garbage already floating in the ocean which is very hazardous to aquatic life as well as human life. Because Aquatic life consumes it and then eventually humans consume aquatic creatures which can cause dangerous diseases.
    So if as stated in the article we stated reusing water bottles by recycling it helps economically as well as it will save the environment and aquatic life.

  13. I read somewhere that a large percentage of people have no idea the types of bacteria growing on their reusable water bottles. Almost no one does deep cleans on them! Nice article and write up.

  14. Very helpful post! thankyou for sharing this kind of post with us. Nowadays waste of plastic bottles has become serious issues as it is a threat to the environment and human health as well so we need to use recycled plastic bottles. But what precautions should we take while using recycled bottles is the prominent things all must know. Post like this can help people to know what care should take while using disposable plastic bottles.
    Very good and helpful post please keep posting this kind of posts.

  15. You are doing such an amazing job by writing such articles. I really appreciate your efforts. Thanks for sharing this useful information with us.

  16. Yes it is a well known fact that if degradation of plastic starts if it is used again and again, you should not always drink from plastic bottles, it can act as a slow poison for your body, that is why expert recommends copper or stainless steel water bottles.

  17. Very informative article. The 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 environmentally friendly. I prefer to use stainless steel and cooper water bottle so they can be washed easily and long-lasting.

  18. This is such a very informative post! I just got my stainless steel water bottle and I’m glad I came across this helpful article when it comes to taking good care of it. Thanks!

  19. Thanks for the tips, I was thinking to use warm water to clean my reusable bottle. But I with soap it would work better. Of course using vinegar can also be a good choice as I will try this first time.

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