Your water bottle could be host to bacteria, buildup, and even mold. But with so many types of reusable water bottles available, it can be hard to know how to clean them. Follow our handy guide to learn how.

By Hannah Bruneman
July 16, 2019

Is there anything as underrated as your water bottle? The handy item goes with you to the gym, your desk, the grocery store, and on daily dog walks. It might be in your favorite color or can keep ice water cold for hours on end. But the one thing your water bottle can’t do? Clean itself.

Experts say you really should wash your water bottle after every use. According to researchers at Treadmill Reviews, athletes’ water bottles, on average, host 313,499 colony-forming units (CFU) per square centimeter. For comparison, the average pet toy has just 2,937 CFU per square centimeter. That’s a lot of germs on your reusable water bottle! Plus, we know any warm, damp place is a breeding ground for mold growth. To make sure you’re drinking from a safe, clean vessel, check out our water bottle cleaning tips below.

3 Ways to Clean Water Bottles

Some water bottles are dishwasher safe. If so, toss yours in the dishwasher every time you run a cycle. However, even if the base of the bottle can go in the dishwasher, the lid might not. If your water bottle is not dishwasher-safe, use these common cleaning agents to get the job done.

Liquid Dish Soap

For everyday washes, warm, soapy water will do the trick. Fill the emptied water bottle with hot water and add a few drops of liquid dish detergent. Place the cap on your water bottle and give it a good shake—the water should begin to bubble inside. Dump out the suds, then use a bottle scrub brush to reach all the way down to the bottom of the bottle. And don't forget to wash the exterior and bottom of the bottle as well. Once you're done scrubbing, rinse your water bottle in warm water until you don’t see any soap bubbles and let dry thoroughly. Scrub the lid inside and out as well, paying extra attention to the spout opening or mouthpiece. Rinse and dry.

Distilled White Vinegar

Vinegar is our favorite go-to cleaning agent. Use it to clean your water bottle by filling it halfway with equal parts vinegar and water. Return the bottle’s lid and give it a few shakes before letting it sit with the solution overnight. The next day, be sure to rinse out the water bottle and the lid thoroughly with warm water to remove any leftover vinegar. Let dry. This is a particularly good way to clean a stainless-steel water bottle.

Baking Soda and Bleach

For hard-to-clean grime and mildew, consider cleaning your water bottle with bleach. Mix a teaspoon of bleach with a teaspoon of baking soda in your water bottle. Fill the remainder with water. Use the baking soda and bleach solution to scrub the cap as well, inside and out. Let your water bottle sit overnight, then rinse thoroughly with warm water in the morning. If your bottle is dishwasher friendly, we suggest running it through a cycle. Let dry.

How to Clean Water Bottle Lids and Types

New water bottles come with all the bells and whistles, including reusable straws, BPA-free materials, insulated double-wall interiors, and more. However, with these features comes special cleaning tips. Here’s how to clean specific types of water bottles when traditional cleaning techniques just won’t suffice.

How to Clean a Water Bottle with a Bite Valve

Water bottles that feature lids with built-in straws with a soft plastic bite valve are great for eliminating spills mid-workout. However, that handy feature can also harbor some serious germs and mold. According to CamelBak, you should clean a soft plastic bite valve by first removing it from the lid. Place the separate components of the bottle in the dishwasher and run it through a cycle. Use a cotton swab or straw brush to reach inside the valve with warm, soapy water. After cleaning, let dry thoroughly before reassembling.

How to Clean a Tumbler with a Straw

Most tumblers can be cleaned in the dishwasher or with the water bottle cleaning methods listed above. The reusable straws, however, need special care. We recommend purchasing a set of straw brushes. When you're ready to clean your tumbler straw, rinse it with warm water, place a small amount of dish soap on your straw brush, and begin scrubbing the interior and exterior of the straw. If that’s not getting the job done, you can add baking soda to act as an abrasive.

How to Clean a Travel Mug

Travel mugs are typically used for hot drinks, but several water bottle companies use the same flip-top lid. If you plan to wash your travel mug in the dishwasher, be sure to use the top rack. However, if it's insulated, you'll want to hand-wash. Wash the lid by removing the rubber seal around the base and scrubbing with warm, soapy water. Be sure to get every nook and cranny of the lid because it can be a hot spot for mold.

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