Step-by-step guide: How to clean water bottles

You feel good about switching from single-use plastic water bottles to reusable ones — you’re saving money and the environment at the same time. But if you've noticed the water coming out of that eco-friendly water bottle doesn't smell or taste so fresh, it's time for a good scrubbing.

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Surprising things you can do with your dishwasher (including cook food!)

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Surprising things you can do with your dishwasher (including cook food!)

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To keep your water bottle at its best, wash it every day. Here’s cleaning expert Leslie Reichert to tell you how to do it.

Every day maintenance

If yours is a screw-top bottle, you’re in luck. All you have to do is separate the top from the bottle and run both pieces through the dishwasher every day (top rack only, of course). Make sure the drying cycle is on because the bottle needs to be completely dry. If not, it will become a breeding ground for germs.

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Another option is to wash the bottle in warm water and detergent every day. Use a cloth or brush on the inside to remove any slimy build-up that may have formed. Rinse well and dry thoroughly before using.

Bottles with pull-up/push-down tops and those straw-type tops that you lift with your finger need a little extra attention during their soap and water bath. To clean those hard-to-reach nooks and crevices in the drinking spouts, use a small bottle brush. Rinse well and be sure to dry completely — either by air-drying overnight or hand-drying with a clean cloth.

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To sanitize and freshen bottles

If, after regular cleaning, the bottle still doesn’t smell fresh, try sanitizing. Fill with either:

  • a mild bleach/water solution (1 teaspoon of bleach to 1 gallon of water); let the bleach solution stand for 5-15 minutes. Rinse until all bleach odor is gone. Air dry.
  • straight white distilled vinegar; let it stand for about 10 minutes. Rinse and air dry.
  • straight hydrogen peroxide; let it stand for about 10 minutes. Rinse and air dry.

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Another method of sanitizing involves alternately spraying with hydrogen peroxide and vinegar. According Dr. Susanne Sumner, start by cleaning the bottle with soap and water. Then spray the bottle with either hydrogen peroxide or vinegar. (It doesn’t matter which you use first since each kills different strains of bacteria.) Allow spray to sit for 3-10 minutes, then wipe.

Follow the same procedure with the second one. Do not mix the two in the same bottle because the solutions together are unstable and will become ineffective. Rinse then air dry.

Most experts agree that most germs are removed by simply washing with soap and water or in the dishwasher. Sanitizing does not need to be done on a daily basis. However, if the bottle is shared among members of a group (as in childcare or school situations) or with a sick person, it doesn’t hurt to take extra precautions.

This article was originally published March 3, 2016.

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