How to Clean Your Reusable Water Bottle, No Matter What It’s Made Of (2023)

Bacteria, buildup and gross smells be gone! Here are step-by-step instructions for cleaning every type of reusable water bottle.

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We all have our favorite reusable water bottle that accompanies us on every adventure: work, exercise, car rides, lounging—you name it. They’re incredibly useful for making sure we’re drinking enough water every day, not to mention limiting our use of disposable plastic water bottles (this is how long plastic bottles take to degrade in the ocean).

But reusable water bottles aren’t so good at staying clean—even if all that’s in them is water. Unfortunately, even high-quality reusable water bottles get pretty gross if they’re not cleaned properly. Though handy and eco-friendly (you should never refill disposable plastic water bottles), properly cleaning reusable water bottles is a hassle—until now.

Here’s how to clean water bottles of every type and shape to rid them of bacteria, smells, icky tastes and buildup, once and for all. We even break down how to clean those extra-tricky reusable straws, lids and water bottle attachments.

How often should you wash your water bottle?

It’s important to clean your water bottle thoroughly once a day to keep microbial growth to a minimum and ensure the water you’re drinking is healthy, fresh and tasty. Their frequency of use contributes to how often you should wash reusable water bottles. If you’re sipping a bottle consistently throughout the day, you may want to wash it more frequently.

How do you clean the inside of a water bottle?

“Using warm, soapy water will clean all types of water bottles including metal, glass and plastic,” explains Britnee Tanner, a cleaning expert and professional organizer. “Unfortunately, plastic and silicone water bottles can take on the scent of dish soap more than other materials. Avoid this by using less soap or using a soap that’s fragrance-free.”

How do you disinfect a water bottle to clean it?

Disinfecting a water bottle depends on the material it’s made of and if it contains special or electrical components common with smart water bottles. If it’s made of durable tempered glass or metal, add a splash of dish soap and very hot water and let it sit for a few minutes to break up grime before using a bottle brush. Silicone and metal straws are disinfected by boiling them, however plastic straws and materials shouldn’t be exposed to water at or near boiling temperature.

Plastic and silicone bottles are disinfected by filling them with warm water and adding a few drops of dish soap and a teaspoon of bleach (or equal parts baking soda diluted in vinegar) to kill bacteria and viruses. Not only is this method easy and inexpensive, it works on every reusable water bottle type and style. If you prefer to forgo bleach, consider using water bottle disinfecting tablets once per week as an alternative. No matter the method, it’s extra important to rinse reusable water bottles thoroughly after disinfecting them.

How to clean a water bottle

Tools and Supplies

  • Fragrance-free dish soap. Using unscented dish soap is especially important for plastic, silicone and other synthetic-material water bottles, because they absorb odors and flavors more than glass or metal.
  • Bottle brush. A high-quality bottle brush with sturdy, durable bristles goes a long way. It reaches the deepest and narrowest parts of the water bottle, ridding them of debris, buildup and microbial growth.
  • Straw cleaning brushes. Reusable straws require deep cleaning too! Straw cleaning brushes prolong the lifespan of metal and synthetic reusable straws, thanks to tiny bristles that clean every inch—and they’re a breeze to use.
  • Bottle disinfecting tablets. An effortless disinfecting method is a bottle disinfecting tablet. Simply drop it into a filled water bottle, wait for it to dissolve and thoroughly rinse it.
  • At-home ingredients. Adding equal parts baking soda and white vinegar is a powerful DIY way to give bacteria and viruses the boot from your bottle, or you can rinse with heavily diluted bleach. If you choose the latter, the standard formula is a teaspoon of bleach for every 16 ounces of water.


1. Empty and disassemble your water bottle.Empty and remove any detachable components from your water bottle, like the lid and straw and even the bottle handle, if it has one. Microbes love dark crevices and hard-to-reach corners, making areas like caps and lids especially important to thoroughly clean.

2. Prepare your cleaning solution. Give your bottle a heavy rinse. Then, fill it with warm water and add your cleaning aid of choice, whether that’s a water bottle disinfecting tablet, unscented dish soap, heavily diluted bleach or a baking-soda-and-vinegar solution. Depending on how dirty, stinky or foul-tasting your water bottle is, let the solution sit for a few minutes.

3. Break out the bottle brush. Scrub the bottle down with a bottle brush, making sure to distribute the cleaning solution throughout the bottle’s curves, nooks and crannies. Use a steady up-and-down motion, then swirl the brush clockwise and counter-clockwise several times. The bristles will dislodge buildup and water scaling.

4. Scrub the straw. Clean the water bottle straw by repeating step three, but instead using a straw cleaning brush to distribute the solution in and around the straw.

5. Rinse thoroughly. No matter what cleaning solution you used, thoroughly rinse each water bottle component with warm water. Warm water helps break up both water and fat-based grime and makes cleaning the reusable versions of things you use every day a simple task.

6. Air dry. “Water bottles can be stored upright or in a water bottle organizer on their side,” says Tanner. “Be sure to keep the lids either resting on the water bottle or loosely twisted on with spouts open. Do not tighten the lids or close spouts completely. The key is to allow air to pass through to the main chamber, as this will keep your water bottles odor-free!”

How to clean water bottles with bite valves

Water bottles with bite valves are especially popular with fitness fanatics and as back-to-school essentials for young children, but they’re notoriously tricky to clean. First, remove the lid and separate each piece. If you don’t see visible buildup or detect a noticeable scent, run the pieces through your dishwasher in the utensils basket or top rack. Otherwise, use a straw brush and any of the warm water cleaning solutions above to hand wash the pieces. Let each piece air dry before reassembling.

How to clean drink tumblers with straws

Good news! Most drink tumblers can be cleaned in the dishwasher on the top rack without worry, or hand washed using any of the water bottle cleaning methods above. The reusable straws and screw-tight lids require a little extra elbow grease, though. “Even the hottest, soapy water often doesn’t remove the slimy buildup that accumulates in straws and spouts,” Tanner adds. “Once everything has been scrubbed with the brushes, rinse again with warm water and air dry on a drying mat or dish towel. Avoid any smells by laying the bottle on its side to air dry.”

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Britnee Tanner, cleaning expert and professional organizer based in Salt Lake City

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How to Clean Your Reusable Water Bottle, No Matter What It’s Made Of? ›

Wash all components of the bottle (body, lid, and mouthpiece) with hot, soapy water. Use a bottle brush to clean the inside and mouthpiece. Rinse with hot water to remove any soap residue. Allow the bottle to air dry completely before reassembling.

How do you clean the inside of a reusable bottle? ›

Wash all components of the bottle (body, lid, and mouthpiece) with hot, soapy water. Use a bottle brush to clean the inside and mouthpiece. Rinse with hot water to remove any soap residue. Allow the bottle to air dry completely before reassembling.

How do you get mold out of reusable water bottles? ›

Studies have shown that white vinegar can effectively kill 82% of mold spores, in addition to viruses and bacteria species. Add a mixture of white vinegar and water to fill up your bottle. Let the solution soak inside your bottle overnight. In the morning, wash your water bottle vigorously with soap and warm water.

How do you remove mineral buildup from a water bottle? ›

Mix 2 heaped teaspoon of baking soda with warm water in your bottle and let soak for a few hours. Rinse well using a brush to remove all residue of the baking soda. This is also a good way to remove the build-up of mineral deposits that adhere to the walls of your bottle and alter the taste of your water.

How dirty are reusable water bottles? ›

Your reusable water bottle contains twice as many germs as the kitchen sink, and four times the amount of bacteria as a computer mouse. Compare it to your pet's drinking bowl and that's 14 times more bacteria, researchers found. The study compared different styles of water bottles as well.

How often should I wash my reusable water bottle? ›

All the experts agree that you should wash your water once a day everyday to keep your bottle relatively clean. However, there are other things that you can do to improve the cleanliness of your reusable water bottle. Use soap and water. This one seems obvious but it cannot be understated.

What is the gunk in my water bottle? ›

What's a biofilm? We wanted to know, too. Turns out it's a slimy surface layer of bacteria that you may have already noticed forming on your trusty water bottle.

Does vinegar remove mineral buildup? ›

Vinegar. Vinegar is a safe, all-natural household cleaner with the amazing ability to combat hard water stains. Pour some in a spray bottle and squirt any surface where you find hard water stains. Let it sit for five to 15 minutes to give the vinegar time to break down the minerals in the chalky, white stain.

Why is there gunk in my water bottle? ›

Biofilms are the natural home of bacteria and other microbes. Once you know to look for biofilm, it is easy to recognize, just look for a slimy substance that coats the lip, spout or straw of your water bottle. Biofilm can form anywhere bacteria can adhere to the surface in a moist environment.

What are the black dots in my water bottle? ›

It's possible the black specks are just trace amounts of iron or manganese in the water. While the appearance may be startling, a small amount of these minerals isn't generally harmful. You can get a water test to check the mineral levels of your water.

Is the black stuff in my water bottle mold? ›

The type of mold that grows in water bottles is usually black mold (Stachybotrys Chartarum). It thrives in warm, moist environments with low exposure to sunlight. That means bottles left in a gym bag or school satchel are a perfect place for it to grow.

What are the signs of mold poisoning? ›

Some people are sensitive to molds. For these people, exposure to molds can lead to symptoms such as stuffy nose, wheezing, and red or itchy eyes, or skin. Some people, such as those with allergies to molds or with asthma, may have more intense reactions.

Do reusable water bottles go bad? ›

However, both have different lifespans. A polycarbonate water bottle typically lasts between 1-2 years, while a PET water bottle typically lasts 2-3 years. Check the recycling symbol (usually found on the bottom of your water bottle) if you're unsure what plastic was used to make it.

What is the pink bacteria in my water bottle? ›

Red or pink-pigmented bacteria known as Serratia marcescens is thought to be the cause of the pink stuff. Serratia bacteria are common inhabitants of our environment and can be found in many places, including human and animal feces, dust, soil, and in surface water.

Are reusable water bottles dirtier than toilets? ›

They found that using a reusable water bottle without cleaning it makes them dirtier than a toilet seat. Yep, that's right, the water bottle you use for several days without washing it can have more bacteria and pathogens, like E.

What are common problems with reusable water bottles? ›

"Germs will grow on your reusable water bottles after each and every use," she said. "Combined with the fact that mould and mildew thrive in moist, dark areas—let's just say this is not a container you would want to drink anything out of."

How long can water sit in a reusable water bottle? ›

Week-old water is safe to drink as long as the bottle is clean and sealed properly, and stored in an area where there is no direct sunlight. Moreover, you can also store water in a tightly sealed stainless steel bottle for up to 6 months.

Is it OK to wash my water bottle once a week? ›

Both Stapf and Hutchings recommended washing your water bottle once a day. As far as sanitizing goes, experts recommend this at least once a week, but you can do it more often if you've been sick or you've taken your bottle outside.

Can bacteria grow in Hydro Flask? ›

Bad news, though: If you're not giving your Hydro Flask a regular scrub with a bottle brush, there might be a bacterial storm a-brewing inside its walls that could potentially get you sick.

How do you know if your water bottle is making you sick? ›

Your water bottle creates a moist environment that is the perfect place for bacteria to set up shop. If this happens, then it can cause symptoms such as: Vomiting. Nausea.

Is there mold in my water bottle? ›

Mold often creates an earthy, musty, and/or damp odor while growing. If you start to notice this smell coming from your water bottle, it's a pretty good indication that something funky is going on within the container.

What removes mineral buildup? ›

You can remove mineral deposits with these acidic household items and cleaners:
  1. Lemon juice.
  2. White vinegar.
  3. CLR cleaner.
  4. Phosphoric acid cleaners.
  5. Sulfuric acid.
  6. Muriatic acid (very strong- used only for tough deposits) Mix 1-part muriatic acid with 5 parts water.

What breaks down mineral buildup? ›

Use Vinegar & Baking Soda

This process can be used on sink or shower drains. White vinegar is a natural solution that can be utilized to dissolve calcium buildup. Sitting overnight, you will be able to remove lime buildup from the drain while avoiding the harsh chemicals in traditional drain cleaners.

Does baking soda remove minerals from water? ›

As previously mentioned, baking soda does a bang-up job at dissolving calcium deposits left behind from hard water, but this pantry staple doesn't act alone. By introducing an acid (i.e., white vinegar), a chemical reaction takes place that may be short-lived, but highly effective.

What happens if you don't clean your water bottle? ›

So it's not shocking that reusable water bottles, left unwashed, can become a breeding ground for bacteria and a safe haven for poop particles. Whether plastic or metal, screw top or squeeze, bottles that go days between cleanings can leave us gulping down germs with every drink.

How do you deep clean a hydro flask? ›

Distilled white vinegar is perfect if you want to give your bottle a deep clean. Pour the vinegar inside the bottle, and swish it around to cover the entire interior. You can leave it to sit for five minutes before rinsing it out. Repeat this process until all discoloration and stains disappear.

Can you drink water left overnight? ›

There is no harm in drinking water left overnight if it is stored properly. Always cover the water kept in a glass or open container. Never put your mouth to the bottle and if you have, finish the entire bottle in one go. Do not leave the water bottle in your car.

What is the best way to remove minerals from tap water? ›

Reverse Osmosis Remove Minerals. Reverse Osmosis (RO) removed more than 90-99.99% of all the contaminants including minerals from the drinking water supply (see Figure 1). RO removes minerals because they have larger molecules than water.

How do you remove permanent hardness from drinking water? ›

Permanent hardness of water is due to dissolved salts of chlorides and sulphates of calcium and magnesium which can be removed by adding sodium carbonate (Na2CO3) (washing soda or soda ash) which reacts with these dissolved salts to form insoluble carbonates that can be removed by filtration and then water becomes soft ...


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