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How to Clean Water Bottle

Dec 17, 2023Dec 17, 2023

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Here’s what you need to do to keep it clean and mold-free for a long time.

Sticky sweet sports drinks and hydration tablets can turn your cycling water bottles into incubators for bacteria and mold that increasingly lingers with every ride. At best, your drink will begin to taste terrible and discourage you from hydrating enough on your ride, and at worse, you may experience an upset stomach or nausea (or even an allergic reaction to the mold!).

To learn more about how to clean a water bottle, we sat down with Ryan Jones, director of bottle development and operations at Specialized, and Seth Beiden, former marketing manager at CamelBak. Check out their expert tips below to keep your bottles fresh and clean and in good shape for years of use.

Just as you would for a regular drinking glass, you should wash your bottle after every ride. Even if you only drink water, you’re still leaving sweat and possibly bits of whatever you’re eating on the lid as you ride and drink, according to Beiden (not to mention any dust or debris that likely coats the outside of the bottle). At the very least, rinse your used bottle out.

Also, it’s important to know when to dispose of your water bottle. Despite all the best intentions, sometimes a bottle doesn’t get cleaned frequently or thoroughly enough and mold grows inside. Jones suggests that you visually inspect the your bottle’s interior, and if you can’t relatively easily remove all mold with warm, soapy water and a brush, it’s time to sustainably get rid of the bottle.

Rinsing bottles by hand with warm water and soap is the best way to clean them out after rides, according to Jones. Any general, all-purpose liquid soap will do the job.

Sure, it’s easier to toss your bottles into the dishwasher, but the water temperatures in most dishwashers are near boiling. Such heat commonly deforms many types of plastic goods and kitchen utensils, and it can degrade your bottles more quickly over time.

A simple, long-handled bottle brush, available at most department or kitchen stores, will help you clean deep inside large bottles or those with narrow openings. Some scrubbing with a brush cleans sticky residues more easily and thoroughly and better removes mold than rinsing alone.

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Jones cautions though that Specialized’s Purist water bottles should not be cleaned with an abrasive brush or sponge, as that could damage the specially designed inner liner. “Purist technology prevents the migration of any and all materials between bottle and beverage—this includes the elimination of beverages migrating into the material of the bottle,” he says.

If you have to resort to harsh cleaners, it’s probably time to toss the bottle into the recycling bin. Jones notes that bleach in particular is a harsh chemical you may want to avoid putting into your bottle. If you don’t rinse enough, the bleach could contaminate your water next time you fill up the bottle.

“If someone who is sick uses your bottle, a warm, soapy rinse should be enough to take care of any germs,” says Jones.

It’s also worth trying cleaning tablets designed specifically for cleaning water bottles and hydration bladders, especially for bottles that seem almost too far gone. Bicycling’s photographer Trevor Raab swears by Bottle Bright’s cleaning tablets—they’ve brought new life to many dingy (but beloved) bottles, like in the images above. These tablets are also safe to use on Specialized’s Purist water bottles.

When you take a drink, fluid flows through a bottle’s cap, so remember to take care of the lid, too. Beiden suggests that you squeeze some soapy water through each bottle cap. Some bottle designs nowadays have caps that can be disassembled to facilitate easier cleaning of every nook and cranny, like CamelBak’s Podium Chill bike bottle.

Once your bottle is all clean and fully rinsed out (mold tastes bad, but so does soap), it’s important to let it completely dry out before storing it away, especially if you store it with the cap on. Letting a wet bottle sit will just allow bacteria to grow all over again.

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