How to Clean a Water Bottle

Product Care

Your unwashed, reusable water bottle is a breeding ground for bacteria, viruses and mold. Here’s how to clean it.

Last updated: January 5, 2022
5 min read
How to Clean a Water Bottle
Time Required
5 min
Estimated Cost


  • Dish soap
  • Dry cloth or paper towel
  • Cotton swab
  • Distilled white vinegar
  • Bleach
  • Baking soda
  • Water bottle tablets


  • Bottle brush or clean sponge
  • Pipe cleaner or straw brush

During an intense workout, your water bottle is your best friend. Those sips not only provide the hydration your body needs but also the refreshment you need to keep going. Even though you’re only refilling it with water, your reusable stainless steel or BPA-free plastic water bottle isn’t impervious to germs.

A study published in the Journal of Exercise Physiology Online found that 83% of gym goers' used water bottles contained bacteria such as Staph and E.coli, while unused bottles in the control group were uncontaminated.

That’s pretty gross, but it doesn’t mean you should switch to disposable water bottles — you’ll just need to maintain your water bottle hygiene with daily cleanings. But if you’ve been neglecting your water bottle for a while, you may need to start with a more thorough sanitization routine. Here’s what you need to know.

How to Wash Your Water Bottle in the Dishwasher

Many plastic and metal water bottles can be washed in the dishwasher. Check the care instructions, and if your water bottle is dishwasher-safe, use the following instructions:

  1. Place the bottle and lid on the top rack and use the hot water setting.
  2. Also make sure your water bottle goes through the dry cycle, since any remaining moisture will allow bacteria to grow.

How to Hand Wash a Water Bottle

If you have a water bottle that needs to be hand-washed, such as an insulated stainless steel tumbler, here’s what you’ll do:

  1. Add a small amount of dish soap to your bottle and fill it with warm water.
  2. Use a bottle brush or clean sponge to scrub down the interior walls and the lip around the outside of the bottle.
  3. Rinse until the water runs clear.
  4. Dry with a clean cloth or paper towel.

How to Clean Your Water Bottle Lid and Straw

You have two options for washing your water bottle lid and straw:

  • If it’s dishwasher-safe, disassemble all the pieces of your water bottle lid and run them through the dishwasher.
  • Otherwise, hand wash each component with dishwashing soap and warm water. If your water bottle has a plastic bite valve, use a cotton swab dipped in warm, soapy water to clean the inside of the valve, and let it dry before putting the pieces back together. If you’re washing a travel mug lid, remove the rubber seal before cleaning.

A water bottle or tumbler with a reusable straw also requires a little extra TLC.

  1. First, rinse the straw with warm water.
  2. Apply a small amount of soap to a pipe cleaner or straw brush to get inside the straw.
  3. If the straw has a funky smell and soap isn’t doing the trick, add a little bit of baking soda.
How to Clean a Water Bottle

How to Sanitize Your Water Bottle Thoroughly

If your water bottle is already moldy or you’ve been skipping daily cleanings, you might need to sanitize it more thoroughly before your next use. There are a few ways to approach this:

  1. 1.Distilled White Vinegar

    1. Fill your water bottle halfway with vinegar and the rest with cold water.
    2. Put the lid on, shake it gently.
    3. Let the bottle stand overnight.
    4. The next day, wash with soap and water to remove any lingering vinegar taste.
  2. 2.Bleach With Baking Soda

    This method will work best for mold or mildew:

    1. Add 1 teaspoon of bleach and 1 teaspoon of baking soda to your water bottle and fill it with cold water.
    2. Mix another teaspoon of bleach with a teaspoon of baking soda and use the mixture to scrub your water bottle lid with a water bottle brush or clean sponge.
    3. Place the lid on your bottle, shake it gently, and allow it to stand overnight.
    4. Rinse and dry thoroughly in the morning.
  3. 3.Water Bottle Tablets

    For a quick and easy way to remove dirt and odor, purchase water bottle tablets.

    • Typically, you’ll dissolve one of these tablets in your water-filled bottle for 15 to 30 minutes before rinsing, but follow the instructions on the product of your choice.
    • If your water bottle is particularly grimy, you may be able to leave the tablet overnight for a deeper clean.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is It Safe to Wash and Reuse Plastic Water Bottles?

While some research has shown that certain chemicals can leach into your water over time if you reuse disposable plastic water bottles, there’s no indication that these are hazardous to your health.

However, cracks in the bottle from wear and tear are the perfect spots for bacteria to hide. Disposable water bottles also won’t last forever and will end up in a landfill, so you’re better off investing in a reusable water bottle that can be recycled down the road. If you do decide to reuse a disposable plastic water bottle, make sure to wash it with warm water and soap before every refill.

How Often Should You Clean a Metal Water Bottle?

A stainless steel water bottle should be washed daily, since it can quickly become a breeding ground for bacteria, viruses and mold. Hand-washing with soap and water or running it through the dishwasher should be enough to get it clean, but if your water bottle smells, you may need to sanitize it with white vinegar or bleach.

Can Mold in a Water Bottle Make You Sick?

Yes. Some types of mold are toxic to humans and can cause respiratory problems, and you won’t be able to identify the type of mold growing in your bottle. A smelly water bottle is a sign of mold spores, even if you can’t see them. To avoid getting sick, wash your water bottle with warm water and dishwashing soap every time you use it.

Originally published: November 30, 2021

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