How to Clean a Water Bottle

Product Care

Your unwashed, reusable water bottle is a breeding ground for bacteria, viruses and mould. Here's how to clean your water bottle.

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


  • Washing-up liquid
  • Dry cloth or paper towel
  • Cotton bud
  • Distilled white vinegar
  • Bleach
  • Bicarbonate of 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 cleaning. But if you've been neglecting your water bottle for a while, you may need to start with a more thorough sanitisation 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 that 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 washing-up liquid 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 washing-up liquid and warm water. If your water bottle has a plastic bite valve, use a cotton bud 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 washing-up liquid to a pipe cleaner or straw brush to get inside the straw.
  3. If the straw has a strange smell and washing-up liquid isn't doing the trick, add a little bit of bicarbonate of soda.
How to Clean a Water Bottle

How to Sanitise Your Water Bottle Thoroughly

If your water bottle is already mouldy or you've been skipping daily cleaning, you might need to sanitise 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 washing-up liquid and water to remove any lingering vinegar taste.
  2. 2.Bleach With Bicarbonate of Soda

    This method will work best for mould or mildew:

    1. Add 1 teaspoon of bleach and 1 teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda to your water bottle and fill it with cold water.
    2. Mix another teaspoon of bleach with a teaspoon of bicarbonate of 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 odour, 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 that you wash it with warm water and washing-up liquid 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 mould. Hand-washing with washing-up liquid 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 sanitise it with white vinegar or bleach.

Can Mould in a Water Bottle Make You Sick?

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

Originally published: 30 November 2021

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