How to *Actually* Clean a Water Bottle

If you’re someone who keeps a close eye on your overall health and wellness, you’re probably conscious of how much water you drink on a daily basis. Water is one of the most basic human necessities and something we should be getting in adequate amounts. 

One of the best ways to ensure you’re getting the 15.5 cups per day for men and about 11.5 cups for women is by carrying around a reusable water bottle. Not only can reusable water bottles help you maintain healthy hydration status, but they’re also better for the environment and are cost-effective.

Unfortunately, reusable water bottles can also harbor an alarming amount of bacteria—potentially more than the average toilet seat—if they’re not cleaned properly. Without proper sanitization of reusable water bottles, bacteria, germs, and other harmful microorganisms grow and accumulate. Read on to learn how to properly (and safely) clean your water bottle.

The Importance of Cleaning Reusable Water Bottles

Proper cleaning helps eliminate potential sources of contamination that may come into contact with the bottle, such as germs from the gym or residue from supplements or protein powders, explains Taylor Kuhlmann, DPT, CSCS, a physical therapist, certified strength and conditioning specialist, and founder of HighCaliber Health.

“When you neglect to regularly clean a reusable water bottle, these germs and particles can linger, increasing the risk of illness or infection, such as diarrhea, respiratory infections, nausea, vomiting, rashes, and foodborne illnesses, when consuming water from the bottle,” says Kuhlmann. “Furthermore, the residue from supplements or protein powders left inside the bottle can create an environment that supports bacterial growth, which can not only compromise the cleanliness of the water but also contribute to unpleasant odors and tastes.” 

Over time, when a reusable water bottle is continuously used without proper cleaning, this accumulation of bacteria and germs can lead to a foul-smelling odor that not only indicates bacteria growth but also makes drinking from the water bottle quite unappealing. 

Cleaning Supplies and Materials

In order to wash your water bottle effectively, it helps to make sure you’re armed with the right cleaning supplies and materials. Here’s what you should have on hand, according to experts. 

Bottle Brush 

To effectively clean any type of bottle, especially stainless steel, you should be using a brush specifically designed to sneak into all the nooks and crannies. A bottle brush should have a long handle that allows for easy maneuvering inside the bottle so that dirt and debris can be effectively cleaned, explains David Seitz, MD, medical director at Ascendant Detox

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Dish Soap

Dish soap is designed for the products from which you eat and drink, so it’s smart to make sure you’re washing your water bottles with an effective product that breaks down oils, residues, and contaminants that may accumulate inside the bottle. 


If you’d prefer to skip the dish soap, you can opt to use vinegar instead. Vinegar is a natural cleaning agent that contains antimicrobial properties, so it can accomplish both goals of ridding the water bottle of harmful bacteria and reducing unpleasant odors. Of course, vinegar has its own unpleasant odor, so be sure to rinse the bottle thoroughly after cleaning. 

Baking Soda 

Baking soda is another all-natural option for cleaning your water bottle. Not only can it help clean, but it can also remove stubborn stains or build-up from the inside of the bottle, notes Dr. Seitz.


For the deepest disinfection of a reusable water, you can use bleach. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends a dilution of 2 teaspoons of unscented bleach per 16 cups of water.

“Properly diluted bleach is a powerful antimicrobial agent that effectively kills bacteria, viruses, and fungi,” says Kuhlmann. “After using bleach, rinse the bottle thoroughly to ensure the removal of any residual bleach and maintain the bottle’s safety for use.”

Step-by-Step Cleaning Instructions

Regardless of the material, be it stainless steel, plastic, glass, or silicone, the cleaning process is quite similar for reusable water bottles. Here are step-by-step instructions for cleaning your water bottle properly. 

Step 1: Disassemble All the Pieces

Most reusable water bottles are made up of at least two or three pieces. It’s important to take them all apart so that you can wash each effectively. Be sure to remove the lids, seals, and straws.

Step 2: Rinse With Warm Water

Rinse the bottle and all of its separate pieces with warm, soapy water to remove any debris or residue. For a deep clean, Kuhlmann recommends soaking the bottle and its individual parts in a solution of vinegar and water, allowing the cleaning agents to effectively break down stubborn stains or odors. 

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Step 3: Scrub With a Bottle Brush

Next, you’ll want to use a bottle brush, sponge, or soft cloth dampened with warm soapy water to thoroughly clean the interior of the bottle. Kulmann recommends paying close attention to each and every area and surface. Don’t forget to clean the exterior as well as the interior, as well as address all the crevices or hard-to-reach areas. 

Step 4: Rinse off All the Soap

After you’ve scrubbed, be sure to rinse all parts thoroughly with clean water to remove any soap residue. This will help prevent a soapy taste when you drink from your water bottle after cleansing. 

Step 5: Air Dry

Allow your water bottle to air dry completely before reassembling and storing. This will help maintain the integrity of the product as well as prevent mold and buildup from repopulating quickly. 

Cleaning Hard-to-Reach Areas and Accessories

When cleaning your water bottle, be sure to get into all the nooks, crevices, and small parts, including the lid, straw, or bite valves. This is the most effective way to make sure every surface is properly cleaned and no longer harbors bacteria and germs. 

To clean these components effectively, Kuhlmann suggests first disassembling the accessories according to the manufacturer’s instructions. “For lids, soak the components in warm soapy water and use a brush or sponge to scrub the nooks, crevices, and small parts thoroughly,” he says. “Rinse the components under clean water and allow them to air dry completely before reassembling.”

When cleaning straws, Kuhlmann suggests separating them from the water bottle and using a smaller brush or a pipe cleaner dipped in soapy water to scrub the interior. You can also soak the straw in a solution of equal parts water and white vinegar for deeper cleaning. 

“For bite valves, disassemble them and soak the components in warm soapy water and use a brush or toothbrush to gently scrub the nooks, crevices, and small parts of the bite valve,” says Kuhlmann. “Pay close attention to areas where dirt or residue may accumulate and rinse the components thoroughly under clean water and allow them to air dry completely before reassembling.”

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Can I Throw My Bottle in the Dishwasher?

Many reusable water bottles are not dishwasher-safe. Always refer to the manufacturer instructions to learn whether or not a reusable water bottle can be cleaned in the dishwasher.

Additional Tips for Maintaining Cleanliness

While the above tips will help ensure the cleanliness of your water bottle, there are additional steps you can take as well. 

Rinse After Each Use

Regularly rinsing after each use, even with water only, can help slough off debris that can lead to the buildup of bacteria and odors. When doing this, however, be sure to allow time for the bottle to dry, as Kuhlmann warns that moisture can create a conducive environment for bacterial growth. 

Store Properly

When storing your water bottle, keep the lid off to allow for air circulation and to prevent musty odors, says Kuhlmann. “It’s important to avoid leaving a dirty bottle in a vehicle or locker at the gym, as the combination of heat and moisture can promote bacterial growth and lead to unpleasant smells.”

Check for Mold or Damage

While reusable water bottles are meant to last long-term, there comes a time when the quality may be compromised. For this reason, Kuhlmann suggests regularly inspecting the bottle for signs of wear, damage, or mold growth—especially under the seal and in between crevices. 

“If necessary, replace worn or damaged parts to maintain the bottle’s hygiene and integrity,” explains Kuhlmann. “By following these measures, you can ensure that your reusable water bottle remains clean, fresh, and safe for use over time.”

Follow Manufacturer Guidelines

Most water bottles come with instructions for how to care for the product properly. This usually includes whether or not the item is dishwasher friendly or should be hand washed. Make sure to follow these instructions to ensure the longevity of your reusable water bottle. 

Regularly cleaning your reusable water bottles helps ensure proper hygiene and safe drinking water. Using the right supplies and materials and rinsing properly with the right technique can help you maintain cleanliness and help reduce illness to help you live a healthy and sustainable life.

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