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

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

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.

Directions

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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Bryce Gruber
As Home Editor, Bryce Gruber is an expert in gift ideas, shopping, and e-commerce at Reader's Digest. You've likely seen her work across a variety of women's lifestyle and parenting outlets and on TV shows. She lives and works in New York's Hudson Valley with her five small children.