An infectious disease physician dishes the dirt on water bottles.
Here's a curious thing about modern humans. We went for most of history without needing to carry a bottle of water around with us everywhere we went. But now, many of us find it hard to manage without constant and immediate access to hydration. Since the rise of the now-ubiquitous single-use water bottle in the 1970s, we've become unusually attached to portable water. Now that plastic water bottles have become such an untenable source of pollution, at least we're seeing the light and increasingly moving on to reusable versions.
The only thing is, unlike a water glass at home that gets washed on a somewhat regular basis, the water bottle may get a bit neglected in the washing department. I mean, it's filled with water, how dirty can it get?Writer Hana Asbrink at Food52 wondered the same thing and decided to explore the question of how often one should wash their reusable water bottle. She reached out to Dr. Brian Chow, an infectious disease physician at Tufts Medical Center, who told her:
"Ideally once per day. Or have a few bottles that you rotate through, and clean them all at once."
Of the bacteria found on bottles, his take is similar to what I discovered when writing about whether or not day old water is safe to drink:
"They are bacteria that live in our mouth and throat that our bodies know, and they don’t make us sick. However, if you share bottles with someone else, they may not be used to your bacteria or viruses. The germs that cause strep throat, mononucleosis, colds and the flu, and even bacterial meningitis can be spread by sharing bottles."
That said, if you are not washing your bottle daily, don't fret. "In most cases, people with healthy immune systems will be okay going a day or two between washing bottles," says Chow ... as he goes on to explain that actually, there are germs everywhere that can end up on your bottle that you then drink out of. Thus:
"A quick wash and scrub at the end of the day and letting the bottle dry overnight is an easy step to keep you healthy while you stay hydrated."
"Water that is hot to the touch is best," says Chow. "While it may not kill all the germs directly, it does help dissolve the residue that allow germs to live on plastic and metal. Using soapy water and a scrub brush are as important (this removes the dirt and grime), and also dislodges the germs if they are stuck to the bottle."
At my house we rinse all the water bottles in hot water at the end of the day and let them dry over night, and we seem to have survived, and without too many bouts of illness. That said, I may now start introducing some dish soap and a scrub brush every once in a while.
Importantly, check with the maker of your bottle to see what they advise for washing. Some can take the dishwasher, many can not. I did a little digging on some popular brands, which you can read below.
You’re going to want to start by rinsing out the bottle and bottle top with hot water after every use. Leave open to dry and always store with the top off.
Our best tip is to fill your SIGG halfway with hot water. But be sure to be careful because the bottle can heat up quickly. Add one teaspoon of unscented dish soap and shake. Let sit for a few minutes then rinse with lukewarm water until the soapy water runs clear.
Remember to always make sure that the lip of the bottle is thoroughly cleaned in the same way as the bottle as this is the part that comes in the most contact with your mouth.
S'well products should be cleaned regularly—we recommend washing your bottle with warm water and soap after every use and drying and storing it with the top off. Our S’well Bottle Brush is a great tool to ensure your bottle stays thoroughly clean. Avoid submerging your bottle and cap in water for long periods of time as this will interfere with the vacuum seal. S'well bottles are NOT dishwasher safe! Running a S’well through the dishwasher can cause paint to chip and the vacuum seal to become ineffective. After washing your S'well, we recommend that you dry your beverage container by airing it out upside down and storing it with the lid off. This will help keep your S’well looking and smelling fresh.
Hand-wash with warm, soapy water or wash on the top-rack of your dishwasher. Do not remove the sleeve. Store with the cap off. Cap: Hand-wash only. Do not place in the dishwasher.
Cleaning Vacuum Insulated Stainless Steel Vessels: The Chute, eddy and KickBak stainless steel vessels can be easily cleaned with a bottle brush using warm water and mild soap.
Bottle caps, spout caps, tethers and bite valves can all be cleaned in the top rack of the dishwasher or by hand with warm, soapy water. Remove the cap, spout cap, tether or bite valve from the vessel before washing.
For a deeper cleaning, add a drop of mild soap or tablespoon of bleach to a clean glass jar filled with water. Drop the bite valve, straw and cap into the solution, and tightly close the jar’s lid. Shake the mixture around for 30 seconds, and then let the parts soak for about 15 minutes. Rinse and shake dry.