How to Know Your Water Bottle is Clean

Right now, more than ever, we’re trying to ensure everything is germ-free. You’re using hand sanitizer by the gallon, wearing a breathing mask when you go outside, and washing your hands every time you touch a different surface. Sanitizing, cleaning, wiping off – we’re all taking every necessary precaution to avoid and eliminate as many germs as possible. 

And for those of you using a reusable water bottle or tumbler, you might be wondering, “How do I know if my water bottle (or coffee tumbler) is clean?”

There are many benefits of using a reusable water bottle, but you need to make sure that you keep it clean.

How to know your water bottle is clean

What makes a water bottle dirty?

A reusable bottle or tumbler can be covered in germs even if it doesn’t necessarily look “dirty”. The truth is that bacteria and other germs thrive in a moist environment often facilitated by a reusable water bottle. 

As Iowa State University’s Food Safety explains, “Bacteria can live in hotter and colder temperatures than humans, but they do best in a warm, moist, protein-rich environment that is pH neutral or low acid. Bacteria grow fastest in the temperature range between 41°F (5°C) and 135°F (57°C), which is known as the Temperature Danger Zone or ‘TDZ’.”

How long can bacteria live on a surface?

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Germs and viruses can survive on different surfaces for varying amounts of time. One study reported that SARS-CoV-2 can live on plastic and stainless steel surfaces for up to 72 hours, cardboard for up to 24 hours, and on copper for 4 hours. 

Another recently published study analyzed 22 studies on other SARS and MERS coronaviruses. The researchers found that the viruses survived on metal, plastic, and glass surfaces at room temperature for four to five days, and could persist for up to nine days depending on temperature and humidity.

As Dr. Alicia Kraay, postdoctoral fellow in epidemiology for Emory University has explained, the length of time that viruses can live on surfaces and remain infectious varies greatly by pathogen. For example, the viruses that cause the common cold (rhinovirus) will survive for less than an hour on surfaces. However, others such as the norovirus, a virus that can cause vomiting and diarrhea — can survive for weeks. 

How do I know if my water bottle (or coffee tumbler) is clean?

There are a few questions to ask to know whether your reusable drinking container is clean:

1. Ask yourself, “When was the last time I cleaned it? If it’s been more than a couple of days, there’s a good chance it’s not clean.
2. Is it dry when you store it? If you put it away with moisture still inside this gives bacteria a better chance to grow.
3. Does it look clean? If there’s anything visible on the inside or outside of the bottle or container, there’s a good chance something’s growing inside it.
4. Plastic is much harder to clean than steel. Bacteria grows on plastic especially when it isn’t disinfected properly. Your best bet is to switch to a steel water bottle or tumbler if you’re currently drinking from a plastic one.

    Ways to clean your water bottle or tumbler

    Making sure you clean your water bottle after each use is the best way to protect yourself from this bacteria. Making sure to thoroughly clean your bottle and avoid sharing it with anyone are two of the easiest ways to keep it germ-free. 

    Thoroughly clean it

    In addition to different utensils you might use, there are a few different compounds you can use to clean your bottle to ensure you eliminate bacteria.

    Ways to clean it


    Liquid bleach (sodium hypochlorite solution) is often used as a disinfectant. In the pharmaceutical industry, it is used at a 1:10 dilution (one part bleach combined with nine parts water).

    While I wouldn’t recommend utilizing bleach on a regular basis, sometimes you just need to make sure that all the germs are gone – all gone! If you’re concerned about germs, then follow these four simple steps to clean your bottle with bleach:

    The easiest reliable method to sanitize dishes is to use chlorine bleach. Here are the four steps to using bleach to clean your bottle:

    1. Prepare a solution of 1 teaspoon household bleach per gallon of water in a clean sink.
    2. Let the bleach solution sit in the bottle for 5 to 15 minutes.
    3. Rinse the bottle until the odor of bleach is gone completely.
    4. Let the bottle air dry.

      This all-natural cleaner is great for killing certain germs and bacteria. To clean your bottle with vinegar, use the following five steps:

      1. Rinse your water bottle with hot water.
      2. Fill your bottle one-fifth of the way with white vinegar (or dilute 1-2 tablespoons of the vinegar with a cup of water) and fill the rest with water.
      3. Let it sit in your bottle for 10 minutes.
      4. Rinse the bottle until the odor of vinegar is gone completely.
      5. Let the bottle air dry.
        Baking soda and water

        If you’re not a fan of the smell of vinegar, you might consider using baking soda to clean your bottle. To clean your bottle with baking soda, use the following five steps:

        1. Create a paste with baking soda and water.
        2. Apply the paste to the inside of your bottle with the cleaning brush of your choice.
        3. Let the paste sit on the inside wall of the bottle for 15 minutes.
        4. Rinse the bottle with hot water until the baking soda paste is completely removed from the bottle.
        5. Let the bottle air dry.
          Hydrogen peroxide or soap

          If you’re not a fan of vinegar and you don’t have any baking soda lying around, you can also use hydrogen peroxide or mild dish soap. First, rinse the bottle with hot water; apply the peroxide or dish soap; use a brush or sponge to remove any grime or build-up; then rinse the bottle until the solution is completely gone. Then just let the bottle dry.

          Make sure it’s completely dry

          As we previously explained, bacteria thrive in a moist environment. It can be difficult to completely dry a reusable bottle, but there are a couple of tips you can use to help with the process:

          First, you can place a piece of paper towel inside the bottle and shake it to help the piece of paper towel soak up excess water. Secondly, you can use the end of a spatula to move a towel or cloth around the inside to soak up the water. You can also place the bottle upside down on a kitchen utensil with a long handle to ensure extra water drips out and allows it to air out.

          Keep it in a safe place

          That means, keep it in a dry cupboard (or area) away from where a person could sneeze on it or a pet could lick it.


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