The Most Effective Way to Keep Your Water Bottle Clean (and your Sport Cap)

When you catch yourself staring into your water bottle trying to figure out what you're looking at… it's time to clean your bottle. To make sure your bottle is free of germ, we're going to explain how to clean your reusable water bottle.

The best part of using a reusable water bottle is that it's an eco-friendly practice that benefits you and the environment. But just because you're trying to be more green doesn't mean you want anything green growing in your bottle.

A bad odor isn’t the only indication of a dirty water bottle. Bacteria grows in a moist, dark environment, so it's good to get in the habit of cleaning your bottle each day — or at least every few days. 

girl looking at her water bottle to see if it's clean

Bacteria in your reusable bottle

A warm, moist environment can be the perfect environment for bacteria to grow.

The thought of bacteria growing in your water bottle might send you into hysteria, but not all bacteria are harmful to your health. Some bacteria, such as the probiotics found in yogurt and kombucha, are actually good for you. Then there are other varieties of bacteria that won't have any effect on your health.

A 2005 study discovered several different types of bacteria living in noncarbonated bottled mineral water within three weeks of bottling. However, the study concluded that none of these bacteria were harmful. 

Of course, some bacteria can be harmful to your health. Knowing how and where bacteria grows best is one of the best ways to prevent it. Bacteria form colonies better when they can attach so they can multiply. The smooth, flat part of the bottle doesn't provide a good home for bacteria. However, the threads on the mouthpiece of your bottle provide a perfect place for bacteria to grow. 

So how do you prevent bacteria from making a home on your metal water bottle?

couple holding reusable water bottles

Tools to use to clean your bottle

Before we get into the methods of cleaning your water bottle, let’s cover a few utensils you can use to remove particles or build up.

- Nylon fiber bristle brushes
- Natural fiber bristle brushes
- Standard sponge

    Substances to clean your bottle

    And here are a few substances you can use to clean your bottle:

    - Baking soda
    - Bleach
    - Dish soap
    - Hydrogen peroxide
    - White vinegar 

      man carrying steel water bottle

      How to clean your water bottle with bleach

      Some people are strongly opposed to the use of bleach. This is mostly due to the corrosive nature of bleach and its ability to damage stainless steel and plastics. It also removes color (and sometimes you don’t want this).  

      In spite of this, 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.

        man taking drink from metal water bottle

        Cleaning your bottle without bleach

        The safest and least abrasive method to cleaning your bottle is to use one of the following methods: straight white distilled vinegar or making a paste with baking soda and water.

        How to clean your water bottle with vinegar:

        This all-natural cleaner is great for killing certain germs and bacteria, and also removes stains. 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.

          How to clean your water bottle with 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.

            How to clean your water bottle with hydrogen peroxide or dish 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.


            Note: Our stainless steel water bottles are not dishwasher safe.

            Does hot water work to remove germs from your water bottle?

            Every once in a while a customer will ask if pouring boiling water from a kettle into their water bottle will remove germs.

            Boiling water will kill some germs, but it doesn’t completely sanitize a bottle. Consider the method for sanitizing a water bottle and the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) recommended method of sanitizing water. “[They] recommend boiling the water for at least 1 minute, at altitudes up to 5,000 feet to reliably kill bacteria and pathogens to make water potable.”

            Hot water won’t kill most bacteria, but it will help clean your bottle. Hot water combined with one of the previous solutions will work together to break down oils and grime. Hot water makes the solution or compounds you use more effective.

            Cleaning the Elemental Sport Cap

            Due to the design of the Elemental Sport Cap, we don’t recommend using bleach. We would prefer you to choose between vinegar or dish soap. With either solution, use the following method:

            1. Rinse your Sport Cap with hot water.
            2. Use a small brush (i.e. pipe cleaner) to clean out the straw and mouthpiece (Note: If you don’t have a pipe cleaner available, you can also run both the straw and mouthpiece under water for 30 seconds.)
            3. For vinegar: If you’re using vinegar, dilute 1-2 tablespoons of the vinegar with a cup of water. Let the cap and straw sit in the solution for 10 minutes. For dish soap: Let the cap and straw sit in hot, soapy water for 10 minutes.
            4. Rinse the bottle until the odor of vinegar is gone or the soap is completely removed.
            5. Let the cap and straw air dry.


              If you want to keep your water bottle clean and free of germs, maintenance is key. Remember, a bad-smelling water bottle isn’t the only indication that your bottle needs a cleaning. Bacteria grows in a moist, dark environment, so get in the habit of cleaning your bottle at least every few days. Be green in your habits, not in what you grow inside your bottle.

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