Have you ever pulled your favourite water bottle off your bike, or out from under a car seat, opened it, and been greeted by an off-putting waft of stale air? Or worse, a film of gross smelling … “stuff.”
Water bottles are one of the few exceptions to carefree summer riding. You don’t need to pack three different jackets or worry about layering strategies. You don’t finish a ride covered in mud. But you absolutely do need to stay on top of keeping your water bottle clean. Warm weather and sugary drink mixes can quickly transform your water bottle into a greenhouse for all sorts of things you don’t want to ingest on your next ride.
The good news is, it’s really easy to keep a water bottle clean. It’s also not that hard to clean one, if you’ve left it a bit too long. Here’s seven ways to keep your water bottle clean this summer.
Rinse after every ride.
This is by far the easiest and most effective way to clean your water bottle and make sure it stays clean. Never give it the chance to get dirty. Rinsing all your bottles the minute you get home from a ride takes so little time that it is easy to make part of your post ride routine.
Rinsing after ever ride is especially important in summer. Dry trails let dust and dirt accumulate on your bottle, mixing in with whatever sports drink you have helping you stay hydrated. That means you have to be careful to clean out the lid and nozzle, not just the container part of your bottles.
Fill your bottle part way, put the lid back on and shake it around to get everything. Then spray all that out to make sure you blast the nozzle clean.
Pro Tip: This is the easiest way to never have to use any of the other four tips.
Soap and water
But if you’ve left remains of your last sports mix in your bottle for a day or more, you should probably wash it. Do this right away, and you can prevent anything from getting too gross. Use a gentle soap, if you have one, but dish soap is fine.
Pro Tip: Don’t procrastinate. The minute a bottle looks gross, clean it. Putting it off makes cleaning exponentially more difficult.
RELATED: How to get your bike really clean
Water bottles have all sorts of hard to reach nooks and crannies. Once you’ve hit the point where you need soap to clean a bottle, it’s a good idea to get in there with a brush as well. Unless you have tiny, Presidential hands or young children you can assign chores to, you’ll probably need some kind of brush to reach all the hard-to-get parts of the lid and reservoir.
Klean Kanteen makes brush sets specifically for bottles, with different shapes. There’s even a brush for getting inside the nozzle, which is always grosser than you think.
Pro Tip: You can get kits for cleaning glass bottles at a kitchen store, or brushes for cleaning test tubes at science supply stores.
Looks fine, right?
Definitely is not fine.
Most nozzles are removable. Clean that sucker out!
Some water bottles are dishwasher safe. If so, this is an easy way to thoroughly wash your bottles. If a bottle doesn’t clearly say so, though, it’s probably not dishwasher safe.
Pro Tip: Do you really need a pro tip to help you operate a dishwasher?
If you’ve really neglected your bottle, whether it still has actual fluid in it or just wasn’t rinsed properly the last time it was used, it’s time to get into the serious cleaning methods. There’s all kinds of small places for gross things to grow on the inside of a water bottle. If you’ve left it for more than a few days, rinsing might not be enough.
A 1:4 ratio of white vinegar and water will help bring your water bottle back to a more pristine state. This DIY solution is cheap and effective. Add the watered down mix to a bottle, shake it around a bunch, and let it sit for a while. A couple hours is good, but longer won’t hurt. Open it up, scrub the bottle down (including the nozzle!) and rinse thoroughly.
Don’t worry, it won’t taste like vinegar after you rinse it out. We blind taste tested two identical bottles, only one of which was cleaned with a vinegar solution, just to be sure.
Pro Tip: Don’t use balsamic vinegar.
HydraPak and Outdoor Products both make a reservoir cleaning tablet specifically for drink reservoirs and water bottles. Drop one in, let it do it’s thing. Then rinse and clean after. Especially handy for bladder type reservoirs for backpacks and hip bags.
Dissolving denture cleaners easily pull double duty to clean out water bottles. If they can keep grandpa’s false teeth clean, they can clean out your water bottle.
Pro Tip: You can clean a bunch of bottles at once by filling a sink and leaving them in there for a few hours – or as long as the product recommends. Overnight works well, so your family / roommates won’t be annoyed with you for monopolizing the sink for hours.
If you can’t Reduce or Reuse, it’s time to Recycle.
Some water bottles are beyond saving. If there’s a solid mold garden growing in there, it might be time to let that water bottle go. If you’re deep in a heavy training block, you’re immune system can be weaker than when you’re fully rested. Adding another potential stress on your immune system may not be your best choice. Of course, if you really take the time, it can still be cleaned. But make sure you get all the dark, hard to reach recesses of that bottle before using it again.