How to Get Reusable Water Bottles Clean

cleaning water bottle

Reusable water bottles are a great way to reduce waste and save money, but getting them clean can be a hassle. To prevent bacteria growth and protect your family's health, use the best cleaning method for your bottle type and material.

Cleaning Techniques for Bottle Materials

How you clean your water bottle depends very much on the material of the product. Keep these tips in mind for cleaning each material.

Stainless Steel and Aluminum

According to Shape Magazine, stainless steel and aluminum bottles are less likely to harbor harmful bacteria than their plastic counterparts. This is due to the durability of the material. While plastic or polycarbonate bottles can be scratched or cracked, this is less likely with metal. Bacteria can live in these tiny cracks and scratches, compromising your health.

If you have a metal bottle, keep these cleaning tips in mind:

  • If your stainless steel or aluminum bottle doesn't have a painted design, you may be able to wash it in the dishwasher. Check the manufacturer's care instructions to be sure.
  • Use mild soap and water to hand wash your bottle. After rinsing, place it opening-down in a dish drainer to dry.
  • Never bleach a stainless steel bottle, since the chlorine in the bleach can corrode the metal.


Plastic water bottles are durable and inexpensive, and they come in a wide array of beautiful colors. However, this material is actually prone to taking on an odor, especially when it isn't cleaned properly. Keep these tips in mind to make sure your plastic water bottle gets clean:

  • Always wash and dry your plastic bottle immediately after using it.
  • If your bottle care instructions don't prohibit the dishwasher, this is a good way to sanitize your bottle.
  • Don't store your plastic bottle with the cap on after cleaning it, since this can trap water vapor inside the bottle and cause bacteria growth.
  • If your bottle develops an odor, REI recommends filling the bottle with water and adding a teaspoon each of baking soda and bleach. Then let the bottle soak overnight and clean and dry it as usual.


Although it isn't as popular a material as stainless steel and plastic, glass is a good choice for a bottle that's easy to clean. Although it is breakable, glass isn't permeable like plastic. It's less likely to scratch as well. Follow these tips to clean your glass water bottle:

  • Almost all glass water bottles are dishwasher safe, making them easy to sanitize in this way.
  • If you're hand washing your bottle, use soap and water and allow it to dry thoroughly.
  • You can use a weak bleach solution to sterilize your bottle.

How to Clean Water Bottles of Different Styles

The style of your water bottle will also affect how you get it clean. Some designs are easier to clean than others, so if you're in the market for a new bottle, this may be something to consider.

Wide-Mouthed or Open-Bottom Designs

Wide-mouthed water bottles with a large drinking opening are some of the easiest to clean well. You can also easily clean bottles that have a bottom that unscrews. To get your wide-mouthed or open-bottom bottle really sterile, perform the following steps:

  1. Remove the cap and soak it in warm, soapy water. Use a cloth to clean around the edges of the cap.
  2. If the bottle is dishwasher safe, clean it in the dishwasher. If not, use warm, soapy water to clean the entire bottle, using a dish wand to reach the bottom. Be sure to clean the "shoulder" area of the bottle near the mouth.
  3. Rinse the bottle and cap thoroughly. Place them in a drainer to dry, making sure air can circulate around them.
  4. Store your bottle with the cap off.

Narrow-Mouthed Designs

Some water bottles have a narrow drinking opening or mouth. This can make them challenging to get really clean, since reaching the inside of the bottle isn't easy. Simply swishing soapy water in the bottle won't get it clean, especially if you had a liquid other than water in it. Instead, follow these steps:

  1. Choose a food-grade cleaning product that doesn't have to be completely rinsed, since it isn't always possible to get all the soap residue out of this type of bottle. Skweet Sport Bottle Wash is a great choice.
  2. Remove the cap and soak it separately. After soaking for a minute or two, use a cloth to clean all the threads or grooves.
  3. You can clean some narrow-mouthed bottles in the dishwasher, but hand-washing is more thorough. Use a bottle brush that's appropriately sized to fit through the opening and reach the bottom and shoulders of the bottle.
  4. Rinse the cap and bottle well and set them to dry where air can circulate.
  5. Always store narrow-mouthed bottles with the cap off.

Water Bottles with Straws

Straws are extremely convenient, allowing you to quickly sip when you're on the go. However, when it's time to wash the bottle, they can seem impossible to clean. Fortunately, with the right tools, you can feel confident that your bottle isn't harboring anything harmful. Follow these steps:

  1. Use a food-grade cleaning product so you don't have to worry about soap residue in the straw. Straws aren't always easy to rinse completely.
  2. Remove the cap and open it up to release the straw. If the straw is separate, take it out and soak it.
  3. Clean the bottle according to the instructions for a narrow- or wide-mouthed design. Set it aside to dry.
  4. Use a long straw-cleaning brush to clean the inside of the straw.
  5. Clean the grooves in the cap, as well as any surfaces. Rinse the cap and straw carefully and set aside to dry.
  6. Always store the bottle with the straw open and the cap off.

Flip-Cap Water Bottles

Similar to a straw, a flip-cap bottle allows you to drink on the go without worrying about spilling. However, the tiny drinking hole can be a pain to clean. Use the following steps to make sure your bottle is sanitized properly:

  1. Remove the cap and let it soak in soapy water while you clean the bottle.
  2. Use the appropriate cleaning method for the mouth size of your bottle. Rinse it well, and set it aside to dry.
  3. Use a soft cloth to clean all the grooves and edges of the cap.
  4. Using a brush designed for baby bottle nipples, such as the Munchkin Bottle and Nipple Brush, thoroughly clean inside the drinking opening.
  5. Thoroughly rinse the cap and set it aside to air dry.
  6. Store the cap with the top flipped off, and always keep the cap off the bottle when you're not using it.

"Green" and Clean

When you take the appropriate steps to make sure your water bottle is clean, you're protecting the health of your family as well as the health of the environment. Some bottles, like a wide-mouthed glass or metal model, are easier to clean than others, but with the proper tools and cleaning procedures, you can keep any bottle clean and ready to use. While you're at it, get some tips on how to clean a thermos too.

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How to Get Reusable Water Bottles Clean