I’m the first to admit: I’m a bit lazy in the kitchen…after I cook, that is. I tend to toss everything into the dishwasher without checking for “dishwasher safe” labels. It’s a bad habit that has now ruined my son’s favorite water bottle — and he’s not very happy about it. And I’m not either now that I’ve finally looked more closely, because it turns out that many reusable bottles are not meant to go in the dishwasher.
So, I finally did some research on the best ways to clean a reusable water bottle and came up with an important tip and three ways to keep them in top-top shape and properly disinfected. Because, as it turns out, that’s an issue too, even if you’re able to put your bottles in the dishwasher — read on.
Related: Why you need to stop cleaning your kitchen sponges right now.
How to clean reusable water bottles: A key tip!
Whether or not your bottle is dishwasher safe, the most important part of cleaning your bottle is how well it dries. See, bacteria grows in wet, dark places. If your bottle never really dries — whether because you didn’t leave it on the drying rack long enough or there’s still some of that dishwasher condensation inside — you’re giving those germs a great environment to grow and multiply. Yuck.
So after you wash, be patient and let that bottle dry completely. It’s important!
How to clean reusable water bottles, version 1: Use white vinegar
If you’re fresh out of your eco-friendly, child-safe, antibacterial cleaning supplies, just use white vinegar. Fill the bottle with a solution of one-part vinegar and four-parts water, give it a good shake, and let it sit overnight. The next morning, give the bottle a good scrub with a bottle brush — something like this all-natural Kleen Kanteen brush or the Oxo one below are great to have on hand — rinse with fresh water, and let it dry completely before refilling. This process will kill most of the germs inside.
I wouldn’t recommend this method if a cold or the flu has been going around your house, but for regular everyday use, vinegar can get your bottle clean enough to make the rounds.
How to clean reusable water bottles, version 2: Use denture tablets
Add Polident tabs to your next grocery list, because these tablets can be dropped inside a filled water bottle for about 30 minutes (or, according to the package directions) to clean out the germs building up in there. Then, empty it out, rinse, and dry completely. Done and done!
How to clean reusable water bottles version 3: Use boiling hot water
If you have a vacuum-sealed, stainless-steel water bottle that will hold hot drinks for a long time — like a Yeti, S’well, or Kleen Kanteen — you can clean it by pouring in boiling hot water and sealing it overnight. The water will remain hot and kill the germs inside. Just be careful opening it back up so that steam doesn’t burn you or the kids. Then, give your bottle a good scrub with a bottle brush and some soapy water the next morning, let it dry, and voila, you’re sanitized and ready to go.
Okay, all of these things seem to be about cleaning the bottle. But what about the spout and nozzle, the parts that actually touch our mouths and thus, one would imagine, would have the most germs? How to get those tube-y parts clean? I just got a few of those bottles that have misters and they say not to put them in the dishwasher, but I have been because, boiling?!?!! Is there a better way?!
Heather!! Great question! The nozzles are usually pretty easy to hand wash — ie, you can reach all the parts — and our straws are mostly dishwasher safe. We focused on the bottle because so many are not dishwasher safe (contrary to what we thought!) and how do you get all the dark nooks and crannies in there?! But now you’re blowing our minds with the tube-y things and straws not being dishwasher safe. Gah! Yes, to boiling (like we did in the baby days, right?). I bet you can do the denture tablet/water solution thing for hard plastic straws. It shouldn’t be so complicated… right? Oh, parenthood!
I use the super skinny brushes that are meant for bottle nipples and bottle parts and they are the perfect size for the straws and tube-y parts.
What if your child is using the bottle daily and it’s their only one? Seems th suggestion is leave it over night and let air dry after. Doesn’t seem practical for that.
I accidentally bought the wrong Polident. I accidentally picked up the “Smokers daily cleanser.”
There are also bottle cleaning tablets made specifically for this purpose. “Bottle Bright” is one brand. They remove stains and odors as well as killing germs. I hike a lot; backpack water bladders are hard to completely dry afterwards, so they are very prone to mold growth. They are also hard to clean, especially the narrow drinking tube; effervescent tablets do the trick.