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Obviously a daily wash with washing up liquid and water is a good start... But with all the use a water bottle gets and the mouthpiece being exposed to the elements whilst cycling through who knows what - are there any other steps you take to ensure your water bottles are clean and hygienic?

And a bonus question - do you use the same bottle forever, or do you replace them after a certain period?

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This question is a forum-style post, asking for multiple answers. Perhaps ask for the method that does the best job, or requires the least effort? – Neil Fein Jul 1 '11 at 22:47
Obviously rinse well and dry your bottle after using warm washing up liquid, rinse to get rid of the chemical taste. – Ambo100 Jul 2 '11 at 14:21
Yeesh! Look at answer number 2 with 10 points. Yeesh! Water bottles are the exact same thing as washing dishes! Put them in the dishwasher just like Tom77 says. It's not complicated! – user313 Sep 7 '11 at 7:22

12 Answers 12

up vote 10 down vote accepted

A teaspoon of baking soda and warm water, is your best bet. No nasty after taste at all.

Cheap and very effective.

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Water bottles?? Clean and hygienic?? If you can scrape off the crust of road mud on the spout they're clean enough.

(Actually, I just rinse mine out in very hot tap water, though for a brand new one I'll use a few drops of dish soap to help get rid of the manufacturing oils and the plastic taste. Sometimes for new bottles I'll fill them with hot water and just let sit a few hours, then empty, to get rid of the taste.)

The bottles generally fail in the cap seal or nozzle eventually, at which time I discard them.

[Seriously, I rarely clean water bottles. If one has set over winter half-full of water I'll put a little effort into cleaning out the resulting scum, otherwise I just rinse with hot water occasionally (and never on a week-long bike ride -- just fill and go).]

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As long as the inside is clean, I really don't worry much about how mine looks on the outside. My once white bottle is now mostly black from road dirt. I do wish they just sold the tops though. So much plastic going to waste, even if it is recycled. – Kibbee Jul 6 '11 at 0:28

I wash mine in a dishwasher. Mostly because that requires the least effort.

I've had to replace bottles occasionally, I find that eventually the nozzle on the cap starts to leak.

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Your answer is totally sensible. After many years of throwing bottles into the dishwasher, I have yet to become sick from the water bottle. I guess it could happen?.... – user313 Sep 7 '11 at 7:29
After years of never washing my bottles in a dishwasher, I have yet to become sick from a water bottle. And I very much doubt it could happen unless you're adding more than water to the bottle. – Carey Gregory Sep 19 '14 at 14:07
@CareyGregory or if they sit around for a while - by the time it's been drunk from a few times or sat around open to dry and gather dust the water isn't pure and stuff can breed in it. I'm not saying it will make you sick, but it can taste rather unpleasant. The dishwasher also does a decent job of getting road grime off the nozzle. – Chris H Sep 22 '14 at 15:44
@ChrisH If it's got dust and crud falling in it, then sure, it needs a washing. But a bottle filled with plain water, with the cap on, just really can't grow any significant number of bacteria because there are no nutrients to support them. – Carey Gregory Sep 23 '14 at 1:12

When I'm on a cycling holiday I take a tube of cleaning tablets for false teeth with me. Insert a tablet, fill the bottle with water, let it soak overnight, rinse, done.

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This is also great for hydration bladder packs, as that is my preferred way to keep mine fresh – Benzo Dec 2 '14 at 13:55

Warming and freezing

I was just reading an article about bottle cleaning and although hot water is very good at preventing microbes from thriving, freezing your empty bottles is also effective. Home appliance freezers freeze them slowly which kills microbes as compared to lab microbe freezing which is done very fast just hibernates them.

The other positive side of freezing your bottles is also that they're very cold so they don't warm your cold drinks up for that fraction of degree when filled.

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If you don't have a dishwasher, soak them in a water/bleach solution for a few minutes.

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I'm pretty much in the camp with Dan Hicks. First, I only put water in 'em. Second, when I'm done riding, I pop the top and let 'em air dry.
I can't recall ever having "cleaned" a water bottle, other than during my mountain-biking days when sand, mud, crud, and assorted dead spiders would encrust same. I solved that by going to a hydration pack.

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Most effective for plastic/glass bottles is to leave by a UV lamp for 10-15 min! or if you can get the the UV bulb inside the bottle 1 min is more than enough :)

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May you could explain why this will clean the bottle? Do you have any references? – Uooo Apr 3 '13 at 9:19
Also explain how this doesn't damage the plasic. – Daniel R Hicks Apr 3 '13 at 10:59

Bacteria need nutrients to grow, and plain water doesn't have any. So all that's needed is a rinse with clean water and air drying. There's really no reason for all this sterilization stuff. It accomplishes virtually nothing other than making you feel tidy.

However, if you add stuff to the bottle that contains nutrients, such as sports drinks, then the bottle needs some soap and hot water after each use. Nothing extravagant, just the same level of cleaning you would do for dishes or glassware.

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Hygiene standards can be a very personal point of view. Whatever it takes to enjoy staying hydrated is important to recognize here. For example, the most interesting advice I saw posted for a century ride recently was to place cucumber slices inside your water bottle to counteract the bottle taste. I keep my metal and plastic water bottles clean just as I would with other hand-wash dishes, no extra effort.

Having lived in southern California and toted water bottled thru the desert on extended camping trips, and drank the "salad water" out of metal canteens and plastic jugs in 100F weather...I learned not to worry so much about it.

(I always let my new water bottles soak in a baking soda solution to get the plastic taste out.)

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I occasionally put a few drops of lemon juice in my bottles before a ride. Makes the water taste a bit better warm. Especially helpful if you pick up water along the way that's a bit "off" tasting -- a few drops of lemon helps it quite a bit. – Daniel R Hicks Aug 6 '11 at 11:51

If you have concerns about dirt on mouthpiece, you can get something like this. The cap flips open and you can easily use your teeth to open.

I use something similar to this (not exact) and this is just an image from google to show the idea.

enter image description here

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I am surprised here no one has mentioned sterilizing systems like those used by mothers for their babies. Plastic bidons and other cycling drinking bottles can be fully sterilised using the same techniques as that of a steaming or boiling in water for a few minutes. No soaps, no detergents, no UV rays, etc. The cheapest and easiest way to do this is to fill a pan with water, bring to the boil, place bottles inside, stir them around for a few minutes, then take them out carefully and leave them to drip-dry. Do not put them in direct sunlight, as that will lead to the plastics either melting, warping or causing the materials (different plastics and rubbers on those) around the nozzle to go brittle and crack! Here's a video showing how to do it.

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The cheap plastics used on water bottles become very soft with heat (people squeeze water bottles, babies suck on milk bottles, so they can be stiffer). If you boiled your water bottle, you might end up with permanent shape damage. – RoboKaren Sep 19 '14 at 13:34
@RoboKaren Are you speaking from personal experience, because that has not happened to me in the years I've been doing exactly that. – FandangoAus Sep 20 '14 at 20:50
Yes, especially with the cheap bottles I get from rides. I'm glad you haven't had this problem.. – RoboKaren Sep 20 '14 at 21:21

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