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? Commented Jul 1, 2011 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
    Commented Jul 2, 2011 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
    Commented Sep 7, 2011 at 7:22

15 Answers 15


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

Cheap and very effective.


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
    Commented Jul 6, 2011 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.

  • 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
    Commented Sep 7, 2011 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. Commented Sep 19, 2014 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
    Commented Sep 22, 2014 at 15:44
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    @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. Commented Sep 23, 2014 at 1:12
  • @CareyGregory: Sorry, but it's not that simple. Bacteria do grow even in plain drinking water. There are many studies, e.g. Bacterial regrowth in drinking water. IV. Bacterial flora in fresh and stagnant water in drinking water purification and in the drinking water distribution system. Whether the growth is enough to make you sick is another question, but you can't dismiss it just like that.
    – sleske
    Commented Apr 5, 2018 at 7:28

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
    Commented Dec 2, 2014 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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    I assume you probably want to freeze them without water inside, to prevent them from cracking.
    – Benzo
    Commented Mar 15, 2017 at 14:32

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.

  • Depending on how you drink - Mouth blowback into the bottle can provide enough starter for mold to form.
    – Criggie
    Commented Apr 3, 2018 at 23:04
  • Rinse at the end of the ride. Store upside-down with the cap open.
    – EvilSnack
    Commented Apr 4, 2018 at 2:37

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


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.

  • When I finish my daily ride, I hang the bike upside down in the garage with the open water bottle in its cage. I only use water. If I've left a used partial bottle closed for a day, I will rinse it with diluted Clorox. No problems.
    – Steve
    Commented Dec 27, 2016 at 18:02

For cleaning my bottles in the worst case scenario, mud/dirt/grit on the outside, drink mix on the inside and then left for days my car to get funky after a ride.

  • Rinse bottle outside and inside with tap water.
  • Use a soft sponge or rag with some dish soap the outside of the bottle to remove any stubborn mud. A little Friction is necessary.
  • Foam bottle brush, not one with rigid bristles, with some dish soap. Ensure this removes any and all residue from sports drink from the inside of the bottle. Some bottles, like the specialized purist bottles, have a special coating to keep water tasting good and prevent gunk from building up. A rigid bristle brush can damage this lining. Can also use a towel (I would prefer to use a microfiber towel that would not scratch bottle lining) wrapped around a spoon to get down inside if you don't have a good foam bottle brush.
  • Clean cap thoroughly. Try and get a brush or sponge around the whole area. Some bottles allow you to remove the nozzle for detailed cleaning. If you can't remove the nipple try and fill bottle with water and spray through the nozzle to force any dirt / debris out after cleaning.
  • (Optional) If your bottle is dishwasher safe, then wash in dishwasher, no heated dry cycle, preferably on top rack. Don't use super heated sanitize cycle. I still have to make sure to scrub inside and outside if I have mud or sports drink residue, because the dishwasher sometimes can't get some of the hard stuck on stuff off the plastic bottle.
  • Let air dry on dish rack. Don't put away until it's completely dry. Be sure the cap is totally dry as well. You don't want any water inside the bottle if you seal it up before putting it away.

It's easier to keep your bottle clean if you only use water and never any additives / sports drinks. It's more work to keep bottles clean if you use sports drinks / electrolyte mixes / nutrition drinks while on the bike. That's not always practical. Though, You'll have the best results either way if you clean bottles immediately after riding.

I treat bottles as a consumable, like your chain. Use them until they become difficult to keep clean, retain any noticeable smells, or become too damaged/worn from use. I typically keep bottles for about two years, but YMMV.


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. Commented Aug 6, 2011 at 11:51

My bottle insert says "do not expose to bleach or other cleaning chemicals."

It also says "cold only do not use hot water.cold liquids only.no chlorine, cooking, microwave, or FREEZING" so please do not freeze plastic water bottles.

It also says "do not soak or submerge"

This is just a 1 piece plastic bottle and one piece cap simple bottle from the manufacturer h2go impact.

  • I bet your bottle is an insulated one rather than a cheap plastic bidon. They are for water only, and strangely the bottom doesn't like to be washed.
    – Criggie
    Commented Jul 27, 2016 at 19:55
  • Also, the no freezing one is about splitting the bottle because ice expands. I have a couple of icecube ball molds that are just small enough to go through the mouth. So I add ice that way, and use chilled water too. Keeps the liquid cool for hours in the heat.
    – Criggie
    Commented Jul 27, 2016 at 19:57

If a bottle gets to the point where it smells or tastes unpleasant, the steriliser/cleaner sold for home brewing works really well. IT's meant for use on a wide range of plastics. Mix with warm water, soak for a few minutes with a bit of shaking, then squirt out through the mouthpiece. Rinse well with fresh water. It works well on hydration bladders (though the instructions for the bladder may say not to; they'd like you to throw it away and buy a new one).

  • I don't know what's in it but it also deals with stinky gloves quite well (a second use when you tip it out of your water bottle)
    – Chris H
    Commented Mar 13, 2017 at 16:03
  • I didn't think of this. I quit brewing and have a surplus of this stuff. I do tend to put some denture cleaning tabs in my hydration bladder to help keep it clean (though it does tend to leave a minty aftertaste).
    – Benzo
    Commented Mar 15, 2017 at 14:29

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


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
    Commented Apr 3, 2013 at 9:19
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    Also explain how this doesn't damage the plasic. Commented Apr 3, 2013 at 10:59

It would seem that some of us here (with regard to water bottles) are troglodytes while others are more like Monk (as in the tv series). If water is the only fluid used in the bottle, there isn't much need of frequent bottle washes. I wash mine once every 2 months,, or 3 months,,, or, maybe it's 4. When washing, just add a couple of drops of detergent, shake, swish with a bottle brush, rinse thoroughly, refill & go. When not in use, it is better for bottle to remain filled with water than partially filled. Worst thing is to leave bottle in a warm environment while containing very little water ... this quickly leads to mold growth. If something other than water is used for hydration, once back home, if you can't wash bottles right away, empty the bottle(s) & rinse until they can be washed. (to those suggesting the use of a dishwasher, well, in my case, I AM the dishwasher)

  • Suggest removing the first line. Its not adding anything to the otherwise good answer.
    – Criggie
    Commented Apr 3, 2018 at 23:07
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    I may need to revise my position. Just saw this while checking weather.. accuweather.com/en/weather-news/…
    – Malarky
    Commented Apr 4, 2018 at 17:25

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