Millions of Americans carry reusable water bottles to work, to school and to the gym every day. We know the myriad health benefits of staying hydrated, as well as the environmental concerns of single-use plastic bottles.
In fact, the reusable water bottle industry accounts for $8 billion in sales in 2018.
The problem is, reusing your reusable bottle without properly cleaning and disinfecting it can literally make you sick. Who hasn’t sipped the last drop from their bottle, only to refill it and move on with their day?
But, every time you take a swig, you’re putting germs into and on the bottle. And then they grow and multiply, even if you can’t see them, those bacteria are there.
One study tested the mouthpiece on 12 waters bottles that hadn’t been washed in a week. The average water bottle had 313,499 colony forming units (CFU—a measure used to estimate the number of viable bacteria or fungal cells in a sample).
A dog’s bowl has 47, 383 CFU—more than six times less than an average water bottle. In other words, it’s safer to lick your dog’s bowl than to put your lips on an unwashed water bottle! (Is anyone else grossed out right now?)
Why Water Bottles Can Make You Sick
The closed, moist environment of a water bottle is the perfect breeding ground for bacteria and mold—even e.coli in the worst cases. Ingesting these baddies can cause a range of symptoms from nausea and vomiting to diarrhea.
And, the warm days of summer can accelerate the growth of bacteria and mold.
When choosing a water bottle, opt for a stainless steel one if you can. Plastic bottles are popular, but the plastic can crack and chip over time, and every tiny little crevice is an attractive abode for creepy crawlies like bacteria and mold.
Stainless steel is strong and durable, easy to clean, and naturally antibacterial.
Design Makes a Difference
The study that measured the number of bacteria on unwashed bottles used four different types of bottles: slide top, screw top, straw top and squeeze top. It turns out, the design of the top and mouthpiece does make a difference!
Surprisingly, the straw-type water bottle had the least amount of bacteria. This is because water slides back down the straw. The other designs each allow water to collect near the mouthpiece, making it a great home for bacteria.
Keep It Clean
If your water bottle cleaning routine is little more than a rinse—after all, it only had water in it, right?—then think again.
Any additives like vitamin drops or powders, or even a bit of fruit juice, can leave residues that attract more bacteria.
Likewise, no matter how much we don’t like to think of “backwash”—the fact is, we do get our saliva all over the mouth of the bottle and down into the bottle itself. All of which can feed bacteria.
The best way to ensure that your water bottle delivers hydrating health benefits instead of creepy bacteria, is to clean and disinfect your bottle every night. Here are some tips to keep your water bottle fresh and bacteria free:
1. Wash your water bottle and all its components thoroughly with warm, soapy water.
2. Use a specially-designed straw brush to clean any straws or tubing in the water bottle.
3. Allow the water bottle, cap, and straw to air dry.
4. If your water bottle is dishwasher safe, run it through the dishwasher on the highest setting, or look for a “sanitizing” setting on your machine.
5. For extra disinfecting power, fill the water bottle with a 50/50 solution of white vinegar and hot water and allow to sit overnight, rinsing well in the morning.
6. If there’s any odor or slimy build-up on the interior walls of your bottle, add a solution of hydrogen peroxide diluted with a bit of water, close the bottle and shake it vigorously. Then thoroughly clean it with one of the above recommendations.
Choose a cleaning method that works for you, and make it part of your evening clean-up routine. Then your water bottle will do what it’s supposed to: help keep you hydrated and healthy!