Why does my water bottle smell? And how to get the smell out

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Is your water bottle starting to smell? Well then this is the article for you! We answer all of your questions on cleaning and maintaining water bottles. How often should you clean your water bottle? What should you use to clean your water bottle? We answer all of these questions and more!

How to clean your water bottle

Why does my water bottle smell?

If you have ever left old water in a water bottle for a few days (or weeks? or months?) you will notice that it develops a smell. The smell might be familiar – it is similar to the smell of a damp basement. A water bottle develops a smell when mold and mildew start to grow inside of it. Mold and mildew thrive in dark, damp places so it should come as no surprise that they would grow well in the dark, damp conditions inside of a used water bottle. 

Can you still use a water bottle that smells?

Can you still use a water bottle that smells? The answer to that question is yes, you can still use a water bottle that smells. A smelly water bottle is in no way ruined forever, but you do need to clean the water bottle before you use it! It should come as no surprise that consuming water that has been contaminated with mold and mildew is not good for your health.

What is the best way to clean a water bottle that smells?

The best way to clean a water bottle that smells is by filling it up with white vinegar and letting the vinegar sit for at least an hour. If a water bottle smells, it likely means that mold and mildew are starting to grow inside the water bottle. Mold and mildew do not do well in acidic conditions, and vinegar is very acidic. Afterwards you can rinse the water bottle out with water and let it dry. Make sure to clean around the mouth of the water bottle as well! 

White vinegar is a cheap, natural, abundant cleaning solution, which is why it is our favorite option for cleaning a water bottle!

Other ways to clean a water bottle

How to clean a water bottle with dish soap

You can also clean your water bottle with dish soap. Dish soap is specially formulated to be food safe so it is okay to use it to clean your water bottle. I will warn you that soap works better for cleaning stainless steel water bottles than plastic water bottles. Dish soap can leach into the walls of some plastic water bottles and cause the water bottle to taste soapy for a few days after the deep clean. This is why I prefer to use vinegar. 

How to clean a water bottle with salt

Saltwater is an antiseptic, which means that it kills germs and bacteria. It should come as no surprise that salt water can be used to clean a water bottle. Simply dissolve 1 tbsp of salt in 2 cups of water and fill your water bottle with this solution. Let it sit overnight. Shake the bottle occasionally to make sure the salt is still suspended in the water. 

I will warn that if your water bottle has a smell, salt water does not remove the smell as efficiently as vinegar does. This is why I generally prefer to use vinegar to clean my water bottle.

How to clean a water bottle with hydrogen peroxide

You can also clean your water bottle with hydrogen peroxide. Just dump about a quarter of a cup of hydrogen peroxide into your water bottle, put the cap on, and shake it up a little. Hydrogen peroxide acts a little faster than vinegar so you only need to let it soak for about 10 minutes. I find that hydrogen peroxide cleans just as well as vinegar, but I prefer vinegar because it is cheaper and more readily available. 

Cleaning your water bottle in the dishwasher

This is one of the easier methods for cleaning a water bottle. Simply pop it in the dishwasher on the top rack. Not all water bottles are dishwasher safe, so make sure you check whether your water bottle is dishwasher safe before putting it in the dishwasher.

I will warn you that dish soap can leach into the walls of plastic water bottles and make your water taste slightly soapy for a few days. This may or pay not happen depending on the type of plastic your water bottle is made of and the type of dish soap you use, but it is something to be aware of.

Why we do not recommend using bleach

I commonly see websites suggest using bleach to clean water bottles. It should come as no surprise that bleach is not healthy to ingest. I avoid cleaning anything I am going to be putting food or drinking water in with bleach. 

How often should you clean your water bottle?

How often do you need to clean your water bottle? First let’s distinguish between a rinse and a deep clean – both of which you should do to your water bottle. You should rinse your water bottle with warm water each day that you use it. You should perform a deep clean with a stronger cleaning solution about once a week. Especially if you are using it daily. If you use your water bottle only a few days a week, you could wait two weeks between deep cleans. 

How do you prevent a water bottle from developing a smell?

There are a few ways to prevent your water bottle from developing a smell in the future. The most important thing you can do to prevent your water bottle from smelling is cleaning it regularly with a cleaning solution. If you use your water bottle daily you should clean it about once a week.

The next most important thing you can do to prevent your water bottle from developing a smell is drying it out between uses and keeping the lid off. Mold and bacteria grow best in cold damp places – such as a closed water bottle with leftover water in it! If you dry your water bottle out between uses it will be much less likely to develop a smell. 

Can a dirty water bottle make you sick?

Yes! A dirty water bottle can absolutely make you sick. That is not to say that you should use a reusable water bottle – reusable water bottles are a great option when used properly. You just need to make sure that you are cleaning your water bottle regularly. 

How to clean your water bottle

How do you clean your water bottle?

Do you have another method for cleaning your water bottle? We would love to hear from you! Leave us a commend detailing your favorite method for cleaning your water bottle. 


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