How to keep your water bottle germ-free

Simple tips you can use to keep reusable water bottles free from bacteria that can cause foodborne illness.

Reusable water bottles can be a safety hazard if not cleaned properly and regularly.
Reusable water bottles can be a safety hazard if not cleaned properly and regularly.

 My children’s school district allows them to bring water to school and keep it at their desk to help them stay hydrated. However, how safe is it to drink out of that reusable bottle day after day? 

There is a potential for contamination given how regularly reusable bottles are touched by hands that are not always clean and the number of surfaces that the bottles could come into contact with throughout a normal school day. With this in mind, reusable water bottles are a potential food safety hazard.

The more bacteria present in the foods we eat or drink, the greater the chance of developing foodborne illness from those foods. As bacteria multiply and grow our chance of becoming sick grows as well. So whether you leave perishable foods on the counter for long periods of time, pack a lunch without an ice pack or drink from a contaminated water bottle day after day, you run the risk of developing foodborne illness from dangerous bacteria. 

Whether you are sending a reusable water bottle to school with your kids or using one yourself, Michigan State University Extension recommends you consider the tips for the water bottle you use every day.

  • After use, each day, wash your bottle in hot water with a teaspoon of unscented dish soap added. Let it soak for a few minutes, rinse it well using warm water and then allow it to dry completely before the next use.
  • If the bottle is dishwasher safe, run it through your dishwasher for thorough cleaning and sanitizing.
  • A couple times a week, use a weak bleach solution of 1 tablespoon of bleach per quart of water to sanitize the bottle. Do not use too much bleach because it will leave an unpleasant taste in the bottle.
  • Avoid letting your water bottle sit with water left in it for long periods in between use. Empty the bottle as soon as you are finished with it. This might mean checking your child’s book bag every night to make sure the bottle is emptied out. If bottles are left at school or daycare, be sure to have your kids empty them and not drink the water left inside. Ask them to bring the bottles home to be properly cleaned.
  • Consider using a straw-top water bottle or a stainless steel bottle since they seem to harbor fewer bacteria.
  • When purchasing a new water bottle, look for one that doesn’t contain small crevices and harder-to-clean areas.

Follow these simple reminders to help ensure everyone stays hydrated and germ-free.

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