Updated: April 24th, 2022

Regardless of what sport or activity, you’re into; staying hydrated is vital. For runners, we’re either training for hours on end away from options to refill water bottles, or competing with re-hydration stations few are far between – so I bet you have gone for at least one of these three options to carry water, or electrolytes drinks with you (or sip them at the office):

  • Water bottles
  • Flask
  • Bladders

And you’ll know it’s important to take care of these essential pieces of kit to prevent bacteria buildup, prolong your kits’ life span and keep running costs down (like what I did there?) Want to know how to actually clean your water bottle? Because let’s be honest, we are all guilty of leaving one in a bag or the car for too long and it has that stale smell. How can you get rid of it? Is it too late?

These techniques are not limited to the kit you carry with you on a run – because likely those bottles are plastic. These techniques can help clean any water bottle you use from stainless steel to glass, plastic or aluminium. And remember: even though its had water in it, it still needs to be cleaned properly to prevent bacteria or bad odours.

Cleaning water bottles at home

Plastic and glass bottles may be more difficult to clean as they tend to cling onto odours more so than stainless steel but be warned, any bottle you don’t clean properly (or one with self-cleaning/purifying system technology) the filth buildup can make you ill. The dark and moist area is an optimum place for bacteria, mould and viruses to breed and spread in a water bottle that isn’t cleaned properly – even after one day you can see some growth.

Just make sure you clean each bottle, flask or bladder thoroughly and keep nature happy from single-use plastic water bottles or coffee cups.

Running with a water bottle

How to get the stale smell out of your water bottle.

These steps will work for any bottle or flask that needs a deep clean from a bacterial smell – they’re tough as old boots, and can handle a boil-save, or dishwasher instead of chucking them out… but double-check with the manufacturer’s recommendations first!

  1. Regularly cleaning with a sponge, bottle brush, soap and lukewarm water will do the trick. Everyday washing will prevent odour-causing gremlins from growing too quickly and becoming a breeding ground for more. Invest in a long brush because more often than not, the bottom of the bottle is where bacteria lies – it’s a difficult place to reach whilst washing.
  2. Left your bottle in your gym bag and it’s got a slightly funky smell? Forgetting to wash it for just a day can cause a whiff. Try soaking it in boiling water overnight and doing a smell test.
  3. Baking soda to the rescue! This gold dust is used A LOT in cleaning applications because of its deodorising powers. Scoop 2 heaped teaspoons into the offending water bottle and fill it up with lukewarm water and let it sit for a few hours, better yet overnight if you can.
  4. White vinegar soaking. Did nothing work so far? Don’t throw your bottle away just yet because we might still be able to save it. Vinegar is a surprising odour eradicator, and it looks like your bottle is putting up a fight. So, fill it up with white vinegar (you can dilute it if you don’t have enough) and let it soak overnight. Rinse and wash it out in the morning with warm soapy water. Yes, I know what you’re thinking – the overnight soak can leave a slight vinegar smell but don’t worry another overnight soak with boiling water will sort that right out for you.

Soaking water bottles in warm soapy water

How to clean your flask or bottle cap

Some of the sports bottle and flask caps are notorious for lingering bacteria and even mould! They need to be cleaned as thoroughly as the bottles, and regularly too.

  1. Fill flask with lukewarm water, shake and rinse out both through the bottle sports cap and by unscrewing the top.
  2. Use that bottle brush to scrub the interior with soap and water – and really get IN THERE. Remember bacteria sits where it’s dark, moist and left untouched. Those little wire brushes will work wonders around your bottle cap. You may need to remove the silicone sleeve and separate the centre post and clean that with the brush and soapy warm water.
  3. Re-rinse with a shake of the bottle and flow water through the bottle cap again
  4. Leave to air dry and only re-assemble the bottle once it is completely dry.

Clean the bottle cap from mould and bacteria

How to clean your bladder

Bladders are reversible, which can make for a simpler clean, with mild soaps and warm water, but more often than not the dishwasher can do this job for you instead (but check it with the manufacturer first!)

How to wash a bladder by hand

  1. Start by turning your bladder inside out.
  2. Stick it in the dishwasher or hand clean with the same soapy lukewarm water and a brush, as above (not the exact same water though, cause that old be gross!)
  3. Regardless of whether you washed it by hand or by dishwasher, always make sure you rinse it off with running water before using it.
  4. Air dry the bladder with the opening facing down whilst it is still inside out. When it is completely dry, you can turn it the right way around and it’s ready for use.

Air dry a water bladder

How to clean bladder tubes/straws

Please do not neglect the rest of the hydration system! The tube and bite valve which have direct contact with your mouth also needs to be thoroughly washed (like the bottle caps) they’re just a little more tricky…

  1. Disconnect the tube/straw from the bladder itself
  2. Detach the tube/straw from the bite valve with a pull, do the same with the silicone sleeve
  3. How to disconnect tubing from the bite valve

  4. Wash each part by hand and brush with warm soapy water – the tubing/straw needs the bottle brush to help clean it properly.
  5. Rinse each part well and leave it to air dry before attempting to re-assemble the parts.

Ow to clean the tubing of the hydration bladder

I bet you didn’t know this:

Little tips and tricks I’ve picked up along the way of constantly washing bottles but did you know you can store flasks and water bladders in the freezer once they’re completely dry to prevent the growth of bacteria?!

Also, there are water-soluble tablets that remove stains, smells and odd tastes that are a fast-acting and perfect option should you need to salvage your bottle quickly. Simply pop the tablet in the bottle, fill it up and let it sit for 15 minutes. Rinse thoroughly, air dry and you’re ready to go.

Store your bladder in the freezer after cleaning

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