Keeping My Family’s Reusable Water Bottles Clean and Yucky Free

I’m on a quest to be as eco-friendly as possible and as I discussed last week, keeping my family hydrated is always top of mind. So, it’s a given that refillable water bottles are a part of our everyday lives. However, as awesome as our reusable bottles are, it’s no secret that they’re also a perfect breeding ground for bacteria. As I work hard to keep my family as well nourished as possible, I’ve become aware of not only the healthful foods I’m intintionally giving them but also the unintentional yucky “germs” that sneak in when I take certain shortcuts….like just giving bottles a quick rinse. Thus, part of my routine involves keeping our stash of refillable bottles in spit spot shape. In this week’s blog post I’m sharing a small bit about what causes bacteria and details on my method to prevent it.

First, a quick blurb about what causes bacteria in water bottles.  According to Wikipedia, (http://bit.ly/1oltrGA) reusing bottles could develop bacteria in the bottle between uses. Mouth contact to the bottle openings can easily transfer bacteria to the water content which can subsequently contaminate both bottle and water. Contamination will cause bacterial and fungal growth in the water while kept in storage; if the user cleans the bottle very well before reuse, the risk is much less.

So how can you keep your water bottles clean and free of contamination? Here’s what I do:

1.) I have a designated water-only bottle for each member of my family. Occasionally I offer other beverages to take on-the-go, such as milk, but I always use a different canteen for this (the old water bottles become designated for other beverages). There are mixed thoughts on plastic bottles and leaching so to be on the safe side I always go with stainless steel or glass and prefer ones with a flip-up or pop-up spout rather than a threaded mouthpiece.

2.) I wash each bottle at the end of the day with a bottle brush and warm, soapy water. A bottle brush works wonders at getting out anything that might be “growing” on the sides. If your bottle has a straw, use a straw brush to quickly get inside (especially the portion that touches your mouth). For bottle and straw brushes, you don’t need anything fancy and you should replace them about as often as a sponge so I go for whatever has the best price point (Amazon and Target both have plenty of options). Some people put their bottles in the dishwasher but I prefer the old fashioned way and always hand wash my bottles, I find it preserves any decals that are on the stainless steel bottles and gets the bottles just as clean (especially if very hot water is used). On a separate note, it’s also important to keep the bottle brushes clean and bacteria-free and for this I put the brushes in the dishwasher at least once each week.

washing bottle
I always start with hot water and dish soap

3.) After washing the bottles, I leave them (and their parts) in a place where they can get plenty of air to dry overnight — don’t ever put the top back on a damp water bottle and put it in the cabinet for future use. This is the ultimate invitation to bacteria! For drying, I use the Boon Grass Countertop Bottle Drying Rack (http://amzn.to/1mzINM8), it keeps bottles raised and sanitary and provides great circulation for faster drying  OXO also makes a great drying rack (http://amzn.to/1vo0zCL)

boon rack
I love my Boon Drying Rack for keeping bottles ventilated while drying

4.) Approximately once per week I give the bottles a deeper clean. I put around one tablespoon of baking soda in the bottle, fill it with hot water and cup my hand over the top to give it a quick shake. Meanwhile, I put another few tablespoons in a glass bowl, fill it with hot water and add all the bottle components for their own “bath” (lids, straws etc). After a few hours of soaking time, I rinse the bottles and parts thouroughly, being careful to get rid of any baking soda residue.  White Vinegar also works well for a deeper clean and when I’m mistakingly out of baking soda this is my go to. With vinegar, I add around a 1/4 cup, fill the rest of the way with water and let the bottles stand this way overnight.

5.) And, finally my favorite step! After my bottles are clean and dry, I love to add a few drops of food-grade lemon or orange essential oil to the bottom before filling with water. Essential oils are known for their antibacterial properties and by just adding a few drops of a citrus oil, I get a nice refreshing hint of taste along with some great aromatherapy all day!

essential oils
essential oils, my last step to keeping reusable bottles fresh

Please come back and visit next week, I’ll be writing about the water bottle refilling stations that are popping up EVERYWHERE (at least all over San Francisco).

 

 

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