Shake What Your Mama Gave You: How To Clean Your Water Bottle


Okay, so you ride a bike and you carry a water bottle(s) in the cage, but are you treating and maintaining that bottle the way you should?  I know I’m not…..and this fact prompted me to start looking into it.  I do my best to treat my body right, but I now realize that I run the risk of swallowing bacteria almost every time I’m out on a ride.

The idea of cleaning out my bottle always seems to get pushed off as I find myself not wanting to take the time….so instead I simply refill and pop them back in the fridge.  Oh how naive I can be sometimes. So how exactly do you effectively clean a water bottle?  The few times that I have taken the effort to clean them, I use dish soap and water….and the next time I’m out riding I feel like I’m drinking out of the sink because I didn’t rinse properly.  One word….Nasty.

There are about as many different cleaning suggestions as there are water bottle types.  The methods are also dependent on what type of bottle you use as well. These days there are endless materials, designs, and varieties of water bottles…so in an effort to keep this fairly short, I’ll discuss what I feel are the best cleaning methods for plastic and aluminum bottles.

Plastic Bottles

  1. Start off by filling the bottle with hot water and a pea size drop of dishwashing liquid.  Put the cap back on the bottle and shake the heck out of it.
  2. Once you’ve tired yourself out, open the valve and squeeze the water out so that you can cleanse the nozzle in the process.
  3. Pour 2 tbsp. of baking soda into the bottle, then add 1/2 cup of vinegar.  If you know anything about chemistry, this is going to create some major fizzing which will likely fill the bottle.  Allow this to sit for about five minutes. (Vinegar kills mold and mildew germs and baking soda will aid in cleaning and removing odors.)
  4. If you have a bottle brush, use that to scrub the inside of the bottle while the vinegar mixture is still inside.  If you don’t have a brush, try jamming your hand in there with a dish cloth.  Either way, make sure to get all around the neck and groves of the bottle.  Put the lid back on and squeeze the mixture out through the nozzle.
  5. Rinse thoroughly with hot water and then place the bottle upside down to air dry on a clean towel.

Aluminum (metal) Bottles

  1. A.  Recommended Option:  Put about a cup of uncooked rice into the bottle followed by 2 tbsp. baking soda, and 1/2 cup vinegar.  Let it fizz up like I mentioned before, close the lid, and shake with all your might (the bottle, not yourself).  Squeeze the mixture out through the nozzle and then discard the rice.
    B.  Alternate Method:  Start off by putting one of those SOS pads (or competing brand) inside the bottle and then fill it a third full of hot, hot water.  Close it up and shake….Empty out the water….Repeat.  Pull the SOS pad out.
  2. Fill the empty bottle half full with hot water, put the lid on, and shake what your Mamma gave you (yourself, not the bottle this time….just kidding).  Squeeze it out through the nozzle.  Repeat this 3 or 4 times.
  3. Let the bottle air dry upside down on a towel.

Other Recommendations

  • You don’t have to clean your bottle after each and every ride, but I would recommend doing it at least once per week at a minimum.
  • If you use a clear plastic water bottle, and you can’t see through it any longer….throw it out.  The reason you can’t see through it is because it is full of mold and/or bacteria.  If you’re using a solid color plastic bottle and you haven’t been taking good care of it, trade it in for a new one every now and again.
  • Just because you’re using an aluminum bottle, don’t think you aren’t at risk of bacteria.  Those bad boys can accumulate on aluminum as well.
  • It shouldn’t be, but if you for some reason your plastic water bottle is made out of Bisphenol-A ….stop reading this, go get the bottle and dispose of it immediately.
  • If you add Electrolyte products or Additives to your water, you’re going to want to wash out your bottle more often and more intensely.  Sugars and bacterium will settle to the base of the bottle, as well as into every hard to reach area. This bacterium can result in sickness so you should make certain that you take the time to thoroughly clean the bottle.

Like I said, I’m totally guilty of not taking the time and effort to properly care for my water bottles. What about you?  I’d really like you’re feedback on this one. Please let us know what cleaning methods you like best, and if there’s a water bottle type you prefer for its cleanliness.  I’ve taught myself something today and will be trying out these techniques from now on.

DISCLAIMER: The tips in this post are what we think works best.  We do not guarantee that they will prevent bacteria or mold from forming in your bottle, nor that you will be free of any water bottle related infections.

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26 Responses to “ Shake What Your Mama Gave You: How To Clean Your Water Bottle ”

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  5. Christopher on March 2, 2017 at 7:21 am

    You shouldn’t combine the baking soda and vinegar. Individually they are both good cleaners but when you combine them you don’t have either, they neutralize. So no you don’t have vinegar in the bottle killing bacteria and baking soda removing odors. You have water with some sodium acetate and a reaction that initially created some bubbles that might have knocked some stuff loose.

    • Darryl on March 4, 2017 at 8:17 am

      Thanks for your input, Christopher. It’s nice to get some science behind this…..there are a lot of people out there doing this sort of thing and might not know all there is to is just like me.
      We’ll have to do an update on this article soon.

  6. Hannah on January 15, 2016 at 8:21 pm

    What about bottles with straws? I recently got a subzero flip-top double wall flip top water bottle for christmas, and I’m not sure how to clean it. Whenever I wash it with soap at hot water I can taste the soap no matter what I try. Any suggestions?

    • Darryl on February 15, 2016 at 8:11 am

      Hey Hannah, yeah that seems to happen sometimes. I would suggest leaving your bottle and flip top to soak in clear water after you wash it. Then rinse it out one more time. Hope that helps.

  7. intenzione on June 3, 2015 at 2:51 am

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  8. Steve on January 26, 2013 at 7:13 pm

    The combination of vinegar and baking soda was perfect! I used a brish to finish it off and Wham! Just like new.

  9. sonofabike on August 21, 2010 at 1:56 am

    I’m surprised that nobody has mentioned simple household bleach as a cleaning solution. I’ve been using Specialized Big Mouth bottles (BPA-free) for years and have been using a diluted bleach solution (1/2-tbsp for each 24 oz. bottle filled w/ h20) and simply let the bottle soak for 1-2 hrs. Half the time upright, half the time upside down, cap on and spout closed. Rinse well, air dry upside down, caps off. No rigorous shaking necessary!

    For bottles that didn’t contain any mixed sport drink (just plain water), a prompt wash w/ light dishwashing detergent solution is enough. Some shaking required. 😉

    • Darryl on August 21, 2010 at 8:42 pm

      Thanks for including this. I’ve read about using bleach, but have been a little leery of using it myself. There is no doubt that it would cleanse things out, but I’d prefer using a more natural method than chemicals. To each their own and I hope some readers will give it a try.

  10. Clive Chapman on June 26, 2010 at 12:57 am

    Like you I never give this any thought. I just bung my bottles (plastic BTW) in the dishwasher and have never had any dramas.

    I have seen the odd cyclists bottles doing a pretty good impression of a petri dish with new forms of penecilin in them though…

    • Darryl on June 28, 2010 at 10:26 pm

      Yeah, some bottles can get pretty nasty. I know that I am going to commit to clean bottles from now on.

  11. Myron on June 25, 2010 at 4:32 pm

    Awesome post! I’ll use this info for many years to come.

  12. Richard Masoner on June 25, 2010 at 4:23 pm

    Aluminum and some of the plastic bottles (e.g. Polar) are dishwasher safe. I’m not too convinced just shaking the bottle gets them all that clean, but then I’m not too concerned about the germs either — I always completely air dry the bottles, and I almost never use anything other than water.

    The plastics used for squeezable water bottles are almost always LDPE plastic, which has never used BPA. CamelBak’s Chill Jacket is an exception — they’re made with polyprop but it’s still BPA free (they don’t have the bad taste of LDPE).

    For athletes, you’ll find BPA in older Nalgene water bottles (and their knockoffs) as well as in (ironically) SIGG aluminum bottles manufactured before 2008 (the bottles have plastic liners).

    Finally, there’s the Clean Bottle with a screw bottom so you can actually clean the inside of the bottle.

    • VitaminLee on June 25, 2010 at 4:26 pm

      Screw Bottom eh? Gotto look into this, I keep learning new things from you guys. Thanks for the info Richard

    • Darryl on June 25, 2010 at 4:42 pm

      Excellent information, Richard. You sure do know your stuff. I was actually just going to come on and leave a comment about BPA. I found the same information in that any bottles older than 2008 should be tossed.

  13. VitaminLee on June 25, 2010 at 12:28 pm

    I’m such a paranoid germ-consumptionaphobe that I’m rocking out a glass bottle (another great Canadian export), but my aluminum has also served me well. Now neither are as convenient and as practical as the ole squeezable, tumbleable, unbreakable plastic bottle so thanks for the great cleaning tip.

    • VitaminLee on June 25, 2010 at 12:29 pm

      sssssssssssssss, tips

    • Danielle on February 2, 2014 at 5:06 am

      Get a Nalgene, trust me.

  14. Cassi on June 25, 2010 at 8:12 am

    Great advice, instruction. Darryl – do you know of anyone making BPA-free, flexible, bike bottles? I should probably do the investigating myself, but thought you might be able to recommend something … I have both aluminum and variety of plastic bottles (which I’m not entirely sure are BPA-free). I try not to use the plastic ones in hot weather, because of my uncertainty, but really prefer them on the bike. Thanks, always – C

    • VitaminLee on June 25, 2010 at 12:39 pm

      Hey Cassi – I’ve got a handy one, been using it for over a year now, from I purchased it at a local sporting goods store. What I like about it is that it doesn’t condense as much (so dry on the outside) and it keeps liquids cooler for longer. Think the green rocks and the shape makes it handy for gripping. But that’s just me:-) Oh Oh and it has a wide mouth for adding ice.

      • Darryl on June 25, 2010 at 4:43 pm

        Thanks for sharing this information, Lee.

  15. Dan Bergeson on June 25, 2010 at 7:45 am

    This is such good and timely advice. I’m just like you, always putting off cleaning the bottles in favor of getting on the bike as quickly as I can. I’ve never done anything beyond soap and water and that rarely. I’m going to be better from now on.

    • Darryl on June 25, 2010 at 8:03 am

      Thanks Dan, I totally understand. Last night was the best cleaning job I’ve ever given my water bottles. Now that I know what to do, I’m going to be doing it a lot more often.


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Sugar Alternatives for Energy and Hydration

Question: I am using the homebrew sugar formulations (sometimes added to green tea).  I am also trying to wean myself off 1/2 dose adrenalean “lip tonic delivery system” (biorhythm brand- caffeine, hoodia g, synephrine, yohimbe) capsule for energy.

My question is other than juice, can you suggest modifications in lieu of table sugar for energy and hydration.


Both raw/organic honey or agave can work great in the homebrew (substitute in the same quantities for the sugar, or to taste), but you do have to shake well in order to make sure they don’t settle out.  Have you tried either of these?  Also, make sure to use at least the minimum amount of salt recommended in the homebrew as the temps rise, you need the sodium replacement if you’re sweating.

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