My least favorite argument for single-use plastic is that it’s the more sanitary option. Have you ever been in that boat? Some eateries (or even ice cream shops!), for example, insist on giving you a Styrofoam or plastic cup to-go, instead of scooping your leftovers or to-go ice cream in your own reusable jar. Why? Sanitation, they claim! This makes me really, really roll my eyes. Like as far up as they can go.
Well, the same thing goes for water bottles. I’ve heard people say they prefer not to invest in a reusable one — particularly a stainless steel one — because it’s not as sanitary.
News flash: Plastic isn’t all that sanitary. In fact, your single-use plastic bottle is most likely leaching harmful chemicals into your water each time you drink. Maybe even as we speak. Not only are reusable stainless steel water bottles a better option for the environment, but they are also the better option for our health. #SayNoToPlastic.
OK, great — so now that we know plastic basically sucks, I’m sure you are wondering what you can do to clean this reusable stainless steel bottle as thoroughly as possible. Below, we have a few thorough answers for you.
Clean with vinegar
White vinegar makes for an amazingly effective cleaning agent. Standard white vinegar is a clear solution but its levels of acidity make it great for cutting through grease, grime, and all other nasty bacteria that can build-up in contained, moist spaces. (You know, like water bottles.)
How do you know if it’s time to clean your bottle? If the interior (or cap) smells musty or metallic, then it might be time to try a vinegar rinse. Also, if your bottle is brand new, you might want to clean it before using it for the first time.
According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine and National Institutes of Health, vinegar is about 4-7 percent acid and 93-96 percent water, depending on the solution. Vinegar has long been a trusted resource; its use to fight off infections and other acute health conditions dates back as far to 460 B.C. when Hippocrates used vinegar to clean wounds and treat sores.
Luckily for us germaphobes though, vinegar isn’t just for sterilizing our wounds. It can also be the world’s best non-toxic cleaning agent. (Hey — it’s also way cheaper than most of that greenwashed stuff on the store shelves and available in bulk.)
So, how do you use vinegar to thoroughly clean a stainless steel water bottle? Just 2 tablespoons of vinegar should do the trick. Place the cap back on your water bottle after adding in the 2T, then shake it up vigorously. You want to make sure to shake it up so that the vinegar spreads across every nook and cranny inside the bottle. You don’t want any bacteria, mold, or otherwise yucky stuff to survive the dreaded vinegar rinse.
Don’t pour it out just yet. According to Hunker, you will want to add warm water to the vinegar inside the stainless steel bottle until the bottle is about half-way full. Using a bottle brush, really get in there, shaking any potential build-up loose. Remove the bottle brush, close the cap, and shake it up again (giving no bacteria build-up even the slightest chance of withstanding your shaking, vinegar-scented wrath).
Lastly, you can pour it out and rinse the bottle interior with water.
Take a cloth to the cap
The cap is a crucial part of this scenario, too. You don’t want to do everything you can to vigorously clean your reusable bottle, only to realize later that the cap you keep putting on top of the bottle is crusted in mildew and swarming with bacteria.
To clean your stainless steel water bottle’s cap, soak a clean cloth in vinegar. Got a musty-smelling cap? Let the cap soak up the vinegar from the cloth for about 15 minutes before rinsing. If there’s no must smell, Hunker recommends rinsing it off after about 2 minutes.
Try a cleaning tablet
Not everyone loves the smell of vinegar — in fact, its strong scent is one of the reasons some zero-wasters don’t prefer to use it as a cleaning agent. So, if you can’t withstand the smell, we’d like to give you some other options as well.
Cleaning tablets — like this all-natural one on Amazon, for example — might be a better fit for anyone who can’t handle the stench of vinegar. They are also super convenient because they are a better option when you’re on the go. (After all, they require no bottle brush, whatsoever. Just a whole lot of shaking.)
For most cleaning tablets, you add a bit of water into the bottle you want to clean, pop in the tablet, shake it up, pour it out, then rinse one more time with water. The cleaning tablets completely dissolve in the water solution while you’re shaking it up, so you don’t have to worry about any waste after using it. Most tablets, however, will come in single-use plastic packaging, so just be aware of that if you live a low-waste lifestyle.
Baking soda as a cleaning agent
Baking soda is another great option with which to clean your reusable stainless steel water bottle. After all, it has all the anti-microbial properties of vinegar that make it stellar at cracking down on bacteria, without that distinct smell. Speaking of smells, baking soda is known for its ability to cut through harsh odors caused by bacteria, mold, and other funky build-ups.
To clean your stainless steel water bottle with baking soda, you’ll want to start by making a paste with just two ingredients: water and baking soda. Use a bottle brush to spread the paste inside your bottle, then let it sit for about 15 minutes. Rinse with hot water and let the bottle air dry.
Pro tip: Air drying is often the easiest and most effective way to dry your reusable bottle. Just turn it upside down on a drying rack in your kitchen. If you don’t have a drying rack, still turn it upside down, but make sure there is some space between the mouth of the bottle and your counter. You want there to be some air-flow, so maybe lean it on something or suspend part of the mouth over the sink. Otherwise, you’ll be trapping all that moisture in, creating a breeding ground of grossness all over again.
Use Hydrogen peroxide
If you are trying to keep things simple and don’t want to buy anything additional, chances are you might have Hydrogen peroxide laying around the house. Perhaps in your medicine cabinet or first aid kit?
If that’s the case, then great. We bet you didn’t know you could use HP to clean out your stainless steel water bottle.
According to Healthline, food-grade Hydrogen peroxide refers to a specific dilution of HP that is 35 percent H202 and 65 percent water. Fun fact: This 35 percent solution is used by the food industry to kill off bacteria and microorganisms that find their way into food packaging materials.
See? Totally safe for your water bottle.
To clean your stainless steel bottle with hydrogen peroxide, rinse with hot water first. Next, use a bottle brush to apply the HP, taking special care to remove any build-up. Rise the bottle again with hot water until all HP remnants are gone. Air-dry the bottle.
There you have it!
Reusing your stainless steel water bottle is great for the planet, your health, and it only really requires a small amount of effort in the way of cleaning it.
You can use any of these household cleaning agents — vinegar, baking soda, or hydrogen peroxide — or even try out an all-natural cleaning tablet that dissolves.
With so many refillable water bottles available, it can be difficult to choose the best one for your needs. We walk you through the process, step-by-step in our water bottles guide.
Download our free guide on How to Choose the Best Water Bottle today!