Promo University

History of Reusable Water Bottles

Alyssa Mertes

Published: July 23rd, 2020

We bring our reusable water bottle to work, the gym, soccer practice, and on hikes through the Grand Canyon. At this point, they're as essential as our cell phones and car keys when we leave the house every day. While they may seem like they've always been in our kitchen cabinets, reusable water bottles have only been around for less than a century. Back in the day, we'd carry our water from fresh springs in clay or metal jars. Definitely not as convenient as filling up our bottles from the water cooler.

When were reusable water bottles invented? How have they changed over the years? Wet your whistle and get ready to explore the fascinating history of reusable water bottles!


Most people are carrying their cell phones in one hand and their water bottles in the other. All the other kids in class or all the other people at the office like how that bottle looks, and its impact spreads like wildfire.

Jennifer Foster, Regional Sales Manager at ETS Express

Hour Glass

History of Reusable Water Bottles Timeline

Water bottles haven't always been available for refills. People in ancient civilizations used large iron casks or clay jugs until the rise of plastic during World War II.

  • 1070

    waterskin storage bag Source:

    During the Medieval Era, people drank from waterskins made from animal hide. The containers were sometimes also referred to as water bladders and were good at storing wine for knights in battle.

  • 1596

    sir john harrington Source:

    Sir John Harrington designed the first flushing toilet for his godmother, Queen Elizabeth I. This allowed water to flow freely from pipes, which changed the way we accessed our drinking water in the future.

  • 1800s

    clay bottle Source:

    Bottles were crafted from clay or stoneware and were primarily used to hold gin or whiskey from local distillers. The bottle pictured here may also have been used as a candle holder due to dried wax found on the inside.   

  • 1900s

    glass-bottles Source:

    Farmers kept their cool in the fields with refillable glass bottles. These could be filled up by iron industrial well pumps that were mounted above the water wells in rural areas.

  • 1937

    enameled steel bottle Source:

    Soldiers stayed hydrated with reusable canteens made from enameled steel. These containers held roughly two pints and were covered in felt that made them easier to carry.

  • 1947

    plastic bottle Source:

    Plastic became a popular material after World War II. The first plastic water bottles came onto the market at this time, though they cost a lot higher before polyethylene was used.

  • 1947

    football player Source:

    Aside from plastic, aluminum was also a popular material to use for water bottles. One of the most popular among cyclists was the Coloral brand, which featured a cork stopper.

  • 1950s

    stainless steel bottle Source:

    Stainless steel products were mass-produced in the United States. This material was said to be more durable and healthier to drink from than plastic or aluminum.

  • 1960s

    polyethylene bottle Source:

    Polyethylene started being used in water bottles. This material was more affordable, lightweight, and easy to shape into fun designs like this Homer Simpson water bottle.

  • 1964

    thermos Source:

    Thermos competed with lunch box manufacturer Aladdin by offering a reusable water container. These were decorated with popular movie and television stars.

  • 1960s-1990s

    Coca-Cola bottle Source:

    Companies like Coca-Cola took to advertising on water bottles. This bottle was found in Switzerland during the Tour de France in 1992.

  • 1971

    Flying Monkey's, bottle Source:

    Flying Monkey's, a trendy restaurant in Key West, opened their doors to the public. Their custom water bottles are a popular part of their brand and are well-loved by customers.

  • 1985

    ETS Express bottle Source:

    ETS Express became the first promotional products vendor dedicated to strictly drinkware. The company prides itself on exceptional screen printing and an amazing product selection.

  • 1994

    Polar Bottle bottle Source:

    Robert Heiberger and Judy Amabile started Polar Bottle® from their garage in Colorado. The goal was to bring cyclists a bottle that could withstand long rides.

  • 2010

    S'well bottle Source:

    Sarah Krauss started S'well, the fastest growing woman-owned company in the country. These water bottles are stylishly designed and feature triple-walled technology.

  • 2016

    Gatorade bottle Source:

    Gatorade upgraded their classic squeeze bottles to more advanced models. These smart water bottles feature LED lighting that reminds athletes when it's time to hydrate.

  • 2018

    Oceans bottle Source:

    Parley for the Oceans, a non-profit in New York, teamed up with Starbucks to create exclusive water bottles. The bottles are made from repurposed ocean debris that is melted down into small PET pellets.


A water bottle shows your commitment to sustainability and a healthy, well-hydrated lifestyle. It's something people will use over and over again, providing great visibility for your brand.

Alison Banik, Sales Manager at Polar Bottle®

Early Drink Containers

Early Drink Containers

Transporting water has been part of our history since the dawn of time. Hunter-gatherers had to be creative and find ways to get fresh water that was free of contamination. The first written account of water being purified came from Greek texts from around 4000 BC. They would filter their water through charcoal and expose it to sunlight to remove any harmful pathogens.

Early Drink Containers

Agriculture was an important part of survival as early humans began to establish permanent settlements. In the first "urban" area of Jericho, they would acquire water from springs and transport it using wooden buckets, clay urns, or metal flasks. The water was thought of as part of the community, and if anybody wanted to bring some during hunting trips or nautical explorations, they would place it in large urns, beakers, or casks made from iron. By the Medieval Era, hunters would craft waterskins from leather or animal hide. These were portable enough to come with on long travels by horseback and could withstand inclement weather conditions.

This was the way the world acquired their water until Sir John Harrington invented the first flushing toilet in the 16th century. He essentially kickstarted the plumbing industry, which was important for the future of clean drinking water from a faucet. In the 1800s, nearly 300 years later, bottles were being created from clay and stoneware, and people could fill them up directly in their sinks.

Did you know?

The word "bottle" comes from the Old French botelle, which means "little cask."

When Were Water Bottles Invented?

During World War II, the general public had to use resources sparingly since most materials went toward the war effort. However, once the conflict ended in 1945, plastic, aluminum, and stainless steel became significantly more accessible. These materials were used to create commercial products like reusable water bottles.

Drink Up: The Plastic Boom
Plastic became popular in water bottles after World War II. With new manufacturing techniques and accessibility, the entire food industry eventually turned to this material. The first commercial water bottles hit shelves in 1947 and were sold at popular retail stores. They cost a lot higher than the variety we know today, meaning they weren't as prominently used. In fact, water bottles didn't become affordable for the general public until polyethylene was developed in the early 60s. This type of plastic was extremely popular for a variety of products, including flying discs and lunch boxes, as it was more lightweight and had a lower production cost.

coloral bottle Source:

Decorating the plastic was possible thanks to the invention of screen printing, a technique that had been around since the early 1900s. Companies could print their logo or advertising message directly on the bottles and use them as giveaways at promotional events.


Water is our most precious resource. Every living thing on Earth – every plant, animal, and microbe – must have water to survive.

Beth Geiger, author of Clean Water

Full Speed Ahead: Aluminum Bike Bottles
Aluminum was also a popular material following World War II. During the 40s and 50s, these water bottles were extremely valuable in the world of cycle racing. The most popular were developed by the Coloral Company in Birmingham. The aluminum water bottles featured cork stoppers, ridged caps, and an elegant "Coloral Birmingham" logo stamped on the base.

colonel-bottle Source:

In the summer of 2012, a group of enthusiastic cyclists started a Kickstarter campaign to bring the Coloral water bottles back to shelves. Their plan brought them to the United Kingdom where they met the father and son behind the company and convinced them to revive their brand. Rather than aluminum, the updated bottles were made from stainless steel and sourced from Portugal, although they continued using Coloral's iconic logo on the caps. Today, the brand is still staging its epic comeback, with the hopes of having all cycle shops stocked with their water bottles by Summer 2018. If this proves anything, it's that loyalists will go great distances to ensure their favorite brands are always available.

colonel bottle Source:

Everyone knows how important our water bottles are to us. After all, how could we possibly survive any long ride without the lifesaving replenishment that comes from a water bottle at the ready?

Dr. John Edwards, Road Bike Action

The Rise of Stainless Steel
Stainless steel was invented in 1913 by Harry Brearley. It was initially used to create knife blades, surgical tools, and gun barrels. By the 1930s, it came over to the United States and was used for aircraft and kitchen sinks. Within the next 20 years, stainless steel products, like water bottles, were mass-produced and sold around the country. The material, like plastic and aluminum, had spiked in popularity after World War II.

stainless steel bottle Source:

Across the board, stainless steel water bottles are considered better to use. They help you avoid harmful BPA and don't contain toxic chemicals. Plus, they keep mold and other bacteria at bay if they're cleaned properly. According to Bastyr University, a nonprofit pioneering natural medicine, water in stainless steel bottles tastes better and the material keeps your drink's temperature much longer.

stainless steel bottle Source:

Saving the Environment

The timing for the popularity of plastic, aluminum, and stainless steel couldn't be better. The world is moving toward more eco-friendly and sustainable ways of living. As such, reusable water bottles have a place in our modern world. They reduce the number of disposable water bottles in landfill and ensure people are drinking plenty of water throughout the day.

The production of one disposable plastic bottle uses energy, emits toxins into the air, and uses more water to produce than what is actually available in the bottle. Not only is this wasting our precious resources, but it's also costing you money each year. In fact, Americans spent roughly $12.3 billion on bottled water in 2013. Refilling a stylish reusable water bottle is a much better choice for the green in your wallet and on Mother Earth.

Water consumption Source: Jennifer Foster, ETS Express

The water bottle is the new tote bag: an instant way to signpost that you're environmentally conscious, while also adding an Insta-friendly fashion statement to your everyday look.

Lauren Cochrane, fashion writer at The Guardian

Did you know?

In 2016, a study by Beverage Marketing Corp. determined that for the first time in a while, water surpassed soft drinks in popularity.

Bring on the Promos

From the 1960s to today, recognizable brands like Coca-Cola and Gatorade have been printing their logo on reusable water bottles. These companies have always needed a source to get their promotional materials, and no place is better than directly through vendors like ETS Express. This company has offered superior screen printing and a wide selection of personalized water bottles since 1985. When they first started, they only had ceramic and glass pieces. Small businesses would send in hand drawn artwork of their logo and ETS would create the design in about 10 days. Since then, the promotional products industry has evolved as has the technology at ETS. This vendor has played an important role in catapulting the industry of promotional water bottles forward.

ets express bottles Source:

Garyline is another vendor that offers water bottles in their product selection. This vendor is unique as they offer colorful stainless steel and make all their plastic products in the United States. As specialists in injection molding, water bottles were a great product to bring into their selection. The classic Bike Bottles in particular have been on their website since 2000. Since then, they have been valuable giveaways at 5K races, school fundraisers, and a variety of other events.

In the last five years, water bottles have emerged as one of the top promotional products. It wouldn't be possible without the hard work of vendors like ETS Express and Garyline. As giveaways, water bottles are practical for busy days, stylish enough to make an impression, and cost-effective for businesses with small budgets.


Everybody uses water bottles in all walks of life. Whether you're a gymnast or a grandma babysitting, everybody drinks water. That message, company logo, that brand will be around for a long time.

Paul Hanney, Sales Manager at Garyline

Promote With Style

Many trends find their way to reusable water bottles. Take for instance the extra popular iridescent of 2018. These eye-catching drink containers are stylish enough for selfies, yet are still durable and have a large capacity for water. Not to mention, the stainless steel makes the water taste refreshing and cold for twice as long as plastic bottles.

iridescent bottle Source:

Keeping up with trends is important in the world of promotional giveaways. You're competing with fashionable retailers like Target and popular products like Yeti. Companies should give their customers and employees products they will actually use time and time again. Plastic bottles are great and absolutely serve a purpose. However, it's the trendy, eye-catching bottles that will find their way to Instagram and become true conversation pieces.

iridescent bottle Source:

Promos in Action

The Fox Valley Park District in Aurora, Illinois included promotional water bottles in kits for their Golf for Kids event in 2018. This was an opportunity for children in the community to try their hand at the sport and complete eighteen holes at the beautiful Orchard Valley golf course. The water bottles were a great part of the day, ensuring the kids stayed hydrated in the summer sun!

Fox Valley Park Promos

By providing a bottle for each participant, we were able to promote the Fox Valley Park District with our logo and cut back on disposable plastic bottles that are often times left behind.

Frank Johnson, Sponsorship and Business Development Specialist at Fox Valley Park District

Stats for Success

Stat 1

In Denmark and Canada, 98% of the water bottles are refillable.

Stat 2

If 1% of Americans make the switch to reusable water bottles, we could eliminate an estimated 500 million water bottles from landfills each year.

Stat 3

Logoed water bottles are the most popular in suburban areas.

Stat 4

Drinkware was the #2 promotional product in 2017.

The Bottom Line

We may not have to travel long distances to obtain our water from fresh springs, but the idea of portable hydration is more important now than ever in this busy world. Whether they're made from flexible plastic, durable aluminum, or sleek stainless steel, reusable water bottles are a stylish way to stay cool as a flowing river.

Alyssa Mertes

Alyssa Mertes

Alyssa is the Lead Copywriter at Quality Logo Products. As a promo expert, she's uncovered the world's first custom tote bag, interviewed the guy behind rock band ACDC's logo, and had a piece published by the Advertising Specialty Institute, a leader in the promotional products industry.


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Fortune. (2017, March 10). Americans Are Now Drinking More Bottled Water Than Soda. Retrieved June 13, 2018, from

Bastyr University. (2018). What are the Best and Worst Reusable Water Bottles? Retrieved June 14, 2018, from