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A Guide to Cleaning Your Reusable Drinkware: Water Bottles, Tumblers, & Travel Mugs

Alyssa Mertes

Published: February 13th, 2021

You probably have a bunch of reusable water bottles, tumblers, and travel mugs in your kitchen cabinet. In this fast-paced world, with errands to run and kids to shuffle between school and soccer practice, this variety of drinkware can be a real lifesaver!

It's time to show your drinkware a little TLC! Roll up your sleeves and get ready for a bit of spring cleaning.

Water Bottles

Why Does My Water Bottle Smell Bad?

Plastic water bottles

Your water bottle smells bad because the airtight lid on top holds in all kinds of odors, such as the smell of stale water or the old sponge you used for cleaning. These gross smells will be even worse if you leave your bottle out in the hot car!

Luckily, a good cleaning at least once a month will help combat the problem. It's not very time-consuming, and you'll be thankful for a clean water bottle to sip from throughout the day.

Plastic water bottles

Are Water Bottles Dishwasher Safe?

Plastic water bottles

Unfortunately, not all water bottles are safe for the dishwasher. This will usually be specified by the manufacturer, but a good rule of thumb is to keep any water bottles with a custom design printed on the front out of the dishwasher.

Most of the time, you'll also want to keep stainless steel or aluminum water bottles out of the dishwasher. Plastic and glass water bottles can typically go on the top rack, as long as they're not wrapped in silicone or any other material.

Plastic water bottles

When in doubt, look for the dishwasher safe symbol on the bottom of your bottle, which will look something like either of these images:

Plastic water bottles https://www.which.co.uk/reviews/dishwashers/article/how-to-load-your-dishwasher-and-whats-dishwasher-safe

How to Clean a Reusable Water Bottle

Sometimes we have to go old-school and clean our water bottles by hand. It's in moments like these when a step-by-step guide is essential!

What you'll need:

- Two large bowls
- Plate
- Bottle brush
- Baking soda or white vinegar
- Hot water
- Disposable latex gloves
- Tablespoon
- Measuring cup
- Rubbing alcohol
- Q-tips
- Drying rack or towel

Here's how to clean a water bottle:

  • Step One: Mix vinegar or baking soda with hot water to form the cleaning solution.
  • Step Two: Pour the mixture from step one into your bottle.
  • Step Three: Soak the lid in a bowl of baking soda and warm water, covering the top with a plate.
  • Step Four: Let the cleaning solution sit in the bottle and the lid to soak for 15 to 30 minutes. For a deeper clean, let everything sit overnight.
  • Step Five: Scrub the inside of the bottle using hot water and a bottle brush. Take the lid out of the bowl and clean that out with a Q-tip and rubbing alcohol, and then rinse with warm water.
  • Step Six: Place the bottle and lid upside down on a drying mat and allow them to air dry.
Step 1
How to clean a bottle image 1

Add the Vinegar or Baking Soda

OPTION A: Dilute 1 to 2 tablespoons of the vinegar with a cup of hot water in a separate bowl.

OPTION B: Create a paste by mixing the baking soda with the hot water in a separate bowl.

Both the white vinegar and baking soda are great natural cleaners. Do you have gross buildup in your bottle? Go with the vinegar. Is your water bottle smelly? Try the baking soda.

Step 2
How to clean a bottle image 2

Pour the Solution

Add the solution from step 1 into your water bottle. Make sure it's filled up to the top, so if it's not, add more hot water. Be sure to keep the lid off as it should be cleaned separately.

Step 3
How to clean a bottle image 3

Clean the Lids

While your water bottle is soaking, use that extra time to clean the lid. Soak it in a bowl filled with hot water and a little bit of baking soda. Cover the top with a heavy plate and let it soak alongside your bottle.

Step 4
How to clean a bottle image 4

Take a Break

Let the cleaning solution sit idle in your bottle and leave your lid soaking in the bowl for 15 to 30 minutes. Use that time to read, do other chores, or have an impromptu dance party, whatever floats your boat! For a deeper clean, let the solution sit overnight.

Step 5
How to clean a bottle image 5

Clean it Out

Put on rubber or latex gloves and use a bottle brush or toothbrush to scrub the bottle. Rinse it out with hot water. At this point, you should also take the lid out of the water and clean out the straw using a Q-tip and rubbing alcohol, and then rinsing with warm water.

Step 6
How to clean a bottle image 6

Allow it to Air Dry

Flip the bottle and the lid upside down on a drying rack or clean towel and let them air dry. Your water bottle's now squeaky clean and ready for your next drink!

The best way to clean water bottles is by hand. You can get all those tough-to-reach spots and ensure that all the gunk and gross odors are removed. Plus, you don't risk causing any damage as the dishwasher can be a little too intense for your bottles.

How to Clean Mold From a Water Bottle Lid

Woman holding lids

You can get rid of mold inside of your water bottle lid by mixing 1 teaspoon of baking soda, ½ teaspoon of bleach, and warm water in a glass bowl. Put the lid inside of the bowl, weigh it down with a plate, and let it sit overnight.

Woman holding lids

What You Need to Know About Water Bottle Cleaning

This may seem like a lot of information, so here's a quick recap of everything you need to know about cleaning your water bottles.

Plastic water bottles

How to Clean Plastic Water Bottles

You should clean plastic water bottles by hand using hot water and baking soda or white vinegar. Allow it to sit overnight if you have a lot of buildup inside of the bottle.

Metal water bottles

How to Clean Metal Water Bottles

Metal water bottles should be washed by hand at least once a month. This is because they tend to get smelly fast or accumulate that metallic taste if they're not scrubbed out properly.

Glass water bottles

How to Clean Glass Water Bottles

It's usually safe to put glass water bottles in the dishwasher on the top rack. However, you should still dedicate time for a deep cleaning every once in awhile to ensure it's as clean as possible.

Vinegar bottle

How to Get the Soap Taste Out of a Water Bottle

You can get rid of the soap taste in a water bottle by cleaning it out with white vinegar. It's best to avoid cleaning the inside of your water bottles with dish soap, as it tends to stick to the lining.

Baking soda icon

How to Get Rid of Water Bottle Smell

Baking soda is the best way to get rid of water bottle smell, which is that gross smell you get from leaving water or soap in your bottle for too long. Fill up your bottle with baking soda and hot water, let it sit overnight, and rinse it out in the morning.

Water bottle lid

How to Clean Water Bottle Lids

To clean water bottle lids, put them in a bowl of warm water and baking soda and weigh them down with a heavy plate. Let them soak overnight for a deeper clean. If your lids are full of mold, use a little bit of bleach as well.

Tumblers

Are Tumblers Dishwasher Safe?

Tumbler in dishwasher

You can safely put tumblers in the dishwasher if they're made from hard plastic or stainless steel. Place it on the top rack and make sure the lid is separate and the straws are washed by hand with pipe cleaners.

The only exception is if your tumbler is printed with a design on the front. It's always better to wash custom items by hand as it helps the ink last a lot longer.

Tumbler in dishwasher

How Do You Clean Drink Tumblers?

The drink tumbler is the perfect to-go cup since it comes with a lid and straw. You can easily clean yours out with just a few basic household essentials and a little bit of time and effort.

What you'll need:

- Warm water
- Dish soap
- Bottle brush
- Rubbing alcohol
- Pipe cleaner
- Tablespoon
- White vinegar
- Drying rack
- 2 towels

Here's how to clean a tumbler:

  • Step One: Fill your sink with warm water and dish soap.
  • Step Two: Put the tumbler and lid in the soapy sink. Make sure you take the straw out of the lid first.
  • Step Three: Scrub the inside and outside of your tumbler and lid by dipping a bottle brush into the soapy water.
  • Step Four: Rinse everything with warm water and dry the tumbler with a clean towel. Leave the lid upside down on a drying rack or on a different towel.
  • Step Five: Mix 1 to 2 tablespoons of white vinegar with warm water and fill up the tumbler with the solution. Allow it to sit for 20 minutes.
  • Step Six: While the tumbler is soaking, clean the straw by dipping a pipe cleaner into rubbing alcohol and pulling it through the straw. Immediately rinse with warm water.
  • Step Seven: After 20 minutes, rinse out the tumbler with warm water.
  • Step Eight: Place the tumbler and straw next to lid and let everything air dry.
Step 1
Kitchen sink

Fill Your Sink

Fill your sink with warm water and a few drops of dish soap. You can also use a large bowl, but the sink is best as it gives you the most space without worrying about any overflow.

Step 2
Tumblers soaking in water

Soak Your Tumbler

Put your tumbler and the lid inside of the soapy sink. Be sure to take the straw out of the lid first since you will be cleaning that separately later.

Step 3
Cleaing with a brush

Scrub Your Tumbler

Scrub the tumbler and lid using a bottle brush. Wash gently, getting both the inside and the outside.

Step 4
Kitchen faucet

Rinse with Warm Water

Rinse the soap from the tumbler and lid using warm water. Next, dry the tumbler with a clean towel, and leave the lid on a clean towel or drying rack.

Step 5
Vinegar bottle

Deep Clean with White Vinegar

Mix 1 to 2 tablespoons of white vinegar and warm water inside of the tumbler. Let the mixture sit for about 20 minutes.

Step 6
2 glasses with straws

Clean the Straw

While the tumbler is sitting, clean the straw using a pipe cleaner and rubbing alcohol. You can dip the pipe cleaner into the rubbing alcohol and then run it through the straw. Rinse out the straw immediately afterward using warm water.

Step 7
Rinsing a tumbler

Step Seven: Rinse Out Your Tumbler

Use warm water to thoroughly rinse out the tumbler. The white vinegar is a good natural cleaner and will help get rid of any bacteria that's built up inside.

Step 8
Rolled up towels

Dry

Turn your tumbler upside down and place it next to the lid and straw on the towel or drying rack. You now have a squeaky clean tumbler ready to hold your cold drinks!

Travel Mugs

Are Travel Mugs Dishwasher Safe?

Mug in dishwasher

Stainless steel and aluminum travel mugs are not dishwasher safe. You risk destroying the insulation if you put this drinkware in the dishwasher, which is what keeps your hot drinks hot and your cold drinks cold.

It's much better to clean your travel mugs by hand instead. The good news is it's really easy and won't take up your entire afternoon!

Mug in dishwasher

How Do You Clean a Stainless Steel Travel Mug?

The best travel mugs are made from stainless steel, but these aren't able to go safely in the dishwasher. It's not too difficult, though, to simply clean this drinkware by hand instead.

What you'll need:

- Baking soda
- White vinegar or apple cider vinegar
- Warm water
- Dish soap
- Pipe cleaner
- Measuring cup
- Tablespoon
- Drying rack or towel

Here's how to clean a stainless steel travel mug:

  • Step One: Mix 2 tablespoons of baking soda and ¼ cup of white vinegar and apple cider vinegar. Pour it into your mug.
  • Step Two: Let the mixture sit for 15 to 20 minutes. Use that time to wash the lid separately with warm water, soap, and a pipe cleaner.
  • Step Three: After the lid is dry, put it back on the mug. Shake the mixture around.
  • Step Four: Pour out the mixture and rinse it out with warm water.
  • Step Five: Turn the mug and lid upside down and place them on a clean towel or drying rack.
Step 1
bottle, sponge and lemon

Mix Baking Soda and Vinegar

Measure 2 tablespoons of baking soda and ¼ cup of white vinegar and pour it into your mug. You can use apple cider vinegar instead for a sweet aroma.

Step 2
CLlock

Allow the Mixture to Sit

Let the mixture sit in your mug for at least 15 minutes. While it's soaking, you can clean the lid normally with dish soap and water. Use a soapy pipe cleaner to get into the straw and other hard-to-reach areas.

Step 3
Person removing lid from bottle

Shake, Shake, Shake

After drying the lid with a towel, place it back on your mug. Carefully shake the mug with the baking soda and vinegar mixture still inside.

Step 4
Bottle being rinsed

Rinse with Warm Water

Pour the mixture into the sink and thoroughly rinse with warm water.

Step 5
towels

Dry

Place the mug and lid on a towel or drying rack and let it air dry. It's now squeaky clean and ready for your morning coffee!

How Do You Get the Smell Out of a Travel Mug?

Baking soda

Use baking soda to get rid of any smells coming from your travel mugs. Simply mix ¼ tablespoon of baking soda with hot water and let the solution sit overnight. In the morning, rinse it out and your travel mug should be odor-free!

Baking soda

This video shows you just how easy it is to clean your favorite drinkware!

How Often Should You Clean Your Reusable Drinkware?

Cup in car holder

You should aim to deep clean your water bottles, tumblers, and travel mugs at least once a month. This often involves washing this drinkware by hand with baking soda, warm water, and vinegar.

Do you need help making this part of your routine? Choose a day of the week where you're usually already running errands, like a Saturday or Sunday. You can also set a reminder on your phone, or schedule the cleaning on your calendar at home.

Cup in car holder

Why Should You Clean Your Reusable Drinkware?

5 mugs

Bacteria likes to hide in your water bottles, tumblers, and travel mugs. Even if you think you're cleaning them thoroughly, it's still a good idea to do a deep cleaning.

5 mugs

This is why you should clean your water bottles, tumblers, and travel mugs:

  • There's an average of 300,000 bacteria cells per square inch in a water bottle after one week without cleaning.
  • An athlete's water bottle has roughly 313,499 colony-forming units per square centimeter.
  • Over 60% of the germs found on water bottles could make you sick.
  • Your water bottle could be harboring more germs than a dog bowl.

Your health should always be a #1 priority. A little bit of cleaning can go a long way, so carve out some time on a Sunday afternoon and get to work!

The Bottom Line

You don't need an expensive water bottle cleaner or any fancy equipment to wash your drinkware. Baking soda, white vinegar, and warm water will do the trick. Scrubbing out your drinkware may seem like another chore, but it's well worth the effort for a refreshingly clean drink every time!

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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.

References

Lalonde, C. (2017, September 21). How Often Should You Clean Your Reusable Water Bottles. Retrieved March 12, 2018, from https://www.wideopeneats.com/often-clean-water-bottle/

The Krazy Coupon Lady. (2017, September 29). How to Clean the Mold & Funk Out of Water Bottles. Retrieved March 12, 2018, from https://thekrazycouponlady.com/tips/at-home/how-to-clean-the-mold-and-funk-out-of-water-bottles-and-straws

Treadmill Reviews. (2018). A Look Under the Cap: Water Bottle Germs Revealed. Retrieved March 12, 2018, from https://www.treadmillreviews.net/water-bottle-germs-revealed-2019/

Bruneman, H. (2020, March 12). The Best Ways to Clean Reusable Water Bottles. Retrieved from, https://www.bhg.com/homekeeping/cleaning-and-care/cleaning-advice/how-to-clean-water-bottles/

Ossola, A. (2019, August 3). What is Vinegar and What Makes it a Good Cleaner? Retrieved from, https://www.thekitchn.com/what-is-vinegar-and-what-makes-it-a-good-cleaner-236459

Ossola, A. (2016, October 6). Why is Baking Soda Such a Good Cleaner? Retrieved from, https://www.thekitchn.com/why-is-baking-soda-such-a-good-cleaner-236104

Clark, S. (2019, January 31). How to Get Rid of That Gross Smell in Your Reusable Water Bottle. Retrieved from, https://soyummy.com/rid-reusable-water-bottle-smell/

Frank, M. How to Clean a Stainless Steel Coffee Mug. Retrieved from, https://www.hunker.com/12001893/how-to-clean-a-stainless-steel-coffee-mug