Proper cleaning is important for keeping your Hydration bladder effective and long-lasting.
If it becomes dirty it’ll be much more difficult to clean and there’s a higher chance of parts breaking down.
The rest of this article will highlight the importance of properly and regularly cleaning your hydration bladder, as well as the different cleaning methods you can use with supplies you have at home.
What is a Hydration Bladder?
Hydration bladders are portable plastic sacs filled with water usually carried in a backpack-like pouch. They vary in size and style, but the reservoir, drinking tube, and bite valve are all components most hydration bladders have in common.
The reservoir is attached to a long tube designed to reach over the wearer’s shoulder. The wearer accesses the water by sucking through the bite valve, which connects the tube and bladder.
Hydration bladders differ from traditional water bottles in that they’re hands-free, which is helpful in intense sports like cycling and marathon running, where the wearer cannot spare their hands to reach for a water bottle.
Bladders are also typically made out of more durable materials, ensuring years of longevity for avid outdoor enthusiasts.
When Should You Clean Your Hydration Bladder?
You should rinse and dry your hydration bladder after every use, with experts recommending thoroughly cleaning and sanitizing your bladder once or twice a month. Otherwise, bacteria and mold can grow, putting you at risk for a number of health problems.
Why Should I Clean My Hydration Bladder?
Rinsing with clean water and drying the bladder after each use flushes out any impurities and debris that may get mixed in during your physical activity. Thoroughly drying and storing the bladder inhibits bacteria and mold growth. Since bacteria thrive in warm, damp environments, drying is essential after each rinse.
However, regular and meticulous cleaning twice a month (depending on how often you use your bladder) is the only way to ensure it is safe for continued use.
How Do I Clean My Hydration Bladder?
There are various options for cleaning your bladder, ranging from simple to complex.
While the dishwasher is often a go-to solution for cleaning your bladder, not all hydration bladders are dishwasher safe, and repeatedly exposing your bladder to the extremely high temperatures inside the dishwasher can warp or degrade it over time.
Many brands (Platypus, CamelBak, Gregory, etc.) sell cleaning kits for their specific models, but they can be complicated, and parts can be expensive to replace.
Popular methods involve various mixtures of:
- Dish soap
- Baking soda (use a ratio of 1/4 cup for every 3/4 cup water)
- Bleach (2 – 5 drops per liter)
- Lemon juice (1/4 cup per liter) – lemon juice naturally contains antibacterial properties, in addition to killing unpleasant odors that can develop in your hydration bladder over time
- Denture-cleaning tablets (read instructions for how much to add) – an inexpensive alternative to the pricier cleaning tablets
Supplies Needed For Cleaning Hydration Bladders
Other than the supplies listed above, you will also need the following items. Some of them aren’t actually required for a quick clean but will be used for the deeper cleaning process.
- Cleaning brushes, for the inside of the bladder (a.k.a the reservoir) and the drinking tube
- Kitchen scrubbing pad or scrub-brush
- Knotted cord, for pulling the cleaning solution through the drinking tube
Cleaning and Scrubbing Your Hydration Bladder
The simplest way to clean your bladder is as follows:
Step 1: Add Cleaning Solution to The Bladder
- Add whichever mixture you’ve chosen with warm water into your reservoir and screw the lid on tight, sealing the mixture inside the bladder.
- Lift the reservoir and drape the drinking tube into the sink. Squeeze valve so water flows through drinking tube.
- Let sit for 20 minutes, then drain.
Step 2: Wash The Inside With Soap And Warm Water
- Fill the reservoir with warm water and dish soap.
- Using scrub-brush, scrub inside of the reservoir and drinking tube. Disconnect the bite valve to clean it separately.
- Rinse everything thoroughly.
Step 3: Air Dry The Bladder
- Disassemble the pieces (reservoir, bite valve, drinking tube).
- Place the reservoir on the drying rack. You can insert a standard kitchen whisk into the reservoir to keep it from closing and trapping water inside.
- Hang the tube over a clothes hanger so both ends hang down.
What If I Don’t Clean My Hydration Bladder?
In the Journal of Exercise Physiology, researchers found that 90% of reusable water bottles (including hydration bladders) carried by members of gyms and fitness clubs were contaminated with various strains of bad bacteria.
Two of the most common bacteria strains found were Staphylococcus aureus (which often causes skin infections and abscesses) and E. coli (which can cause diarrhea, vomiting, and high fever).
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), E. coli is most commonly spread through contaminated food and water and can cause serious and long-lasting health problems.
The only way to avoid bacteria and mold growth in your hydration bladder is through proper and regular cleaning twice a month, while rinsing with clean water and thoroughly drying between each use.
Here are the most common questions I’ve come across related to when you should clean your hydration bladder.
What If You Clean The Hydration Bladder Too Often?
Washing your hydration bladder too frequently could wear down the parts of the bladder and cause it to not last as long. As long as you’re careful and handwashing it, you should be able to avoid these issues.
Can You Leave Water in a Hydration Pack?
It’s fine to leave water in your hydration pack, although it should be discarded after 24-48 hours depending on conditions like temperature and pack design. Leaving water in for too long without replacing it can cause bacteria to begin growing.
How Long Can Water be Stored in a Hydration Bladder?
Water should be fine to store in a hydration bladder for 46-72 hours before the water begins tasting differently. After seven days there is a higher chance of having mold grow on the tube or bite valve within the bladder.
Remember that twice a month is the minimum number of times you should thoroughly clean your hydration bladder. If you are an avid outdoor enthusiast who uses your bladder more than once a week, consider cleaning it more often.
Forgetting to wash and dry your hydration bladder can lead to issues with bacteria build-up and can reduce the lifespan of your outdoor gear.