Why you should clean your water bottle: Q&A with Dr. Yuriko Fukuta

Water bottles are among the most popular, functional accessories. While keeping yourself hydrated throughout the day is crucial, it’s important to not overlook cleaning your bottle. Dr. Yuriko Fukuta, assistant professor of medicine – infectious diseases, explains the effects of a dirty water bottle.

Question: Can you get sick if you haven’t cleaned your water bottle?

Answer: Yes, you could get sick. If you do not clean your water bottle sufficiently, it can lead to a buildup of germs. You may have nausea, stomach upset, headaches. You may have allergy symptoms such as sneezing if mold is present.

Q: What kind of germs are in your water bottle?

A: Bacteria in your mouth can get into your bottle if you drink directly from your bottle. Food particles from your mouth can transfer to your bottle and create a good environment for mold growth. Bacteria and molds from your hands can also get into your bottle. Not all of the germs are harmful, but you could get sick at some point if you keep getting exposed to many germs.

Q: How frequently should you clean your water bottle and straw?

A: It is better to clean after each use. Skipping a wash sometimes may not cause problems, but do not make it a habit.

Q: How should you clean your bottle?

A: You can clean it with the dishwasher or by hand. Run the dishwasher using hot water and a heated drying cycle. If you clean by hand:

  1. Wash your hands
  2. Separate all bottle parts
  3. Wash with cleaning solution and water, and use a clean brush if possible
  4. Air-dry

Keeping bottles dry is very important to inhibit bacteria growth. Clean and dry your brush as well.

Q: What happens if you don’t clean your bottle enough?

A: There should be germs at some level all the time if your bottle is not sterilized. Not cleaning your bottle between uses can let the germs grow in your bottle.

Q: Does glass, plastic or metal matter?

A: Metal and glass are generally better than plastic because plastic can form small cracks where bacteria can stay more easily. Even metal bottles need to be cleaned because their antibacterial capacity is not sufficient at all. Single-use plastic bottles are not recommended for re-use because the shape of bottle is difficult to clean and the chemicals used in the plastic bottles, such as BPA, can leach out into beverages in subsequent uses.

Q: Should you wipe the mouthpiece with a paper towel?

A: It can be helpful to prevent germ growth by keeping the mouthpiece dry.

Q: If you leave a water bottle in the car for a few days, can you still drink it?

A: Please do not! It can be very warm inside the car. Warm temperature and time accelerate the growth of germs.

Q: Are there less germs if you only put water in your bottle instead of other beverages?

A: Yes. If beverages contain sugar (e.g., sports drinks or juice), it accelerates the growth of germs. Also, the pH of the beverages can affect the growth of germs.

Q: Which kind of water bottle is best?

A: The best type of bottle includes:

  • Large opening: A wide-mouth bottle is easy to clean and dry.
  • Built-in straw: A small study showed a straw-top water bottle contained the least amount of bacteria. A slide-top water bottle contained the most.
  • Hands-free design: Hands-free design prevents the germs on your hands from transferring to the mouthpiece of the bottle.

Learn more about Baylor Medicine Infectious Diseases.

By Homa Warren

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