How to Clean a Moldy Water Bottle

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 How to Clean a Moldy Water Bottle

My daughter loves Camelbak water bottles, but sometimes she puts milk in them {gasp!}, and well if you’ve ever had to clean day,week, ahem, month old molding milk from a water bottle then you know how tempting it is to just toss ‘em.  But, since that defeats the whole purpose of a reusable water bottle, and I love that she can fill up at home and always have something to drink on the go, I am bound and determined to stick it out.

Here’s how I clean The Girl’s:

  1. Start by soaking the bottle in warm water with bleach {you don’t need very much bleach}.  Leave it there for a good while, then scrub it inside and out with a dish brush or toothbrush.  I usually stick a q-tip into the mouth piece and give it a good once over too.
  2. Then, rinse the bottle well and put a tablespoon of baking soda in the bottle.  Top the bottle with hot water.  {This will remove any nasty left-over tastes.}  Let it sit overnight.
  3. In the morning, rinse out the bottle, and wash as you normally would, either in the dishwasher {AWAY from the heating element} or in hot soapy water.  Allow to dry in the sun, if possible, or drip dry on the counter.

How about you, any tricks up your sleeve?


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  1. Brings back memories of when I took my milk to school in a thermos bottle. I ALWAYS smelled like sour milk. Ewwww.

  2. Sounds like your daughter needs to clean her own water bottle. She seems very capable.

    • I was wondering about that myself! (Cleaning her own bottle, that is.) After all, not long ago we hear about her 16th birthday blender, and that birthday was a couple of years ago. She must be an adult by now! Time to clean her own bottles, especially if she lets milk go bad in them.

      We use the kind without straws. They have a cap, like bottled water, but they also screw off lower down, which is nice for putting in the ice. Also, makes cleaning easy.

      • Mavis was telling how to deep clean a water bottle. If she cleaned her daughter’s bottle – so what?
        I don’t know ANY teen who does this. Ususally a Mom thing to make sure everything is “healthy” clean.

        • I’m a teen, and deep cleaning my water bottle is one of many, many things I do around the house. Every child/teen should understand that all responsibilities (even ridiculously simple ones like keeping your water bottle clean by not leaving milk in it) should be taken seriously. Mavis, you should have just left the water bottle the way it was and made it clear that the mess she made would only go away if she cleaned it up. I’m surprised she didn’t get in trouble. Ah, tough love–a rare factor in American parenting.

          • This was a simple “how to clean a water bottle” thanks to Mavis. I don’t think she needs lectures by you ladies on what her daughter should be doing. Take the great cleaning advice and move on. Good lord ladies!!!

  3. Camelbak will also replace the mouthpiece/straw if it gets so bad you can’t get it clean. I had some mold I couldn’t get rid of and they just sent me a new mouthpiece!

  4. Dan Bartoli says:

    Even better than baking soda is denture cleaning tablets. A couple of them in a thermos will knock off years of coffee buildup and work just as well in a water bottle.

  5. Baby bottle brushes work great. Munchkin also makes small bottle brushes that work great in the straw and mouthpiece.

    • I use a chenille pipe cleaner that you can buy at the dollar store to clean my straws with soapy warm water. They get stained pretty bad from the ice tea I take in my bottle to work.

  6. Comment from Deborah sounded borderline rude. I am a homemaker and have older kids at home also. I get help with a lot of chores but certain things I do myself..this would be one of them. Enjoy your website Mavis..thanks for all the great info!

    • You might think it’s rude but as a mother that has raised 4 kids, I taught my children to be responsible people. They did their own laundry too, as soon as they could reach the knobs. They all turned out pretty damn good too!

      • I have raised 4 kids too. Plus I was a nanny. It is so easy to pass judgement on the way others do it. Especially when all you know about a situation is what you read on a blog. I dont even know if she was just puttering around that day doing busy work and decided to find a solution. Maybe she even showed her daughter how to do it. Or perhaps she just did it to be nice. She was kind enough to share her tip with all of us. Perhaps we all would be stronger people if we figured it out for ourselves. If you don’t like when people call you rude for being so quick to judge the stop being so quick to judge.

  7. Think this would work for metal coffee to go cups too? I cant tell you how many of them we have thrown away because we just could not get the gross smell out of them.

  8. Wowzer! Some testy comments! To each their own I say. I have a teenage boy that would gag on such a chore and just toss the bottle, so I side with Mavis and would do this myself. I like taking care of my family, it’s a small thing, and he is turning out pretty well too =)

    • Well..raised four boys and they all did chores from a young age. They are fantastic young men. Still stand by my comment and that there are certain cleaning chores I would prefer to tackle myself. Again Mavis, love your site!

  9. I make myself a green drink every day and it leaves the bottle pretty nasty. I use less than a half teaspoon of oxyclean and hot water, let it sit overnight and the green granules disappear. This also works on stainless steel coffee mugs!

  10. warm water and a small spoonfull of dishwasher detergent, shake it up and let it sit overnight, will also lift out scum. Not much experience with milk, but it works great on those seemingly permanent stains from juice, koolaid, tea, and coffee.

  11. Something that really works well – put a handful of uncooked rice and some hot soapy water. Close it up and shake it vigorously. It was the best way to clean bottles I have ever found.

  12. MommyOfBabyKay says:

    Ive been trying to find the best way to clean the rubber straw in my baby’s stainless steel thermos cups…we do put milk in them and clean them always but straws still managed to get moldy or discolored….I use bottle cleaner and lil straw brush and boil them with vinegar and still smell it or see the darkened spots in straw….any solutions??

    And I am a mom who teaches my 5 yr old to be independent and responsible too….she showers washes her hair and dresses herself…put up silverware in its places…does her homework mostly without assistant…pack her own lunches….and does many many more things that I dont see many kids her age doing……but thats never going to stop me from doing things for her no matter how old she gets…shouldnt stop me from being her mother just because shes capable of doing things for herself…Isn’t she MY responsibility from the moment she was conceived?? It isnt right to judge other parent for what they want to do for their children and why……just because it makes her heart happy to care for her child that alone is a good enough reason. They wont be near you forever….cherish every moment and do anything for them if you want to….thats the bliss of being a mother. Thank you Mavis for posting and sharing :)

    • Sherri Hunt says:

      I love this statement. We all teach our kids in different ways. Thankfully!!! Or else they would all be the same person. As long as we are teaching them to be respectful, polite, and responsible we are doing a good job. There ARE things that each parent chooses to do or have the child do…. INDIVIDUAL choices here…. opinions are like A$$holes.. everyones got one but that doesn’t mean we all want to hear it….

    • MusicCharmer says:

      I had trouble with the straw in my water bottle as well (I put koolaid in it and sometimes I (gasp) don’t get it washed fast enough. I found that using a chopstick with a small piece of dampened paper towel wrapped around the tip and push it through. Hopefully your straw is wide enough but if not a skinnier dowel that you can get from a craft store/home improvement store would work! :) Hope this helps!

    • I use pipe cleaners and a little bit of dish soap to clean the mouthpiece and straw of my kids water bottles. Works like a charm every time! And I got 2 dozen pipe cleaners for a dollar at the dollar store.

  13. I have a camelbak that I use mostly for college, and even with just WATER (I use it for nothing else) it eventually gets a little moldy. I use the “nipple” end of a baby bottle brush to clean out the mouth piece, which can be popped off to clean the “leak proof seal” in the lid, remove the straw and use one of the extra thick pipe cleaners wet down, and a drop of dish soap to clean the seal and the straw. I use a tooth brush to clean off the line of calcium build up on the outer ring of the bottle, and just soap and water to clean the bottle itself.
    Kendra TY for the heads up on Camelbak replacing the mouthpiece and straw, I had NO idea about that! I may just do that as my mouthpiece has started to turn kind of dingy and brown no matter what I do even with baking soda and bleach, although to be fair, I use it 24/7 (when not at college I keep it filled and right next to me) and I’ve had it for the past year and a half.

  14. Rosie Gunter says:

    Great cleaning ideas. Definitely going to try the one on dirty couches. Mine looks like yours did before you cleaned it. :( Any ideas on how to clean tippy cups? The inserts of them are impossible for me to get clean.

  15. Susan Adams says:

    I’ve never been one to follow the rules….so I put my plastic Camelbak’s right into the dishwasher! I take them completely apart first – I put the bottles on the top rack with the glasses. I put the straws in the silverware holder on the bottom rack, making sure to put them in the silverware box section that is NOT directly over the heat coil when the door is closed. I bought a plastic gizmo that is used for dishwashing baby bottle nipples – I use that to hold the rubber nibs. The top of the bottle I leave in the flipped “open” position and place it in the slots on the top rack. I’ve done this for years and have never had any sort of melt down of my bottles. On rare occasion, I’ve found I might still have to stick a q-tip inside the rubber nib to get a bit of grossness out of the nooks and crannies, but that is RARE. Before I was brave and put them into the dishwasher, I used to use denture cleaning fizzy tablets to clean the rubber nibs and straws. That works quite well. Just my two cents! :)

  16. Milli Houston says:

    I love my Camelbak, too. It’s been one of my best investments for college where I’m always on the go. You can actually dismantle the pieces (remove the straw) and everything to really effectively clean it!

  17. When my Camelbak bite valve starts looking dingy, I coat it in baking soda, put it in a bowl, pour a little vinegar on it and let it sit for half an hour or so. It does produce a bubbly chemical reaction, but it hasn’t hurt the mouthpiece yet, and it looks and smells cleaner afterwards!

  18. I use a pipe cleaner to clean out the straw and the tiny spout where the straw attaches.

  19. Janet King says:

    Camelbak manufactures a couple of different cleaning brushes for the straws and other hard to clean areas. Have seen them at the Bass Pro Shop.

  20. I have been told that using bleach to treat mold is VERY DANGEROUS, the bleach may kill off the weaker molds, but the stronger ones can survive and be transmitted into the body by breathing!!

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