How to Clean a Water Bladder

How to Clean a Water Bladder

Anybody who’s ever hiked knows how important it is to stay hydrated. But how do you know when your water bladder needs a cleaning? It can be difficult to tell, but if your bladder starts tasting funky or has a residue, then you should clean it! Plus, bacteria and mold are resourceful little fellows, so it’s important to regularly clean your bladder to keep it safe for drinking. Let’s talk about how to best clean a water bladder and how often you should do so, as well as proper storage and disinfecting the bladder.

How Often You Should Clean a Water Bladder

It’s a good idea to clean your bladder after every use, but if you can’t do that, then at least try to clean it after a few hikes or adventures. If you don’t clean it regularly, the bacteria will build up and cause bad odors and tastes. Not only is this unpleasant, but it can also be dangerous if ingested. So make sure to keep your water bladder clean and keep yourself healthy!

How to Clean a Water Bladder

Cleaning the bladder with household products is a pretty simple process – all you need is some mild dish soap and water. First, fill the bladder with warm water and add a few drops of soap. Swish the water around to create suds, then pour it out. Repeat this process until the bladder is free of any residue or dirt.

If something needs to be scrubbed, you can use a clean dish sponge or brush to reach inside and wash it more thoroughly. CamelBak makes a great cleaning kit specifically for hydration bladders – use their brushes and tube cleaners for an easier time getting into those nooks and crannies.

Make sure to also clean the tube and mouth piece. An easier way to accomplish this is by running the cleaning liquid through these pieces as you drain it. That way you’re killing two birds with one stone.

How to Disinfect the Bladder

If you’re due for a more serious cleaning, disinfecting the bladder is an important step to keeping it clean and free of bacteria. There are a few ways to disinfect your bladder, some of which use products already in your house and some are products you can purchase specifically for the job.

Use a cleaning tablet. No measuring needed; just fill the bladder with warm water and pop in a tablet. We love these Bottle Bright all natural hydration pack cleaning tablets.

Soak in bleach: Fill the bladder with water and add 2-5 drops of unscented bleach per liter of water. Soak for 15 minutes, then rinse thoroughly. You can combine baking soda and bleach together for a more thorough cleaning.

Rinse with vinegar: Fill the bladder with water and add one cup of white vinegar per gallon of water. Soak for 15 minutes, then rinse thoroughly.

Rinse with lemon juice: Fill the bladder with water and add 1/4/ cup of lemon juice. Soak for 15 minutes, then rinse thoroughly. Lemon helps neutralize really strong odors naturally without the smell of bleach or vinegar.

Once you have disinfected the bladder, be sure to dry it completely before using. A wet bladder will quickly grow bacteria and can cause an infection. Allow the bladder to air dry overnight by using a towel to thoroughly dry the inside then prop it open using a kitchen whisk and a drying rack.

Storage of the bladder

Once hiking season has ended and it’s time to put away your summer gear, store your water bladder by making sure it’s completely dry first. Roll it up and seal any of the openings so no moisture can get in. We like just storing it inside our day packs, so it’s protected and stays in a cool, dry, dark place. 

FAQ’s

How do you get rid of the plastic-y smell or taste in a new hydration bladder?

Any of the disinfection options above should get rid of that new water bladder smell, but we love and recommend using the Bottle Bright tablets. We found these to be the best of all those options to specifically get rid of that plastic smell and taste that can come with new hydration gear. We also use these tablets on our water filtration systems to get out that smell and taste. 

What is the best way to clean a water bladder?

The most straightforward way to clean a hydration bladder is with some warm soapy water and a cleaning brush. If you’re looking to use non-soap alternatives, some great options are bottle cleaning tablets, lemon juice, or even bleach.

How often should I clean by water bladder?

This comes down to personal preference, but we recommend do a simple, quick clean at least every couple hikes. Disinfect more regularly after heavy use, like after a backpacking trip or a long, sweaty day hike.  

How do I clean my water bladder with bleach?

Fill your bladder with warm water and 2-5 drops of unscented bleach per liter. You can also add two tablespoons of baking soda for a deeper clean. Let sit for 15-30 minutes, then rinse thoroughly and prop open so it can completely dry. 

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