How many times do you wash your reusable water bottle? It turns out your water bottle can harbor several types of bacteria, which can lead to illness and infections, including diarrhea. According to an analysis from EmLab P&K, an environmental testing firm based in New Jersey, water bottles carry an average of over 300,000 colony-forming units of bacteria per square centimeter. That’s like the toothbrush holder sitting unwashed near your toilet and up to six times the number of bacteria found on pet bowls. These findings came from a dozen water bottles used by athletes and hadn’t been washed in a week. And if you’re wondering where the germs come from, it’s from your hands and mouth.
Reusable Water Bottles – Are They Hygienic?
Water bottles are graded depending on the material used to make them. Usually, there’s a number printed inside a triangle, showing what kind of plastic it is. The most common types of plastics used in water bottles include:
- Polyethelene terephthalate (PETE or PET). This type of plastic is denoted by “1” on your bottle. It’s lightweight and used to make water bottles, sauce bottles, and other food packaging containers.
- High-density polyethylene (HDPE). If you see the number “2” on your bottle, it means it’s made from HDPE. This plastic is sturdier and durable, making it an excellent option for detergent bottles, soap bottles, etc.
- Other. If you see the code “7” on your bottle, it shows the plastic material used doesn’t fit under any other category. Some water bottles in this category may contain bisphenol A, or BPA, a chemical that’s been found to interfering with the endocrine system, which is responsible for hormone control.
It’s advisable to steer clear of products containing BPA due to their potential impacts on hormonal balance.
What Makes Reusable Water Bottles Unhygienic?
Your hands touch so many surfaces on any ordinary day, carrying with it all the germs from these surfaces. When you pick up your water bottle, you transfer these germs and bacteria to the bottle.
Bacterial growth also occurs from the ordinary touch of your mouth to your bottle. When drinking water, you create a moist environment with your saliva. When you close the lid, it creates a moist warm environment that’s perfect for hosting all kinds of bacteria. Every time you drink water from the bottle, you ingest some of these bacteria.
Likewise, leaving the water bottle open can collect a startling number of bacteria throughout the day. Additionally, wear and tear on the water bottle from constant reuse leads to cracks and scratches on the surface, giving bacteria an area to grow.
Apart from the moist environment, chemical leaching is another concern with reusing water bottles, specifically plastic water bottles. Leaching is where chemicals from the plastic mix with the liquid you’ve put inside. However, this shouldn’t be an issue with single-use plastic bottles.
Leaching starts to become a problem when you store the plastic in high temperatures, like inside a car on a hot day. Reusable water bottles made from polyethylene terephthalate (marked by number “1”), are unsafe since BPA is likely to leach into your drink and may cause health concerns over time.
To minimize chemical leaching, it’s best to store the plastic water bottle at room temperature and away from the sun.
Choosing a Safe and Hygienic Reusable Water Bottle
Avoid the single-use plastic bottles that you buy at the store or vending machines. They weren’t designed to be used more than once, and repeated use can lead to a breakdown of the plastic, posing a health risk.
As the world is becoming more conscious of the impact of single-use plastic water bottles, environmentally friendly reusable water bottles are quickly becoming popular. You can find reusable bottles made from different materials, like steel, glass, and aluminum, all of which are BPA-free.
These reusable water bottles are 100 percent recyclable and can be used for a long time, as long as you clean them regularly. Just be sure to choose high-quality and food-grade stainless steel, glass, or aluminum bottles. They don’t leak chemicals and can be used for hot beverages.
How to Clean Your Reusable Water Bottle
It’s highly advisable to clean your reusable water bottle regularly, just like you do coffee cups, plates, and drinking glasses. Considering that a moist and warm environment is a hive for bacteria growth, you should clean them daily to get rid of the bacteria.
To thoroughly clean your reusable water bottle, use one of these three methods:
- Soap and water: Use warm water and soap to wash both the outside and inside of the water bottle, making sure you thoroughly brush all the nooks and crevices around the bottle nozzle. Rinse thoroughly and let it dry overnight.
- White vinegar and water: Fill your water bottle a fifth of the way with white vinegar and the rest with hot water. Let it sit overnight. Rinse thoroughly in the morning and let it dry.
- Dishwasher: First, check if your bottle is dishwasher safe. If it is, throw it inside the dishwasher, along with all the pieces, such as straw and top.
All images by Shutterstock