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How to Clean Your Travel Cup or Bottle: Smells, Mold, Build Up

How to Clean Your Travel Cup or Bottle: Smells, Mold, Build Up

Are you a #StanleyCup® lover? Maybe your ice water is dressed in a colorblocked Owala® bottle or a Hydrojug® travel cup. However you sip, that vessel may be dirtier than you think.

Reusable bottles and cups can harbor an alarming amount of bacteria if they’re not cleaned properly. One of the most common types of mold that grows in water bottles is black mold (Stachybotrys Chartarum). It thrives in warm, moist environments with low exposure to light. That means bottles left in gym bags or outside in the car for a few hours are the perfect breeding ground.

The most overlooked place where mold can grow is underneath the rubber seal(s) or inside of the mouthpiece. Here’s how to properly clean your reusable bottle or travel cup—plus a few tips to prevent mold, bacteria, and smells.

How to clean your travel cup daily - hot water and soap

Daily cleaning to reduce mold and bacteria...

Tools needed: Bottle brush, dish soap, hot water

For daily use, clean out your bottle with hot water and a bit of dish soap. Unless you have very small hands, it might be difficult to reach down to the bottom, so pick up a bottle brush to help scrub the sides and base.

How to deep clean your travel cup - straws, seals, mouthpiece

Weekly cleaning: Seal ring, straw, mouthpiece

Tools needed: Bottle brush, straw brush, dish soap, hot water

Mold spores can grow, not only in the bottle, but in the smaller crevices such as the seal ring. Once per week, remove the rubber seal ring(s) and wash them in warm water with dish soap.

If your bottle or cup has a straw, pick up a straw brush and scrub the inside of it. Use your straw brush (or a cotton swab) to scrub the mouthpiece, which can harbor dry skin from our lips and lip products. Air-dry each component and reassemble once it’s dry.

If your travel cup or water bottle smells - vinegar

If your bottle has odor...

Tools needed: Vinegar, hot water

After washing your bottle with soap and water, fill one-quarter of the bottle with vinegar then fill to the top with hot water, mix, and leave it to sit overnight. Empty and rinse in the morning.

If your water bottle has stains or build up - baking soda

If your bottle has stains or build up...

Tools needed: Baking soda or denture cleaner tablets, hot water

Wash your bottle with soap and water (straw and rubber gasket(s) separately), then add a couple of tablespoons of baking soda or two denture cleaning tablets. Fill to the top with hot water. Put the cap on and shake to mix. Remove the cap and let it sit for a few hours. Empty the bottle and rinse again with soap and water.

If your travel cup has mold - bleach instructions

If your bottle has mold...

Tools needed: Bleach, cool water

Bleach is an effective disinfectant. After thoroughly washing the bottle, straw, and rubber pieces separately, add one teaspoon of bleach to the bottle. Fill with cool water and let it sit overnight. Empty in the morning, clean with dish soap and rinse. You can also soak the mouthpiece, straw and rubber gasket(s) in bleach for 30 minutes and rinse well before using.

how to dry travel cup, how to store travel cup or bottle

Tips for avoiding mold in your travel cup or water bottle:

  • Clean your water bottle out daily with warm water and dish soap.
  • Store it upside-down and tilted (to let air in) with the top off to allow moisture to drain.
  • Rinse with hot water before filling to help kill mold spores.
  • Invest in a straw brush and a bottle brush to reach difficult places.
  • Once a week, disassemble the rubber pieces, straw, and spout and clean them separately.
  • Do not store your water bottle in hot areas such as your car cup holder. When you’re not using it, store the bottle empty and dry.
  • Avoid very textured water bottles and cups. The extra ridges and crevices can easily hide mold.