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How to Sanitize a Water Bottle with Bleach

It's super important to keep your water bottles and water pouches or containers clean on your thru-hike. After weeks of use, it's common for your water bottle to start getting dirty and smell a little funky. Here is a tip for how to sanitize your water bottles with an easy, lightweight solution.

Paul Bodnar      Educational     6/25/2021
Paul Bodnar
Educational
6/25/2021

Sanitizing Water Bottles with Bleach Crystals

Unscented bleach crystals are easy to carry, lightweight, and you don’t have to worry about liquid spillage. This makes bleach crystals ideal for thru-hikers or long-distance backpackers. However, unscented liquid bleach also works and is easily available.

I recommend getting in the habit of sanitizing your water bottles when you notice an odor. This is especially important if you use hydration tubing to drink water out of a hydration bladder or pouch. Hydration tubing has a lot of surface area which can easily grow bacteria when not cleaned out properly.

To sanitize your water container, use about 1/4 teaspoon of unscented bleach crystals or 3/4 teaspoon of unscented liquid bleach in 1 quart of water. Let the water and bleach mixture sit for at least 30 minutes before safely discarding the water-bleach mixture down the drain.  Be careful not to spill the bleach mixture or it will stain. You should also thoroughly rinse your water bottle or water system with fresh, clean water before using. There should be no smell or taste of bleach after thoroughly rinsing your bottle.

**DO NOT DRINK ANY WATER THAT IS MIXED WITH BLEACH.

Bleach crystals in a spoon being added to a water bottle.

Summary

If your water bottle starts developing a little smell or you can see any growth, it’s time to sterilize your water bottle. With a little bleach and water your water bottle can be back to new in no time!

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A lake reflects a nearby wildflower meadow and trees.
Showers Lake Vista, Tahoe Rim Trail
Photo courtesy of the Tahoe Rim Trail Association

Trail guides that get you to places you’ve dreamed of.

As the makers of Guthook Guides, Bikepacking Guides, and Cyclewayz, we help you navigate the most popular trails around the world on your smartphone. Our hiking guides and biking guides work completely offline. Let Guthook guide your next adventure!

Download our popular hiking and biking guides!
About the Author
A man wearing an Arizona Trail baseball cap stands in a field in front of a mountain.

Paul Bodnar

Paul has always liked hiking and thru-hiked the Pacific Crest Trail in 1997 after college. After years of working in chemistry, he wanted to create a career involving the outdoors, so he hiked the PCT again in 2010 to do research for his guide book, Pocket PCT. He realized that creating a smartphone app for navigating the outdoors would make it easier to keep the data current and provide a better way to navigate. While hiking with Ryan (aka Guthook) in 2010, they decided to work together to create the first comprehensive smartphone guide for the PCT.