I use my Nalgene bottle for nearly everything. Going to the climbing gym, going hiking or exploring waterfalls even at home while I'm working or for my protein shakes when I go to the gym.
However, I know I'm not the only one who has found a Nalgene bottle they forgot they owned in the backseat of the car. Whoops!
3-5 day old smoothie is not a recipe for a clean and safe water bottle. In this case, it's likely some questionable things are growing there that you'll want to clean out.
There are a variety of ways to deep clean a Nalgene bottle but one of the methods recommended by Nalgene themself is bleach. But can you actually use bleach in your Nalgene and is it safe?
Can You Clean A Nalgene Bottle With Bleach? Should You?
According to Nalgene, cleaning their bottles with a few drops of bleach and warm water is a great way to disinfect them and clean out anything nasty that might be stuck.
However, bleach is corrosive to plastic, and while it would take a long time to ruin a Nalgene bottle, there's no telling the types of chemicals that would be released if you use bleach regularly to clean it.
So although Nalgene say it can be a good way to clean your bottle and that it's not going to destroy your water bottle, for the health of you and your family, it's best to avoid using bleach on any plastic.
If you've got nothing else to use and your Nalgene is particularly nasty then sure, go ahead and use bleach every now and then to clean your bottle. But it's not something I would recommend doing regularly.
How To Clean a Nalgene Bottle Using Bleach
If you've decided that yes you want to go ahead and clean your Nalgene bottle with bleach here is the best way to do it.
1. First hand wash or run your Nalgene through the dishwasher to remove any residue
2. Fill your Nalgene bottle about 2/3 full of warm water.
3. Add a few drops of bleach into the water (you don't need a lot)
4. Put the cap on and shake for 15-30 seconds to make sure the bleach gets everywhere
5. Leave it to sit for 1 hour. I like to leave it upside down so the lid also gets treated as this is a common area mold grows
6. Use a bottle scrubber to scrub out the bottle and cap. Pay special attention the thread on the bottle and the thread on the lid. Use a small brush to get in there.
7. Rinse well multiple times making sure to remove all bleach
8. Leave to air dry before using.
I highly recommend this 3-in-1 bottle brush cleaner at Amazon as it has a large brush for the inside of your bottle and the smaller brush is just the right size for cleaning your Nalgene lid.
Three tools in one. Includes a long bottle brush, straw brush and detail cleaner (great for cleaning inside lid gaskets). Comes with organizer ring and storage hook,
How To Clean a Nalgene Bottle Without Bleach
To play it safe, I use vinegar to clean my bottles when they get really gross. Vinegar is a natural mold killer and it's less corrosive to plastics than bleach is – especially if you water it down.
Using a one-to-one ratio with hot water, soak the Nalgene water bottle in a vinegar solution overnight.
Again I like to leave the bottle upside down while the vinegar is soaking to make sure that it get the mold killing focus. Alternatively I fill the bottle up and then submerge the lid in a bowl of vinegar so the vinegar gets into the threads.
To keep the lid from floating I'll place some sort of heavy kitchen utensil (like a spoon) on top of it to keep it submerged in the vinegar overnight.
Then, rinse it out in the morning, and clean it with soap to eliminate the vinegar smell.
I hate the smell of vinegar and was worried that my Nalgene would taste like vinegar after this but it didn't. If it does then I find soaking hot water in your Nalgene for a day then discarding can get rid of any remaining vinegar smell or running your Nalgene through the dishwasher works too.
If you can't stand the smell of vinegar (I don't blame you), you can use baking soda instead.
According to WikiHow, baking soda is a good option if a sticky liquid was used in the bottle and is now proving hard to remove.
With 1/4 cup of baking soda and 1/8 cup of warm water, you can shake, swirl, and groove your way into a clean water bottle.
The baking soda is gritty enough to scrape it clean while still being gentle enough not to damage the bottle.
After a few minutes of vigorous shaking, rinse out the bottle until there are no traces of the baking soda mixture remaining.
Depending on how dirty the bottle is, it might be helpful to repeat this process. This combination will help reduce the horrible smells that can sometimes develop.
How to Clear up a Cloudy Nalgene Bottle
After a while, no amount of cleaning can remove the cloudy appearance that Nalgene bottles sometimes get.
Your Nalgene can get cloudy if you put the bottle in the dishwasher and can especially occur in areas with hard water that contains dissolved salts.
Nalgene bottles are still safe to drink out of when cloudy but the ugly fog doesn't make your Nalgene look the greatest.
So although the bottle is safe to use when it's cloudy, it can seem gross to drink out of it and isn't as aesthetically pleasing when seen in those Instagram photos.
Luckily it's pretty easy to clean a cloudy Nalgene bottle and get it back to it's former glory. You can use the salt and ice method to get a crystal clear clean on a Nalgene bottle.
You have to fill the bottle halfway with ice, add a 1/4 cup of salt, and stir or gently shake it for 15 minutes or so. This takes some muscle and patience but stick with it, it's worth it.
Depending on the degree of cloudy film, it might need a rinse and repeat cycle. However, after a few goes, the bottle should come out nearly good as new.
This is also a great way to clean narrow mouth Nalgene bottles which can be more difficult to clean with bottle brushes or in the dishwasher.