Vinegar is a cheap, natural, and eco-friendly alternative to all those harsh cleaners and detergents. It also has the ability to kill black mold, which is known to buildup in CamelBak bladders.
I’ve been using vinegar for years to clean and sanitize my water bottles and CamelBak bladders, and it’s left them smelling and tasting great, mold-free, and working smoothly.
If you have mold in your CamelBak bladder then cleaning your bladder with vinegar is a great way to treat and get rid of this mold.
To clean a CamelBak bladder with vinegar:
- Rinse the reservoir, delivery tube, and mouthpiece under hot running water.
- Fill the reservoir with a 50/50 mixture of distilled white vinegar and hot water.
- Seal the bladder, removing as much air as possible.
- Squeeze the bite valve so the mixture flows through the tube and mouthpiece as well.
- Gently shake and swish the mixture around for two to three minutes.
- Let it soak in your bladder for at least twenty minutes or as long as overnight.
- If your bladder is particularly dirty or it’s been a few uses since you scrubbed your reservoir, make a paste of vinegar and baking soda.
- Scrub the interior of the reservoir with the paste and a soft-bristled brush. Scrub the interior of the delivery tube with the paste and a tube cleaning brush.
- Rinse out the bladder, delivery tube, and mouthpiece with warm running water.
- Dry your bladder fully before storing it.
You may still need to bust out the dish soap on occasion for deep cleans, but sanitizing your CamelBak bladder with vinegar works great for all those routine cleanings between.
Step 1: Rinse The Bladder and Scrub Away Any Residue
Remove the bladder from the pack and give it a quick rinse under warm running water.
Let water run through the tube, mouthpiece, and QuickLink port by holding the reservoir above the sink and squeezing the bite valve until water flows through for at least 10 or 20 seconds.
If you notice mold buildup in your bladder then it's a good idea to give it a scrub in warm soapy water before rinsing it and proceeding to the next steps.
Removing as much visible mold as possible before soaking it means the vinegar will get to all the hidden mold and kill all of it.
If there's no visible mold then you can skip the scrubbing if you want and just give your CamelBak a good rinse.
Step 2: Soak In Vinegar
Soaking the bladder in vinegar helps loosen any residue in your reservoir and kill any mold, bacteria, or mildew lurking inside.
- Fill the bladder with a 50/50 mixture of hot water and distilled white vinegar. You can use more vinegar if your reservoir is especially funky or dirty, but you shouldn’t really use any less.
- Seal the bladder, squeezing out as much excess air as possible.
- Holding the bladder over the sink, squeeze the bite valve until your water and vinegar mixture just begins to flow through.
- Gently shake and swish the water around in the bladder for two or three minutes.
- Let it soak for at least 20 minutes or up to overnight.
- If you have mold in your CamelBak drinking tube then I strongly suggest removing the drinking tube and bite valve and soaking them in a bowl of vinegar
- If you have the time, drain the reservoir through the delivery tube. If you’re in a rush, you can just dump it out normally.
Step 3: Scrub With Vinegar And Baking Soda (If Needed)
If you have any stubborn residue, notice that the walls of your reservoir feel slimy, or have gone a couple weeks without deep cleaning your bladder, it’s probably time.
A paste made of baking soda and vinegar is one of my favorite ways to remove mold, mildew, built-up residue, and unwanted tastes and smells from my CamelBak.
Combine equal parts baking soda and vinegar and mix until it forms a consistency slightly thinner than toothpaste. You may need to add a bit more baking soda if it’s too runny and a bit more vinegar if it’s too thick.
Don’t worry if the mixture fizzes, that’s just the natural reaction of combining baking soda and vinegar.
Using a soft-bristled brush and tube cleaning brush, scrub the paste on all interior surfaces of your bladder and delivery tube.
If you don’t have them, the CamelBak cleaning kit comes with both brushes, plus a couple cleaning tablets and a reservoir hanger. It’s the one accessory for my CamelBak that I couldn't live without.
Features a large brush for the reservoir and a extra long straw brush to clean the drinking tube plus CamelBak cleaning tabs which will help clean away any scum. After cleaning use the reservoir drying kit to easily hang your bladder and get it completely dry.
A must have for CamelBak bladder owners.
Check out my in-depth CamelBak cleaning kit review to learn more.
Step 4: Rinse The Bladder
Rinse out the reservoir, delivery tube, and mouthpiece, making sure to remove any remaining vinegar and baking soda.
The easiest way is to fill the reservoir with warm water, swish it around for a minute or two, then drain through the bite valve. Repeat as needed.
Step 5: Dry Thoroughly
Drying your CamelBak fully before putting it away is just as important as cleaning it thoroughly. If you don’t, mold and bacteria can grow inside, making you sick or ruining your bladder.
If you need your CamelBak dried quickly, a CamelBak dryer, like this one by RiVern, can have your bladder dry in minutes. If you’re not in a rush, a reservoir hanger works just as well — just a lot slower.
Step 6: Soak With Lemon Water To Remove Vinegar Smell
One of the downsides of washing your CamelBak bladder with vinegar is that is can end up making your water taste like vinegar too.
I don't know about you, but vinegar is something I'm not a huge fan of so removing the vinegar taste after deep cleaning my CamelBak bladder is really important to me.
The 2 best ways I have found to do this is to soak the bladder with hot water or for even faster results soak it with lemon water.
Soak With Hot Water
To remove the vinegar taste from your CamelBak fill up your bladder with hot water from the tap (but don't use boiling water in your CamelBak).
Then leave the water to soak overnight before discarding.
Repeat until the vinegar taste is gone. Something this will take a few rounds of soaking but eventually the vinegar taste will be gone.
Soak With Lemon Water
To speed up the removal of the vinegar taste from your CamelBak you can use lemon water instead of regular water.
Squeeze 1/4 cup of lemon juice into your CamelBak for every liter the bladder holds.
Then fill your CamelBak with hot water from the tap and leave it to soak overnight.
Empty your CamelBak bladder and rinse it and it should be good to use and should no longer have any vinegar or plasticky taste.