How To Clear Up a Cloudy Nalgene in No Time

I’ve been using Nalgene Bottles for years. They’re durable, simple, and cheap. What more could I want from a water bottle?

My biggest complaint is that they tend to develop a cloudy film after a few years that doesn’t clear with normal washing.  

The first time it happened, I almost made the mistake of throwing the bottle away. Luckily, before I did, I learned that it’s actually pretty easy to clean and clear a cloudy Nalgene Bottle. 

To clean and clear a cloudy Nalgene Bottle, fill the bottle half full with ice, add a few tablespoons of salt, and swirl the mixture around in the bottle for five to ten minutes. If the bottle is better but still not clear, you may need to repeat the process a few more times.

If it doesn’t help, you can try soaking and scrubbing with diluted bleach, baking soda, or distilled white vinegar instead.

The best method to clean a cloudy Nalgene Bottle depends on the reason your bottle is cloudy in the first place.

The most common cause is hard water deposits collecting in your bottle. This is similar to the white residue you sometimes find on ice cube trays.

It's not harmful and yes your bottle is still clean. But it doesn't look great and it can have a little bit of a taste to it.

So naturally, the first approach I recommend trying is the one that’s most effective at removing them.

If it doesn’t work, it’s likely that your Nalgene is cloudy for another reason and you’ll find some alternative methods that may work better below.

1. Wash Your Bottle

Mildew or drink residue on the walls of your bottle will make it harder to remove cloudiness, so the first step is to give the bottle a good wash. 

  1. Rinse the bottle under hot running water. If there’s any stubborn residue, let the bottle soak for 15 or 20 minutes and rinse again. 
  2. Scrub the bottle with hot water and dish soap, making sure to hit every surface of your bottle. A soft bottle brush and bottle cleaning kit can help with all those hard-to-reach places.
  3. Rinse out any remaining detergent. 

You don’t have to dry the bottle before continuing on to step 2. It’s going to get wet again anyway. 

2. Fill Your Nalgene With Salt And Ice

After washing, fill your Nalgene about half full with ice and a dash of water. The water isn't absolutely requires as the salt will cause the ice to start melting anyway but sometimes it helps.

I actually prefer not to use water as this allows the salt crystals to last longer before they dissolve.

Pour in a few tablespoons of salt. Basic iodized salt works great, but whatever you have on hand will do. 

I tend to use cheap salt for this, not because it works better but it's just more cost effective.

If the stains are particularly bad, you can use distilled white vinegar, lemon juice, baking soda, or OxiClean in place of the water. 

3. Swirl or Shake For 5-10 Minutes

Seal the cap and swirl or shake the ice around in the bottle for five to ten minutes.

About halfway through, turn the bottle upside down to swirl so the cloudiness is removed from the top part of the bottle as well. 

The salt and the ice act as an abrasive against the film on the inside of your Nalgene and do a great job cleaning it off.

It does take some manual labor. Just leaving the ice and salt in your Nalgene won't do the trick. You need to swirl it vigorously or shake it for the best results.

4. Wash The Bottle Again

Dump out the bottle’s contents and give it another thorough rinse and wash, making sure to remove any remaining salt and natural cleaner if you used one. 

5. Repeat As Necessary

After washing, check to see how clear your bottle is.

If it was minor cloudiness caused by hard water deposits, you’re probably good to go after one cycle. If the cloudiness was pretty bad, you may need to repeat from step 2 a couple more times. 

Once you’re satisfied with the results, let the bottle air dry upside down (and slightly angled) on a drying rack. 

Other Methods To Fix A Cloudy Nalgene Bottle

The method above works great if your cloudy Nalgene Bottle was the result of hard water deposits.

But hard water isn’t the only reason Nalgene Bottles get cloudy — milk protein deposits and oxidation are also common causes. 

If salt and ice don’t help, there are a few other methods that may work better. 

  • Fill the bottle with hot water and add a few drops of bleach (too much can damage your bottle). Let it soak for a few hours and wash thoroughly before using. 
  • Instead of using ice and salt use 1 cup of dry white rice and partially fill your bottle with water and then shake for a couple of minutes. This is actually one of the methods I use to clean my narrow mouth Nalgene bottle as it can be hard to reach all areas with the bottle brush.
  • Soak a mixture of water and distilled white vinegar (about a one to one ratio) on the bottle overnight.
  • Scrub the interior of the bottle using a baking soda and water paste with a bottle brush. 
  • Scrub the interior of the bottle with toothpaste (white toothpaste, not gel) in small circles. This works best to remove cloudiness caused by oxidation however it can cause micro-scratches in the plastic so it's more recommended as a last resort.

Some Types Of Cloudiness Can’t Be Removed

Micro scratches on the outside and inside of an old Nalgene bottle from the 1990's

Unfortunately, not all cloudy Nalgene Bottles can be fixed. 

If the cloudiness is the result of accumulated micro scratches on the bottle’s surface or damage from a DEET-based insect repellent, it may just be time for a new bottle.

After all, aging or damaged plastic is much more likely to leach chemicals into your water.

The good news is, Nalgene is pretty generous when it comes to replacing damaged bottles

And if not, replacements are relatively inexpensive anyway (and you can get one of Nalgene’s new eco-friendly Sustain Bottles).

Nalgene Wide-Mouth Water Bottle (32 oz)
$16.35

Made with BPA-free Tritan Renew plastic these Nalgene bottles are made with 50% recycled plastic.

This is the best selling water bottle that has been around for 30 years (and likely to last you 30 years). Suitable for warm and cold beverages (-40 to 212ºF) this is marked with milliliters and ounces for easy measurement.

Buy Now at Amazon
02/02/2023 10:33 pm GMT