How To Clean Bad Smells and Mold From Contigo Water Bottle

Contigo bottles are made from Tritan plastic and are very safe to drink out of but the lids have intricate parts that can be difficult to clean.

In fact, one of the biggest problems with Contigo water bottles is that the lids often develop hidden mold and this can make make your bottle smell.

In my opinion it's a big design flaw with Contigo bottles. However, if you have the right tools and some patience you can get rid of mold and bad smells from your Contigo bottle and lid.

To clean bad smells and mold from a Contigo water bottle you need to treat both the bottle and the lid.

Dismantle the lid using a micro screwdriver set, and remove mold and grime with pipe cleaners, q-tips, or a small bottle brush.

Soak all parts in white vinegar and water (including the bottle), rinse them, and allow them to dry thoroughly before reassembling the lid.  

Eliminating mold and bad smells from a Contigo water bottle involves a bit of work but is well worth the effort. You don't need me to tell you that drinking from a moldy bottle is bad for your health – it's also not great for the flavor of your drink either.

Things You’ll Need

Here’s what you’ll need for the task: 

  • Micro screwdriver set that has a triangular and slender flathead screwdriver. I recommend a good quality one, as cheap sets normally break quickly. This Mini Precision Screwdriver Set from Amazon is a great example, as it’s designed well and contains a variety of different screw heads – importantly the triangle ones that are needed for Contigo bottles.
  • Dish or container, so you don’t lose the lid’s tiny pieces.
  • Tweezers or toothpicks. (the set linked above comes with tweezers)
  • Soft-bristled bottle brush.
  • Q-tips, pipe cleaners, or small, thin bottle brushes for cleaning the small lid parts.
  • Thin-nosed pliers.
  • Rubber band (if you have a chug lid).
  • Your cleaning solution of choice (I like white vinegar because it’s cheap and effective).
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How To Clean Mold from Contigo Bottle

Now that you’ve gathered your tools, here’s what you need to do: 

1. Remove the Lid and Clean the Bottle

This is the easiest step, and involves cleaning the Contigo bottle as you normally would. I find that a hand wash with hot water and dish soap works best for simple cleans. You can use a soft-bristled brush to clean the whole inside. 

I personally like and use this 3-in-1 bottle brush set at Amazon as it contains a larger long handled bottle brush for the inside of my Contigo bottle, plus a smaller brush and straw cleaner which work great for cleaning the lids.

3-in-1 Stainless Steel Water Bottle Brush Set
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Don’t have time to soak your bottle and wash it by hand? Use bottle cleaning tablets instead! I keep a stock of them for the days my bottle needs cleaning but I don’t feel like washing it. 

Most bottle cleaning tablets are effervescent and contain ingredients like citric acid to get into all the nooks and crannies and remove stains. Just fill your bottle with warm water and drop the tablet in. Leave it for 20 minutes, and hey presto!

Not all bottle cleaning tablets are equal, though, and I recommend using a tried and tested one. Bottle Bright Cleaning Tablets from Amazon do the job really well. They’re on the pricey side but I love how they remove stains and odors.  

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You could also put the bottle through the dishwasher on the top rack but I find that handwashing allows you to scrub it thoroughly, which a top-rack dishwasher clean can’t do.

Stainless steel Contigo bottles aren’t dishwasher safe, so you’ll need to wash them by hand, anyway. 

2. Take Apart Your Contigo Lid

I’ll be honest that this is the most difficult part and my least favorite because you really need to concentrate. However, you’ll be fine if you have plenty of patience and the right tools. 

How you disassemble your lid depends on the Contigo bottle type you have: 

Kid’s Contigo Straw Lid and Adult Autospout Straw Lid

  1. Open the spout and detach the straw from underneath
  2. Loosen the spout. There are 2 small plastic bars holding the spout in place. Using your thin, flathead screwdriver, gently pry one of the bars loose. Once the first bar’s free, angle the spout so you can free the other one manually. 
  3. Remove the soft, flexible rubber spout inside the outer, hard plastic spout. Turn the lid upside down and push the spout upward and through the hard casing. If you can’t, use your thin-nosed pliers or flathead screwdriver to tease it loose. Push it through the lid with your fingers.
  4. Remove the rubber spout from the hard casing. Find the tiny clips holding the flexible rubber in place and pry the soft spout away from them with your flathead screwdriver. The plastic casing has a seam on either side and you can gently pry it apart with the screwdriver. 
  5. Separate the flexible rubber spout into 2 parts with your fingers. 
  6. You’ll now see 4 tiny screws along the bottle’s rim. Remove them with your small triangle screwdriver. Once the screws are removed, you’ve successfully dismantled the entire lid. 

If you’re like me, and more of a visual learner, below is a helpful YouTube video that explains everything: 

Contigo Chug Lid

  1. Turn the lid upside down and lift off the soft square rubber section. There’s a round and square section on the side. Using a flathead screwdriver, gently lift off the square section. 
  2. Pull the flexible rubber spout out. After lifting the square section, you can now pull out the rest of the spout. If you couldn’t remove the spout by lifting the square section, use a long thin flathead screwdriver and separate the spout from the lid. 
  3. Remove the hard spout casing from the lid with your thin flathead screwdriver. You may need to wiggle it around so the push button pops out. There are 2 tiny tabs on either side of the spout holding it in place. Use the screwdriver to remove them from the holes.
  4. Remove the small washers from the spout and separate the seam. Grab the hard plastic spout and look for the seam running around it. To separate it, use your thin flathead screwdriver. 

Here’s a video showing what you need to do: 

Contigo Autoseal Lid

  1. Find the tab that says “push to clean” and push it all the way up
  2. Grab your rubber band and secure the tab to the upright piece next to it. NOTE: For newer models this may just stay open.
  3. Remove the spring. Right underneath the section you’ve just secured with a rubber band, you’ll see a spring with a seal on top. Use a tiny screwdriver to gently move the seal downward so you can remove it. 
  4. Remove the mechanism underneath. Find the plastic section on the lid’s outer rim that’s aligned with the spring mechanism, and pull it out. 
  5. Pull the spring, seal, and the tiny washer part out with your fingers.  

When I first dismantled my Contigo autoseal lid, I found this video helpful: 

3. Clean the Disassembled Lid Parts 

Now that you’ve dismantled the lid, you can clean the parts that are causing the smell and contain mold without having to replace it.  

Use a pipe cleaner or tiny bottle brush to clean inside the straw (if you have one) and the soft rubber tube parts. If you see any embedded dirt or mold anywhere else, use a q-tip or toothpick to remove it. 

Giving everything a quick clean with an antibacterial wipe is also a good idea.

4. Treat All Parts For Mold

Once you’ve cleaned each part and removed all the visible mold you could see, you can address the remaining hidden mold and smell with a deep clean using a mold killer. 

There are various ways to do this, and I recommend picking one using products you’re most comfortable with (for the bottle lid and straw, use the same products and soak them): 

White Vinegar and Baking Soda

This is my favorite way to deep clean a water bottle because it’s incredibly effective, and white vinegar and baking soda are cheap, and have many other household uses.  

Make a 1:1 water and white vinegar solution and soak your bottle and all lid parts separately in a bowl. Place a heavy plate or bowl on top to keep all the items submerged in the vinegar solution so the mold doesn't miss any spots.

Leave for at least 30-60 minutes to kill remaining mold or if you want to be extra careful leave it to soak overnight.

After soaking is finished take the parts out but don't rinse them yet (as the remaining vinegar will help in the next step of the process).

Make a paste out of baking soda and water and use this paste and your small brush to scrub all the parts again.

The baking soda will react with the vinegar and start to fizz which will help to give an even deeper clear and the abrasive nature of the baking soda will help scrape off any mold that is hiding.

Take your time and be thorough.

Water and Bleach Solution

The sodium hypochlorite in bleach is a fantastic sanitizer and odor remover. It will quickly kill and lift the mold, leaving your bottle sparkling clean. 

Fill a bowl with warm water almost to the top, then add a tablespoon of thin bleach, and place all parts in the solution and leave it for half an hour. Place a heavy plate or bowl on top of everything to keep it all submerged.

NOTE: Bleach can corrode plastic so don't leave it to soak for too long and don't use bleach too often or it can begin to ruin your bottle.

Food Grade Hydrogen Peroxide 

Hydrogen peroxide is an enzymatic cleaner and actively kills bacteria, mold, and odor-causing nasties.

Get hold of some food-grade hydrogen peroxide, put it in a spray bottle and mist the lid parts as well as the inside of your bottle well. 

Leave it for half an hour, and your bottle should be as good as new.

Boiling Water

If your bottle doesn’t smell that bad, using plain old boiling water might do the trick. This will kill the odor-causing organisms and loosen any mold in the bottle. 

Simply bring water to boil in a large pot. Place your Contigo lid parts and bottle in the pot and leave to boil for around 10 minutes.

Don't worry – Contigo bottles can handle boiling water temperatures. Contigo are made from Tritan plastic which has a high temperature range before it begins to melt. Boiling water shouldn't even soften the plastic.

Rock Salt, Ice and Lemon Juice

Looking for a natural method to simply remove bad smells from the inside of your bottle?

Lemon juice is acidic and a fantastic odor neutralizer, while rock salt is gently abrasive. Paired with ice and some good old elbow grease to shake the bottle it can remove built-up mold from the inside of your bottle.

Uncooked rice also works if you don’t have rock salt. 

Place a few ice cubes, 2 tablespoons of rock salt and a cup of lemon juice in your bottle, and fasten the lid. Shake it vigorously for a few minutes and then rinse it. 

Rock salt and ice is a good way to remove cloudiness from your bottles and I regularly use lemon juice to remove the bad taste from my CamelBak bladder. It works great for bottles too.

Denture Cleaning Tablets

I must admit that when I first heard that denture tablets could deep clean water bottles, I was skeptical. However, after trying it, I can confirm that it really works well. 

Denture tablets contain sodium lauryl sulfate, citric acid and sodium bicarbonate (the same active ingredient as baking soda), and they’re fantastic at removing stains, mold, and odors.  

Just fill your bottle with warm water, drop in a denture tablet, and leave it overnight. You’ll be amazed at what you see in the morning! 

You can also put all the lid parts in a bowl and add a couple of denture cleaning tablets to clean the lid effectively.

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Milton Sterilizing Tablets

This method is great if you have a baby or toddler because you probably already use Milton tablets to sterilize pacifiers and bottle teats. 

All you need to do is fill a sink or large container with cold water and place a Milton tablet in it. Submerge your Contigo bottle and lid parts and allow the effervescent tablet to work its magic for half an hour. 

There’s no need to rinse your bottle, and it should look and smell as good as new. 

But I always like to rinse it just in case.

5. Rinse Your Bottle and Air Dry It 

Unless you used a Milton tablet to deep clean your bottle, you’ll need to rinse it thoroughly to get rid of the cleaning chemical residue. 

Then, place it in a dry place for several hours to air dry. Store it with the lid off until you need to use it again. 

Make sure you allow them to dry thoroughly (this is important because you don’t want more mold to develop again just after you’ve cleaned them). 

6. Reassemble All Parts

To reassemble your Contigo bottle lid, follow the steps above but in reverse.

It can be tricky to get it all back together but each time you do it it gets easier as you begin to learn exactly how things work.

Be careful though because if you break the lid Contigo don't sell replacement lids so you'll have to buy a lid from a different brand to fit onto your Contigo bottle.

How Do You Prevent Bad Smells and Mold In a Contigo Bottle? 

Now that you know how to clean mold from Contigo water bottle, you’re probably keen to prevent it from happening in the future. 

Here’s what you need to do: 

  • Always allow it to dry completely after washing it. 
  • Store the bottle with the lid off. Dark and damp conditions in the bottle are the perfect breeding ground for mold, bacteria, and other odor-causing nasties. 
  • If you can, only fill your bottle just before you head out, and don’t leave liquid in it for extended periods. Even water becomes stale, and can promote mold growth and smells. 
  • Wash your bottle often. If you use it for anything other than water, wash it after each use. Use bottle cleaning tablets for the days you’re feeling lazy.