How Often Should You Wash a Nalgene Bottle?

When I first switched to reusable water bottles, I picked up a Nalgene and used it almost every day.

Being a pretty lazy washer in general it didn’t occur to me at the time that I should probably be washing it more often than just when it started to taste funny or grow mold.

I eventually figured out how often I should be washing my Nalgene Bottles and have done my best to stick to it ever since. With their simple design and the fact they are dishwasher safe it's really not that hard to do.

Nalgene Bottles should be washed at least once per day. If you’re only filling your bottle with water, you may be able to stretch it to every few days but at least once a month, or anytime you notice a strange smell, taste, or find mold, you should give your bottle a deep cleaning by soaking it in dilute bleach or vinegar.

While I don’t necessarily wash my Nalgene Bottle every day like I should (don’t tell my partner), I’ve gotten into a good habit of washing it every couple days and identifying when I should give it a deeper cleaning.

All in all my Nalgene bottle now never smells funky and you'll be happy to to know it's been mold free for quite a white now.

You (Technically) Should Wash Your Nalgene Bottle Daily

You should wash your Nalgene Bottle after every use, or at least once a day if you’re refilling it throughout the day to reach your fluid intake goals

After all, the damp inside of a water bottle is the perfect breeding ground for bacteria and other germs. 

Nalgene bottles also aren't insulated. This leads the outside to sweat but also means the water inside can warm up and be a prime breeding ground for bacteria.

But let’s be honest. Many of us don’t have the time or energy to do everything we know we should. Plus the bottle really isn't THAT dirty after one day of just drinking water.

If I’m only drinking water, I’ll sometimes let my Nalgene Bottle go a couple days between washes, which has worked out well for me so far. This is especially true if I'm constantly refilling my Nalgene with fresh water.

If it's been 1-2 days and the same water has been sitting in there I will tip the water out and give the bottle a quick hand wash before using it again.

On the days I decide not to give it a proper wash, I’ll still dump it out, run some warm water through it, and let it air dry fully overnight.

If I’m drinking anything other than water, I (begrudgingly) wash my Nalgene daily. But I rarely put anything other than water in my Nalgene so this is a rare occurrence anyway.

What Happens If You Don't Wash Your Nalgene Bottle Enough?

While you might think your Nalgene looks clean and is fine to drink out of if you're not cleaning it on a regular basis then over time your bottle can build up a thin layer of scum or mold on the inside of the bottle and especially on the inside of the lid.

Generally you'll smell this before you see it.

When I don't wash my Nalgene for a few days (or yes…even a week) or if I've left water in there and not dried it properly I'll notice a slightly funky smell coming from the bottle.

This is usually fixed with a good scrub in warm soapy water but sometimes even this won't remove the smell and I'll need to give it a deeper clean.

Deep Clean Your Nalgene Bottle At Least Once A Month

Outside of normal washes, it’s a good idea to give your Nalgene Bottle a deeper cleaning every month or so.

Doing so will prevent mold, keep your bottle smelling and tasting fresh, kill stubborn germs, prevent your bottle from getting cloudy, and make your bottle last longer.  

To deep clean a Nalgene Bottle:

  1. Fill it about ¾ of the way full with hot water.
  2. Add a few drops of bleach and shake well. 
  3. Let it sit for an hour or two.
  4. Rinse the bottle thoroughly. I like to give it a standard wash with a bit of dish soap and a good scrub to make sure I’ve gotten all the bleach out.  

Vinegar is another great mold killer so you may prefer this over bleach and sometimes I'll soak my Nalgene in the sink so I can also soak the lid as well.

Just make sure to place something heavy-ish on top of the bottle so it doesn't float to the top and stays completely submerged. Alternatively put a rock inside it so it sinks.

Signs That Your Nalgene Bottle Needs To Be Washed ASAP

If you decide not to wash your bottle daily, it’s important that you watch out for some common signs that your bottle needs to be cleaned. 

A musty smell or taste is a dead giveaway that something’s up. If the smell remains after a wash, you may need to give your bottle a deeper clean. 

This one’s a bit more obvious, but mold or mildew growing in your bottle also calls for a deep cleaning.

Don’t forget to check the cap. The threads are one of the most common areas for mold to grow and, unfortunately, is not always so easy to spot. 

Luckily though Nalgene bottles don't have a rubber gasket that you need to clean under. Cleaning a rubber gasket can be a bit tricky as they can be hard to get off, so it's nice we don't have to do this.

Scrub the mold off (a toothbrush or bottle brush can help with mold on the threads of your cap) and deep clean your bottle with bleach as shown above.

Final Thoughts

In a perfect world, we’d all wash our Nalgene Bottles after every use. But for those of us who are okay with ‘good enough’:

  • Wash your Nalgene Bottle every day or two in the dishwasher or with soap and warm water.
  • Deep clean your Nalgene Bottle every month or so by soaking diluted bleach in it for an hour or two.
  • If you notice mold or a strange smell or taste, it’s time to wash your bottle.