It’s easy to fall into the habit of only rinsing your Nalgene Bottle between uses (I know because I’ve been there). But regular, thorough cleaning is important to make your bottle last as long as possible and to prevent it from making you sick.
But how exactly do you clean a Nalgene Bottle properly to remove mold, prevent stains, and make sure it’s as hygienic as possible?
To wash a Nalgene Bottle properly, rinse out the bottle’s contents, scrub it with hot, soapy water using a bottle brush, and let it air dry. Be sure to scrub every crack and crevice to remove and prevent mold, paying particular attention to the underside of the lid.
If you find mold in your Nalgene, it can be killed by scrubbing with a mixture of baking soda and water or it can be soaked in vinegar and then scrubbed.
Nalgene Bottles are dishwasher safe, though some studies have shown that the heat from machine washing may cause more chemicals to leach from reusable plastic bottles, so I personally tend to hand wash only.
Thanks to their simple design, cleaning a Nalgene Bottle is pretty easy compared to most other water bottles. One of the big problems with Contigo bottles or the problems with Camelbak bottles is the lids can be hard to clean.
But, like every thing Nalgene, the bottles are simple, durable and (luckily for us) really easy to clean. Especially the wide mouth bottles.
Still, if you don't wash it thoroughly enough your bottle could develop mold and make you sick, and if you use the wrong methods, you could damage your bottle.
How To Hand Wash Your Nalgene Water Bottle
My primary way of washing my Nalgene bottle is by hand washing it in the sink with hot soapy water.,
Step 1: Give The Bottle A Quick Rinse or Soak
Pour out the contents of your bottle and give it a good rinse under hot running water. Be sure to hit every surface, the cap included.
Hot water is more effective at dissolving residue and washing away any leftover drink left in the bottle. Though if you prefer cold water, it generally works well enough if you don't have caked dried smoothie or something left in your bottle.
If you have stubborn residue or dried-out smoothie caked on the inside of your bottle that won’t rinse off easily, fill the bottle with hot water (and maybe a small squirt of dish soap or some vinegar), shake, and let it soak for 15 to 20 minutes.
The residue will soften and be rinsed or scrubbed off much more easily.
Step 2: Wash All Surfaces Well With A Bottle Brush
After rinsing, give your bottle a thorough wash with hot water and dish soap, or if you prefer a more natural cleaner, vinegar or baking soda make reasonable alternatives.
A bottle brush can help hit all those tight corners you’d have trouble reaching with a washcloth or sponge alone.
I personally use this 3-in-1 bottle brush set from Amazon as it's affordable and the bottle brush has a long handle and it's shaped in such a way it's easy to get to all areas of my Nalgene bottle (and cleaning other bottles.)
It also comes with a straw brush and a smaller brush which has proved perfect for cleaning my Nalgene lid.
Step 3: Clean The Lid Properly
The lid is the area of your bottle that is most likely to attract and grow mold because water can hang around in the crevices providing the perfect breeding ground for mold.
The good thing about Nalgene lids is they don't have rubber gaskets which can cause mold problems by hiding the mold from plain sight.
Cleaning the lid is simple, just get in there with a small cleaning brush while washing your bottle and brush all the crevices and threads.
Step 4: Rinse And Air Dry
After a thorough scrub, rinse the bottle again under hot running water to remove any remaining detergent or cleaner.
Air dry the bottle upside down at a slight angle (to allow some airflow) on a drying rack.
If you’re in a rush, drying with a clean hand towel is okay. Just remember that hand towels often harbor all sorts of bacteria — so air drying is preferred whenever possible.
Step 5: Leave Bottle With Lid Off
One of the mistakes I made with my bottles a while ago was storing them with the lid on.
I thought this would be a good way to keep them clean and also not lose the lids.
However, when you store them with the lid on for an extended period of time they can still grow mold and get a funky smell which can be difficult to clean out.
If you do have mold then check out my guide on how to clean mold from a Nalgene bottle.
If Your Nalgene Needs A Deep Clean
Every now and then my Nalgenes get particularly nasty and a normal wash just won’t cut it.
For those worst cases, Nalgene recommends soaking the bottle for an hour or two in diluted bleach.
- Fill the bottle ⅔ full with hot water.
- Add a few drops of bleach.
- Shake well.
- Let the bottle soak for an hour or two.
- Flip the bottle and let it soak upside down for another hour so the underside of the cap is cleaned as well.
- Rinse, hand wash, and air dry as normal.
Just keep in mind, bleach is corrosive to plastic so you shouldn’t use this method any more often than is needed.
While it won’t do quite as good a job, you can use diluted white vinegar instead of the bleach (using a one to one ratio of vinegar to water).
Vinegar is natural, nontoxic, easier on plastic, can help remove stains, kills many types of mold, and works almost as well as bleach.
In fact, I personally avoid using bleach in my Nalgene bottle and only use vinegar to clean mold (and that's only when my bottle gets really bad).
Are Nalgene Bottles Dishwasher Safe?
All Nalgene Bottles, regardless of what type of plastic they’re made of, are dishwasher safe.
I wont do it all the time but every now and then I will put my Nalgene bottle in the dishwasher and I'm personally not worried about it.
Just be sure to only use the top rack. Machine washing your Nalgene too close to the heating element could damage your bottle.
However, I prefer to hand wash all of my reusable plastic bottles because some studies have shown that dishwashing them “wears down the plastic and… increases [chemical] leaching.”
I’d rather play it safe and hand wash my Nalgene Bottles. It really doesn’t take too much time or effort.
How To Properly Clean Your Nalgene Lid
Because Nalgene lids are so simple, they’re much easier to clean than the lids of many other bottles, though they still require some extra attention.
Mold and mildew thrive in warm, dark, damp places — making the underside of your cap and the bottle’s threads a perfect breeding ground.
Step 1: Rinse The Lid And Soak In Vinegar If Needed
Remove your cap and check for mold. It’s pretty easy to spot on the classic blue lids, but may be harder to see if you have a black lid.
Give your bottle a quick smell test too. You can usually smell mold well before you’re able to see it.
If you see or smell mold, soak the cap (and bottle) overnight in a mixture of water and white vinegar (vinegar can kill up to 82% of mold spores).
If you don’t see any mold, move on to step 2.
I’ll still soak my Nalgene caps in diluted vinegar once every few weeks, just in case there’s mold that I didn’t notice or can’t yet see.
Step 2: Scrub The Threads And Every Crevice Of The Lid
Using detergent and a sponge or washcloth, scrub every crack and crevice of your Nalgene’s lid. A bottle cleaning kit or toothbrush can help with the tight and hard to reach spaces.
If there was mold on the lid, scrub again with a mixture of baking soda and water to kill and remove any that remains.
If you have an ATB, OTF, or MultiDrink cap, don’t forget to scrub the inside of the spout with a small bottle brush as well.
Step 3: Rinse And Air Dry
After you’re confident every surface has been thoroughly scrubbed, rinse off the detergent under hot running water.
Let the cap air dry on a drying rack fully before using.
Also, ideally store your bottle with the cap off. This ensures no moisture will be trapped and it prevents mold from growing.
What Cleaning Products Not To Use On A Nalgene Bottle
While Nalgenes are surprisingly durable, there are a few cleaning products that could damage your bottle and should be avoided.
While Nalgene recommends deep cleaning their bottles with diluted bleach, it should be done sparingly.
Bleach is corrosive to plastic and will slowly wear down your bottle.
If you do decide to deep clean your bottle with bleach, make sure it’s heavily diluted. Two or three drops is plenty for a standard 32 oz Nalgene Bottle.
If you have a stainless steel Nalgene Bottle, you should avoid bleach entirely. Bleach will corrode and stain stainless steel.
Alcohol Or Ammonia Based Cleaners
Cleaners that contain alcohol or ammonia may cause yellowing, hazing, and crazing (making the plastic brittle).
Always check the label of your cleaner to make sure it's alcohol-free, ammonia-free, and safe for use with plastic.
Abrasive Sponges, Steel Wool, And Rough Bottle Brushes
Steel wool and abrasive sponges or bottle brushes can leave small surface scratches on the interior of your bottle that may cause more chemicals to leach into your bottle’s contents.
To be safe, I only use soft, foam bottle brushes to wash my Nalgene Bottles.
How To Remove Stains From A Nalgene Bottle
Remove Drink Stains
If you ever drink coffee or tea from your Nalgene, you’ve probably had to deal with stains on the inside of your bottle.
Luckily, they’re actually pretty easy to remove.
A mixture of baking soda and water soaked in your Nalgene for an hour or two, followed by a quick scrub with a bottle brush should do the trick.
For more stubborn stains, give the bottle a soak in diluted bleach as shown above.
If your Nalgene is getting cloudy, you have a few options you can try.
- Fill the bottle about halfway with ice and salt, swirl them around inside for a few minutes, and finish with a quick rinse and wash.
- Soak the bottle with diluted bleach or diluted vinegar for an hour or two, as shown above.
- Scrub the interior of the bottle with a mixture of baking soda and water.
How Often Should You Wash Your Nalgene Bottle?
Now that we know how to wash a Nalgene Bottle, you may be wondering how often a Nalgene Bottle should be washed.
Ideally, after every use.
But, as we both know, that’s not entirely realistic.
If you’re only using your Nalgene for water, you can probably get away with a wash after every two to three days. If you’re using it for smoothies, tea, or anything other drinks, I’d stick to at least once per day.
If you choose not to wash your bottle daily, be on the lookout for mold. It’s more likely to grow the longer you wait between washes.
And lastly, if you notice a strange smell or taste, it’s time for an immediate wash before using the bottle again.