A leaking bottle can be much more frustrating than it has any right to be. After all, it’s not very fun to drip water onto an expensive laptop or coffee on a clean white shirt.
The good news is that Nalgene Bottles are generally completely leakproof. The bad news is that when they do leak, it can sometimes be tricky to figure out why.
There are several reasons your Nalgene could be leaking, with the most common being physical damage to the bottle or lid. But if your bottle seems in good shape otherwise, a manufacturing defect, aging, warped bottle, incompatible lid, or stress from freezing could be to blame.
In almost every case, the best way to fix a leaking Nalgene is to simply replace the lid. Luckily, Nalgene offers an incredible lifetime warranty that fully covers defects and most forms of damage. If your bottle isn’t covered for whatever reason, replacement lids only cost a few bucks.
Let’s take a closer look at some of the most common reasons your Nalgene may be leaking and exactly what you can do to fix it.
1. A Damaged Lid Or Bottle
The most common cause of a leaking Nalgene is damage to the lid or bottle.
Nalgenes are really tough for bottles made of plastic — but drops, extreme temperatures, and other abuse will eventually take their toll. The lids also tend to deteriorate faster than the bottles themselves for some reason.
Most damage will be pretty apparent. But even if you don’t see any obvious signs, there’s a very fine line between watertight and a slow leak.
If you think your bottle may be leaking due to damage, Nalgene offers an incredibly generous lifetime warranty that fully covers damaged bottles (as long as it isn’t from fire, freezing, or chewing).
I’ve had to take advantage of their warranty more than once and it was a perfectly smooth process with no questions asked each time. Amazing considering that each break was completely my own fault.
If you are in a country where you cannot get replacements from the company or prefer to just buy one yourself then replacement lids are available at Amazon.
2. Dirt In The Lid
One of the common causes of a leaking Nalgene bottle is that a bit of dirt, grime or a small rock has gotten into your lid causes it to not close properly creating a watertight seal.
I take my Nalgene with me out in the bush all the time and it gets bashed around and well used by myself and my kids.
Often it'll get dropped and dirty and rarely you can get some dirt stuck in the lid. When you try to close the lid the dirt or small rock gets in the way and creates an opening for water to flow out of.
Not cleaning your Nalgene regularly enough can also cause buildup of scum and dirt over time which can potentially compromise the seal.
This is an easy fix. Simply get a small bottle brush and get in there are really give your lid a good scrub.
Click here for a guide on how to properly clean a Nalgene bottle lid but if you're having leaking issues I'd definitely go with a good brushing over putting your Nalgene in the dishwasher.
This 3-in-1 bottle brush kit is a great option for cleaning your Nalgene bottle.
3. A Defective Lid Or Bottle
While Nalgene’s quality control is generally pretty fantastic, every now and then a lemon manages to sneak through. It's rare, but it can happen.
If your bottle has been leaking since you bought it and there are no apparent signs of damage, it’s more than likely that a simple manufacturing defect is to blame.
The good news is, Nalgene’s lifetime warranty fully covers defects as well. Simply fill out a warranty request and wait for your new lid of bottle to arrive.
I just hope you're not like the person below who wanted one replacement lid and got sent an entire box of them.
4. An Aging Bottle
As your Nalgene Bottle ages, the seal between the bottle and lid may loosen enough to allow a slow leak. This is a major problem with other brands like the CamelBak podium which seems to leak fairly easily.
It's less of a problem with Nalgene bottles but with age, long term usage and wear and tear it's not completely unlikely.
Unlike many other bottles, Nalgene caps don’t contain a rubber gasket that can be easily replaced. Instead, the lids themselves are made of LDPE, a plastic that’s flexible enough to provide a seal when tightened.
With repeated use, however, LDPE can lose some of its rigidity and the once watertight seal may begin to weaken.
The bottles themselves are made of a rigid enough plastic to maintain their shape indefinitely — which means that, in most cases, replacing the lid will stop the leak.
While you can expect a Nalgene to last for many years, the lid will likely need to be replaced much sooner.
One of my older Nalgenes started leaking a few months back and I was scratching my head trying to figure out why.
As it turns out, the bottle still had its original lid from about ten years ago. I contacted Nalgene and had a new lid on my doorstep about a week later.
Not very surprisingly, the bottle hasn’t leaked since.
5. The Bottle Is Warped Or Misshapen
Ultralite Nalgene Bottles are made of a softer, more malleable plastic than Tritan Bottles — which is great when it comes to the weight of the bottle, but not so great when it comes to handling high temperatures.
If you put hot or boiling water in an Ultralite Nalgene, the bottle won’t melt but, thanks to a lower softening point, may deform under pressure.
If the mouth of your bottle softens and is permanently misshapen, leaking is all but guaranteed.
If you’re going to use a Nalgene for hot water, a Tritan Plastic or stainless steel Nalgene is a much better choice.
6. Your Lid Isn’t Compatible
If you’re using one, they usually work pretty flawlessly… at least until they don’t.
The problem is, over the years the threads on Nalgene Bottles have undergone some very minor changes in size and width.
Often, it’s not enough to cause any problems. But in other cases, it can make a lid that once worked great completely unusable on a new bottle.
Take for example the Hydro Flask Straw Lid I used on an old Nalgene for years without issue. Now, when I try to use it with some of my newer Nalgenes, I can barely get the thing to screw on and when I do it leaks like crazy.
Don’t assume that a third party lid that works on your current Nalgene will work if you replace your bottle, and be wary of old advice you find online that says certain lids are compatible with Nalgene Bottles. It may no longer be the case.
7. Damage From Freezing
One of the most common killers of Nalgene Bottles is damage from freezing. I regularly put my Nalgene in the freezer half full with water so that I don't have to add ice to it after the fact.
While it’s usually pretty obvious (giant cracks are hard to miss), the damage is occasionally a bit more subtle.
Most people know that you should never freeze more than a half full bottle, but what many fail to realize is that water frozen between the threads and bottle can be just as harmful.
As the water expands it puts stress on the lid and the relatively soft plastic may stretch. Even a slightly misshapen lid can cause your bottle to leak.
Unfortunately, freezing damage is one of the few things not covered under Nalgene’s lifetime warranty — but honestly it couldn’t hurt to try anyway.