CamelBak hydration packs are a great way to stay hydrated while hiking, biking, or jogging. But if you’re anything like me, the last thing you want to do when you get home is wash out your pack and hang it to dry properly.
Unfortunately, if you don’t take the time to properly care for your hydration pack, mold, mildew, odor, or a funky taste are sure to follow.
So what exactly should you do if you find mold in your CamelBak or it develops a strange smell or taste?
To get rid of mold in a CamelBak, soak the bladder in vinegar, scrub with a paste made of baking soda and water, then wash and dry as normal. Soak the mouthpiece separately in undiluted vinegar.
To get rid of bad smells or tastes, soak the bladder with hot water, lemon juice, and baking soda, then wash and dry as normal.
The best defense against mold and odor is to wash your CamelBak after every use (or two, if you’re only drinking water) and to completely dry it. If you can't do that the next best thing is to store your CamelBak bladder in the freezer until next time as this will slow the growth of mold.
But if you already have mold or a bad smell in your CamelBak, the good news is that they’re not really that tough to get rid of — don’t toss your reservoir until you’ve tried the steps below.
How to Get Rid Of Mold In A CamelBak
If you find mold growing in your CamelBak reservoir, tube, or mouthpiece, you need to thoroughly clean the entire system and kill any remaining mold before using it again.
Drinking from a moldy CamelBak can make you sick!
If you've found mold you can't just give it a rinse or even a wash with soapy water and a brush like I talk about in my article on how to clean a CamelBak bladder properly. You need to treat and kill the mold first.
Step 1: Rinse Out The Bladder
Empty and rise out the reservoir, tube, and mouthpiece under hot running water.
It's a good idea to fill the reservoir with water and close the lid and give it a good solid shake so the inside gets the best rinse possible.
If there are any visible pieces of mold, make sure they’re rinsed off as well as possible before moving on.
Step 2: Soak With Vinegar
Vinegar is a cheap and effective antifungal that can kill up to 82% of mold spores, so using it is a logical first step.
Fill the bladder with a 50/50 mixture of hot water and distilled white vinegar. Seal the reservoir and give it a few shakes. Make sure there is no air in the reservoir as this will ensure the vinegar reaches all the mold, killing it as effectively as possible.
Hold the bladder over the sink and squeeze the mouthpiece to ensure that vinegar flows through the entire system.
If you also find mold on the exterior of your pack, soak the entire bladder in a bucket full of water and vinegar.
Soak for at least 30 minutes then dump the contents. Do not rinse, leftover vinegar will help with the next step.
If you're like me and want to make sure the vinegar kills all the mold then you can leave it to soak overnight.
Step 3: Pay Extra Attention To The Mouthpiece
CamelBak mouthpieces are particularly prone to growing mold when moisture gets trapped in the bite valve. The problem is that it’s almost impossible to spot.
To make sure no hidden mold survives in the mouthpiece:
- Remove the mouthpiece from the tube and set the waterlock to open.
- Place the mouthpiece in a bowl of undiluted distilled white vinegar. Squeeze the bite valve a few times with it submerged to allow vinegar into all the nooks and crannies.
- Soak for at least 30 minutes (or even overnight).
Every time you clean your bottle, take extra care to ensure that the mouthpiece is fully dry before reconnecting it. And always dry it with the waterlock open.
Step 4: Scrub With Baking Soda
Baking soda is another cheap and effective antifungal agent and will help kill any mold that survived the soak in vinegar.
Mix baking soda and water until it reaches a paste-like consistency. Too thick and it’ll be hard to spread, too thin and it won’t kill mold as effectively.
Scrub the interior of the reservoir with the baking soda paste and a soft-bristled brush. Scrub the interior of the tube and mouthpiece with the paste and a tube cleaning brush.
If you notice fizzing, that’s just the natural reaction of baking soda and vinegar. No need to worry.
When you’re done scrubbing, let the baking soda do its thing for another 15 minutes or so before rinsing.
Step 5: Don’t Panic If There Are Still Spots
Mold can leave permanent stains on the walls of a CamelBak bladder. So if you still see some spots after following all of the steps above, you’re more than likely good to go.
As long as all mold spores have been killed, the spots are completely harmless (aside from making new mold harder to see in the future).
Step 6: Scrub And Dry The Bladder As Normal
In particularly bad cases, if there are still signs of mold (and not just mold stains), you may need to go through each step a second time.
If all mold seems to have been removed, wash and dry it as normal.
I use the CamelBak Crux Cleaning Kit to clean my reservoir, that includes everything you need to properly clean a hydration system — a soft-bristled brush, tube cleaning brush, a couple CamelBak cleaning tablets, and a reservoir hanger.
Features a large brush for the reservoir and a extra long straw brush to clean the drinking tube plus CamelBak cleaning tabs which will help clean away any scum. After cleaning use the reservoir drying kit to easily hang your bladder and get it completely dry.
A must have for CamelBak bladder owners.
How to Get Rid Of Bad Smells And Tastes In A CamelBak
The most effective way to get rid of bad smells or tastes in a CamelBak is to soak it with lemon juice and baking soda.
Step 1: Soak With Lemon Juice
Rinse out your CamelBak’s reservoir with hot water then fill with hot water and about ¼ cup lemon juice per liter. For extra funky smells, add a couple tablespoons of baking soda as well.
Hold the reservoir over the sink and squeeze the bite valve until water comes through, to ensure that it reaches the entire system.
Soak for 20 or 30 minutes.
Step 2: Wash As Normal
Dump your CamelBak, then wash and hang dry it as normal.
Don’t check for remaining smells until the bladder has completely dried — some smells may not be fully removed until all water has evaporated.
Step 3: If The Smell Remains
If your bladder still stinks, diluted bleach (3 or 4 drops per liter), CamelBak cleaning tablets, or water bottle cleaning tablets may help to remove some of the stubborn odors that lemon juice couldn’t.
Different cleaners are more effective at removing different types of odor — you may need to experiment.
Repeat from step 1, using a different cleaner (minus the baking soda).
These self dissolving tablets are designed specifically for CamelBak bladders and bottles. They reduce residual taste and odor and leave no odor, film or residue.