You Probably Don’t Clean This One Thing All That Often — And That’s Okay!

updated May 1, 2019
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(Image credit: Amy Rogers)

I am a person who likes to stay hydrated. I typically keep a big water bottle at my desk, a little one in my purse, and another big one in the car. If I see a water fountain, I take advantage and fill up whatever vessel I happen to have with me. Because heaven forbid I don’t have access to water for five minutes.

And now that you know I’m willing to drink out of a public water fountain, I’ll admit something else: I almost never clean those water bottles. I’ll let that desk water bottle sit there for weeks before I notice the formerly clear glass is looking sort of … opaque, and then I’ll get out my favorite bottle brush and be shocked and disgusted at how much cleaner it looks when I’m done.

In an effort to find out whether I’m poisoning myself, I reached out to Dr. Chuck Gerba, a professor of microbiology at University of Arizona. Turns out it’s not so bad!

(Image credit: Soma)

“Water bottles get a lot of bacteria in them if you keep reusing them, but it’s your own bacteria, and you can’t reinfect yourself,” says Gerba. The only water bottles that run a higher risk of being contaminated with outside bacteria (like E. coli) are the sports ones where you’re popping the spout open with your fingers — then your hands can introduce new bacteria.

In fact, he thinks it’s totally OK to only wash that water bottle in your purse every week or two! (Or if you notice an odor — ew!) While that may be slightly more often than I’m cleaning those bottles now, I can totally get into the habit of making water bottle cleaning part of my Sunday night back-to-the-grind ritual.

The only thing Gerba warns against: Sharing your filthy water bottle, as your germs could infect someone else. “Only share your water bottle with someone you’re willing to share saliva with.” Mmm, wise.

How often do you clean your water bottle? Be honest!