Water bottle hygiene

I was happy with how race went on Sat afternoon. But two hours later I was struck down with fever and diarrhoea. From flying along the A4, to grovelling up the stairs to empty the bowels – the swings and arrow of fortune, as the Bard might say.

I wasn’t quite sure what it was. Possibly I caught a chill when cycling back to HQ in skin suit on a deceptively cold day. But, I’m not sure; I didn’t really feel cold. I didn’t eat anything dodgy – just a few recovery bars. The most likely contender is either I picked up viral infection or it was bacterial infection from a water bottle I used during warm up and recovery.


I remember getting a water bottle out of cupboard and scraping some grime away with finger. In winter, it’s hard not to pick this kind of stuff up. It’s impossible to keep water bottles immaculate. In fact the dispiriting thing about cleaning water bottles is that they can still look quite manky – even after a good clean. Periodically I throw them away, and buy new water bottles.

I do endeavour to always clean water bottles straight after use in hot soapy water, but occasionally after long hard ride, I forget (or just want to collapse and eat). The bottle gets left in warm conservatory, which is very bad for breeding bacteria. (warmth + moisture)

I’ve never experienced this before, and it may not be due to water bottle contamination, but it has certainly motivated me to give a deep clean to all the bottles.

Tips for water bottle hygiene

  • Empty and rinse straight after use, especially if you added any sugary solution to water bottle.
  • Hot tap water (which contains small amount of chlorine, should kill most bacteria).
  • Occasionally, I leave water bottles to soak in very dilute bleach solution to give me more confidence they are gone. If you don’t like bleech, white vinegar is said to be good alternative.
  • Make sure dry. Drying is an important as cleaning. If the water bottles and caps are completely dry, that will kill a lot of harmful bacteria. It is moisture which allows them to thrive
  • A problem can be if you place a cap back on water bottle before all water is evaporated and dry. This keeps bottle moist and allows bacteria to grow. Water bottles with narrow necks can be harder to dry than say a plate. You really have to shake to get all drops out.
  • The hardest thing is not so much the bottle as the cap, it has nooks and crannies where water and dirt can get lodged.
  • There are some water bottles designed for better hygiene. Like this Lifeline Hygiene bottle.
  • If you’re worried, you could use sterilising tablets like these, though if you wash bottles properly, it shouldn’t be necessary.
  • A cheaper way to buy new water bottles is to look for special package deals with gels + water bottle. Like this package for £3.49. Wiggle – High 5 Bottle bundle.  The only downside is I have a lot of caffeinated gels I never get round to using.

Four days in bed

It was quite a bad illness, and I spent past four days in bed mostly, with some exception to watch a bit of cycling on TV. It was so bad, I even went to the doctor. The doctor said he thought it was a viral infection and unlikely to be bacterially, so it appears it wasn’t my water bottles after all. Still, it’s good to keep on top of them.

During illness it was handy having electrolyte tablets and some maltodextrin in the cupboards to help deal with the worst of the gastro-intestine-turmoils.

Cycling on TV

So Mikel Landa did a good time trial in the Giro and then next day gets a viral infection. Bad luck, I say. But, it still looks to be an exciting race in the mountains with quite a few good quality contenders.


7 thoughts on “Water bottle hygiene”

  1. Sorry to hear that, Tejvan, hope you’re on the mend now.

    I’m a bit paranoid about water bottle hygeine after a similar episode myself. By the way my wife’s a medic and most of the time the question of bacterial vs viral is a guess and as most are viral (ie antibiotics are useless) then viral is usually a good theory.

    Some of the crap on the bottle is unavodiable like road grime on our back roads that inevitably gets onto the bottle top on a ride. This bothers me less than the sort of bacteria that can grow into goodness knows what on a neglected bottle.

    Most dishwasher loads here include a bike bottle or two and their tops. Germs dead. Job done.

  2. Hi Tejvan – thanks for this. I’d add two things which i’ve found useful:
    -Get some good bottle brushes which can get into the contours of the bottles
    -Use Milton or an equivalent agent used for sterilising baby bottles from time to time to keep them OK – relatively cheap and you just soak them in a bowl after cleaning.

  3. As David says above, its what I use ,a soak in water with a dash of Milton and dont forget the tops and drinking spout.
    If you remember the Tours from years ago regularly had an outbreak of stomach problems after the first week, probably down to the water bottles.

  4. All sound advice on the water bottle front. As for the stomach bug. It’s worth trying a probiotic drink like Yakult, natural yogurt and activated charcoal to help speed up recovery. Worked for me over the last couple of days having suffered with something similar for near on a week. Must be something going round.


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