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Published April 30, 2010, 12:00 AM

Clean reusable water bottles thoroughly

The other day, I noticed a bagful of reusable water bottles in all colors, shapes and sizes in our garage headed to recycling. I guess my husband was clearing some room in the kitchen cupboard.

By: Julie Garden-Robinson, INFORUM

The other day, I noticed a bagful of reusable water bottles in all colors, shapes and sizes in our garage headed to recycling. I guess my husband was clearing some room in the kitchen cupboard.

We can’t have that many water bottles, I thought to myself in amazement.

Obviously, we did. Water bottles were taking over our cupboard.

I checked the cupboard where the water bottles usually were kept and found a substantial number of remaining water bottles. We probably could outfit most of our neighborhood with water bottles.

Water bottles have become a frequent giveaway item at school events and conferences. They are a frequent “accessory” to carry with you wherever you go.

Keeping well-hydrated certainly is important in all seasons, so water bottles are useful. However, at some point, you may need to discard a few and politely say, “no, thank you” when one is offered.

Single-serving bottles of water also are popular, and some people treat both types of bottles as refillable. There are differences between the plastic used to make reusable bottles and the plastic used to make single-serving bottles of water.

Reusable bottles usually are made of durable plastics such as high-density polyethylene or low-density polyethylene. Some are made of stainless steel. Look for bottles that are bisphenol A-free (BPA-free).

Single-serving water bottles usually are made of a thin, flexible plastic called polyethylene terephthalate or PET. Unlike refillable water bottles made of durable plastic, the single-serving bottles of water sold in grocery stores are not meant to be refilled and reused.

Single-use bottles are not durable enough for thorough cleaning. Be sure to recycle the single-use bottles, following local recycling program policies.

You may have heard or read stories questioning the safety of water in plastic water bottles allowed to freeze in a cold vehicle in the winter. According to a Johns Hopkins researcher, the frequently e-mailed message about the alleged dangers of water frozen in water bottles is a myth. In fact, freezing plastic makes it less reactive.

Be aware of other safety issues, though. Bottles of water can become contaminated by hands and mouths.

University of Calgary researchers collected 75 water bottles from elementary students and analyzed the amount and types of bacteria. About 9 percent of the bottles contained fecal bacteria.

In other words, the kids probably didn’t wash their hands after using the bathroom. The germs on their hands ended up in their water bottles when they twisted the tops.

The researchers also reported that 13 percent of the bottles contained other types of germs from food and saliva.

If you use a refillable bottle, be sure to wash your water bottle every day with hot, soapy water. Use a bottle brush to get all the nooks and crannies clean.

Rinse with hot water and consider sanitizing the bottle with a mixture of 1 teaspoon of chlorine bleach (unscented) per quart of water. Let it air-dry completely.

What about cleaning your durable water bottles in a dishwasher? That may work, depending on the contours of the bottle. However, the dishwasher probably will not clean most bottles thoroughly because of their shape.

Are you thirsty yet? If your water bottle isn’t handy, consider a calcium-rich smoothie. This tasty smoothie will remind you of the summery days ahead.


Sunshine Smoothie

2 cups fat-free milk

2 cups low-fat or nonfat lemon yogurt

½ cup ice cubes

3 tbsp. sugar-sweetened, powdered lemonade drink mix

Lemon wedge or zest (optional)

In a blender, combine all ingredients and blend until mixture is smooth and creamy. Pour into glasses and garnish each glass with a lemon wedge or zest if desired.

Makes four servings. Each serving has 180 calories, 2 grams (g) of fat, 10 g of protein, 32 g of carbohydrate, 140 milligrams (mg) of sodium and 300 mg of calcium.


Julie Garden-Robinson, Ph.D., L.R.D., is a North Dakota State University Extension Service food and nutrition specialist and associate professor in the Department of Health, Nutrition and Exercise Sciences.

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