It has been estimated that 8 million pieces of plastic are entering the oceans every single day. With that in mind, one of the simplest things you can do to reduce your plastic footprint is to get in the habit of using a reusable water bottle.
However, this sustainable life decision comes with one big asterisk. Though it might be better for the planet to invest in a reusable bottle, if you don’t clean it regularly you risk a build-up of nasty micro-bacteria.
Dr Andrew Singer, senior scientist at the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology tells HuffPost UK that there is likely to be a combination of “oral” and “environmental” bacteria, including viruses, left on your bottle if you don’t clean it regularly.
If that wasn’t bad enough, there’s also a chance that infectious E. coli bacteria could be found on or in a reusable water bottle, he warns. This could be due to poor personal hygiene routines like not washing hands after using the toilet or even taking your bottle into the toilet with you.
“When you flush the toilet, the toilet water will get aerosolised and a fraction of the water droplets can land on and in your water bottle. This is the most likely way for E. coli to get there,” he tells HuffPost UK. Sugary drinks are also a bigger source of bacterial build up than water, so be sure to give your bottle an even deeper clean if you’re drinking sweet stuff.
For those who choose or need to use retractable sippers or straws, Dr Singer explains that these extra bits retain more moisture and more difficult to clean - so extra care is needed.
So, although your bottle is reusable, it (unfortunately) does not maintain its own cleanliness. It’s absolutely imperative to clean your bottle daily, like you would with cutlery, crockery and coffee mugs. That means no leaving it on your desk and just refilling it. Here are a few simple, eco-friendly pointers on how to keep your bottle squeaky clean.
Super sustainable cleaning tips
While most reusable bottle brands advise using soapy water to clean your bottle (not all are dishwasher proof), you can also use other kitchen essentials to get the job done.
Both bicarbonate of soda and baking soda serve as great sustainable cleaning agents, giving a real deep clean. Alternatively, mix a cup of water with 1-2 tablespoons of white vinegar and leave the solution in your bottle overnight. Some brands, such as Camelbak, also sell dissolvable cleaning tablets for thorough bottle cleaning.
And when it comes to the best cleaning tools to really get the bacteria out of those nooks and crannies, you can use a cotton wool bud or a pipe cleaner. Or, bottle brands like Chilly’s and S’well even sell brushes made especially for this task.
Happy cleaning, kids.