How to clean and maintain your hydration bladder

Whether you’re a seasoned hiker, a dedicated cyclist, or simply a hydration enthusiast, your hydration bladder is your trusty companion. It keeps you refreshed and invigorated, fueling your journey, one sip at a time. But just like maintaining a clean tent during your outdoor adventures, your hydration bladder also needs a little TLC every now and then. Let’s face it – mold and bacteria are unwelcome guests at our hydration party.

That’s why it’s paramount to give your hydration bladder a good, thorough cleaning regularly. Yes, the task might seem a tad bit daunting, considering the unique shape and construction of your CamelBak, Platypus, or any other brand of hydration reservoir. But fear not! With the right tools, knowledge, and a bit of elbow grease, you can ensure your hydration system remains as fresh as the crystal-clear water it carries. From simple household items to specialized cleaning tools, we’ll guide you step-by-step on how to maintain your hydration bladder in tip-top shape, enhancing your hydration experience, and keeping you ready for any adventure that awaits! So let’s dive in, shall we?

Caring for Your Hydration Bladder and Water Bottle

It’s easy to overlook the need for cleaning when you’re dealing with a container that’s solely used for water. But beware the persistent foes of cleanliness – bacteria and mold – are ever ready to invade your hydration reservoir, be it a CamelBak, Platypus, or any other brand. Defend your water source by establishing a regular cleaning routine. Don’t worry, the process isn’t complicated, though the unique shapes might seem challenging at first. With the right tools and a bit of insider knowledge, maintaining a clean hydration bladder is a breeze.

Here’s a quick summary of the cleaning process:

  1. Assemble your cleaning essentials, including a cleaner, dish soap, brushes, and drying aids.
  2. Combine hot water and your chosen cleaner, then fill up your bladder.
  3. Let it soak, then empty the bladder. Follow up with a good scrub and rinse.
  4. Lastly, let it air dry.

Essential Gear for Cleaning Your Hydration Bladder

Making a habit of cleaning your hydration bladder is far easier when you’re equipped with the right supplies. While you don’t necessarily need specialized gear, having tools that are tailored to the task can make the process more efficient and thorough.

Cleaning Solutions

Mild dish soap is your primary cleaning agent, but there are other solutions you can use to boost its cleaning power:

Hydration Bladder Cleaning Tablets: These are specially designed to remove residue build-up in your hydration bladder. No need to measure anything – just drop in a tablet and let it work its magic.

Baking Soda: This natural cleaner is great for eliminating odors. For best results, Platypus suggests mixing ¼ cup of baking soda with ¾ cup of water for every liter of your bladder’s volume.

Household Bleach: This potent germ-killer is effective against bacteria and viruses. Just add 2 to 5 drops of unscented household bleach per liter of water. For a more comprehensive cleaning, you can combine it with baking soda.

Lemon Juice: To combat strong, persistent smells, use ¼ cup of lemon juice per liter of water. Be aware that combining lemon juice with baking soda can cause a fizzy reaction, so keep the opening of your reservoir pointed away from you when mixing.

Denture Cleaning Tablets: Although not explicitly designed for hydration bladders, these tablets are a cost-effective alternative that some individuals use to keep their hydration systems clean.

Essential Tools for a Thorough Cleaning

To ensure effective and comprehensive cleaning of your hydration bladder, you’ll need a few tools that can reach those awkward spaces and hidden corners.

Cleaning Brushes: Brushes specifically designed for reservoirs and drinking tubes can reach into those tricky crevices with ease.

Scrub Pad or Scrub Brush: A regular kitchen scrub pad or brush is another tool you can use. While it may not reach the deepest recesses of your hydration system, it still plays a helpful role in the cleaning process.

Knotted Cord: This unconventional tool, longer than your drinking tube with a knot large enough to fit snugly within, is perfect for cleaning the tube. Simply thread it through and pull it back and forth several times to dislodge any built-up residue.

Aids for Effective Drying

Proper drying is crucial to prevent mold growth in your hydration bladder. It’s important to keep the bladder as open as possible to allow ample air circulation.

Reservoir Hanger: Many reservoir hangers are universally compatible, but be aware that some only fit specific models. Using one allows the bladder to hang upside down, letting any remaining water drip out.

Clothespins and a Clothes Hanger: Simple household items like these can be surprisingly effective in helping your hydration bladder to dry.

Kitchen Whisk: A whisk can be used to prop the bladder open, aiding in faster and more effective drying.

Paper Towels: Stuffing your reservoir with paper towels can also help keep it open while it dries, ensuring that air reaches every part of the bladder.

The Art of Cleaning and Scrubbing a Hydration Bladder

Keeping your hydration bladder in top condition involves a two-step process. Initially, you need to use a cleaning solution to neutralize any unwelcome guests in your system. Then, a gentle wash with dish soap helps to rid the system of any residual cleaning solution.

Stage One: Introduce the Cleaning Solution

  1. Start by filling the bladder with warm water – ensure it’s not so hot that it could burn you. Add in your cleaning tablet or chosen cleaning ingredients, seal the bladder, and give it a good shake.
  2. Elevate the reservoir, allowing the drinking tube to hang over the sink. Open the bite valve until water starts to flow out. This step ensures that the cleaning solution reaches every part of the system.
  3. Let the solution do its work. If you’re using cleaning tablets, the manufacturer’s instructions usually recommend a five-minute soak. If you’ve opted for a homemade cleaning mix, leave it for about 20 minutes. Afterward, empty the system completely.

Stage Two: Wash with Dish Soap and Rinse

  1. Refill your bladder and tube, this time using a mixture of warm water and a touch of dish soap.
  2. Scrub the interior of the bladder and the drinking tube. For ease, you might want to remove the bite valve and scrub it separately.
  3. After scrubbing, make sure to rinse everything thoroughly.

Stage Three: The Drying Process

  1. Take apart all the components – the tube, reservoir, and bite valve.
  2. Position your reservoir on its hanger or stand it upright to dry.
  3. Set aside the bite valve and hang your drinking tube to dry. If your hanger has a clip for the tube, make use of it. Alternatively, you can drape the tube over a clothes hanger or a horizontal bar.

While the bathroom might seem like a convenient drying spot, it’s better to opt for a less humid location, away from the hustle and bustle. Patience is key here. Give your hydration system ample time to dry completely. Remember, storing any part with even a trace of moisture can invite mold growth, so ensure everything is thoroughly dry before packing away.


Congratulations! You now possess the knowledge and techniques to keep your hydration bladder in pristine condition. Remember, maintaining a clean hydration system not only enhances the freshness of your water but also extends the lifespan of your trusty hydration companion. Just like the care you’d put into maintaining a portable toilet during your camping trips, treating your hydration bladder with the same diligence will ensure its longevity. So, make cleaning and drying a routine after every adventure, and you’ll always be ready for the next one. Here’s to countless more journeys with your hydration bladder – your source of refreshment and endurance, every step, pedal, or climb of the way. Happy hydrating!

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