Bottled Water

Health Canada maintains a list of frequently asked questions about bottled water including the following little gem:

Health Canada does not recommend the reuse of single-use bottles because the reuse poses a potential microbiological risk if not cleaned properly. Studies on reusing single-use bottles have found that depending on the source of the water used and the general hygiene of the user, the growth of bacteria in the bottle can vary from negligible to potentially hazardous. Health Canada suggests that people use wide-necked bottles that can be thoroughly washed with hot soapy water between uses.

Frequently, the concerns regarding the re-use of single-use plastic bottles for drinking water have focussed on the safety of the plastic under these conditions. There have been claims that polyethylene terephthalate (PET or PETE) plastic used in single use water bottles breaks down when used repeatedly releasing cancer-causing chemicals. However, Health Canada has seen no scientific evidence to suggest that reusing PET bottles will contribute harmful levels of chemicals and toxins to the water. Health Canada has also concluded that the levels of Bisphenol A detected in water bottled in polycarbonate do not pose a health concern.

A water bottle on a bike is reusable but Health Canada provides no insight on this type of water bottle. There have been a few times where I have wondered about what it takes to keep a water bottle clean. You know, just to avoid the growth of bacteria from reaching hazardous levels. I reuse two water bottles each time I ride my bike.

Here are some techniques for cleaning water bottles. I’ve used one of them since I started back riding several years ago but perhaps I should consider a different approach.

Bleach Method

Dilute 1 teaspoon of bleach and 1 teaspoon of baking soda in a 4 litres of water. Fill the water bottle with the solution and let it sit overnight. Next morning, thoroughly rinse the bottle. Allow it to dry inverted on a clean dish rack. When it”™s dry, store it in a cupboard with the lid off until next use.

Freezer Method

Wash the bottle in warm soapy water. Rinse it well, then stick it in the freezer until it is ready to be used again. Most bacteria and mold won”™t survive the cold. Not so. Bacteria will survive the cold. Perhaps another reason to continue on the Die Hard Method (see below).

White Vinegar Method

Wash the bottle in warm soapy water. Rinse well. Fill 1/5 to 1/4 of the bottle with white vinegar and the remainder with water. Let sit overnight. Next morning thoroughly rinse the bottle. Allow it to dry inverted on a clean dish rack. When it”™s dry, store it in a cupboard with the lid off until next use.

Die Hard Method

Also known as Richard’s Method. Fill it up with water. Drink it. Possibly rinse after use. Repeat until dead from hazardous levels of bacteria.

4 replies
  1. Matthew
    Matthew says:


    Freezing doesn’t actually kill bacteria. It will kill parasites, but the bacteria just lies dormant. The minute it hits “danger zone” temps, it’ll continue to multiply. Hence the reason frozen meat should be handled like toxic waste 🙂

  2. Mike P
    Mike P says:

    Yeah, that last one definitely sounds most like me. Between that and homemade yogurt, the immunity I’m building may one day allow me to go against a Sicilian with death on the line.

  3. Ross
    Ross says:

    I am going to stick to the die hard method. Throw bottles away after a few weeks and just wash out each time. Healthy immune system.


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