How to Sanitize Water Bottles with Bleach

It is important to keep your water bottles clean on your long-distance outdoor adventure. Using bleach crystals is an easy way to sanitize water bottles.

Related Post: How to Purify Water While on Trail

Sanitizing Water Bottles with Bleach

Unscented bleach crystals are easy to carry, lightweight, and you don’t have to worry about liquid spillage. This makes bleach crystals ideal for thru-hikers or long-distance backpackers. However, many manufacturers have discontinued selling bleach crystals so it can be difficult to find at a reasonable price. Luckily unscented liquid bleach also works and is easily available and very affordable.

I recommend getting in the habit of sanitizing your water bottles when you notice an odor or after getting home from a long hike. This is especially important if you use hydration tubing to drink water out of a hydration bladder or pouch. Hydration tubing has a lot of surface area which can easily grow bacteria when not cleaned out properly.

If you make drinks that contain sugar you will need to clean your water bottles even more often. Sugar provides a good food source for bacteria.

To sanitize your water container, use about 1/4 teaspoon of unscented bleach crystals or 3/4 teaspoon of unscented liquid bleach in 1 quart of water. Let the water and bleach mixture sit for at least 30 minutes before safely discarding the water-bleach mixture down the drain.  Be careful not to spill the bleach mixture or it will stain. You should also thoroughly rinse your water bottle or water system with fresh, clean water before using. There should be no smell or taste of bleach after thoroughly rinsing your bottle.


Bleach crystals in a spoon being added to a water bottle.


If your water bottle starts developing a little smell or you can see any growth, it’s time to sterilize your water bottle. With a little bleach and water your water bottle can be back to new in no time!