Gear Rx: How to clean a bladder with water

Published 16 June 2022 15:00

Hydration bladders are great for daily walks, hiking, jogging and many other outdoor activities. They make access to water easy and convenient, but after a few months of use, they can start to gain a funk. Worse, they can even become moldy if you leave the moisture in storage.

Cleaning a water bubble can vary from brand to brand, and some have parts that can be placed in a dishwasher to be disinfected. Most of the time, hydration bladders need to be cleaned and disinfected by hand. Fortunately, you can do this with some common household items and your water bubble will be fresh and ready for your next adventure.

Hydration supplies for bladder cleansing

You do not necessarily need special equipment or a bladder cleaning kit to get the job done. However, it can make things easier and more accessible if you have easy access to cleaning solutions and products.

Mild dish soap is practical for cleaning the water bladder, but beyond that, having something to disinfect, remove odors or kill mold is helpful. Cleaning products and solutions to consider include:

  • Baking soda: an excellent choice if an odor needs to be eliminated in your bladder. Mix ¼ cup of baking soda with. Water per liter of volume. Baking soda also works well to eliminate annoying odors in camp coolers.
  • Bleach: be careful with this, bleach is effective in killing bacteria and viruses, but can greatly damage the integrity of the tank material. Use 2-5 drops of household bleach per liter of water and its combination with baking soda solution is safe.
  • Lemons: Another way to eliminate odors is to use a mixture of ¼ lemon juice per liter of water. You can combine the lemon solution with bleach or baking soda for a more thorough cleansing. Leave the bladder open over a sink when using lemon and baking soda as it may produce a foaming or foaming reaction.
  • Tank cleaning tablets: potentially, the easiest way to clean the water bladder is with a tank cleaning tablet. Many water tank companies have these available along with a cleaning kit or individually. These are simple and easy. Usually, all you have to do is fill the bladder with water, insert the tablet and it will remove the odors, release the deposits and disinfect.
  • Tablets for cleaning prostheses: generally a less costly alternative to tank cleaning tablets, prosthetic cleaning tablets are an easy and effective way to clean the bladder.

If you choose tanks for cleaning tanks, they often come in a set that includes cleaning brushes and drying aids. It helps to have a cleaning brush that can reach inside the bladder, but a standard dishwashing sponge may work if the opening is large enough. Although the material is strong, avoid using overly corrosive brushes and sponges. If there are stains or mold, use a solution that can loosen deposits before rubbing.

Drying after washing is an essential part of cleaning the water bladder. If not dried properly, mold can grow. Once again, a cleansing kit is helpful as they often come with a drying aid. As long as the bladder can be open to stimulate air circulation while it dries, it should still function. Use things like clothespins, hangers or kitchen utensils if you do not have a cleaning bag. Ideally, you want the bladder to have a space to hang upside down, let the air flow and allow water to flow out.

Gear Rx: How to clean a bladder with water
If you do not have a cleaning bag, kitchen appliances like a whip can help keep the water bladder open while it dries.

How to clean a hydrating bladder

Regardless of the cleaning solution you choose, the overall process and steps involved in cleaning a hydration bladder will be the same. We still recommend that you check to see if there are specific cleaning instructions given by the manufacturer of the water tank or cleaning tablet of your choice. If your backpack came with a bladder included, the brand may vary by package itself, so look for the tank brand specifically when researching best cleaning practices.

Generally, this is a two-step process that begins with the use of the selected cleaning solution. Then, using mild dish soap, you can wipe off any accumulated debris or deposits.

Using a cleaning solution:

  • Fill the tank with warm (not too hot) water.
  • Add to it the cleansing solution or tablet of your choice.
  • Close the tank. If using lemon and baking soda, give it time to react and fry before closing.
  • Allow the cleansing tablet to dissolve completely. Move the bladder around the sink to mix the water.
  • Holding the bladder up above the sink, let the tube fall down. Open the bite valve until some water runs out. Drain only enough water to ensure that the cleaning solution has the ability to pass through the beverage pipe.
  • Set the tank aside and let it stand for the allotted time. Tablets and cleansing kits will provide instructions on how long you should let it stand (about 5 minutes). If you use a house cleaning solution, let it stand for 15-20 minutes.
  • Drain the system from all the water.

Washing with soap and water:

  • Fill the tank and tube with warm water and add a little mild dish soap.
  • Wash and clean the inside of the bladder as well as the tube. A cleaning kit will provide you with tools to allow you to do this and you will need to remove the bite valve to clean the tube properly.
  • Drain the soapy water and rinse the tank and tube thoroughly.

It may take some time for the hydration bladder to dry after the cleaning process. Before storing, it must be completely dry. Even a small amount of moisture left in the bladder or tube allows mold to grow.

To dry, disassemble all the parts you can; usually, this is the bladder, tube, and bite valve. Place the bladder straight or on a hanger to dry so that it can be upside down. If you are not using a hanger to aid drying, keep the tank on a drying rack with a whip container to keep it open.

We recommend performing this drying process after use, especially if you spend long periods between uses.


Question: Can I put the water bladder in the dishwasher?

You can put some water bubbles in the dishwasher on the top shelf, but not all will stay. Check the manufacturer’s instructions to see if cleaning the water tank in a dishwasher is safe. If so, most of them should remove a bowel and throat and the bladder should be turned inward.

Q: How to remove plastic flavor from a hydrating bladder?

Most of the above cleaning solutions will remove the taste of plastic in a hydrating bladder. One of the most effective ways to get rid of that taste is with a baking soda solution, but each of them should work.

Question: How do you clean a hydrated bowel?

Once the selected cleaning solution has been added to the water tank, hold the bladder over a sink, leaving the hose hanging down. Open the mouth to allow some water to pass. This may be enough to clean and disinfect the gut, but using a special cleaning tool or brush can help remove dust or mold.

Question: How to get rid of mold from the water bladder?

Each of the cleaning solutions mentioned above should remove mold. Use a disinfectant and let it stand for the right time to soak. Next, wash with a brush and soapy water to remove any stains or debris left behind. Eliminate the risk of mold by making sure the water bladder is completely dry before storing it.

Q: How often should you replace a hydration bladder?

Hydration bladders can last over 10 years if kept clean and well maintained. As long as there are no holes in the tank, you should continue to use it. You will most likely need to replace the throat or bowel before replacing the bladder itself.

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