How to Clean a Nalgene Water Bottle for Your Next Trip (2022)

A Nalgene bottle on some rocks.
Table of Contents

    Whether you’re hiking camping or fishing, the one thing that is essential in the great outdoors is fresh, clean water. It’s the key component of every outdoor activity. It may not cross your mind until just before you leave for your trip, but soon after you set foot on the trail or pitch up your tent you’ll be reaching for your bottle to quench your thirst. Any type of physical exertion shall increase your need to be extra hydrated, even more so in the summer sun.

    Not preparing for a hike without sufficient water supplies is a dangerous feat to put yourself under. There are countless tales of death and unlikely survival due to water shortages in the backcountry. Don’t be one of these guys that has an almost sorrowful story to tell to their peers. Instead, pack an adequate amount of water that’s comfortable to carry and tell them tales of the great scenery you witnessed at Yosemite National Park or the worldly wonders in the deserts of Arizona


    A pond and mountains in Yosemite.

    A solid, Nalgene bottle shall aid you in your journey to the far-flung corners of Yosemite National Park.


    About Nalgene water bottles

    Let’s have a quick overview of Nalgene water bottles and why they are an essential piece of kit for every serious adventurer. The company itself as formed in 1949 in Rochester, New York by chemist Emanuel Goldberg. He formed the plastics manufacturer in order to produce laboratory equipment. The technical apparatus was produced using high-grade polyethylene which can be used to form hard plastics.

    Items such as test tubes, beakers, and centrifuge bottles were produced for general laboratory use. These had an advantage over the more traditional glass due to the plastic being lightweight and almost impossible to break by accident. This made them safer tools for scientists and students and put the products into mainstream popularity. 

    After a few years in the business, scientists using the Nalge products for their work started to use them in their leisure time. Those of them that enjoyed spending their off-days in nature started to use them on their hiking and camping trips. This was taken note of and the company started to design and produce water bottles and other pieces of outdoor kit. From this point onwards they have become a household name for every family that enjoys spending time together out of the town and in the backcountry. 


    Why are Nalgene water bottles so good?

    The first great advantage of Nalgene water bottles is their longlasting reliability. The bottles are formed from tough Tritan plastic, which means that even when the material is put under significant stress it is more than likely to survive completely intact. Say you’re hiking a high mountain, with sheer drops, if your bottle somehow manages to fall over the side, simply collect it at the bottom of the mountain on your way back home. If you buy a Nalgene water bottle you essentially have it for life, there’s even a lifetime guarantee included! 

    Nalgene bottles are also super versatile. You don’t need to have them only for your days exploring nature as they can also be used as a general household item. The linear markings on the side mean they can be used in the kitchen as a measuring cup when you’re preparing some food for your outdoor trips.

    The solid lid means that you can also use it as a shaker for smoothies or protein shakes when you’re training to get fit and strong for hiking! Many hikers also take multiple Nalgene bottles with them on their trips in order to keep essential items such as electronic equipment and medical supplies secure and dry when they are on the trail. 

    The opening of the bottle has a wide-mouth boasting a diameter of 63mm, giving them even further versatility. You can pack extra things inside the bottle such as ice cubes and lemon slices to keep some homemade lemonade fresh and citrusy. Additionally, many water filter accessories are designed to be compatible with Nalgene bottles making buying one of these a hassle-free exercise where you don’t have to think about sending your filter back to the seller because it doesn’t fit your bottle.

    Sometimes when you’re out of water when hiking you’ll refill your bottle in a stream. This can be a painstaking exercise as it can take a while to fill a small rimmed bottle and it doesn’t often fill to the top. With a Nalgene bottle, the wide-rimmed mouth makes this a task that’s over in seconds. 

    If you tend to use lightweight, throwaway plastic bottles it’s time to make a change. Not only are these weak and prone to crumping up in your pack, but they’re also terrible for the environment. Many of the popular trails that we love to hike are strewn with these bottles, and even if they’re disposed of, they end up polluting the planet.

    When you invest a little bit of money in a Nalgene bottle, you stop throwing away hundreds of these bottles over your lifetime, save yourself spending money on them and help to save the environment. Additionally, when you reuse standard plastic bottles small plastic particles can seep into your water supply. There is no need to worry about this when using a Nagele as the hard plastic is BPA free and does not react with the liquid inside the bottle. 

    As just mentioned the plastic does not react with other liquids or chemicals. This makes them dishwasher friendly (more of that later) and heat resistant. Boiling water can be poured into them and there will never be an issue with the durability of the bottle. Feel free to store any type of chemical in them and it won’t damage the bottle. Remember,  it’s the same type of plastic that is used for experiments in laboratories. 

    The price is right also. If you buy a one-liter throwaway water bottle every time you set on the trail the cost will have overtaken the cost of the Nalgene water bottle after 10-15 hikes. That also comes along with all of the flaws that come along with all of the disadvantages that a throwaway bottle has, with its only advantage being that it holds water. By having a reliable bottle that will last you for decades you’ve saved some money as soon as you’ve purchased one. 


    A water bottle in the grass.

    Don’t be an outdoor enthusiast and use throwaway plastic. Instead, show your love for nature by using a reusable Nalgene water bottle.


    General cleaning

    Now that you have all the information for you to know how good and practical a Nalgene water bottle is, let’s take a look at the different methods you can use to clean the bottle to ensure you really do use it over your whole life. Heres a step-by-step guide for a general clean of a Nalgene bottle. 


    1. First of all rub the bottle in hot soapy water. Any household washing-up liquid is suitable. Pour the washing-up liquid into the bottle and add hot water. Shake the bottle around to create suds on the inside. Take a long-handled bottle brush and use it to scrub the inside thoroughly. Although it is a wide-mouth bottle you’ll still not be able to fit your hands inside to scrub it with a sponge. Then rinse the bottle to remove the soap left behind. 


    2. The next step is to wipe the threads and the bottle cap. The treads are the thin windy lines that allow the cap to tighten into its place. Swirl the brush or a soapy sponge around the rim of the bottle and ensure that every crevice is covered. Do likewise with the cap, ensuring that no traces of dirty substances remain. Again rinse off the soap with water. 


    3. Once all aspects of the Nalgene water bottle have been cleaned and rinsed, place the bottle upside down to dry it. This allows the water to drain out of it and it lets air in that will dry the inside and freshen up your bottle. A tea towel shall also work but it is recommended that the bottle is left to air out to prevent any musky smells from forming. 


    4. A cleaning tablet can also be used for a basic clean of the inside of your bottle. Simply place the tablet into the bottle and fill it with water. Allow the bottle to sit for around an hour and the disinfecting magic shall get to work. Afterward, rinse the bottle out and dry it. This is the best method to clean your Nalgene water bottle when you are out in the wilderness as the cleaning tablets can be easily carried and take up less space than washing up liquid. 


    5. As previously mentioned, Nalgene water bottles are suitable to be cleaned inside dishwashers. Make sure that you place the bottle on the top shelf of the machine. Although the bottles are heat resistant it is best to keep them away from the heater of the asher which is located at the bottom of the washing machine. 


    If you stick to these steps for a basic general clean of your water bottle then it is sure to be maintained well and should live up to its lifetime guarantee. We recommend that you clean the bottle after every few uses and after every time you come home from a hiking or camping trip. All of your kit, clothes, and tent should also be cleaned within a day of returning from the great outdoors. Alas, you may find some of your stuff building up a smell or a mold the next time you unpack it for your next trip!


    Getting rid an odor from your Nalgene bottle

    If you do end up not cleaning your stuff after a trip they can build up a smell. Let’s take a look at the method of getting rid of an odor from your Nalgene water bottle. 


    1. For this deeper clean of the bottle, you will need baking soda. Baking soda is an alkaline, multi-use white powder that you will likely have stored in a cupboard in your kitchen. Baking soda shall get rid of stains, stickiness and smells from your bottle. Place ¼ of a cup of baking soda into your bottle along with ⅛ of a cup of hot water.


    2. Shake the bottle around to cover all areas of the inside surface area. This will mix the solution together causing it to react with the dirty parts of the bottle and remove the grime. Pour more water into the bottle after this to ensure that all of the baking soda is removed from the bottle. 


    3. Drip dry your Nalgene water bottle like before at the side of your sink.


    4. Give your bottle another clean following the steps mentioned in the previous section. The baking soda shall remove the odor and any stains but it doesn’t do any harm to clean it once more to ensure that your bottle is fully clean. 


    Cleansing your Nalgene water bottle of mold 

    Maybe you’ve packed away your Nalgene water bottle away after your last hike of the summer and have forgotten to clean it. A few months later you’re preparing for your first hike of the spring and you go to fetch out your Nalgene water bottle out of the cupboard, and low and behold, it’s full of mold! Don’t despair just yet, there is a simple solution with the use of some bleach solution. 


    1. First of all, take some bleach and measure out half a teaspoon and pour it into your bottle. As you are probably aware bleach can damage and decimate any living organism – all types of mold included! 


    2. Pour cold water into the bottle up until the top line. Shake the bottle around so that the bleach mixes in and that the whole of the inside is covered. With the water filling the bottle almost to the brim, all of the mold should be in contact with the bleach solution. Cold water is used in this type of cleaning as it mixes better with the bleach than hot water. 


    3. Put the cap back on and place the bottle to one side or hide it if you have young children in the house. Leave the water-bleach solution for around 24hours. During this period the bleach shall kill the fungi that have attached themselves to the plastic surrounding your bottle. 


    4. After 24 hours have passed, check to see if the mold has peeled off the sides of your Nalgene water bottle. If not take a long-handled brush and scrub away with the bleach solution still inside. The interaction with the bleach means that the mold shall be very weak and should come off easily after a brief scrub. Check if there is mold on the caps or on the threads around the rim. If so dip a cloth into the bleach solution and wipe around all of the nooks and crannies to dispense of the mold.


    5. Now its time to clean the bottle so that there are no remnants of the bleach remaining. Empty the bottle of the bleach solution and pour fresh water into it several times. We know that you’ll have some concerns about perhaps digesting bleach so refer back to the general wash section and clean your bottle again in the sink or dishwasher. 


    Some plastic cups being manufactured.

    The tough, durable plastic makes your Nalgene bottle dishwasher friendly, giving you extra time to unwind after an exhausting hike.


    Final Verdict:

    The Nalgene is the must-have water bottle for anyone that enjoys nature. As we explained to you it is the ultimate water bottle due to its durability, environmental friendliness, versatility, and price. However, this is a water bottle that must be cared for and maintained well in order for it to fulfill its lifelong guarantee. Like all good outdoor equipment, you must invest a little bit of money and look after it well after the purchase so you can get many years worth of use from your kit.

    Quality certainly comes over quantity when it comes to hiking and camping kit. Nobody wants to have to buy new hiking boots every year due to blistered feet, nor do they want to open a flimsy tent to discover that the rain and morning dew will seep into it whilst they sleep. When you’re out in the wilderness you are completely reliant on the steadfast endurability of the clothes on your back and every tool you use to get you from point A to B and back home safely again. 

    It is for this reason that it is important to invest in a sturdy water bottle. Of all the things that are not only the key to a comfortable hike but also to your survival should that sort of nightmare dream arise on your adventures. Be smart, invest in a Nalgene bottle and learn how to take care of it. If you do this your outdoor adventures shall only be enhanced. 


    Bonus tip: Here’s a video explanation on how to clean your water bottle without having to worry about a bacteria build-up inside it! 





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    Riley Draper

    Riley Draper is a writer and entrepreneur from Chattanooga, Tennessee. As a world traveler, he has been to more than fifty countries and hiked some of the most elusive trails in the world. He is the co-founder of WeCounsel Solutions and has published work in both national and global outlets, including the Times Free Press, Patch, and Healthcare Global. When he's not writing, he's probably on a hiking trip or climbing in the mountains.