5 Best Ways to Clean a Hydration Bladder

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When you’re out on the trail or in the backcountry, having access to water is crucial. Make sure you know the best way to clean your hydration bladder, so you stay hydrated and keep your water germ free! 

Overall, cleaning your hydration pack is easy and will keep your pack from getting dirty. So, you can have a clean pack when you are hiking or camping.

What Is a Hydration Pack?

A backpack with a hydration reservoir, pack, or bladder are used for storing drinking water. They come in various sizes and shapes, and some even have pockets for holding food. You’ll need to choose one based on what type of activity you plan to do.

If you’re going to hike, then you should probably go with a hiking bag that can carry at least a 2L -3L hydration pack. This is good for most day hikes. 

Why Should I Care About my Hydration Pack?

Caring for your hydration pack is important because overtime it will get dirty. Bringing water is essential when you’re hiking, camping, or doing any other outdoor activities. But, you also want to make sure the water is clean and you aren’t just guzzling down a bunch of moldy water.

Knowing the best way to clean your hydration bladder will extend the longevity of your and help you stay safe on the trails. While also ensuring that you hydration bladder doesn’t get stinky and foul tasting.

How Do You Know If Your Hydration Pack Needs Cleansing?

There are several ways to tell if your hydration pack needs cleaning. First, check the condition of the outside of the pack. Is there dirt or debris stuck to the exterior? If so, wipe off as much of the dirt as possible with a damp cloth. 

Next, check the inside of the pack. Are there stains or odors? If so, check out the following options for sanitizing and the 5 best ways to clean your hydration bladder. Finally, make sure the lid is closed tightly. If the lid isn’t properly secured, moisture will leak into the interior of the pack. This can cause mold growth and bacteria to develop.

Best Way to Clean Hydration Bladder (Step by Step)

Cleaning your water bladder is important for hygiene and longevity of your pack. Over time bacteria and mold can eat away the lining of the hydration pack. 

If you’re short on time just quickly rinse out the pack with hot water. Then make sure to thoroughly dry it out. I would recommend a deep clean about 1-2 x a month if you’re consistently using your pack.

When it’s time for a deep clean, follow the steps below: 

Step 1: Gather Cleaning Supplies 

Before you clean your hydration pack it’s important that you have the appropriate tools. The basic tools you’ll need for cleaning your pack are:

Cleaning brush

The cleaning brush is for scrubbing the inside of the bladder. Make sure the brush isn’t too coarse otherwise it will scratch the interior and make it more susceptible for bacteria. 

Bottle cleaning brushes work well for cleaning hydration packs. You can usually order these online here, or find these near the water bottles or in the baby section. 

Tube cleaning brush

This will help to get inside the suction tube to clean it out of any mold or germs in it. Tube cleaning brushes are fairly easy to find but go under many names. You may see the so-called long pipe cleaner, flexible tube brush, or long wire brushes. 

You can get them online here. But, also may be able to find them close to the cleaning brushes or in hardware stores next to the vinyl tubing. 

Drying Rack or Hanger

This is for drying the hydration pack after you clean it. A rack or a clothes hanger work well. There are many different options out on the market. My favorite option is the clothes hanger. It works out really well and is something I usually always have available. 

Hydration Bladder Cleaning Kit

Overall, I would recommend getting a hydration cleaning kit. They usually come with the cleaning brush, tube brush, and a drying rack. Sometimes even comes with a small pack of hydration cleaner which is always a nice bonus.  

Step 2: Choose A Cleanser For Your Hydration Pack

You’ll want to use these cleansers to really ensure that your hydration pack is sanitized prior to drinking. These are 5 of the easiest methods and best ways to clean your hydration bladder.

Fill the hydration pack up with warm water and find a cleaner you like in our choice of cleaning solutions. Give it a gentle shake and then allow the solution into the hose by pinching the mouthpiece. 

Let the solution soak for about 5 to 20 minutes depending on which of the following cleaning solutions you are using. If using tablets read the instructions, they generally have less soaking time.


This is one of the easiest ways to clean your bladder. First thing is to double check and make sure you own a dishwasher safe brand. Then check out the directions for running it through the dishwasher so you don’t damage your bladder. 

Although running your bladder in the dishwasher is extremely convenient, the downside is that sometimes it doesn’t clean the inside of the pack thoroughly. This is just due to the small opening or how the bladder is positioned. But, for a quick clean for packs that are not too dirty it does the trick. 

Denture Cleaning Tablets 

A cheaper alternative to hydration cleaning tablets are denture cleaning tablets. Although it isn’t specifically designed for cleaning a hydration bladder I have friends that swear by the method. 

So I gave it a go and it does work pretty well just follow the directions on the tablets for how long to let the bladder soak. I still have denture tablets from almost a year ago. This method is super cheap. 

Hydration Pack Cleaning Tablets

Cleaning tablets are easy to use and they tend to work quite well. Simply enough you break a tab and throw it in with some water. Most tablets break in half for smaller reservoirs. Then you follow the directions and let the tab do its magic

Baking Soda and Vinegar 

Baking soda is a great reliable cleaner and by no surprise it will clean your water reservoir right up. It is fantastic for removing any odor in your bladder so it doesn’t have that stale taste.

What I have found to work well is for a 2L reservoir I use 1 teaspoon of baking soda and 1 teaspoon of vinegar. Then, fill up the reservoir to a little less than halfway. Give it a gentle shake for about 30 seconds to a minute.

Next, go ahead and give it a gentle scrub with your cleaning tools as well. If your  hydration pack is bigger than 2L you can double the recipe if needed. Let the solution soak for about 20 minutes and then thoroughly rinse the bladder and the tube. 

Baking Soda and Lemon Juice

Adding lemon juice to the baking soda makes this cleaning method even more so effective. The citric acid and low PH levels in lemons make it very good at fighting against bacteria and molds. 

When mixed with baking soda this makes for a deeper cleaning solution. What I do is follow the baking soda and water portion of the recipe above. Start by 1 teaspoon baking soda, then use about 1/4cup of lemon juice, and fill the reservoir about halfway.

Next, you are going to want to be a little careful here or you will have a lab experiment blow up. But, carefully close and gently shake for about 10 to 20 seconds really to just allow the lemon juice to blend.

As you shake, be sure to hold away from your face. You will notice the bladder will fill up with air. Elevate by just slowly vent by loosening the cap to relieve the pressure.

I do this about 5 more times and keep releasing the pressure. Finally, you are going to let the solution soak for 20 minutes and then rinse the solution out thoroughly with water. 

Step 3: Scrub and Rinse 

After you have let your hydration bladder soak in the cleanser. It’s time to drain the cleanser from the hydration bladder. 

During this step you are going to fill up the hydration pack with hot water. A small drop of soap, I usually use castile soap. Then give it a gentle shake and scrub the interior of the bladder and the tube. 

Use the long hose brush to get the hydration hose and bite valve. These places are super important to clean because they get dirty pretty quick.

Next, rinse thoroughly. I usually do this about 3 times or so just to make sure there is no more soap. Because tasting soap on your hike is not fun! 

Step 4: How to Dry a Hydration Pack

This is the most important step when it comes to the cleaning process. Leftover water in the pack is the culprit of mold and mildew development. The best thing to do is to make sure the bladder is absolutely dry before you store it. Drain the hydration pack completely of water. Then use the following options to dry it out:

Clothes hanger

This is my go to. Almost everyone has a hanger in their closet that they can use. I just loop my bladder in the top of the hanger and straddle my tube around the notches of the hanger. It generally works well and just takes a couple days or so till the hydration pack is dry.

Reservoir hanger

These are helpful in that they should fit a majority of bladders, and specifically the brand of pack you have will most likely have a hanger for it. These are pretty nice you can usually find these online in most cleaning kits.

Paper towels

Prop up or use in combination with the hangers mentioned above. With this method you are going to stuff the paper towels right into the bladder to hold it open. I tend to use this method while also hanging my bladder with a clothes hanger for some extra drying power.

Kitchen tools

Same concept as the paper towels method. But, this time use a kitchen whisk or tongs to stuff into the pack to open it to help it dry out. If I’m using this method I tend to prop up the bladder against the wall. 

FAQ Best Way to Clean a Hydration Bladder 

How Often Should I Clean My Hydration Packs?

I recommend rinsing out the pack after every use and then clean your hydration packs every two weeks or 1-2 times a month. This will help keep bacteria at bay and prevent you from getting sick. 

Drying the pack is by far the most important because that is how mold and bacteria settle in the pack. If you forget to clean it out for a while you may opt for some of the heavier duty cleaning solutions and you can combine methods too. 

Overall, cleaning depends on how often you are using the pack. If you are using it all the time you’ll need to clean it more. If you’re using it consistently 1-2x a month is fine.

Is it okay to leave water in my hydration pack?

Not ideally, if you can avoid it I would because it will make your life a lot easier when it comes to  cleaning. But, say you just forget a day or two then I would pick one of the easier and quicker cleaning solutions and dry it out and you should be all good. 

Can you refrigerate your hydration pack? 

Yeah actually you sure can. This is more of a storage or stall method for times when you don’t feel like cleaning it out. You definitely do not want to put a full bladder in the freezer because it will expand and bust it. 

Thing is you are still going to want to clean out the bladder at some point to get rid of dead bacteria and scrub out any residue. But, putting it in the freezer can be a good way to prevent mold or stop further growth.

Final Thoughts 

If you’ve found this guide for the best way to clean hydration bladder helpful leave a comment down below. Tell me what other methods you have used for cleaning your hydration bladders? If you believe someone may find it helpful, share this guide with them. Have fun and remember to hike more, worry less!

Editor note: This post was originally published November 15, 2021 and has been updated for more accuracy and comprehensiveness

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