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Do I Need to Clean My Hydration Bladder Before First Use?

Infographic explaining why you need to clean your hydration bladder before use with different cleaning methods

So you just bought a new Camelbak hydration bladder and you’re excited to take it out on the trail. You start to think to yourself; Should I wash my hydration bladder before using it?

Screw that, you fill it up with water and throw it in your pack. By the time you get on the trail, it’s too late. Your water tastes absolutely disgusting and there’s nothing you can do about it(maybe you should have checked out my post on getting rid of the plastic taste).

Before using your hydration reservoir you should definitely clean it out. If you don’t clean out the reservoir it will taste like plastic. Clean out the bladder using cleaning tablets, bleach or soap/water.

Cleaning Your Hydration Bladder Before First Use

You need to clean out your hydration bladder before using it. With name-brand hydration bladders(Camelbak, Platypus, Hydrapak, etc), you can typically get away with just using soap and water. They use a clean manufacturing process that eliminates most of the excess plastic waste.

With budget bladders, there’s typically leftover plastic residue from the manufacturing process. Personally, I stay away from budget hydration bladders you can find on amazon. Cheap hydration bladders have BPA, attract mold and tend to rip. You don’t want to ingest all plastic residue and toxic chemicals.

Different Ways to Clean Out Hydration Bladders

There are 4 main ways to clean out your hydration bladder. Before cleaning your bladder make sure you pick up a dedicated hydration bladder cleaning kit. It’s almost impossible to clean out the hydration tube and bite valve without specialized tools.

In Order of Effectiveness

  • Cleaning Tablets: The easiest method to clean with impressive results. Cleaning tablets will clean out even the dirtiest hydration bladder. These are the cleaning tablets I use, or you could try denture tablets for a minty taste.
  • Bleach: Bleach kills almost everything it comes in contact with. It doesn’t seem like a dangerous chemical, but the chemical burn scars on my fingers say otherwise.
  • Baking Soda and Lemon Juice: Baking soda and lime juice forms a chemical reaction that will effectively clean out your hydration bladder. You’ll be left
  • Soap and Water: Soap and water is the least effective cleaning method on this list, but it’s the easiest. Without mold you can typically get away with hot water and a little dish soap.

Using Hydration Bladder Cleaning Tablets

Hydration bladder tablets are very easy to use. Just fill your bladder with hot water and toss in the cleaning tablet. Let the water reservoir soak for 30 minutes to 1 hour and you’re good to go.

With 30 seconds of scrubbing, cleaning tablets will take care of just about anything. It will kill even the worst algae bloom, mold and bacteria problem.

Where Can I Find Cleaning Tablets?

Personally, I buy my cleaning tablets on Amazon. It’s just so much easier than heading to the store, plus it’s hard to find cleaning tablets locally. If you’re in a rush, check out your local sporting goods store or outdoor gear store. Both of these places should have cleaning tablets, but who knows how much they’ll cost.

You can also use denture cleaning tablets to clean out your hydration bladder. They use the same basic solution, but you’re left with a minty after taste. If you like the taste of mint it’s actually pretty nice. I usually add electrolytes to my hydration bladder.

Bleach is Just as Effective

If you don’t have access to cleaning tablets you should pick up a bottle of bleach. Clean out the bladder with 2 tablespoons of bleach mixed with a couple liters of water. Mix up the solution in your reservoir making sure you don’t splash the solution on your clothes(it will stain).

Once the solution is mixed up, lift the reservoir above your head while pinching the bite valve. Release the bite valve or open the gate and let the water run through the tube(don’t drain completely).

Let your reservoir soak and rinse thoroughly. Once the reservoir is clean make sure you let it air dry before sealing it up. You don’t want to let moisture get trapped inside.

Baking Soda and Lemon Juice

Refer to the bleach directions above, but this time your mixing baking soda and lemon juice. Mix 2 tablespoons of baking soda with a couple of liters of water and shake it up.

After mixing thoroughly add a few tablespoons of lemon juice and mix it up. This mixture will foam up like crazy as you shake the water reservoir. Let soak for 30 minutes, drain the mixture and rinse thoroughly. It’s almost impossible to get rid of the lemon taste(hopefully you like lemon).