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Making Hydration Bladder Taste Better: Removing Plastic Taste

Hydration water bladders are lightweight, efficient and affordable. Fill them up with water, strap it on your back and you’re ready to hit the trails. There is one major problem with hydration bladders.

Hydration bladders just don’t taste right. They’ve always had that strange plastic taste that you just can’t seem to get rid of. Every time you take a sip of water you’re blasted with that nasty plastic taste.

Don’t Worry, you don’t have to suffer in silence. The good news is it’s not that hard to make your hydration bladders taste better.

Why Does My Hydration Pack Taste Nasty?

Hydration packs can taste nasty for a wide variety of reasons. Most of the time you can get rid of the nasty taste with some basic cleaning techniques. Continue reading below for simple cleaning techniques. Here’s the most common reason hydration bladders taste nasty.

  • Plastic Taste: Right out of the package most hydration bladders will taste like plastic. This is leftover residue from the manufacturing process and will usually go away on its own. You can speed up the process with cleaning tablets or by following the cleaning instructions below.
  • Bacteria/Mold: You have to clean out your water reservoir after every use. To properly clean you reservoir you need a hydration bladder cleaning kit. Make sure you completely clean the reservoir, tube, bite valve and screw cap.
  • Leftover Taste: Be careful with what you put in the hydration bladder. You’ll never get the taste of coffee and alcohol out of your bladder. If you want flavoring you’re better off sticking to sugar-free Nuun electrolyte tablets which are designed specifically for hydration bladders

My Hydration Pack Tastes Like Plastic

The taste of plastic can be really unpleasant. Most of the time the taste is harmless residue left over from the manufacturing process. As long as your water reservoir is 100% BPA/BPS free you shouldn’t have to worry about ingesting harmful chemicals.

Just be cautious when buying generic no-name water reservoirs. You never know what you’re getting. By the time generic bladders test positive for toxic chemicals, the names and suppliers have changed.

Do all hydration bladders taste like plastic?

I’ve tried a lot of hydration bladders over the years and they’ve all tasted like plastic. Some are worse than others, but with some basic cleaning it can be fixed.

Brands like Camelbak and Platypus use a cleaner manufacturing process which leaves behind less plastic residue. As always you get what you pay for and you’ll need a little TLC with cheap hydration bladders you find on Amazon.

Is BPA Dangerous?

BPA (aka Bisphenol A) is a chemical found in common hard plastics. Unless the plastic says it’s specifically BPA free it’s probably in there. It can be found in water bottles, eyeglasses, household electronics, baby bottles, chemical sealants, sports equipment and so much more.

There’s BPA in just about everything, but is it dangerous? BPA can imitate the body’s hormones and interfere with your bodies endocrine system. Research has linked BPA to Male/Female fertility problems, diabetes, impotence, and heart disease.

Personally, (I’m not a doctor) I don’t think that low-level exposure is all that dangerous to adults. However, babies/children should avoid products containing BPA.

How Do You Make Your Hydration Pack Taste Better?

You need to figure out what’s causing the bad taste before you can fix it. Most of the time it’s going to be either leftover plastic residue or mold. Thorough cleaning and a simple cleaning tablet, baking soda, bleach or lemon juice rinse will quickly cure the problem.

Make it Taste Better On The Trail

There’s no easy way to make your hydration bladder taste better on the trail. It takes a few hours of soaking and access to a lot of water. On the trail, you’re better off covering the taste with powdered drink mix or electrolyte tablets.

How Can I Get Rid of The Plastic Taste?

Backpackers have been trying to get rid of that plastic taste for decades. Here are a few of the most popular ways to clean out your hydration bladder. Just make sure you have a few hours to spare and access to a clean water source.

Common Cleaning Methods

  • Rinse With Soap and Water(not very effective)
  • Baking Soda and Lemon Juice Combo
  • Cleaning Tablets
  • Bleach

Cleaning Tablets Work Well

Cleaning tablets are by far the easiest and most effective way to clean out your water reservoir. You can either use specialized reservoir cleaning tablets or buy generic denture cleaning tablets(might be minty). Just add the cleaning tablets to water and let it soak. Leave it to soak overnight for maximum effect.

These tablets are by far the most effective way to clean out your water bladder. They remove mild odors, kill mold/bacteria and eliminate mild tastes. Out of all the cleaning methods, this is by far the best.


Bleach will kill just about anything it touches, but it’s a dangerous chemical. You only need a little bit of bleach mixed in a couple liters of hot water. Once again, let the solution sit for a few hours/overnight and rinse thoroughly.

Bleach will kill bacteria and remove plastic taste, but you’ll be left with a chemical bleach taste/smell. Thoroughly clean your water reservoir and make sure you soak the tube and bite valve.

Baking Soda and Lemon Juice

Baking soda works as a weak base and is commonly used as a cleaning agent. On its own baking soda will help reduce the plastic taste, but adding lemon juice will significantly improve your results.

Add a couple of tablespoons of baking soda to a full hydration bladder and shake it up. Then add a couple of cups of lemon juice over your kitchen sink. Be careful, because this mixture will foam up. Let the mixture soak overnight and rinse thoroughly for maximum effect.

The only problem is you might end up with a long-lasting taste of lemon. This is cool if you like the taste of lemon, but you’re trading one taste for another.

Soap and Water(Might Not Work)

Make up a mild soap and water solution and thoroughly rinse your water reservoir. Soap and water may or may not help so it makes sense to try. You might have to repeat the cleaning process several times and let it soak overnight.

Be careful because you might replace the plastic taste with soap when you finally take a sip. Just make sure you rinse thoroughly multiple times so you don’t leave soap residue.

Avoid Strong Tasting Drinks(Coffee/Alcohol)

You will have to deal with a slight aftertaste if you put alcohol or coffee in your water reservoir. Thoroughly cleaning the bladder will significantly reduce the taste, but it will always be there.

Check out my post on filling your hydration bladder with alcohol