How to Clean a Stainless Steel Water Bottle

If you’re like me, you love your stainless steel water bottle — it keeps water cold lots longer than any other type we’ve tried.  Plus it’s significantly more durable — throw it in the bottom of the dinghy or the racing sailboat’s side tank and it’s easily accessible.  Ours are from Thermos and insulated which works great in the hot tropical sun.

Plastic water bottles can leave an unpleasant flavor to water, and worse, there’s still a controversy about whether BPA used in many plastic water bottles is a toxic substance.  Since we reuse water bottles aboard, we’re finding it easier to use the stainless water bottles than nalgene or other BPA free plastic bottles.  But after a few uses, despite washing as best I can, the stainless bottle begins to smell less than fresh and even a bit moldy around the top.  YUCK!

It's so easy to keep our insulated stainless water bottles smelling fresh!

We found that using a common cleaning product already aboard can eliminate the problem, but you may want to invest in a bottle brush if you’re going to switch to stainless water bottles.    To keep our bottles clean and fresh smelling, every few uses (not every time), we do the following:

1.  Take off the cap and pour a splash of regular white vinegar into the bottle – a splash is probably 2 capfuls – enough to coat the entire interior surface.  Then put the cap on and shake the bottle, splashing the entire interior with vinegar.

2.  Open, and add water to the vinegar until the bottle’s a third to a half full (depending on how much water you can afford to “waste” cleaning).  Wash the inside with a bottle brush, then replace the cap and shake again.   Now pour out the vinegar water and rinse thoroughly.
Voila!  Clean and fresh again! The biggest surprise for me was that the next time I fill the water bottle, it does NOT taste or smell like vinegar as I had feared.
How about you?  Do you have an even easier way to clean a stainless water bottle?  Please leave a message and let us know!  Cheers!  Jan


  1. I’m a picky tea drinker and can smell coffee in my stainless bottle and mug if someone has used it. I use baking soda to clean. You can make a bit of a paste with baking soda and water and coat the bottle/mug with it or just put some baking soda in with water and shake it. Takes out all odors and staining. Also, instead of a brush, you could try a baking soda/vinegar combo. The reaction between the two will cause the vinegar to bubble and you can just swish it around in your bottle. Works great.

  2. Cindy Pendleton Gass via Facebook says:

    We love these water bottles! They also have great koozies!

  3. We know the koozies are amazing! We did some “field testing” and compared them to the standard variety – no comparison! 🙂 Do you have the ones from Chillin’ The Most? That have the bottle conversion too?

  4. Cindy Pendleton Gass via Facebook says:

    They keep your bottle cold and don’t sweat. We’ve been doing a lot of field testing! lol

  5. Cindy Pendleton Gass via Facebook says:

    We hope to stock up on both the bottles and Koozies at the boat show….great gifts!

  6. That is SO funny! They were stocking stuffers for all our kids for Christmas last year — the kids all looked at us like we were nuts when they opened them. But darned if they don’t comment constantly on how cold their beverages are! Silly kids!

  7. Before you wash the inside of the bottle with the bottle brush, do you add soap to the inside of the bottle or just use the vinegar water that is already there? Thank you for posting this! I live in a town with very strong-smelling tap water. I’ve always wondered if the water itself has been the problem. I have been washing my stainless steel water bottle with tap water and soap, scrubbing with a bottle brush, then filling it with purified water to drink.

  8. I clean my stainless steel thermos with automatic dishwasher detergent. Coffee stains disappear leaving the bottle sparkling clean. Just put a spoonful of the detergent inside, top off with hot water, cap it an give it a shake, then let it sit. No scrubbing required. Easy Peasy.

  9. Stainless steel bottle is useful and can help to save our environment.

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