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The dirty secrets of your reusable drink bottles

20 Feb 2019

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But, could it be making you sick?

Globally, humans are buying a million bottles every minute, with the annual consumption of plastic bottles set to top half a trillion by 2021! Scarily, 91% of all plastic is not recycled.

These staggering statistics are a big factor as to why people are choosing reusable drink bottles over single use plastic bottles. It makes sense. However, their popularity brings with it some questions about their hygiene. Are they a healthy choice?

We looked at a study by US based EmLab P&K laboratory that tested 12 bottles for bacteria after they’ve been used for a week by an athlete. The results that came out of this study are an eye-opener on reusable drink bottles, how to choose them and, more importantly, how to keep them clean.

What the study uncovered?

As part of the EmLab P&K study, the researchers tested four different types of common reusable bottles – slide tops, squeeze tops, screw tops and straw tops – and some of the bottles housed more than 900,000 units per square centimetre (CFU/sq cm) of viable bacteria cells.

Let’s give you a sense of perspective here. An average toilet seat has a measly 27 CFU/sq cm.

Give the bottle the boot?

While the study did show baffling amounts of bacteria on reusable drink bottles, not all of them are bad. Some, in fact, are needed for good gut health. These ‘non-germy’ kind of live bacteria are found in popular probiotic food items such as yoghurt, kombucha and other fermented foods.

The EmLab P&K study categorises the bacteria on reusable bottles into good and bad.

What’s a good choice when it comes to reusable drink bottles?

The straw top bottle wins the race as being your bottle of choice for a workout. The result showed it had least amount of bacteria, and only 8% of these were the kind that would make you sick. The reason the straw top bottle reigns supreme could be because any leftover water drips to the bottom of the straw, as opposed to resting on the mouthpiece and attracting more and more moisture-loving germs.

When you’re out choosing your next bottle, try to get one with least amount of crevices – the fewer places that bacteria can hide, the better.

If what you choose isn’t a straw top, don’t fret. Reducing the amount of bacteria on your bottle also comes down to how well you clean it.

Tips to cleaning your reusable drink bottle

Run your bottles through the dishwasher – that’s perhaps the simplest way to keep the germs to a minimum. It’s important to put them through the drying cycle though as moist environments breed bacteria.

If your bottle has a squeeze top or removable straws, it might be easiest to scrub it clean with a brush and then let it air dry.

Could your pet be making you sick? Read our tips to avoid getting sick from your pet here.

Important things to know

Information correct as at February 2019