Hydration bladder cleaning

12:31 a.m. on July 26, 2008 (EDT)
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Got a new pack a while back that includes a hydration bladder. Never messed with it before, but thought I'd give it a try on my last trip.

If I only drink water out of it what extent would you recommend cleaning it. I was thinking of just running some fresh water through it when I'm done, then propping it open with a q tip and hang drying, and storing in the freezer between trips.

If I follow this routine and only fill it with water, should I still sterilize it every time I use it, or say every 6 months. I usually do at 1-2 trips a month if that makes a difference.

12:53 a.m. on July 26, 2008 (EDT)
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Storing it in the freezer will cause damage in the long run. If you are only using water, then rinsing with as hot water as you can stand on your hands, then hanging with a bladder hanger to air dry is adequate for 2 or 3 cycles. But you should do a more thorough cleaning about every 3rd or so use. It is more important that you use a brush to clean the inside of the bladder and a hose brush to clean the hose and bite valve than the actual "sterilizing" on the intermediate cleanings - completely disassemble the bladder, hose, and bite valve when using the brushes. You probably should do some more thorough cleaning every week or two, if you are using it daily, certainly no more than a week if you are using a hydration drink mix.

There are several ways of "sterilizing". Washing with soap (dishwashing liquid) tends to leave a residue that is hard to completely rinse out. The bladder manufacturers sell mixes for sterilization (use strictly according to their directions), or you can just put a warm, strong chlorine bleach mix to soak in the bladder and hose for a few hours. Be sure to thoroughly inspect the bladder, bite valve, and hose fairly frequently to be sure there are no foreign substances, such as mold growth (a black coating). Having gotten very sick from a mold growth, I strongly advise frequent cleaning, even though it is hard to do in the field on a long backpack.

As little as you say you would use it, I think I would suggest cleaning every trip, rather than letting it sit damp for the 2 weeks between trips on which you used it for the 2 days of the weekend. Certainly be sure to thoroughly let it air dry after use.

Some manufacturers these days are using an impregnated plastic for the bladder and hose which inhibits growth of mold and bacteria. It is not 100% - it was one of those that got the mold growth that I got sick from.

11:50 a.m. on July 26, 2008 (EDT)
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Thanks, I'd hate to get sick in the middle of a trip especially in the middle of nowhere.

10:12 a.m. on July 29, 2008 (EDT)
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WISam, I just purchased an Camelback Omega reservoir (to replace my evil BPA-Nalgene bottles) and was wondering the same questions. After I purchased it, I tested it for leaks by filling it with tap water and using the bite valve. After I drained the water, I realized how hard it was to dry the bladder out, so I used a lint-free hand towel to get most of the moisture out of the bladder, then blew my wife's hair dryer on cool into the bladder. The only problem is that I still have drops of water in the hose, and I'm not sure how to completely dry that out.

Also, after I used the hair dryer I thought about all the dust that I had just blown into the bladder, which will probably increase the likelihood of mold/fungus growth.

Bill, any suggestions on how to get the hose completely dry? And, is using a hair dryer not a good idea?

11:56 a.m. on July 29, 2008 (EDT)
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First step is to disassemble the whole setup. Over the years, I have acquired several brands of bladders (and the packs that go with them), so there are different kinds of bite valves and ways of attaching the pieces together. To dry the bladder and hose out, after the final hot water rinse, I hang the bladder on one of the hangers that goes inside the bladder and holds it open with the filler opening down. This allows the last few drops to flow to the bottom, where I stuff a paper towel with part of it out the opening to wick the water out to where it can more readily evaporate. At home, I hang it in the kitchen window (inside, to reduce UV damage by the filtering of the glass - the new house will have thermopane windows that are highly UV blocking). The sun speeds the drying. The hose is also hung up and the bite valve and shutoff valve are left disassembled on a towel until they are dry. After a few hours, I run the hose brush through the hose a couple times to spread out any droplets that may be hanging in there.

This sounds complicated and time consuming when I write it down, but it really isn't. The hose re-brush, for example, only happens when I happen to pass by and wonder if it is time to put the kit back together and put it away. It only takes a couple of minutes.

I have found the Camelbak to be the easiest to clean and dry of the various ones I have. Some of the other bite valves and shutoff valves are unbelievably complicated to disassemble, and in one case, really hard to reassemble (it does give good flow, though, once I get it back together. Obviously, when in the hills, there is no time to dry the bladder out. I just refill and start hiking or climbing.

Hair drier? I have no experimental experience, but somehow this does not seem like a good idea. Aside from all the stuff the drier would blow in, I would worry about overheating the plastic and melting it. Would you collect the stuff you comb out of your hair and mix it into your drinking water? Does it add extra protein?

4:36 p.m. on July 29, 2008 (EDT)
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I'm not sure the hair dryer by itself would automatically add "stuff you comb out of your hair" in the bladder unless you're combing your hair while drying the bladder; however, it would add whatever was floating in the air at the time. Also, the heat setting can be adjusted to just blow cool air, which is what I did.

Regardless, I'll probably not use the hair dryer -- instead, I'll breakdown and by a tube cleaner.

11:05 p.m. on July 29, 2008 (EDT)
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or not...

Tonight i tried another trick. I took the end of the bladder hose and with my hand "attached" it to my Dyson vacuum attachment hose. I held the end of the bladder hose on the thumb side of my hand so it never touched the vacuum attachment hose and put the little finger side of my hand over the attachment hose. That created a nice suction through the bladder hose and worked well. I turned on my Dyson and it sucked all the water droplets out of the hose.

What else can I guy do without a cleaning kit? I already tried some paper towel and a metal coat hanger, and that didn't work that well... :)

11:28 p.m. on July 29, 2008 (EDT)
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I have a camel back, I just use a bleach solution.
I do my bladder and parts, my water filter, my water containers, ect, all at one time. I let it all air dry.
The hoses and bite valve take a little time, just get a couple brushes when you can, you can even make your own hanger.
After a couple times you tend to get a system going and it's not all that bad. Better safe than sorry I say.

1:08 a.m. on July 30, 2008 (EDT)
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tbastress says

Quote:

I'm not sure the hair dryer by itself would automatically add "stuff you comb out of your hair" in the bladder

Ever take a hair dryer apart? Amazing what it collects inside. I don't use a dryer myself (not enough hair on top to waste the electricity on), but the lady of the manor does, and once a year or so I get to clean it. Actually, it's not from the hair that's being dried. It's the surrounding air, especially at this time of year when we burn all the vegetation off the hills (the fire near Yosemite's west entrance is still uncontrolled, and Hwy 140 is closed).

9:45 a.m. on July 30, 2008 (EDT)
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Bill,

You probably right. I don't think the hair dryer idea was a good one. However, my Dyson idea still has merit. :)

12:04 p.m. on July 30, 2008 (EDT)
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Quote:

my Dyson idea

Yeah, but that uses up electricity. Air drying plus running the hose brush through is ecologically less intrusive, plus where are you going to plug in your $500 vacuum cleaner the 3rd day out on a week-long backpack? Somehow the image of sticking the hydration hose onto a noisy, high-wattage electric device, just to dry the last few drops of water, seems, well, ......

1:55 p.m. on July 30, 2008 (EDT)
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haha... I knew you'd like the idea, Bill.

8:48 p.m. on July 30, 2008 (EDT)
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Maybe a solar powered central vac system, with a hydration bladder attachment would be the answer tbastress.

9:14 p.m. on July 30, 2008 (EDT)
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nice... no, I would only use the vac solution once I returned from my backpack / camping trip and was ready to store it away.

Or, I could create an attachment that connected to the battery operated mattress inflator that would do the same thing... Of course, that would only work for those who used them, and probably would only be for campers, not backpackers.

7:14 p.m. on September 14, 2008 (EDT)
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I haven't tried this, but maybe someone else has. The Efferedent tablet cleaning. Fill with water, drop in Efferedent, soak until blue color turns clear, drain, rinse, dry. Should be relatively safe, but effective? Someone I think at sectionhiker.com posted this tip.

7:25 p.m. on September 14, 2008 (EDT)
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ok, i havent looked at a lot of hydration bags, but i do own an MSR Cloudliner, and it has a cap on it about 3" to 3-1/2" cap on it. when it needs a cleaning, i just fill it with hot, 10% bleach water solution, let it set 10 mins. rinse it out 2 or 3 times, then hang it over my shower rod in the bathromm over night with the cap off, and bam! its dry. dont the other brands of hyrdration bags have the caps for easy drying/cleaning/filling?

6:22 p.m. on September 15, 2008 (EDT)
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My only experience has been with Camelback. Mine has the large filler cap.
The tablet cleaning method is recommended by Camelback. Not necessarily Efferdent tablets, but that is what a lot of people use. I don't have any knowledge as to how effective it is (Efferdent). Camelback also says you can use a bleach solution of 1 tablespoon to 1 liter of water.
I personally just use a bleach solution since that's what I flush my water filter with, and all my bottles and cookware as well. It's way cheaper too.

8:31 p.m. on September 15, 2008 (EDT)
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I've tried the bleach and have take a couple of trips now. It does take a bit to wash the taste out, but it's much cheaper than the tablets. Thanks again!!

7:50 p.m. on October 14, 2008 (EDT)
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25% Bleach & 75% water let sit 10 minuts Kills everything, flush out well with water. Never had a problem with taste or hurting the hydration bag.

8:32 p.m. on October 14, 2008 (EDT)
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Vinegar and water is also a good cleaner, it is suppose to get rid of bateria as well! Diluted Hydrogen Peroxide should be o.k., if you can use it as a mouth wash it should clean a bladder safely. Drying is important!

8:38 p.m. on October 14, 2008 (EDT)
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Thanks, never thought of vinegar. I did try bleach. It does take a few rises to get rid of the taste, but it beats paying for the alternative.

9:27 a.m. on October 15, 2008 (EDT)
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how much bleach are you putting in? because ive never had a problem with taste either... I only put in about 1 tbsp. per wash, let mine sit 10 mins as well, then rinse twice. Just weird... maybe too much?

9:34 p.m. on October 15, 2008 (EDT)
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I love Bleach!

10:52 p.m. on October 15, 2008 (EDT)
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Just a quick note here, you should pre mix the bleach / water solution in a separate container and then pour into your bladder.
Pouring in straight bleach and then adding water to your bladder will give the bleach a chance to bind itself to the bladder material, and then leach back into your drinking water.
I learned that the hard way with Nalgene bottles a while back.

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