Water Bladder Cleaning Kit

9:11 p.m. on August 31, 2009 (EDT)
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I am looking into getting a water bladder and I'm curious as to how "necessary" a cleaning kit is. I'm thinking that if I need to clean a bladder out, I can just run water through it a few times, let it air out and call it good ... but I wanted to see what the advice is.

10:25 p.m. on August 31, 2009 (EDT)
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Hey Coyote,

If all you are using in the bladder is water, then just rinsing it out with hot water and letting it air dry is adequate. You do want to do a thorough cleaning after several uses. This includes disassembly & brushing out ALL the parts, and sterilizing with either a commercially prepared product from the manufacturer, or a bleach water mixture. The cleaning kit provides you with the brushes, and a hanger, that does make it easier. That's not to say you can not make your own kit.

If you are using drink mixes, cleaning more frequently will probably be required. I try to put drink mixes in a nalgene bottle and just water in my bladder.

I'm sure everyone has their own preferences in that regard.

1:40 a.m. on September 1, 2009 (EDT)
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I just rinse mine out and let it air dry, every so often I clean it with a baking soda & vinegar mixture then rinse it out good and then a bit of bleach and water mixture rinse and air dry. I only use water in mine and I have never had to use brushes. I have no stains of film in it when im done cleaning it.

4:49 a.m. on September 1, 2009 (EDT)
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i use only water but after several uses and storing it not perfectly dry, mine developed bacterial gunk which were easily removed with the brushes.

I think you can skip the kit provided you can store it perfectly dry (especially the hose and valve) during storage and just use vinegar/bleach/lemon/denture tabs cleaning methods.

10:41 a.m. on September 1, 2009 (EDT)
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Thanks for all the info everybody. I really appreciate it.

10:54 a.m. on September 1, 2009 (EDT)
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CamelBak, at one time, recommended a little baking soda in some warm water after a cleaning to freshen up the bladder and hose. They've since removed that advice from their site (as far as I can see), probably to promote their own proprietary cleaning tabs. However, the baking soda has worked for me and does seem to clean any "funk" you may detect.

I haven't had as much funk with the newest CamelBak bladder I have... better material or just newer, I don't know.

11:22 a.m. on September 1, 2009 (EDT)
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Cleric Welcome to To Trailspace

12:02 p.m. on September 1, 2009 (EDT)
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Cleaning a hydration bladder is just like cleaning dishes, cups, etc, anything you use to convey edibles and drinkables into your digestive system. You can get away without cleaning for a while, but it can catch up to you. (example - have you ever examined the coffee cups of your work colleagues?)

If you are on the trail or in the field for a long time, such as through-hiking or a month-long expedition to run the Grand Canyon or to climb a remote peak, it is difficult to clean the system - getting enough hot water to rinse costs precious fuel, carrying the cleaning chemicals is a pain, as is carrying hangers and brushes.

That said, my personal experience in using hydration bladders from several manufacturers and in using water bottles of various origins is this - If it is just water, and you filter or otherwise make it potable (not necessarily "pure" or sterile - see my Water series in the Articles section of Trailspace for the difference in these terms), you can get away with just refilling the bladder or water bottle for a long time (6+ weeks is my record). I emphasize "get away with", because critters can multiply in there unless you are scrupulous about using sterilized water (i.e. boiled for several minutes). I have never suffered consequences from the water due to not cleaning water containers which have just had water in them.

Using hydration mixes or juices is another matter. The ingredients in the mixes for hydration (Cytomax, Hydrolyte, the GU hydration powders, etc) and other drinks (KoolAid, Wyler's, etc) include things that bacteria and molds just love and thrive on. I have had the interiors of bladders and especially hoses turn black and opaque from "stuff" growing in there. I have even ended up in the Urgent Care section of our HMO from an uncleaned hose that was completely black (didn't notice, since I had the insulating sleeve on the hose, until I got home and decided to clean the system). Luckily, my bout with whatever it was lasted only about 7 or 8 hours, but it sure was unpleasant.

Some of the hydration manufacturers (e.g., CamelBak) have started making their bladders, hoses, bite valves, and the rest of the system with antibacterial and antifungal materials. Some do not. My experience with the ones with such materials is that it seems to work in the bladders, but the hose still collects the black stuff.

My practice when at home and doing day hikes and rides is to rinse with hot water at least once a week for containers (esp. bladders) that have just held water. If there is any sign of stuff accumulating, I use the brushes. If I am heading out the next day, I just put the new batch of tap water in the container and don't bother with drying it out.

If I have used a drink mix (esp. the hydration mixes), I dump the excess mix, and I rinse with hot water several times and scrub vigorously with both container and hose brushes. Every 3 or 4 times, I soak in a bleach solution or a solution with distilled vinegar (that's the clear "white" vinegar with no flavorings, and says "distilled" on the label). The soak is at least 24 hours, followed by several hot water rinses. That's just fine at home, but doesn't work on the trail. What I have done on a couple of extended expeditions is to use plain water in the bladder and supplement with a water bottle with the hydration mix - the water bottle is a lot easier to clean without brushes.

12:23 p.m. on September 2, 2009 (EDT)
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I have a plastic taste whenever i drink out of my bladder. What is the best solution to get rid of that taste?

1:08 p.m. on September 2, 2009 (EDT)
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Viniger & baking soda mixture and slosh it around, rinse and then use a bleach and water solution mixture then rinse and dry. That has always worked for me.

1:14 p.m. on September 2, 2009 (EDT)
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Get a different brand of hydration bladder. Seriously. Some brands seem to have more of a taste than others, and some brands used to have a taste, but have changed to different plastics. Filling the bladder with a solution of bleach or distilled vinegar, or baking soda does seem to reduce the taste somewhat.

The bladders that taste of plastic also will take up the taste of the drink mixes (Cytomax, GU2O, Hydrolyte, etc). The plastic taste and the lingering drink mix taste happen with some types of plastic water bottles as well. I had a water bottle that I put orange juice in, and all the water I put in it for the next 6 months tasted like very dilute orange juice. Some of the bite valves seem to add plastic taste (in one hydration pack I had, the bite valve had a rubbery taste, like an old inner tube - got rid of that one fast).

CamelBak's current bladders, Platypus, and BCA don't seem to add much taste and don't seem to take up the taste of the drink mixes.

7:48 p.m. on September 2, 2009 (EDT)
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Yep, I had forgotten about vinegar! The wife cleans our coffee maker with it too.

I just use bleach because I also use it for cleaning my water filter and other bottles, containers too. I make up a gallon and use it for everything. I add a little extra bleach for the bladder though.

Some people have posted about using denture cleaning tabs as well.

10:37 p.m. on October 8, 2009 (EDT)
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I put water in my hydration bladder and save the drink mixes for the water bottle in order to cut down on cleaning. A while back, Bill recommended using a water/ bleach mixture to clean the bladder. Been doing that for about a year and it's worked pretty well for me.

7:38 p.m. on October 9, 2009 (EDT)
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I clean my hydration bladder like we used to clean baby bottles, fill it about a quarter of the way with water and add a couple of drops of dish washing liquid, then a handfull of dry rice. Shake it vigerously, then rinse several times with hot water and let dry.

7:41 a.m. on October 14, 2009 (EDT)
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Call me old-fashioned (I am certainly relatively old!), but doesn't this raise the question: Why bother with the blasted things? Is it really that big a deal to get out your bottle and take a drink?

 

Cardigan

2:21 p.m. on October 14, 2009 (EDT)
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You need to keep bottles clean, too. Just like any utensil associated with eating and drinking.

The discussion of hydration bladders vs bottles of various sorts (wide mouth, narrow mouth, with "straws", without "straws", etc etc etc etc) has been visited and revisited a number of times on Trailspace. Each has its advantages and disadvantages. I use a variety of each according to the circumstances depending on which is better suited to the activity.

Direct answer to Cardigan's "big deal" question is - yes, sometimes it is a big deal to have to stop, take off your pack, dig the bottle out (or ask your bud to retrieve and replace the bottle for you), get your drink, put the cap back on, put it back in your pack (that includes the side pockets, out of which I have seen a number of packers lose their water bottles on the trail), and put the pack back on. Versus having the hose handy to remind you to stay continuously hydrated (frequent small sips keep you better hydrated than big gulps). Then again, sometimes it isn't a big deal, like when you take a longer rest break. And no one has yet made a "thermos" hydration bladder that I can fill at the start of a ski tour with hot tea or hot chocolate.

Use the appropriate container for the circumstances.

3:31 p.m. on October 17, 2009 (EDT)
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I clean my water bladder but the only bouht the brush on the long skinny wire to clean the tube out with,the rest came from the super market- apir of plasic (non-rusting)salad tongs and a bottle brush.Everynow and then I fill it with water and add 1 teaspoon of baking soda soak for an hour the rinse well. No need for an expensive cleaning kit

8:44 p.m. on October 18, 2009 (EDT)
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Not all the models of water containers can be cleaned in the same way. For example, a large Platypus should be cleaned thus:

 

whereas the smaller model requires different care:

First you clean the outside, then apply a patch to prevent leaks. They are available in quantity:

9:09 p.m. on October 18, 2009 (EDT)
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Excellent!

All this time I've been doing it wrong.

1:34 p.m. on October 19, 2009 (EDT)
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Lets se if i got this right if you own a wide mouth bladder ypu put the platypus inside it swims around and cleans the bladder!Narrow mouthbladder owners look on in envy.I've lived and walked in Australia for 40 years and am yet to see a platypus in the wild ahs Nalgene stolen them all?

2:16 p.m. on October 19, 2009 (EDT)
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Hicliff,

The platypus hydration systems may say "Made in USA", but it is known to some that they are made of the finest full-grain platypus hides grown on a station about 500 K east-north-east of Perth. Naturally, with the whole baby seal thing, they don't want this to leak. That is why the gaucos who do the annual roundup are flown in from Argentina by night in black helicopters, or so I have heard.

Here is a picture from a recent roundup, just before the ceremonial first clubbing.

Notice that when held this way the platypus doesn't leak?

6:07 p.m. on October 19, 2009 (EDT)
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Thanks overmywaders, a mystery solved mine always leaked-but I had it upside down-this is a southern hemishere thing-you know water drains from the sink anti clockwise (non Digital) and of course that other phenomenon of north being further away.So my next question is if caught and held the rightway will my platypus point north and thereby become a multi-use bit of gear.

6:23 p.m. on October 19, 2009 (EDT)
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Welcome Hicliff.

Thanks for the humor guys.

6:24 a.m. on October 20, 2009 (EDT)
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Thanks trouthunter-Two final questions -Obviuosly during the annual roundup of platypi mentioned above,some will manage to escape the skillfull Argentinians carrying the scars of thier brief captivity Q are these wounds refered to as ..................... Gauco Marks? and is any of this helping Coyote who at this stage must be having difficulty separating marsupuals from (bladder) maintainence?

9:52 a.m. on October 20, 2009 (EDT)
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Thanks trouthunter-Two final questions -Obviuosly during the annual roundup of platypi mentioned above,some will manage to escape the skillfull Argentinians carrying the scars of thier brief captivity Q are these wounds refered to as ..................... Gauco Marks? and is any of this helping Coyote who at this stage must be having difficulty separating marsupuals from (bladder) maintainence?

~Spits out the fur from biting a platypus ... I thought these things were suppose to come with a bite valve~

Thanks for all the info everybody, along with the humour.

11:32 a.m. on October 20, 2009 (EDT)
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Hicliff,

So many insightful questions. First, the issue of pointing North. Platypuses are, as you know, highly evolved creatures. As such they are not very polarized, but are politically independent. They are aware that as egg-laying, venomous, bottom-feeding mammals they are admirably suited for a seat in Parliament; but they find a higher calling searching for worms in the streambed.

The Gaucho Marks, so-called, are so distinctive that animals bearing those marks are easily traced. What causes the marks is unknown, perhaps the high caffeine content of gaucho breath from endless gourds of yerba matte tea raises the platypus's metabolic levels. Below is a platypus before contact with a gaucho:


Here is the same creature moments later:

5:28 p.m. on October 20, 2009 (EDT)
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Another mystery solved,give that man a cigar -did you know that when the British authorities were sent a platypus that they thought it was a hoax and failed to recognise its advantages as a light wieght vessel for water carrying, this in turn had several consequences especially on a military level where water was carried around in heavy wooden leaky casks,which led to poor performance in the fatigued dehydrated troops-imagine the world we live in now if only they had been more lateral in thier thinking-but that, as has been pointed out, is politicians for you.

On a serious note I have in my possesion a Argentinian gourd cleaning kit that is for sale would Coyote be interested,frankly I'll give it away if it will stop his interesting treatment of one of our national icons.

Another ponderance; Is Leatherman a rich tough relative of the strawman?

October 23, 2014
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