If you’ve clicked on this story, it’s safe to assume you’ve invested in a reusable water bottle. Mad props, btw: skipping single-use is a super simple (yet effective) way to reduce our carbon footprint.
But as great as they are for the planet, they’re not so fab for our health – that is, unless you wash them regularly. Kinda problematic considering most of us rarely do. Speaking with Reader’s Digest, microbiologist Dr Miryam Z. Wahrman put this down to a false sense of security: because the bottles carry water, we think they’re always clean.
The fact of the matter is, germs thrive in moisture. And often when we sip we have traces of food in or on our mouths that then seep down to the remaining liquid inside. So the next time we take a swig – be it an hour or 24 later – we’re chugging back all that not-so-nice bacteria too.
It gets worse: these microbes multiply in stagnant water, especially when exposed to heat (e.g. when left in a hot car or at the bottom of a gym bag.)
“Contaminated water bottles can transmit pretty much anything you can catch from casual contact with another person,” Wahrman adds. This includes colds, flu and other less common infections. “That’s not to say that every germ you encounter will make you sick, because we have immunity and other barriers to germs, like our stomach acid, for instance, that kill microbes. But being exposed needlessly to unknown microbes could increase your risk of disease.”
Permission to freak out, granted.
But seriously, how often do we *actually* need to wash our water bottles? Warhman reckons at least once a day. Empty it before bed (never “top it off” by mixing fresh water in with the old stuff), clean it thoroughly with detergent and water, and refill. Simples.