3 FREE Ways To Clean A Hydration Bladder Easily

Bikers, hikers, runners, and other outdoor enthusiasts heavily rely on the water source from a hydration bladder when out in the middle of nowhere. Regardless of the frequency of use, these water bladders used in backpacks or hip-packs can become breeding grounds for bacteria and mold when basic care is neglected.

Basic hydration bladder care involves regular deep cleaning, disinfecting, and air-drying the bladder. Soaking in vinegar, dish soap or bleach, scrubbing all areas with brushes, and using a brush kit to clean the nozzles, attachments, tube, and mouthpiece are crucial for longterm use.

Nothing is more disgusting than a sip of stale, moldy water when you’re outdoors being healthy. Mold or bacteria-riddled water can make you sick, so a regular cleaning routine will ensure you stay safe and well-hydrated.

Hydration bladder care video by Camelbak.

How often to clean your hydration bladder

After every use, make sure to remove residual water and let the hydration pack air-dry overnight. The bladder should be cleaned at least once a month, while the mouthpiece nozzle requires more frequent cleaning after every use.

How frequently you clean your hydration bladder will depend a little on how often you use it. If stored in a dry state, no additional care is required until the next use. But under frequent daily or weekly use, it will be necessary to uphold basic hygiene by thoroughly cleaning the hydration system once or twice a month. The nozzle in direct contact with your mouth should get more attention, as it’s also prone to collect debris while hanging on your chest or waist.

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No matter if you use a hydration backpack or hip-back, the bladder systems are largely the same. Only the opening may or may not be large enough for your hand to get inside.

If you only use the hydration bladder monthly or once a season when you go hiking or fishing, the best practice would be to thoroughly clean it before the trip and then again before storing it away for a longer period of time including drying it out completely.

Now let’s get into what you’ll need and what the individual steps to take for basic water bladder care are. Maybe add one or two extra cleaning steps before correctly storing it away longer until the next use.

Required equipment for hydration bladder cleaning

The following items are recommended for a basic hydration bladder care routine. You may have personal preferences in name brands as long as the products are non-corrosive or a product that can permeate the plastic and alter its properties.

Let’s keep it simple here. You don’t need to use all these products, but you will need at least one cleaning agent and some sort of brush. The first ones on the list should be available in any household, and therefore are very cheap or free methods to do this.

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White vinegar and water are sufficient for basic hydration pack hygiene.

Not too complicated, right? Nothing you need is particularly expensive or hard to come by. Now let’s look at how to apply the cleaning agent of choice correctly.

Basic Hydration Bladder Hygiene

How you conduct the basic hydration bladder hygiene routine will also depend on where you are. If you’re at home, you can do the cleaning in the kitchen sink or outside the kitchen area. If you’re camping or in a trailer, you’ll most likely use a bucket and do it outside.

Here are the basic steps to follow – bear in mind the cleaning products will depend on where you are and what you have available.

How to Clean a Hydration Bladder:

  • Remove the hydration bladder from its backpack.
  • Remove the mouthpiece, lid, and tube.
  • Fill a basin or bucket with warm water and add dish soap, vinegar, baking soda mix, or a hydration bladder cleaning tablet.
  • Soak for a minimum of 20 minutes, and overnight if possible.
  • Using a sponge or special elongated brushes, scrub every surface area inside and outside the bladder.
  • Scrub the mouthpiece with extra care.
  • Using the tube brush, pass it through the tube several times, and check for mold.
  • Rinse thoroughly with warm water and add a little vinegar to disinfect.
  • Hang up to air dry thoroughly before assembly.
  • It’s ready to safely store away or the next use.
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This is the most basic method of cleaning a water bladder: fill it with vinegar and water and let it soak.

In some cases, this soaking and scrubbing method isn’t possible to do. For a simpler procedure, you can:

  1. simply fill the bladder with vinegar and water (1:10 ratio), but not any fizzy tablets as you …
  2. … close the system, push the mixture through the tube and let it sit.
  3. After a minimum of 20 minutes (preferably longer) clear it out and rinse with water, especially the tube a couple of times to make sure all the vinegar is flushed out.
  4. Ready to use it again.

Just make sure to give it a thorough cleaning with sponges or brushes regularly.

Basic hydration bladder hygiene also includes regular maintenance checks of the bladder and integrity of the connections. Check for the following:

  • Stains in the bladder that won’t scrub out.
  • Black mold that penetrates the plastic.
  • Perforations in the tube, bladder, or mouthpiece.


A good quality hydration bladder can last up to two years, depending on your basic care routine. However, it may be time to replace the hydration bladder if there is a perforation or stubborn black mold. Regularly check the inside to gauge the condition the bladder system is in.

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Good quality gear can last long even under constant use and abuse in all conditions.

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