Quick and Dirty: How to Clean a Hydration Pack

The best way to keep your water supply squeaky clean

camelbak cleaning water pack

    Photo: Courtesy of Bob Parks

Only the most dedicated outdoorspeople scrub, rinse, and air-dry their hydration packs every time. We’re more likely to leave it in the basement under the wet pile of clothes after an exhausting ride or hike. Here's the best way to keep it fresh.

Regular Maintenance:
Step 1: Mix up two tablespoons of bleach for every liter of hot water in the reservoir. It’s important to mix the bleach and water in a separate container and then add to your reservoir fully diluted. That way, the full-bore chlorine never hits the bag, leaving a taste. Add the mixture to your bag and hose, pushing it through the hose and bite valve. Let the whole business soak for an hour.

As an alternative, some people use Efferdent, the denture cleaner, which at 40 tabs for $4 is certainly cheap, but there is a small chance of an allergic reaction, according to the FDA. CamelBak also sells special slow-release chlorine tablets, but at $12 for 8 doses, they are more expensive than a jug of Clorox.

Step 2: Drain everything and wash with mild dish soap or castile soap, rinsing away any bleach and scrubbing away any mold. We found that attaching a stiff wire to a Q-tip works as well as the hose cleaner in CamelBak’s Antidote Cleaning Kit ($20). We also used a typical dishwashing brush for inside the reservoir and more Q-tips to degunk the bite valve. Don’t forget to remove and clean the gasket and scrub the threads.

Step 3: Air dry everything until there is no moisture. This entails hanging the bag with the inside expanded wide so that the whole interior dries. We made our dryer by modifying a plastic coat hanger (see image). Companies sell plastic hangers (like the CamelBak pictured above) and even special-purpose electric driers. (We think it’s sort of awesome that someone in this great big world makes something as random as a $34 power hydration bladder drier.)

If this method gives a slight chlorine taste next time you use the pack, add an extra step by soaking with ½ cup of baking soda and water. Let that soak for a half hour. Also, feel free to improvise. Everyone eventually finds own system for fixing funky packs: blasting with a hair drier, storing with a cup of vodka (!), freezing, refrigerating. If your own method doesn’t make it taste strange or shorten the life of the plastic materials, we say go for it.

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