Your Favorite Reusable Water Bottle Is Germier Than a Toilet Seat

We all know that plastic bottled water is a huge problem these days. And it’s a big reason why so many of us turn to reusable BPA-free plastic, stainless steel or glass water bottles that we can simply refill again and again. The easy to sip, spill-proof tops that so many different bottle varieties come equipped with now are also another added convenience.

But how often do you give your reusable water bottle a real thorough cleaning? Not just quick rinse before heading out to the gym — but a really thorough scrub down with soap in all the difficult nooks and crannies? If you’re like most people, you probably do it once in a while, but not daily or even weekly.

It turns out that the number of germs lurking on many reusable water bottles is actually right on par with your average toilet seat. Pretty gross, right?

To get an idea of how many viable bacteria cells might be crawling on a typical person’s water bottle, fitness experts at Treadmill Reviews conducted a study that involved taking swabs from the lids of 12 different water bottles belonging to athletes. After the athletes had used them for a week without washing them, what the researchers found was pretty alarming: The average number of colony-forming units (CFU) per square centimeter on the bottles came to 313,499.

To put that into perspective, your dog’s favorite chew toy has about 2,937 CFU per square centimeter. That’s right — licking your dog’s favorite toy is likely to be safer than drinking from your reusable water bottle that hasn’t been cleaned recently.

Of the 12 bottles involved in the swab test, all of them had different caps to drink from, which made a pretty big difference in how many bacteria were crawling on them. Slide-top water bottles turned out to be the big, disgusting winner — coming in at a whopping 933,340 CFU per square centimeter. Straw-top bottles had the least number of germs at just 25,4 CFU per square centimeter.

The thing is, bacteria love moist surfaces, so the more nooks and crannies your bottle has where moisture can hang around, the more likely you’ll have swarms of bacteria thriving there. The researchers think that the straw-top bottles had the least number of germs because the water naturally drips down to the bottom of the straw so there’s not nearly as much moisture sticking around at the top.

Don’t be too quick to assume that your safe with a straw-top bottle, though. At only 25.4 CFU per square centimeter, that’s still 2 CFU more than what the average toilet seat has.

Of course, not all types of bacteria are equal. Some are harmless, others are actually good for you and then there are the types that can actually make you really sick. The second worst of the group — the squeeze-top bottles — showed that almost all of its germs are potentially harmful at 99 percent gram-negative rods. Second in line for the most harmful bacteria was the screw-top bottle at 98 percent gram-negative rods.

Slide-top bottles, while revealing themselves to be the most germ-ridden of all the bottles, had more harmless bacteria than squeeze-tops and screw-tops — but half of them were still harmful.  Straw-tops, which were the least germ-ridden of all the bottles, were found to have mostly all harmless germs.

So, according to the researchers, going with a straw-top bottle is recommended since they have the least amount of germs, and of the germs they do have, hardly any are harmful. Other than that, they also recommend throwing your bottle in the dishwasher or washing it thoroughly by hand after every use.

Keep drinking as much water as you want — just skip the bad bacteria. Sure, it may take some extra time getting into every crevice with soap and water every time you finish a workout and down a bunch of water, but if it saves you from getting sick, then it’s totally worth it.

Related Articles
Cat-Scratch Disease Is More Serious Than Previously Thought
Your Circadian Rhythm Know What Time of Day You’re Likely to Get Sick
Exercise May Cancel Out Some of the Negative Health Effects of Drinking

Photo Credit: Thinkstock


Ganaisha Calvin
Ganaisha Calvin2 years ago

Germs are everywhere

Barbara S.
Past Member 2 years ago

thanks for posting this

Robert N.
Rob Chloe Sam N2 years ago

Interesting article, Thanks for sharing.

Jim Ven
Jim V2 years ago

thanks for sharing.

Olga Nycz-Shirley

Interesting. Thanks.

Jim Ven
Jim V2 years ago

thanks for sharing.

Dorothy Chamberlain

Thanks for sharing. I wash my water bottle in the dishwasher, just like any other drinking glass. On the other hand, it's impossible to live in a completely germ free environment.

Joanne p.
Joanne p2 years ago


Cyn F.
Cyn F2 years ago

Good to know. Thanks for sharing

Janet B.
Janet B2 years ago