The Best Ways to Clean a Hydration Pack Bladder

Tips on how to shut down the science experiment forming in your neglected hydration pack.

Bicycling Staff |

Tips on how to shut down the science experiment forming in your neglected hydration pack.

Image via George Zipp


You just got home from a weekend bike trip. You’re tired, you’re hungry, and you can’t decide which to go for first—a shower, a beer, or both at once. Cleaning your hydration pack is likely the last thing on your mind, so you put it off for a while. But let it sit for a few more days, and strange new life forms will start building habitats inside your neglected gear.

There are a few things you can do to keep a terrarium from forming. Hydration powerhouse Camelbak has pretty clear advice: The best way to care for your reservoir is to clean and dry it after every use, especially if you fill the reservoir with anything other than water.

In other words, preventative care. Easy to advise, not so easy to follow after every single ride without fail. But Camelbak acknowledges that bladder upkeep sometimes gets put on the back burner—we don’t all scrub out our equipment religiously. Here’s the company’s official advice for cleaning a hydration plack’s bladder:

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But what if you can never seem to get that soapy taste out of the bladder? Seth Beiden at Camelbak has his own tricks for keeping his bladder from turning into a science experiment.

•First, he stores his bladder rolled-up in the freezer after it’s been emptied out so nothing has a chance to grow in it.
•If he’s filled the bladder with anything but water, he rinses it out with hot water and the juice of a lemon, which breaks down any buildups in the bladder and washes out easier than soap. (And leaves a much nicer aftertaste, if any.)
•He also uses a green scrubber pad—which reactivates the antimicrobial coating embedded in the bladder itself and awakens some of its anti-mould properties. This is similar to the coating used in shoes to prevent mould and smells.
•Hang-drying is always the way to go.

The most important thing you can do is to make prompt care a habit after every ride. And if you see visible mould that can’t be scrubbed out? Cut your losses and get yourself a new bladder.

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