How To Clean A Hiking Water Bladder

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Hiking water bladders, or hydration packs, are great for hiking because they can hold more water than a water bottle, keep the water cool, and allow you to drink water whenever you want without having to unpack your bag. However, many people neglect cleaning their water bladders. This can lead to a buildup of mold and bacteria growing therein. So, how do you clean a hiking water bladder, you might ask?

Cleaning a hiking water bladder is a straightforward process that requires only a few tools and ingredients. First, add cleaning detergent and warm water to the bladder and let the solution soak before rinsing it. The key to avoiding mold and bacteria growth is allowing the bladder to dry completely.

Some hiking water bladders, such as HydraPack water bladders, can be turned inside out and washed in a dishwasher. However, most water bladders need to be washed by hand. Fortunately, there are many water bladder cleaning kits available, and you can easily clean a water bladder with the supplies you already have at home. Follow these steps to clean your hiking water bladder.

How To Clean A Hiking Water Bladder After Use

You don’t need to wash your hiking water bladder after every use. Instead, experts recommend cleaning it at least twice a year or anytime before you intend on storing your bladder for a long time. The most important part, which you should do after every use, is ensuring the bladder is completely dry before storing it.

A dry water bladder will have a decreased chance of developing mold or bacteria overgrowth. Therefore, be sure to empty and dry your water bladder entirely after every use. When you intend to store your hiking water bladder, follow these steps.

Step 1: Gather Your Supplies

Before you can clean the water bladder, you must gather the supplies. As mentioned, most hydration pack suppliers also sell water bladder cleaning kits. These make the cleaning process easier but aren’t necessary for cleaning a water bladder. To clean a hiking water bladder, you need the following:

  • Hot Water. You must use hot water to clean the water bladder. Ensure the water is hot but not scalding.
  • Cleaning Solution. You can buy special water bladder cleaning tablets or use dish soap, vinegar, baking soda, or diluted bleach to clean the bladder.
  • Brushes and a long, flexible tube brush. You will use these brushes to scrub the inside of the bladder and the hose.
  • A hanger and a bottle. You can either hang the bladder on a hanger to dry or place it upside down over a bottle.

Step 2: Fill The Water Bladder With Hot Water

The first step to cleaning a hiking water bladder is to empty the contents and fill the bladder about halfway with hot water. Then, add the cleaning solution you choose to use. Which one you use doesn’t matter. If you use special water bladder cleaning tablets, follow the steps on the packet.

If you use one of the other cleaning solutions, add it to the bladder and shake it up. Then, open the mouthpiece of the bladder and let some of the solution flow out, ensuring that the entire bladder is in contact with some of the solution. Then, leave the bladder with the solution to soak for about twenty minutes.

Step 3: Scrub The Water Bladder And Hose

When the bladder is finished soaking, you can discard the solution and fill the bladder with more hot water and a tiny bit of dish soap. Only pour a bit of water in the bladder this time to prevent spilling too much. Then, using a brush, scrub the inside of the bladder thoroughly. Be sure to scrub out all the corners and seams of the bladder.

Remove the mouthpiece from the hose and soak it in a bowl with warm water and soap while you clean the hose. Using a long, flexible tube with a brush at the end, scrub the inside of the hose to ensure all the solution and bacteria are removed.

If you don’t have the right type of brush, you can also use a long, stiff cord with a knot at the end to clean the hose part.

Step 4: Rinse The Water Bladder Thoroughly

Once everything has been scrubbed and you’re satisfied that the bladder is clean, you can rinse it thoroughly. Ensure that there isn’t any more cleaning solution or soap stuck inside the bladder.

Place the mouthpiece back on the hose and rinse the house thoroughly as well. When you are sure that all the soap and cleaning solution has been flushed from the water bladder, you can proceed to let it dry.

Step 5: Let The Water Bladder Dry Completely

As we have mentioned, letting the water bladder dry completely is the most important step to prevent mold or bacteria from developing in the bladder. You can either hang the bladder on a hanger. The water bladder cleaning kits usually have a hanger included. Alternatively, you can turn the bladder over a bottle or faucet with the mouth open to dry.

Remove the hose and mouthpiece from the bladder and allow these parts to dry separately. Then, leave the bladder in a cool, dry area (not the bathroom) to dry completely before packing it away.

Step 6: Storing A Water Bladder

Once the water bladder has thoroughly dried, you can store it in the garage, basement, or wherever you keep all your hiking equipment. Keep the bladder in a dry spot out of direct sunlight, and sunlight can cause mold to grow and make the water bladder brittle.

Some people prefer storing their water bladders in the freezer. Doing so will prevent mold or bacteria from growing on your bladder. However, as long as your bladder is cleaned and dried correctly, keeping it in the freezer isn’t necessary.

When preparing for your next hiking trip, you can simply fill up your hiking water bladder and rest assured that there aren’t any bacteria in the bladder that can make you sick.

Can You Remove Mold From A Hiking Water Bladder?

Suppose you are late to reading this post and have already discovered some mold in your hiking water bladder. In that case, you might wonder if it is possible to remove the mold from your water bladder or if you need to buy a new bladder.

Fortunately, you can save the bladder if there isn’t too much mold. Use the same cleaning techniques as discussed above, and scrub away any mold you see. Allow the bladder to dry thoroughly before using it again.

When removing mold, use two cups of vinegar or half a teaspoon of bleach as the soaking solution. Be sure to rinse your bladder extremely well to get rid of any vinegar or bleach before using it again.


While you don’t have to clean a water bladder after every use, it is necessary to clean it at least twice a year or before storing it for a long time. Letting the water bladder dry completely is the most important part of ensuring mold and bacteria doesn’t grow inside your water bladder. If you notice mold inside your bladder, clean it immediately and ensure it dries properly before using it again.