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Bad odors and smells in water bottles - features to ensure an odor free water bottle

by Tim Bligh | February 1, 2023

One of the challenges that comes with reusing water bottles is keeping them clean and free of smells and odors.

I think back to the time I put a smoothie in my old plastic water bottle and really enjoyed it that day. Unfortunately, the bottle then carried a stale smell from the smoothie and ruined the water that I tried to consume from that bottle for ages afterwards.

Why the smells and odors?

The odor is actually coming from the very small quantities of fats and proteins from the milk that remain adhered to the surface of the plastic and are then subject to microbial action by little bugs like Streptococci, Lactobacilli and Bacillus cereus. The ones that cause milk to go sour. This whole brew forms a kind of bio film on the surface of the plastic.

Plastic surfaces, being organic (carbon based) compounds, have a stronger attraction to other organic compounds like fats, proteins (and bugs) than to water. Plastic is said to be hydrophobic, or ‘water hating’ in Greek. By contrast glass, or metal surfaces like stainless steel, are more hydrophilic (water loving) and therefore much less attracted to organic fats proteins and bugs.

This is why it is harder to get plastic surfaces really clean and given that the insides of water bottles are notoriously difficult to access and clean compared to regular kitchenware, it is perhaps no surprise that plastic water bottles tend to develop odors from milk based or other organic based drinks, banana smoothies for example.

For those who remember the old glass milk bottles (they were even delivered to your door!), you knew from the many wear marks and scratches on the outside of the bottles that they were used over and over again. This was because, on return of the empty bottle to the milk supplier, the glass bottles could be easily cleaned to a very high standard. Similarly, food and drink processing equipment are invariably constructed in stainless steel and glass to maximise the efficiency of cleaning between batches.

There is a plethora of information online on how to remove odors from plastic containers using specialist cleaning techniques however they all seem to require much time and effort. Cleaning bottles is not something I (and I suspect most people) like to spend time and effort on!

How to minimise plastics touching your contents?

So, knowing the major challenges with keeping plastic surfaces clean and odour free, I then wanted to see what I could do to minimise the use of plastic. Taking my cue from the food industry, at Ever Vessel we have focused on quality metal and glass bottles.

After using these types of bottles for smoothies and juices I know that these water bottles do not retain the odors after being cleaned.

Be aware that many stainless steel and glass water bottles on the market:

  1. Still contain plastic components that frequently touch the beverage inside. The inside of the lid is the most common. These plastic components can still retain odors after thorough cleaning.
  1. Have external surface coatings (paints or lacquer) and electrical equipment that can impact how easy the bottle is to clean. Many bottles are not dishwasher safe and may also not be able to be submerged.

There are many factors to consider when choosing a suitable water bottle. Best to do your research and choose wisely if you want a smell free water bottle.

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