How To Clean a Hydration Bladder Tube


Key Points

  • To maintain proper hydration from a hydration pack, you must keep it clean or risk having issues with it, such as dangerous mold growth.

  • There are some supplies and tips that you can rely on to help maintain a clean hydration pack.

  • There are specific cleaning steps that you can take to prevent mold growth, especially in the drinking tube, which many people tend to forget about.

Summer temperatures are continually rising across the globe every year, making it more critical than ever to maintain proper hydration. Overheating poses serious health risks, from fainting spells to heat stroke, dehydration, and even death. However, another problem that is just as serious is mold exposure.

In the everyday world, mold is all around us. From what we eat to where we stay, you may find mold. Though there are some good molds (like edible mushrooms), many dangerous molds may send you to the hospital as quickly as overheating.

While it's vital to ensure you always have enough water and drink enough on your outdoor adventures, it's just as important to be sure that what you're drinking is clean. This is especially true with hydration bladders.

Hydration bladders have become very popular among outdoor enthusiasts because they let you stay hydrated and free up your hands. They don't interfere with your movement, and their convenient tubes and bite valves give you instant access to water, providing you with the best of both worlds.

That said, hydration bladders only work effectively if you keep them clean. Due to their structure, hydration packs are prone to growing mold if not cleaned properly, which can make you sick or ruin the material of the reservoir. This article explains the importance of cleaning hydration packs, especially the tubes, which often get forgotten, and how to wash them.

The Horrors of Unclean Hydration

Living in a country with access to clean water in most places, it's sometimes easy to forget the importance of clean drinking water access. All it takes is one close call with mold or bacteria in your water to remind you. Having access to clean water is one thing, but ensuring that what you drink is clean is a responsibility that falls on you.

When it comes to using hydration bladders, it's vital to clean your reservoir, something equally significant, but keeping the drinking tube clean is something often overlooked. Fortunately, you may break down parts of the drinking tube, making it an easier task than it might seem.

The threat of mold is one thing that creates problems with drinking tubes and can even be fatal. The dangerous situations mold poses are so severe that they even inspired a 2023 horror film called Mold. The most common issues with hydration bladder tubes arise if they need to be adequately cleaned and maintained.

Aside from the potential of mold, another issue created by poor cleaning habits is the development of a bad taste or odor in the tube, which can affect the overall drinking experience. Additionally, tubes can get clogged with residue and debris, making it difficult to get a steady water flow.

Improperly maintained tubes may also develop leaks or cracks, rendering them ineffective. To avoid these issues, regular cleaning is crucial. Using a cleaning kit with brushes specifically designed for hydration tubes can help remove any buildup and ensure a clean and sanitary drinking experience. It's also essential to thoroughly dry the tube after cleaning to prevent mold and bacteria growth.

What You Need

You need a few essential tools to effectively clean a hydration bladder tube. First, a cleaning kit specifically designed for hydration tubes is a must-have. This kit typically includes a long flexible brush, a small brush for the bite valve, and sometimes even cleaning tablets or solutions. Designed to reach every nook and cranny of the tube, these brushes ensure a thorough cleaning.

Additionally, you require clean, warm water for rinsing and flushing out the tube. It would help to have a cleaning agent for flushing the tube. Though you can clean the tube with dish soap, it isn't recommended because the suds can block the narrow tube, making it hard to rinse clean. Instead, try natural cleaning agents that don't have suds, such as lemon juice or vinegar.

Access to a drying rack or a hanger to air dry the tube properly is also helpful in preventing mold and bacteria growth. With these tools, it's easy to maintain a clean and sanitary hydration bladder tube.

Lemon juice and vinegar are natural cleaning agents.

Cleaning Your Tube

Cleaning a hydration bladder tube is essential to ensure a clean and sanitary drinking experience. Though it can be easy to overlook the importance of cleaning such a small piece, it causes big problems if improperly handled.

Just like cleaning the reservoir of your hydration pack has particular steps that you can follow to ensure it's squeaky clean, there's an approach to cleaning your tube to guarantee it's safe. Follow these step-by-step instructions to clean your hydration bladder tube effectively:

1. Gather the Necessary Tools

You need a tube cleaning kit, warm water for rinsing, a cleaning agent (like lemon juice or vinegar), and a drying rack or hanger.

2. Disassemble the Tube

Remove the bite valve and disconnect the tube from the hydration bladder. This will allow you to clean each component thoroughly.

3. Rinse the Tube

Run clean, warm water through the tube to flush out any debris or residue. This will help prep the tube for deep cleaning. If you can visibly see debris acquired during an adventure, like dirt, you may have to blow through the tube to clear it first.

4. Clean the Tube

Use a long, flexible brush from the cleaning kit to scrub the inside of the tube. If you don't have access to a special brush for your tube, use a large reusable straw cleaning brush available at most stores. Pay special attention to hard-to-reach areas. Follow this up by pouring a small amount of your cleaning solution through the tube to act as a sanitizer for the inside of the tube.

5. Clean the Bite Valve

Use the small brush from the cleaning kit to clean the bite valve. Scrub the valve's interior and exterior to ensure a thorough clean. To sanitize the valve, simply pour some solution into a small bowl or cup and allow the piece to soak for a few moments.

6. Rinse and Flush

Once the tube and bite valve are clean, rinse them thoroughly with clean, warm water to remove any cleaning agent residue. The remaining residue can leave a lingering taste or even result in unwanted buildup.

7. Dry the Tube

Hang the tube on a drying rack or hanger to allow it to air dry completely. Ensure there's proper ventilation to prevent mold and bacteria growth and allow any remaining cleaning residue to drain.

8. Reassemble the Tube

Once dry, reassemble by attaching the bite valve back onto the tube and connecting it to the hydration bladder. Regularly cleaning your hydration bladder tube will help prevent mold growth, bad taste or odor, and clogging.

Following these steps, you maintain a clean and well-functioning hydration bladder tube for outdoor adventures.

Mold Can Be Mean, So Keep It Clean

You must clean your hydration bladder and drinking tube after every adventure. Even if you're not using a hydration bladder, it's still recommended to clean it regularly to prevent the growth of mold and bacteria.

A general guideline is to clean the hydration bladder every one to two weeks, even if you're not using it. This helps to ensure that any residual moisture or contaminants get removed and that the bladder remains clean and sanitary. Regular cleaning also helps maintain the bladder's longevity and prevent any buildup or blockages that may occur over time.

The outdoor experts at REI have some final tips to keep your bladder clean: "You’re likely to clean your reservoir more often if you have the right supplies on hand. Special equipment isn’t required, but if you want to make the job easier and more thorough, it’s helpful to have tools designed for the task."  

With these tips, tools, and steps in mind, you can be confident in the water you consume. Now, you can beat the heat with your hydration pack while you hike, bike, or boat, knowing you're doing the best you can for your body on your outdoor adventures.

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