Monday, August 12, 2013

Making the Portable Potable

Water Bottle Woes

A simple question about keeping your summertime water bottle clean really has many streams of response.  Although there are those who never clean a bottle until it is grossly, and I do mean grossly, contaminated, prudent use would have the bottle cleaned regularly, as you would any other container or utensil.  A variety of bacteria, including E. coli and salmonella, can contaminate the interior of the bottle, as well as viruses such as norovirus, which is responsible for the bulk of viral gastroenteritis, or “stomach flu,” throughout the year.  Keeping the bottle clean is pivotal in preventing these types of illnesses.

Since organisms can secret themselves in the interstices of lids and spouts, these items, particularly, need cleaning attention.  Sharing the bottle with other can encourage contamination, and the spread of disease, and should be avoided.  Depending on the bottle’s material and construction, similar cracks may form within the bottle, itself, making cleaning that much more necessary, and difficult.

While many use the disposable bottle sold containing bottled water, these bottles are not really manufactured for reuse, and may be difficult to keep clean.  The plastic used may also not be suited to long term use, with the question of plasticizer and chemical leakage and the formation of micro-cracks in the material.  Except for the very short term, their use as a refillable container should be discouraged.

Commercial plastic water bottles are nominally more sturdy than the disposable variety, with better tops and spouts.  One should insure that the plastic used is BPA-free to avoid exposure to this potentially harmful inclusion.  Properly maintained, these should last until the seal on the top starts to leak, which seems to be the most common reason to discard the bottle.

Metal water bottles, with stainless steel and aluminum being popular, are quite rugged, and often feature a lining which retards microbial growth, enhancing potential safety.  They may weigh more, a factor in bottles being carried in sport; they tend to be more durable, which also may be decisive in sports use.

Cleaning any bottle should start with a thorough wash out with clean water.  Techniques commonly use range from a little soap and water, to baking soda, to denture cleaning tablets, to a dishwasher.  These all have their advocates, with the bottom line being to clean as well as the bottle will tolerate to provide the best result.  Many plastic bottles will not survive a trip through the dishwasher, while some metal ones may require such treatment to disinfect.  Guidelines provided by the manufacturer of commercial water bottles should certainly be reviewed and followed.

And, finally, a word about the water, itself.  Bottled water, in general, is not submitted to the stringent guidelines of the commercial water supply.  Be aware of the source of any water you buy, which may be purified tap water from your local community.  Your own tap water, perhaps run through a filter to remove excess chlorination or metallic tastes, should be fine, and less expensive as well.  But certainly take some when you are exercising, and stay healthy and hydrated.

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