How to Clean and Sanitize Your Water Dispenser

Cleaning water dispensrWith over 90% of Shanghai tap water still sourced from the polluted Huangpu and Yangtze Rivers, residents generally treat their tap water for drinking or cooking.  The most common methods used are boiling, filtering with one of many different water filtration methods (read more here), or buying bottled water.

In today’s post,Cleaning Shanghai Household water dispenser I’ll show you how to disinfect your water bottle dispenser.  Many people forget to do this, but it should be done at least once every six weeks to avoid bacterial or other microbial growth, which can lead to stomach cramping, diarrhea, and other gastrointestinal problems.  Fortunately, it’s simple and easy to do.

  1. Prepare bleach disinfecting solution.  Mix 1 teaspoon (5ml) of household bleach with 1 liter of water.  Do not make this any stronger! If you make extra solution, this should be used up within 30 days.  Safety note: use vinegar instead if you have any sensitivities to bleach.
  2. Clean your water dispenser (best done between bottles when you have an empty bottle).
    Taking apart water dispenser

    Source: Mountain Park bottling website

    1. Unplug unit
    2. Remove empty bottle
    3. Remove no-spill top and/or baffle if equipped (see photo)
    4. If your dispenser has a separate hot water tank, plug the hole with a cork or rubber stopper.  The heat sanitizes the tank and bleach is difficult to rinse out of the hot tank.
    5. Wearing gloves and safety goggles, scrub interior of reservoir and nozzle(s) with sponge soaked in bleach solution.  Let solution stand for more than 2 min but less than 5 min (to avoid plastic corrosion)
    6. Fill the reservoir with clean tap or bottled water to rinse four (4) times and drain into a bucket.  Dispose into sink.
    7. Clean the drip pan, no-spill top and baffle (if equipped) with bleach solution as well.  Rinse and replace.

    8. Water dispenser catch tray

  3. Replace and use new bottle to fill dispenser.  If there is any remaining smell, continue rinse process.

Bottled Water Storage:

  • Bottled water is not without its hazards.  Besides being costly, the bottled water industry is not well-regulated.  Further, bottled water is often simply refiltered tap water.  If you do want to use bottled water, ensure that the company you select from is reputable and is a large company.
  • The main problems with bottled water tend to be from bacterial contamination, which occurs when bottles are not properly sterilized between refills.  Even without contamination, bottled water normally has low levels of bacteria, so infants and individuals with compromised immune systems should use water filtered for bacteria instead
  • Bacterial contamination can also occur when bottles are stored improperly.  Like food or drink, bottled water should be kept in cool, dry, clean places and not exposed to direct sunlight or heat.
  • Water should not be stored for more than 30 days or else the bacteria normally in water can multiply rapidly.
  • Do not touch the dispenser spigot with your hands or allow cups, containers, etc. to contact the spigot directly and potentially contaminate it with other bacteria.

Source: Excerpted in part from Brookhaven National Laboratory’s Safety & Health Division

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How to Clean and Sanitize Your Water Dispenser

  1. Mark Le bois says:

    Thanks for the article, it is very instructive. I found this website if you would like to read further infomation:

  2. bob says:

    this was a good find, thanks for the tips, I used a water cooler and find it really useful

  3. Jennifer says:

    If I need to use vinegar, what concentration should I use? Is the rest time (2-5minutes) the same? Or does it need to be longer since vinegar is a milder disinfectant?
    Any recommendations of where to find a stopper for the hot water tank hole?
    Thank you! This article is super helpful!

    • Louie Cheng says:

      Hi Jennifer — not so sure about the vinegar concentration or length of time. I would think it’s logical to use a higher concentration (you’re just wiping anyhow). Don’t extend too long, or else the acidity may set and you may retain flavor for awhile.

      For the stopper, I just use a pen with a rubber finger grip. Improvise!

      Thanks for reading –

  4. Carmen says:

    You can buy ‘Disinfectant’ in the Chinese supermarkets. It comes in a white bottle with blue/green lid and writing on it. Has a picture of a cat in a circle on the left bottom side of front label. That may work. I think this is the actual purpose of this stuff.

  5. Admin says:

    The bleach in this concentration is quite diluted, so unless you have a health sensitivity to bleach, there should not be a problem. I’ve never detected the slightest hint of bleach after cleaning and rinsing this way.

    Using hot water alone, or just scrubbing doesn’t kill the bacteria completely, so you do need some sort of disinfectant. Vinegar would also work.

    The use of watered-down bleach solution is the most common one recommended by public health departments and bottled water companies, but bleach is not the only disinfectant — if you have something that works better, feel free to share –


  6. Gregory says:

    What? Are you sure?
    Is household bleach safely to clean this dispenser? I always clean it every month, but I never use bleach.


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