Many of us carry water bottles with us to keep hydrated, especially during the warm summer months. Often schools ask students to bring water bottles to school to keep at their desk. How safe is it to drink out of the reusable water bottle day after day?

There is a potential for contamination due to how regularly reusable bottles are touched by your hands and the number of surfaces the bottles come in contact with throughout the day. This makes the bottle a potential food safety hazard. The more bacteria are present, the greater the chance of becoming ill.

Whether you are using a reusable water bottle now or planning to send one with your child to school in the fall, consider these tips for food safe handling:

• After use each day, wash the water bottle in hot water with dish soap. Let it soak for a few minutes, rinse it well using warm water and then allow it to dry completely before the next use.

• A couple of times a week, use a non-scented 8.25 percent bleach solution of ½ teaspoon bleach per quart of water to sanitize the bottle. Let soak for two minutes then rinse.

• Keep water bottle free from dust and dirt during use.

• If the bottle is dishwasher safe, run it through your dishwasher for thorough cleaning and sanitizing.

• Wash your hands throughout the day. They carry bacteria from the environment.

• Do not share your water bottle with others.

• Avoid letting your water bottle sit with water left in it for long periods of time in between use. Empty the bottle as soon as you are finished with it. Bacteria like to multiply in water. With bottles sent to school, work or day care, check your lunch boxes or bags every night to make sure the bottle is emptied out and properly cleaned and sanitized.

• Consider using a stainless-steel bottle because they harbor fewer bacteria.

• When purchasing a new reusable water bottle, look for one that doesn’t contain small crevices, straws and harder to clean surfaces. Source: Michigan State University Extension

Follow these simple reminders to help ensure everyone stays hydrated and germ-free.

Julie Buck, EdD, RDN, is a registered dietitian, who is employed as a Family and Consumer Sciences Educator at the University of Idaho Extension, Bingham County. She can be reached at (208)785-8060 or jhbuck@uidaho.edu.