How to clean a water cooler


Regular cleaning will keep your water cooler safe to drink from, so it’s not an important step that you should always remember.

BestReviews is reader-supported and may earn an affiliate commission. Details.

How often should you clean a water cooler? 

You should clean your water cooler once every six weeks or whenever you get to the end of a bottle. It’s best to default to whichever comes first. This might seem like a lot, but it’s vital you keep your water cooler clean to avoid a build-up of bacteria. The last thing you’d want is to become ill because of the germs in your water cooler. And even though there are plenty of water coolers out there, most of them follow the same cleaning guidelines.

Preparing your water cooler for cleaning

Before you start cleaning your water cooler, you need to make sure it’s ready for cleaning. If you haven’t got to the end of your current water bottle, drain the remaining water through the tap into a pitcher. This water is still good to drink, so stick it in the fridge for later. Next, unplug the cooler and remove the now-empty bottle. Open the tap once more to drain out any leftover water that’s still in the reservoir. Remove the baffle and drip tray and set them aside to clean later. Your water dispenser is now ready for cleaning. 

Make a cleaning solution

Now it’s time to sanitize the reservoir of your water cooler. Simply mix one gallon of clean, warm water with one tablespoon of unscented household bleach of around 5% concentration. If you’re not sure how diluted the bleach is, check the packaging for details of the correct dilution ratio for sanitizing food-contact surfaces.  

Cleaning your water cooler

Now that your water cooler is unplugged, emptied and ready to clean, it’s time to put that diluted bleach cleaning solution to work. 

Fill the reservoir

The best way to sanitize your water cooler is simply to pour your cleaning solution into the reservoir and leave it to work its magic. Allow it to sit for two to three minutes, but no longer than five minutes. Anything more than five minutes could damage your water cooler. Depending on how big the reservoir opening is, you may be able to fit a small bottle brush inside to scrub the interior. After allowing the cleaning solution to sit in the reservoir and then scrubbing if possible, drain the solution out through the tap and back into the bucket. Simply discard it, as it is not safe to drink or use.


Now that you’ve sanitized the inside of your water cooler, you need to get rid of any cleaning solution remnants so it doesn’t taint the water. Fill the reservoir back up with fresh tap water before opening the water cooler taps. Drain the water out into a bucket. Repeat this process with fresh water three to four times, then discard the contents of the bucket. 

Clean the removable parts

You also need to clean the removable parts of your water dispenser, such as the drip tray and baffle. Some water coolers have additional removable parts, like taps. If you have these, refer to the manual for directions on cleaning them. While some water coolers have dishwasher-safe parts, it’s best to err on the side of caution and wash them by hand. Simply wash them with standard dish soap diluted in hot water. Make sure to rinse each part well before drying it and setting it aside until you’re ready to reassemble your cooler. 

Wipe the exterior

It also makes sense to wipe down the exterior of the water cooler to get rid of any marks, dirt or bacteria, especially in areas that people often touch. Use a kitchen sponge or a soft cloth to clean the exterior. You can either use a gentle antibacterial spray or diluted dish soap. If the taps on your cooler aren’t removable, pay extra attention to these when cleaning the exterior of your water cooler since people will have touched these regularly. If the base of your water cooler has any vents, don’t get this area damp. Instead, dust between the vents with a dry cloth. 

Reassemble the cooler

Now that you’ve cleaned all the parts of the cooler, you can reassemble it and start using it again. The first step is to replace the drip tray and the baffle, along with the taps if you removed these. Add back any other parts you removed from your particular water cooler, then put in a new bottle and plug it back into a power outlet.

What you need to buy to clean a water cooler

Clorox HE Performance Bleach

Clorox HE Performance Bleach

This reliable household bleach is perfect for sanitizing your water cooler. It’s unscented, so it’s easier to rinse from your machine and won’t taint it. 

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

JOEY'Z Heavy Duty Sturdy Spout Bucket

JOEY’Z Heavy Duty Sturdy Spout Bucket

You’ll need a bucket to mix up your cleaning solution, and this one is the perfect size. It has a 10 quart capacity, and the spout makes it easier to pour the solution into the reservoir. 

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Rubbermaid Clear Pitcher

Rubbermaid Clear Pitcher

This quality pitcher is perfect for holding any leftover water you drain before cleaning. It’s also ideal for rinsing out the reservoir. This pitcher is durable and holds a gallon of water. 

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon


Sign up here to receive the BestReviews weekly newsletter for useful advice on new products and noteworthy deals.

Lauren Corona writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

Copyright 2021 BestReviews, a Nexstar company. All rights reserved.