How to Clean a Water Cooler
Water coolers aren't just for the office anymore. With the rise in popularity of bottled waters, many consumers have turned to the convenience of a home water cooler. A water cooler is usually more cost-effective than individual plastic bottles; it dispenses the exact amount of water you want; and reduces the amount of plastic waste that should be recycled.
Types of Home Water Coolers
There are three basic types of home water coolers:
- Top-loading models: The water jug sits upside-down on top of the cooler and water is dispensed by gravity.
- Bottom loading models: The water jug sits in the bottom of the cooler and a pump draws out the water. These are easier to load in a full water jug than top-loading models.
- Filtered Water Dispensers: Using no jugs, a water line is plumbed directly into the dispenser where the water is filtered before being dispensed. While more expensive to purchase and install, operational costs are less because municipal water is less expensive than buying bottled water.
Coolers offer options from dispensing room temperature water to chilled or heated water and are available in a wide range of sizes and prices. Helpful features include removable drip trays and lighted control panels.
How Often to Clean Your Water Cooler
No matter what type of cooler you choose, one thing they all have in common is that they should be cleaned regularly. Even coolers that promise to be self-cleaning need regular maintenance to prevent bacteria build-up and remove mineral deposits from the interior working parts. The exterior also needs regular cleaning to remove fingerprints and the bacteria left by hands on the controls. Maintenance is simple, takes only a few minutes, and can be done when changing the water bottle.
Most manufacturers recommend cleaning a water cooler every three to six months, depending on the frequency of use. The controls and exterior of the cooler should be cleaned more often to remove bacteria left by hands and splatters from drinking glasses and cups.
What You'll Need
Equipment / Tools
- Microfiber towel
- Rubber gloves
- Vacuum or disposable duster
- Chlorine bleach
- Distilled white vinegar
- Dishwashing liquid
How to Clean a Water Cooler
Read the Manual
Before you begin cleaning the cooler, take a few minutes to read the manufacturer's instructions on cleaning. If you have misplaced or tossed the manual, most can be found online.
Unplug the Cooler and Remove the Bottle
Unplug the cooler from electrical sources. Remove the bottle and wait about five minutes for any water to drain out of the operating mechanisms. If any other appliances are plugged into the same outlet, unplug them to prevent accidental interaction between live electricity and the cleaning mixtures.
Mix a Cleaning Solution
You can use liquid chlorine bleach and water or distilled white vinegar and water cleaning solution. Chlorine bleach is much more effective in killing bacteria than distilled white vinegar. Never mix bleach and vinegar, as this creates a toxic gas.
If you're using a filtered water dispenser, you may even benefit from using the vinegar solution rather than bleach, as this will help dissolve hard water minerals that can linger in filtered tap water.
- Chlorine Bleach Solution: Pour one gallon of water into a bucket and add one tablespoon of liquid chlorine bleach. Stir to mix well.
- Distilled White Vinegar Solution: Add one gallon of water to a bucket and pour in five and one-third cups of distilled white vinegar. Stir to mix well.
Clean the Bottle Collar and Top of the Dispenser
Wet a sponge with the cleaning solution and thoroughly wipe the bottle collar and the top of the dispenser.
Chlorine bleach can cause possible skin irritation, so it's best to wear rubber gloves when working with this chemical.
Pour the Cleaning Solution Into the Water Reservoir
Pour two to three cups of the solution into the water reservoir. Let it stand for about 10 minutes to sanitize the interior. Move on to the next cleaning step.
Clean the Drip Tray
While the cleaning solution is sitting in the reservoir, clean the drip tray. If the tray is removable, take it to the sink and use a bit of dishwashing liquid to clean away any residue from the grill and tray. Rinse well and dry with a microfiber cloth.
If the tray cannot be removed, clean it with the bleach or vinegar cleaning solution and dry well.
Drain and Flush the Reservoir
Once 10 minutes have passed, drain the cleaning solution through the spigots into a bucket and dispose of properly. The solution can be poured down a sink or flushed through the toilet.
Refill the reservoir with fresh water and drain again to flush out any traces of the solution. Repeat at least twice.
Clean the Air Flow Vents
Check the air vents on the back of the cooler for excessive dust accumulation. Too much dust makes the cooling mechanisms work harder and causes wear on the system just like dust on refrigerator vents. Use a vacuum with the dusting attachment on the hose or a disposable duster to remove the dust.
Replace the Water Bottle
Replace the water bottle and plug the cooler back into the electrical outlet.
Tips to Keep a Water Cooler Clean Longer
When it's time to change out the water bottle, after removing the empty one from the cooler, use the vinegar-water solution, and take a moment to do these simple steps:
- Wipe the dispensing lever and valves and the surrounding area.
- Before putting the new bottle in, wipe off its neck, shoulder, and opening before putting it in the water cooler.
- Drain and wipe the drip tray at least weekly to keep it clean and free of mold.