How to Clean Your Water Cooler:  A Step-by-Step Guide | NewAir

Having a bottled water cooler in your home or office is a great way to make sure you stay hydrated and always have fresh water at hand, whether you prefer a cool drink or a hot cup of tea.

To make sure your water dispenser lasts a long time and provides healthful, great tasting water cold or hot water, you need to keep it clean. The easiest way to do this is to clean the water dispenser every time you change the bottled water, but you can also set up a reminder on your calendar to do it every two to three months.

Understanding Your Water Cooler

Though some water coolers are linked directly to the plumbing in a house or office, the vast majority are bottled wate dispensers using a 5 gallon water bottle. These can be either top-loading, in which the bottle is turned upside down on top of the machine, or bottom-loading, in which the bottle is installed right side up in the base cabinet of the water dispenser.

A top-loading water dispenser allows gravity to do most of the work. There’s a valve that makes a tight seal between the bottle and the machine; when the spigot is pulled, the valve opens and allows water to flow out of the bottle, through the cooler and into your cup.

A bottom-loading dispenser, on the other hand, uses an electric pump to overcome gravity and bring water from the bottle up into the holding tank to make either hot water or cold water. There is an additional water line to direct the flow as well as a sensor that detects when the reservoir needs to be filled.

Depending on your style, your bottled water dispenser will either have a white (or black) plastic or stainless steel exterior.

Before You Clean Out Your Water Dispenser

First, decide what cleaning solution you prefer to use. You can choose to disinfect your water cooler with bleach or with white vinegar. Both are perfectly safe and effective ways to kill germs and rid your machine of any mold or mildew, so your choice will largely depend on which scent you prefer or what supplies you happen to have on hand. We don’t recommend mild soap or other chemical cleaners as they may impact the taste of your bottled water.

How to Clean Your Water Dispenser With Unscented Bleach

To make a gentle bleach solution for disinfecting your water cooler, mix 1 gallon of tap water with 1 tablespoon of unscented chlorine bleach. Stir well, making sure not to spill any bleach on your clothes and make sure to wear clean rubber gloves.

How to Clean Your Water Dispenser With a Vinegar Solution

If you prefer to use vinegar to clean your water cooler, use plain, white vinegar. Add 1 quart of vinegar to a bucket and fill with 3 quarts of warm water. Stir well.

How to Clean a Top-Loading Water Machine

Cleaning a top-loading water dispenser isn’t too difficult, though it’s a job best left until the water bottle is empty and need to be removed anyway. Follow these steps to clean and disinfect your water cooler with your cleaning solution of choice.

  1. Unplug the power cord from the electrical outlet. This is crucial to avoid shocks and to allow you to move around the cooler without tripping over electrical cords.
  2. Remove the water bottle. With the valve and the top of the water bottle holder exposed, inspect for any mildew or dirt build-up. If there is any, wipe it away with a paper towel. For stubborn spots, mix a paste of water and baking soda as a gentle abrasive to scrub away tough dirt using a scrub brush. Dip a clean sponge into your cleaning solution and thoroughly wipe down the area where the water bottle meets the dispenser.
  3. Remove the water guard. If your water dispenser has a guard that punctures the water bottle when you install it, remove this piece. Rinse it off under the tap and then wipe it clean with your disinfecting solution. Rinse thoroughly and set aside to dry.
  4. Clean the drip guard. If possible, remove the drip guard and any tray or trivet that holds your water cup below the spigot. Rinse these under the tap and then wipe down carefully with your cleaning solution. Again, if you notice mildew or tough stains, scrub more vigorously with the baking soda paste. Rinse thoroughly and set aside to dry.
  5. Disinfect the reservoir. Pour the remaining cleaning solution into the reservoir through the top of the water dispenser. Allow it to sit for three to five minutes before draining the solutions through the spigots. You can alternate spigots to make sure both lines are clean.
  6. Rinse the reservoir. Pour 2 gallons of clean water into the reservoir and drain through each spigot. Once it’s empty, fill with another gallon of water and taste. If you detect a vinegar taste or bleach smell, add another two gallons of clean water, drain and retest.
  7. Replace parts and plug in. Once you are satisfied that the water is running clean, replace any parts you removed and add a new bottle. Plug in the machine and allow it to chill the water for 30 minutes to an hour before use.
  8. Don’t forget to clean the water drip tray as water will inevitably be in there. Remove the drip tray cover and remove any excess water with a cloth and clean using either a bleach or vinegar water solution. Dry your water cooler using a lint-free towel.

How to Clean a Bottom-Loading Water Dispenser

Cleaning a bottom-loading water dispenser is quite similar to cleaning a top-loading machine. You’ll need the same cleaning solution as well as an empty water bottle and a funnel to get started.

  1. Unplug the power cord from the electrical outlet. This is crucial to avoid shocks and to allow you to move around the cooler without tripping over electrical cords.
  2. Remove the water bottle. Save this water bottle for your cleaning solution. You’ll also need to drain the reservoir of any remaining water by opening the spigots into an empty pot or bucket.
  3. Mix your cleaning solution in the water bottle. Use a funnel to add bleach or vinegar to your water bottle, then add water and shake gently to mix well.
  4. Hook up the cleaning bottle. Install the water bottle filled with cleaning solution and allow the reservoir to fill with the solution. Let the mixture sit for five to 10 minutes to disinfect the reservoir.
  5. Drain the reservoir. Drain the cleaning solution through the spigots until it’s gone. Discard the cleaning solution.
  6. Rinse the reservoir. Refill your empty water bottle with clean water and allow to fill the reservoir again. Drain again through the spigots. If you detect a vinegar taste or chlorine taste, add another two gallons of clean water, drain and retest.
  7. Replace parts and plug in. Once you are satisfied that the water is running clean, replace any parts you removed and add a new water bottle. Plug in the machine and allow it to chill the water for 30 minutes to an hour before use.
  8. Don’t forget to clean the water drip tray as water will inevitably be in there. Remove the drip tray cover and remove any excess water with a cloth and clean using either a bleach or vinegar water solution. Dry your water cooler using a lint-free towel.

Note that some machines may vary, and you should refer to the manufacturer’s manual for additional details on troubleshooting, cleaning and maintaining your water dispenser. If that information is no longer available, these steps will work for the vast majority of water coolers to keep them squeaky clean and running well.

Once you know what to do, cleaning your water dispenser is quick and easy. It’s a good idea to make it a habit when you change the water so that you can enjoy clean, healthful water every time you use your dispenser. Taking care of these basic maintenance steps will ensure that your water dispenser provides you years of service and improves your overall quality of life.

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