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How to Clean a Water Dispenser

Two Parts:Preparing the SolutionCleaning the Dispenser

If you have a water cooler/dispenser, you'll want to clean it regularly. The U.S. Department of Energy recommends cleaning the cooler with every change of the bottle, or every six weeks, whichever arrives first. Keeping the water clean is the most important part of maintaining your cooler. Fortunately, washing your dispenser requires only some time, water, and either bleach or vinegar.[1]

Part 1
Preparing the Solution

  1. 1
    Pour one gallon of water into a bucket. This step is the same whether you're using a bleach or a vinegar solution. Consider a bucket with a handle, or one that is easy to manage. It's best if none of the bleach solution spills out of the container and onto the floor, or your clothes.
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    Make the bleach solution. Add 1 tablespoon of bleach to every gallon of water that you choose to use. If possible, use an unscented bleach, as it'll be easier to flush the smell out towards the end.
    • Mix the solution gently. Use disposable gloves if available (a recommended precaution, but not necessary). Be sure to do this in a space where you can afford to spill some, such as in a large sink.[2]
  3. 3
    Make the vinegar solution. For the mixture, you'll need only undiluted vinegar and a bucket. To ease the scent of the vinegar, you can choose to add a tablespoon or two of lemon juice. Mix in one part white vinegar for every three parts water. So if using a gallon of water, use 1/3 of a gallon (5 1/3 cups) of white vinegar. If including the lemon juice, add it after mixing the water and vinegar.
    • As a word of caution, using vinegar is only about 80-90 percent as effective as using chlorine bleach to disinfect anything. While bottled water contains a very small amount of bacteria, it's possible for this amount to grow over time if not sanitized totally.[3]

Part 2
Cleaning the Dispenser

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    Unplug the water cooler from the wall, and remove the bottle. Make sure there's no other electronics plugged into the same outlet, or near the area where you've chosen to clean your water cooler. This avoids any possibility, however small, of water meeting live electricity.
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    Wet a sponge to clean the inner surface of the water cooler with the cleaning solution. Let it stand for 2-5 minutes (but no more to avoid wear and tear), then drain the solution through the tap (the cool temperature one if there are two) and into a separate container. Drain this container down a sink or toilet.
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    Rinse out the remaining cleaning solution. Fill the inner reservoir with water four times and pour it out through the (cooler temperature) tap and into a bucket. Be thorough in this to make sure no bleach or vinegar taste is left behind.[4]
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    Lift off the drip tray and scrub well. Wash both the tray and the screen (if present) and rinse both in clean tap water before returning them to the dispenser. Be sure to dry thoroughly so as not to leave moisture in any tight spaces.
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    Wash your hands well, and dry the new bottle with a towel. Be sure to wash your hands before manipulating the bottle again.
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    Remove the cap and place the new bottle. Ensure a snug fit, and watch for air bubbles rising to the top of the bottle, indicating the bottle has made a seal with the dispenser.
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    Check that it works. Fill a glass of water, try both faucets if your dispenser has them. Taste the water to make sure no unpleasant taste has been left behind.[5]


  • If need be, you can replace the bleach or vinegar with an appropriately anti-bacterial detergent. The right soap will sanitize better than vinegar. Consider rinsing more than with these to clean out any soap residue.


  • Don't keep water more than 30 days. Like other foodstuffs, bottled water contains bacteria, however few, which can become a problem over long periods of time.
  • Do your best never to touch the spigots themselves, to avoid contamination of another person's drinking water.

Article Info

Categories: Cleaning