How To Clean Your Camelback Bladder

Whether it’s a Camelback, Platypus, or any of the rest, you should really consider keeping it clean.  Mold and bacteria can buildup and potentially cause a whole host of problems.

That little bit of moisture left in the bag creates the perfect environment for all sorts of nasty to take hold.  Constantly maintaining your bladder and keeping it clean is the best option but every so often you need a thorough cleaning.

There are several tried and true methods to achieve this.

The Commercial Method

You will need:

  • Dish Soap – Unscented works best but any mild dish detergent will do.
  • A Cleaning Kit – Affordable set of tools designed to clean hydration bladders.
  • Cleaning Tabs – Commercial tabs formulated for hydration bladders.

All good cleaning starts with a little bit of mild dish soap and warm water.  How much soap you need is a little bit of trial and error and will depend on the size of your bladder and the brand of soap you use.  If you use too much it can take quite a while to get the soap out and you want to make sure you get it all.

Fill the bladder about halfway with warm water and add a few drops of soap.  Use the brush from the cleaning kit to scrub the inside of the bag and run the snake brush through the drinking tube a few times.  Rinse well until all soap is removed.

Fill the hydration bladder with water and add cleaning tabs according to the directions, usually two.  Let these dissolve then shake your bladder to mix it thoroughly.  Run water through to your bite valve and then let sit anywhere from 30 minutes to 24 hours.

Rinse well.  Repeat if moldy or sour smell remains.

The Cheap Method

Use the same soap and cleaning kit but substitute Denture Tablets or the cleaning tabs.  Make sure they are unscented tablets or you are going to get a surprise the first time you drink from it.

This method works the same as above.  Clean with soap and water then add tablets and let sit before rinsing.  Occasionally you may need to add an additional tablet to make sure you get enough cleaning solution.  The denture tabs are the same chemicals but are often less active.

If your cleaning tablets are effervescent, don’t close the bladder until they have stopped fizzing.

Emergency Method

If you have no other way on hand to clean your bladder and you need to do it now, there are some readily available household supplies that can do the job.

What you will Need:

  • Dish Soap – Same as above
  • Baking Soda – Whatever brand you have
  • Bottle Brush – The kind for baby bottles or the ones used for cleaning deep glasses.  Available at any big box store.
  • A Length of String – Small enough fit through your drinking tube.  Fishing line works well.

Start it off the same way.  Soap and warm water then scrub with the bottle brush.  Tie a knot or two at the end of your string to build it up.  Run this through your drinking tube.  Gently squeeze the tube as you pull the knot through.  You should feel a little resistance.  Rinse well.

Fill the bladder with water and add about 1/2 cup of baking soda.  Let this sit for about 30 minutes.  If everything works out well there should be clean.


No matter what method you use, getting all of the water out of your bladder is the best way to prevent issues.  If you got a good cleaning kit, it will come with a hanger.  If not, you can make your own hanger out of a wire coat hanger just be cautious not to puncture the bladder.

Without a hanger, you can use anything you have to hold the bladder open.  A number of kitchen implements from wooden spoons to whisks work well.  You want air flow!

You can also stuff the bladder with paper towels to help dry it out.  Hanging in the sun can help.  Just make sure it’s dry and pay special attention to the hose.  If you have a place, you can store your bladder open to keep it dry.


It’s that simple.  You now have a clean bladder that is safe and healthy to drink from.  You should do this frequently.  I clean my bladders after every use unless I am going to be going back out in less than a week.  Never let your bladder stay wet if you can help it.

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