person cleaning water cooler

How To Clean A Water Cooler Properly: Your Guide

Cleaning a water cooler to kill mould and germs and remove grime is easy, requiring only a few readily available items and a bit of your time.

The whole cleaning process is cheap and can save you lots of money you could spend on treatment if you drank dirty water from your cooler.

Although it’s easy, knowing how to clean a water cooler isn’t always straightforward because not all water dispenser manufacturers provide cleaning instructions for their models. Also, you’ll have to clean different types of bottled water coolers differently.

Here’s a handy guide to help you clean your water cooler properly.

What You’ll Need

  • Mild dish soap/dishwashing liquid
  • Water (some hot)
  • Unscented household bleach/distilled white vinegar
  • Soft scrub brush
  • Bucket (empty)
  • Rubber gloves (to prevent skin irritation from bleach or vinegar)
  • Sponge/lint-free paper towels or cloth towels/cleaning cloth
  • A small plug or cork (required only for a hot/cold water cooler)
  • Disposable duster/vacuum with dusting equipment

How to Clean a Cold Water Cooler Properly

office people using water cooler

You can time cleaning your home or office water cooler to coincide with when the water bottle is empty. You can do regular cleaning every time you change the bottle, every three to six months, or even every six to 12 months.

Here are the instructions for cleaning your cold water cooler like a pro:

  1. Unplug the cooler from its power source.
  2. Remove the water bottle.
  3. Drain the water remaining in the reservoir through the spigot (plug or peg).
  4. Remove parts such as the water guard (no-spill guard), baffle, and taps. These can be washed separately in a dishwasher or by hand.
  5. Put on your gloves, pour your cleaning solution into the reservoir, and use a soft-bristled brush to scrub inside the reservoir. The cleaning solution can be mild dish soap or scent-free household bleach.

If you suspect your cooler has mould, use distilled white vinegar solution instead (vinegar kills mould better than bleach). Mix one cup of vinegar with three cups of hot water.

  • Open the spigots to drain about a quarter of the cleaning solution into a bucket. Allow the solution to rest in the reservoir for two to three minutes.
  • Open the spigots and drain all the remaining cleaning solution into the bucket.
  • Rinse the cooler’s reservoir by pouring bottled water or clean tap water into it and drain it two to three times until you are satisfied you have removed all the cleaning solution.
worker cleaning water cooler
  • Clean the outer surfaces of the water cooler using a soft cleaning cloth to remove dirt, germs, and dust. Hot soapy water will do, but you can also use the vinegar solution you prepared earlier. If the airflow vents are caked in dust, use a disposable duster or a vacuum with dusting equipment attached to the hose.
  • Clean the parts you removed earlier (baffle, water guard, and taps) in the dishwasher and then replace them. You can also use the instructions in the next section.
  • Replace the refilled water bottle.
  • Ensure the water flows from the spigots, then plug the cooler back into its power source.  

How to Clean Removable Parts of a Water Cooler

It’s always essential to clean the removable parts of a water cooler, such as the taps, spigots, spigot paddles, baffle, water guard, and drip tray.

In some models, the baffle may be stainless steel rather than plastic. The parts can go into a dishwasher, but be sure to confirm this from the manufacturer’s specifications.

Follow the steps below to clean the parts.

  1. Add mild dishwashing soap to hot water in a bucket and dip all the parts into it.
  2. Gently scrub each part with a cleaning cloth.
  3. Rinse each part with clean water in the sink.
  4. If you suspect the parts are mouldy, clean them with a gentle cleaning solution, such as white distilled vinegar mixed with water. Avoid an abrasive cleanser as it can corrode the parts or cause scratching.
  5. Allow each part to dry thoroughly before replacing it in the cooler. If pressed for time, you can dry the parts using a clean, non-abrasive sponge or lint-free paper towels.

Quick note: In some coolers, the taps may not be removable. You can clean them using a cloth dipped in hot, soapy water. Just be sure to rinse them well.

How to Clean a Hot Water Cooler Properly

If yours is a hot water cooler, you should not use bleach to clean it. Here’s what you should do:

  1. Boil about five litres of clean water.
  2. Unplug the cooler from the power source and remove the empty water bottle.
  3. Fill the reservoir with hot water while taking care not to burn yourself.
  4. Leave the hot water in the reservoir for two to three minutes. Drain some of it through the spigots. Close the taps and let the water rest for another minute.
  5. Use a long-handled soft scrub brush to scrub inside the reservoir.
  6. Drain all the water.
  7. Rinse the reservoir well before replacing the water bottle and plug in the cooler to the power socket.
water cooler in kitchen

How to Clean a Hot and Cold Water Cooler Properly

If your water jug cooler features both hot and cold water, the cleaning process will be a bit different:

  1. Follow steps 1 to 4 outlined above in the instructions for cleaning a cold water cooler.
  2. Seal off the hole leading to the hot water tap with a plug or cork. This hole is usually in the center of the floor of the reservoir.

Plugging the hot water hole prevents the cleaning solution from getting in it. For example, if you clean the cooler with bleach and some of it gets into the hot water hole, your water will have a lingering chlorine odour and taste for a long time.

  • Since it carries hot water, the hot water tank constantly disinfects itself. However, after cleaning the reservoir the cold water cooler way (with mild dish soap and hot water or vinegar solution), you can clean the hot tank by running water through the unplugged hot water hole.
  • Replace all the parts and install a new water bottle. Run water from both hot and cold taps. If it smells or has the taste of the cleaning solution, drain more water until the smell or taste goes away.

Closing Remarks

As evidenced in this guide, it’s easy to clean a water dispenser. However, if you are unsure of something, such as the washability of different components, check if the user’s manual has instructions on how to clean the water cooler properly and safely.

Remember, you mustn’t allow water to seep into the electrical components; otherwise, you risk short-circuiting your cooler or electrocuting yourself! You can always seek help if you aren’t 100% sure what to do.


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