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I have a 1.5 liter plastic water bottle (the disposable kind) that I keep on a shelf by my bed. I fill it every night before bed, and generally nearly finish it by the morning and refill it when I wake up. I recently noticed that I've been using the same bottle for months... is there any issue with this? Any mold concerns, etc? Or can I keep using it indefinitely?

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In some underdeveloped countries, I understand they fill the bottle with unhealthy water, lay it on its side in the sun 4 - 6 hours. The dirt settles, UV from the sunlight kills germs, and they drink it. If left to long in the sun, things start to grow. Not a recommendation. Clean & sterilize regularly. –  Optionparty Jan 3 at 2:51

4 Answers 4

up vote 6 down vote accepted

The general prescription for water bottles is to recycle them, not reuse them. According to a University of Virginia paper:

Reuse of polycarbonate plastic bottles is generally not recommended by commercial bottled water manufacturers, as it may pose a health risk from two perspectives. First, everyday wear and tear from repeated washings and reuse can lead to physical breakdown of the plastic, such as visible thinning or cracks. Bacteria can harbor in the cracks, posing a health risk. Secondly, reuse of plastic water bottles can lead to bacterial contamination unless washed regularly. If a consumer wishes to reuse a plastic water bottle, it should be washed after each use in mild detergent only and rinsed well (9). The plastic should not be subjected to extreme, hot temperatures or harsh detergents, and should be carefully inspected for physical breakdown prior to reuse.

Additionally, the narrow opening can make it difficult to clean and dry properly.

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ok, doesn't sound like such a good idea then... guess I should buy the more heavy-duty reusable plastic type (we have some glass, but more prone to breakage, and can't be put in the freezer) –  clueless Jan 4 at 19:11
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Take a look at some of the stainless steel water bottles made by Kleen Canteen, Sigg, Camelbak and others. They are durable, reusable, dishwasher safe, can be frozen (you should leave at least 10% of the volume empty because they won't expand like the thin plastic does), and they have wide mouths that allow easier cleaning and drying. –  Didgeridrew Jan 5 at 4:36

Another issue not addressed thus far is contamination by the breakdown of the plastic bottle itself. Here's a quote from the Environmental Working Group:

Hard plastic bottles (#7 plastic) can leach a harmful plastics chemical called bisphenol-A (BPA) into water. Carry stainless steel or other BPA-free bottles. Don’t reuse bottled water bottles. The plastic can harbor bacteria and break down to release plastics chemicals.

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Interesting. I too expected to see BPA warnings all over this conversation. I'm with you, man. Welcome to Seasoned Advice! –  Preston Fitzgerald Jan 5 at 4:43

If your water is hard, you'll get mineral buildup. I've found algae, green/orange, growing on those mineral deposits. Likely bacteria and fungus grow there too. I clean the container out with vinegar then detergent every month or so. That seems to keep the growies down to unnoticeable levels.

From a safety standpoint, you should probably autoclave your bottle every morning.

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I'm pretty sure the bottle would melt. Perhaps a Plasma Sterilizer? –  Jolenealaska Jan 2 at 22:49
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I'm thinking the autoclave comment was meant to be tongue-in-cheek. –  Carey Gregory Jan 4 at 6:41
    
You clean a disposable plastic bottle with detergent? Or are you talking about one of the metal or "hard plastic" water bottles? –  Aaronut Jan 4 at 15:41
    
@Aaronut Plastic, type 1-PETE. As long as you're not soaking for long periods you shouldn't get much detergent migration into the plastic. –  Wayfaring Stranger Jan 4 at 16:22
    
Ew (and 11 more char) –  clueless Jan 4 at 19:09

There was a case in Italy where the death of the girl was blamed on the water bottle she always used. It was then proclaimed by experts on TV to NOT be safe, so I'm discarding them now after I while. I can't find the story on Internet now, but I saw it on TV there. You can do some more research if you want.

I also noticed my bottle I use for running acquired a bad taste and smell after a year, although being washed.

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I don't think a single unattributed headline and "I saw it on TV" really qualifies as a reliable source. If you're going to post an answer like this, you should be the one to do the research - don't ask readers to do it themselves. –  Aaronut Jan 4 at 15:39
    
I did try to find it on the Internet - as I posted above. I could go to Rai Uno and ask for their footage archives, then ask them to release the copyright so I can publish it for you. If the archive is not Internet based, I'd have to go to Rome to search it, pretty expensive project just to satisfy some self proclaimed police. Is the information not information if it's released through TV? Lastly, why are we wasting people's reading time by this meta talk, if you have or have heard an opinion on plastic bottles you're welcome to post it just like anyone else. –  Ska Jan 4 at 15:54
    
TV might be a reliable source, if we even knew which "expert" or which broadcast it was. This simply states that something is dangerous and references an anonymous source that we can't possibly verify. It doesn't even offer an explanation of why it might be dangerous, how much time or how many uses are dangerous, under what conditions, etc... it just makes a blanket statement. That's not the way in which this type of subject should be approached. Answers about food safety should be based on verifiable facts. –  Aaronut Jan 4 at 22:35
    
It was as reliable as multiple experts confirming it on a court case, which was reported on TV and discussed there further. But OK, since I don't have transcripts, you win. –  Ska Jan 4 at 22:50
    
@Aaronut: Anyway I'm leaving the answer here not minding the infantile points race, as it might be way to important for someone. –  Ska Jan 5 at 3:18

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