How to Clean a Canteen

We bet you never thought about the inside of your canteen. Surely, if you only ever put water in there, it should be clean forever. Right? Erm, no. Not exactly. See, you drink out of that thing. You put your lips right on the mouth of it, and there is bacteria in your mouth - over 700 strains have been identified in the human mouth alone. Consider for a moment how quickly one little bacterium can replicate itself. Why on earth would you want your canteen to resemble a petri dish? 

The easiest thing to do is to replace your canteen every so often, but what if you just really like the one you have or aren’t in a position to shop? It can be cleaned relatively easily and is not at all time consuming.

There are a couple ways you can clean a canteen. Which way you choose is really up to you and what products you have on hand. 

Hot Water, Soap and Baking Soda

The easiest way to clean your canteen is simply to fill it halfway full with hot water and then drip some dish soap in there. Agitate vigorously (i.e. shake hard) and then pour that mixture out. Don’t forget to rinse with more hot water really well after that so all the soap is gone. 

If you have a relatively new canteen, or there’s no smell at all, you can get away with one more rinse with ½ cup hot water and a teaspoon of baking soda. Once you mix that together, shake the closed canteen again so the whole inside surface is coated and let it sit for 15 minutes. Once you’re done waiting, rinse your canteen really well again. After it’s dry, it’ll be good to go! 

Warm Water and Bleach

Method two involves bleach and yet more hot water. These instructions come directly from the CDC’s disaster safety cleaning recommendations, so this method is good to know regardless of if you’re going to use it on a canteen or other water container.

Once you’ve washed your canteen with the soapy water from earlier, you’ll add a cup of warm water and a teaspoon of bleach to the canteen. Then you’ll cover and shake. You might have noticed I said to use warm water here as opposed to hot water. That’s not because bleach loses its efficacy at higher temperatures. While that might be true of the chlorine mixtures they use in swimming pools, regular unscented 5.25% household bleach does not lose its ability to disinfect at any temperature. You’ll cover and shake your canteen with the bleach/water mixture inside. Leave your canteen capped and let it sit for 30 minutes. After which you can pour out the contents and rinse thoroughly again. You’re good to go!

If It’s Too Gross to Clean

If you’ve got obvious build-up inside of your canteen, definitely throw that thing away. You might also want to think about replacing your plastic canteen if you clean it and the funny smell just doesn’t go away. The smell doesn’t necessarily mean it’s unsafe to use, just as stains don’t mean it’s unsafe. But think about it like this - if every time you go to take a drink you get a whiff of something, you won’t enjoy that thirst-quencher. Just replace that thing. They don’t cost that much and you’ll be better hydrated. We have 1 Qt canteens and 2 Qt sizes available in coyote brown, olive drab, and black, plus an assortment of canteen covers.