how to clean a 5 gallon water jug

How to Clean a 5 Gallon Water Jug in 6 Ways

Although it may seem a bit intimidating, learning how to clean a 5 gallon water jug or any capacity water jug is easy. We use a 5 gallon jug in our home to refill our drinking water dispenser. And you know what? Keeping it clean is a breeze.

Initially, we would buy water and exchange the bottle each time. Currently, we prefer to keep the same jug and refill it. This means that it also requires regular cleaning.

A regular cleaning routine has made the task easier every time, and expanded our scope of knowledge on the cleaning supplies and methods.


To clean a 5 gallon water jug, turn to basic cleaning agents such as dish soap, vinegar and warm water. Transfer two cups warm water in the jug, add a few drops dish soap and put a cleaning sponge inside the bottle. Cover the top of the bottle and swish the bottle until it looks brighter and newer. Rinse thoroughly to remove soap suds. But how about those hard to reach corners and the handles? Use a bottle brush. If your bottle has plaque, use the rice, sand, or wood ash methods covered in detail in these sections below.

When to Clean Your 5 Gallon Water Jug

a 5 gallon water jug

Summary: Clean your water jug after every one-two months if you use it to store filtered water. On the other hand, clean a 5 gallon jug used to brew and store beer after every use.

How do you tell that you 5 gallon water jug requires cleaning?

Generally, this depends on how you use your jug. If you refill your bottle with filtered water every two weeks or so, it means that it doesn’t harbor much dirt because filtered water is clean.

However, if you brew beer and store it in the jug, you definitely need to clean and sanitize it after every use. The same goes for juices, milk and anything else that is not pure clean water.

Your bottle also requires regular cleaning if you are using it to store tap water. Running water contains chlorine and traces of minerals. It can also contain bacterial components. The minerals and bacteria deposit on the bottle with each use.

One way to visibly tell that your bottle requires cleaning is the appearance. Most 5 gallon water bottles are made of clear blue plastic material. Repeated use without cleaning dulls the appearance of the bottle.

Secondly, some parts of your jug might contain plaque or molds. Although this is rare, it happens with bottles that store liquids other than water. If you fail to wash the bottle immediately after emptying the liquid, this may happen.

Another way to tell that your bottle dirty is by keeping tabs on how you handle it. If you are placing your bottle in places that can easily harbor dirt and bacteria, then you have to clean and sanitize it more often.

Lastly, clean your bottle if you have not used it in a while.

How to Clean a 5 gallon Water Jug

There are two basic ways to clean a 5 gallon water jug. You can either clean the bottle with or without bleach. Cleaning your water jug with beach means including a bleach solution as one of the cleaning agents.

Cleaning without bleach simply means using cleaning agents other than bleach. Examples include vinegar, baking soda and soap.

How to Clean a 5 Gallon Water Jug Without Bleach

There are many methods for cleaning a water bottle without bleach. Although some may seem better than others, your choice of a method should depend on what makes you comfortable, and the cleaning supplies at your disposal.

A good range of household cleaning supplies are excellent for water containers. Examples include vinegar, rice, regular soap and baking soda. The article provides 5 methods to clean a 5 gallon water jug without bleach.

They include:

  • Rice or sand and water method
  • Wood ash and water method
  • Soapy water and Star San method
  • Water and vinegar method
  • Baking soda method

Rice and Water Method


Back in my childhood days, we would use water and sand to clean bottles. You will agree that even bottles with a wide opening at the top have hard to reach areas such as the handle.

You can clean the rest of the areas with a bottle cleaning brush or cloth and hot soapy water, but dirt will remain stuck around the handle. Unlike a brush, clean sand can get to every part of the bottle. Further, it cuts grime when you hit it against the bottle’s walls. This is the same concept that applies with the rice method. And you can still use sand in the place of rice.

What you will need
  • A handful rice or sand
  • A cup of warm water
  • Liquid dish soap
  • Water to rinse
  1.      Fill the bottle with a cup of warm
    soapy water and add a handful of rice.

2.     Avoid using hot water because it
cooks and softens the rice. If you have access to clean sand, it is a better
option. It is better at cleaning, and you can also use it with hot water.

3.     Close the top the bottle and shake
the bottle vigorously. You might need to flip the bottle so that you can shake
with the top facing down.

4.     Shake for at least three minutes
and rinse with cold water. Your bottle should look bright and clean. If it
doesn’t, repeat the process for a few more minutes.

5.     To sanitize the bottle, mix 1/3
cup distilled white vinegar with a gallon of water and transfer the solution
into the bottle.

6.     Shake the bottle vigorously so
that the solution can get to every part of the bottle. Pour it after a few
minutes and dry the bottle with the top facing downwards.

7.     Let the bottle dry properly
because the smell of vinegar is strong and can linger for a while.

Wood Ash

In the absence of quality sand to clean bottles, the next best cleaning agent is wood ash. Wood ash is an excellent cleaner for water jugs, milk bottles and cooking pots. Besides removing all visible dirt, it brightens dull water gallons and all sorts of kitchenware.

If you settle for this approach, choose wood ash from hardwood. It cleans better. If your water gallon has plaque inside, mix wood ash with small bits of charcoal. Use a hammer to crush the charcoal pieces until they are as small as bits of course sand.

What you will need


      • Wood ash from hardwoods

      • Bits of charcoal

      • Water

      • A pair of gloves


    1.     Put on gloves because wood ash
    tends to cause dryness when handled with bare hands.

    2.     Take a handful of ash and add it
    carefully into the water jug. Add more if needed.

    3.     Add small bits of charcoal if your
    bottle has grime in the inside.

    4.     Add a cup of water and close the

    5.     Shake the bottle repeatedly until
    the inside is completely clean.

    6.    Wet a handful of wood ash and use it
    to scrub the outer side of the water gallon.

    7.     Rinse both the inside and outside
    of the bottle under running water until you remove all the ash particles.

    The second way to clean your 5 gallon water jug with wood ash is to soak wood ash in water for a few days. Mix 6 cups of wood ash with a gallon of water. Let the mixture rest for two weeks then carefully decant the liquid and use it to wash your water jug.

    Soapy Water and Star San

    If you do not like the smell of bleach, we have a second method that cleans and sanitizes and works equally well. I have a friend who is a home-brewer and this is the method that he uses. Ideally, you clean your jug with the soapy water, and use Star San to sanitize it.

    What you will need


        • Liquid dish detergent

        • A cup warm water

        • A non-abrasive scrubber

        • Rinsing water

        • Star San


      1.     Combine warm (almost hot) water
      with liquid detergent and transfer it to your bottle.

      2.     Put a non-abrasive scrubber or
      cloth inside and close the top.

      3.     Shake the bottle vigorously for a
      few minutes until it cleans properly.

      4.     Rinse thoroughly with cold water
      and finish up by using Star San to sanitize the bottle.

      How to Clean 5 gallon Water Jug with Vinegar


      Vinegar is an acidic cleaner with some powerful properties that remove dirt and kill the bacterial agents present in your water jug. To clean and sanitize your water jug with vinegar, mix equal parts of vinegar and water and let it sit in the bottle for 15 minutes. Shaking the bottle and flipping it occasionally will help the solution reach all parts of the bottle.

      Below is a step by step guide…


          • For this method, you need to mix water and vinegar in equal portions and let the solution sit in the bottle for 15 minutes.

          • You may prefer to add baking soda into the bottle but this does not really improve the effectiveness of the solution. Vinegar and baking soda react chemically and all you do is notice some fuzzing as the reaction takes place.

          • Instead of adding baking soda, you are better of starting by cleaning the bottle with a solution of soapy water. This removes most of the dirt and then you finish up by sanitizing the bottle with the vinegar solution.

          • To make sure that you get the most from your vinegar solution, shake the bottle vigorously after every few minutes, and flip it every once in a while so that the solution can sanitize all the parts of your bottle equally.

        How to Clean a 5 Gallon Water Jug with Baking Soda

        Another common cleaning method is mixing baking soda with water. To use this approach, follow the steps below.


            • You need to mix a cup of baking soda with two cups of warm water.

            • Cover the top and shake the bottle vigorously.

            • Rinse thoroughly to ensure that you do not leave any traces of baking soda inside the bottle.

            • Finish up by sanitizing the bottle with vinegar or Star San diluted in the appropriate ratio.

          How to Clean a 5 Gallon Water Jug with Bleach

          Unless you sterilize your bottle after cleaning,  it is still not in its best condition to store water.  You should sterilize it to destroy harmful bacterial agents that can cause or spread diseases.

          Cleaning a water gallon with bleach is the same as sterilizing it.

          Use Chlorine Bleach

          According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, household chlorine bleach offers a perfect solution for sterilizing home surfaces., food cans, as well as water bottles and jugs. Household bleach has a sodium hypochlorite concentration range of 5% to 9%. This makes it safe for household use and disinfection.

          Begin by cleaning the bottle with any of the above methods.

          Next, dilute bleach by combining 1/3 cup bleach solution with a gallon of water. Transfer two cups of the solution to your water jug.

          Cover the top, shake thoroughly then allow the solution to sit in the bottle for 15 minutes. Pour out the solution, rinse the water jug with purified water, then allow it to air-dry before use.

          Additional Cleaning and Sterilizing Supplies

          Other supplies that you can use to clean and sterilize your bottle include hydrogen peroxide, undiluted vinegar and sterilizing tablets.

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