how to clean a 5 gallon water jug

How to Clean a 5 Gallon Water Jug in 4 Ways

We have one of those 5 gallon water jugs that we use in our house to refill drinking water for our dispenser. Initially, we would buy water and exchange the bottle each time after consuming the water. Currently, we prefer to keep the same jug and refill it. This means that it also requires cleaning very now and then.

Cleaning a gallon jug container increases your chances for reusing it over and over again at home, for camping or in commercial settings.

When to Clean Your 5 Gallon Water Jug

a 5 gallon water jug

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 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 many methods for cleaning a water bottle. Although some may seem better than others, your choice of a method should depend on what makes you comfortable, and available cleaning supplies.

A good range of household cleaning supplies are excellent for water jugs. Examples include bleach, vinegar, rice, regular soap and baking soda.

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.

You need to fill the bottle with a cup of warm soapy water and add a handful of rice. 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.

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. 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.

To sanitize the bottle, dilute water with bleach and transfer the solution into the bottle. Use 1 cup or slightly more bleach for a 5 gallon water jug. 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.

You have to let the bottle dry properly because the smell of bleach is strong and can linger for a while.

Cleaning a 5 Gallon Water Jug with Soapy Water and Star San

 If you do not like the smell of bleach, we have a second method that 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.

Combine warm (almost hot) water with liquid detergent and transfer it to your bottle. Put a non-abrasive scrubber or cloth inside and close the top. Shake the bottle vigorously for a few minutes until it cleans properly.

Rinse thoroughly with cold water and finish up by using star san to sanitize the bottle.

Water and Vinegar

Vinegar is an acidic cleaner with some powerful properties that remove dirt and kill the bacterial agents present in your water jug. For this method, you need to mix water and vinegar in equal portions and let the solution sit in the bottle for quite some time.

Some people 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.

Baking Soda and Water

Another common cleaning method is mixing baking soda with water. With this approach, 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 bleach or Star San diluted in the appropriate ratio.

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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