Washing carpets, cleaning vents, and emptying washer and dryer pumps are among the more common items on any spring cleaning list. Often overlooked however, is the water cooler.
Water coolers have become increasingly popular in the average household, especially due to environmental friendly initiatives promoted on a national and global scale.
While spring cleaning may be the bane of some individuals’ existence, for others, it is a welcomed transition period and perhaps the best way to leave winter and its side effects behind.
Whether you love it or hate it, it’s necessary. A failure to engage in the cropping, purging, and cleansing of your home on the cusp of spring, can result in significant health effects.
This article aims to bring awareness to the problems and risks actors that may persist in the absence of cleaning the water cooler in your home and help encourage maintenance on a more frequent basis.
How Nasty Can a Water Cooler Get Anyway?
Beyond their size and the dangers involved in just lifting the water bottle onto the dispenser, water coolers are health hazards if they are left too long without proper maintenance and cleaning.
Firstly, consider storage. When you purchase your water cooler, they are generally safe with few harmless bacteria, namely coliforms, in tow.
However, over a period of time, the water quality diminishes. If your water cooler is exposed to sunlight and heat on a consistent basis, harmless bacteria can easily multiply and contaminate the dispenser.
7 Benefits of Water Purification
Even if your cooler is not exposed to sunlight or heat, the time elapsed can contribute to bacterial growth at a slower rate which will contaminate your dispenser, and by extension, your drinking water.
A 2010 article produced by the Health and Safety Department of the University of Edinburgh notes that there have been several cases of harmful bacteria such as coliform organisms that have been infected with E-coli.
Consider that your water delivery guy isn’t the first to touch the tops of the bottles. How many hands have handled it? How long has the bottle sat waiting to be delivered and how clean was the environment in which it was stored?
Lift that bottle up and onto your dispenser and you’ve just introduced all those nasty’s into the cooler where they can grow and multiply.
Mold is another risk factor common to unclean coolers.
Mold typically builds up on the external parts of the unit, but can appear internally as well in the less visible parts. One of the key indicators of mold, beyond visible cues, is smell.
Mold has a foul odor and will materialize in the scent of your water. If you drink water with mold, it can make you sick and weaken your immune system due to the bacterial exposure.
Re-filling and re-using the same water bottle
With a water distillation system or Reverse Osmosis system installed in the house, the same water bottle could be used repeatedly without being cleaned. This would result in bacteria and mold growth possibly making its way onto and into the bottle. Having access to distilled water is always a good idea, but if you refill the same bottle over and over, maybe consider swapping it out with a clean one each time, and thoroughly cleaning the second bottle.
Water Dispenser Cleaning Procedure:
In order to avoid the risk factors and minimize the health risks mentioned herein, it is necessary to actively engage in the care and cleaning of your dispenser.
In preparation for cleaning, unplug your unit, dress appropriately, wear disposable gloves, a cleaning apron or coat, and all the materials for disinfecting and cleaning your cooler. Use a disinfecting solution that is safe to use on food products and surfaces.
- Remove the empty water bottle and drain any remaining water
- Remove the no-spill guard and set it aside
- Using your cleaning agent, fill the cooler reservoir and brush applying reasonable pressure
- Drain some of the cleaning agent through the spigots and drain both the spigots and reservoir in a safe area (toilet, hazard drain, etc.)
- Rinse the reservoir and spigots with clean, cold tap water about three to four times to get rid of the cleaner and avoid any chemical bio-hazards. Dispose of the rinsing water in the same manner as the cleaning solution.
- Reassemble the baffle and no-spill guard
- Wipe the new bottle to free it from any dust or factory contamination
- Put the new water atop the cooler
In order to get the most out of the clean, it is best to remove all the plastic fixtures including the spill-guard, baffle, drip tray, etc. and wash them in anti-bacterial soap and hot water. Once they’ve been cleaned, pat or air-dry (for about 30 minutes) and put the parts back in their respective spaces.
Safe Cleaning Products to Use
Cleaning products come in all shapes and sizes. They also have their own hazards so it’s always best to stick to a few common (and not so common) household cleaning products. The idea is to disinfect, not introduce any new chemicals that may affect the water quality.
- Vinegar and baking soda: Vinegar for the cleaning and disinfection aspect of the job and then baking soda afterward to neutralize any lingering vinegar taste. Mix 1 Cup of vinegar with as many cups of hot water as is required to fill the reservoir. Allow the vinegar to sit and remain on all the surfaces for at least an hour. Once all the steps in the water dispenser cleaning procedure are complete, rinse with water. Prepare a solution of 2 Tbsp baking powder to 2 Cups of water and use this to wipe down any internal parts of the cooler. Then let it sit in the reservoir to neutralize the vinegar taste. Drain through the taps to complete the process.
- Colloidal silver: Used for centuries to kill infections in hospitals, colloidal silver mixed with water can be an effective way to clean your machine. Because colloidal silver is perfectly safe for human consumption, there’s not need to rinse. Follow the instructions above and you’re good to go.
- Fruit and vegetable rinse: Fruit and vegetable rinses have become popular in the past 10 or more years. The solutions are designed to “super oxygenate” the water the vegetables are rinsed with. Bacteria are killed off by being exposed to the large amount of O2. Most rinses last an hour after which the water can be discarded. Left alone, the cleaning process should be complete and a simple rinse will suffice.
Alternatively 1 Tbsp of 5 percent bleach and 5L clean warm water will suffice.
How Often Should a Water Cooler be Cleaned
How often your water cooler should be cleaned is partially a question of practicality and balanced against the need for cleaning.
Every 6 Weeks might be a good length of time between cleanings, but for those who don’t clean their water coolers at all, try and remember to give it a once over every time you change your clocks forward or ahead for daylight savings time.
You change your batteries in your smoke detector every spring and fall when you change your clocks, so this is a good time to clean your water cooler as well.
Benefits of a Clean Water Cooler
The benefit of cleaning your water cooler is quite simple: A clean water cooler, a clean you.
When you clean your cooler, you are decreasing the probability of bacterial contamination. Additionally, you can drink your water with more confidence, knowing that it is clean or, at least, it only contains harmless bacteria.
While water cooler cleaning is associated with spring cleaning in this particular example, you are encouraged to clean them on a regular basis. Perhaps cleaning on a regular basis. Structure your cleaning around other household tasks such as testing your smoke alarm or changing your clock to daylight savings time. In the long run, your consistency and due diligence will reap a rewarding return on investment.