If you have recently purchased a new hydration bladder and are trying it out for the first time, you’ll might find that your new hydration bladder tastes like plastic.
Hydration bladders often give water a slight plastic taste during the early days of their use. However, in most cases, provided this is just a faint taste and you’re not hypersensitive, it should pass, especially if you try rinsing it through with one of the solutions listed below.
Why Does my Hydration Bladder Taste like Plastic?
Hydration bladders are made from plastic. When they are new, therefore, it is not uncommon for them to smell and taste slightly of plastic. This is especially true when you consider the plastic tubing.
Air is trapped within the tube, so the smell of the plastic takes a long time to go given its length and confined nature.
Water of course does not have a very strong taste, if any, and is easily flavored by what it is served in. Also, smell can cause us to taste things differently.
So, if you can smell the plastic of a new hydration bladder, you’re much more likely to taste a plastic taste in your water, even after rinsing it out.
In some cases, people taste plastic in their water due to the contact with the plastic mouthpiece. You essentially have a piece of plastic in your mouth so you are going to have a plastic taste. However, this is more disagreeable to some than others.
Note, not everyone has the same perception of taste and what tastes like plastic to one person may be imperceptible to another.
Do all Hydration Bladders Taste like Plastic?
Some hydration bladders taste more like plastic than others, and pretty much all new hydration bladders will have a slight plastic taste to them. Through use and rinsing out, a faint plastic taste or smell will usually fade.
Certain brands such as Platypus and Camelbak, to name just two brands, produce some of the less plastic tasting models, and as a general rule of thumb, you tend to get what you pay for, with some cheaper or non-branded bladders smelling and tasting much worse.
However, this isn’t always the case 100% of the time. If you only detect a slight plastic taste, get a second opinion. If your tester can’t taste any plastic, then you may want to stick with it.
When you’re out on the trail and really thirsty you may find yourself drinking from your hydration bladder without noticing any plastic taste.
How can I get Rid of the Taste of Plastic?
Here are some of the most popular ways to remove that plastic taste from your hydration bladder. Note in all cases, you should let the solution stand for a minimum of several hours and thoroughly rinse. It’s recommended you let your hydration bladder air dry naturally before using it again or testing it.
If your bladder has a very strong plastic taste, then it’s unlikely that any one of these solutions will work first time around, repeated rounds of cleaning can sometimes help if that is the case.
Don’t forget to also submerse your mouthpiece in your chosen cleaning solution. If you do succeed in removing the plastic taste from your hydration bladder, it will be pointless if you’ve not also done your mouthpiece.
Rinse Thoroughly with Water
If you are rather fussy about tastes and smells, you may be best trying to rinse out your hydration bladder with just plain old water, at least to start with. That way you won’t end up being bothered by another taste or smell from any cleaning solution.
The more you rinse out your hydration bladder, the less like plastic it should taste. However, in the majority of cases this is just not going to be enough unless you’re extremely patient and are willing to spend an awful lot of time rinsing it out again and again.
Mild Soap Solution
Make up a mild soap solution with warm water and your regular dish liquid. Leave it to stand in your hydration bladder for several hours. This may remove the plastic taste although, you may have to repeat several times.
Frequently, the plastic taste will be replaced by that of the soap, so you need to be careful when you plan to actually drink from it. Be sure to rinse thoroughly and try leaving water in overnight to remove any remaining soap taste.
Baking soda can help to reduce the plastic taste from your hydration bladder. Dissolve two tablespoons of bicarbonate of soda into several liters of warm water.
Leave to stand in your bladder overnight and thoroughly rinse the following day. This generally works well, although you can add lemon juice for extra efficacy, although you may be left with a hint of lemon flavor to your pack, see below.
Add several cups of lemon juice to water and leave to stand in your hydration bladder overnight. Rinse thoroughly to remove all traces of lemon juice.
This is a popular, pretty effective technique, although you may need to repeat it a few times. This also leaves a faint lemon taste, which is a bonus if you like lemon in your water.
Note, this is probably not going to remove very strong plastic tastes, but it will remove and subsequently mask a faint plastic taste. Bare in mind that the acidic nature of the lemon can negatively affect the lifespan of your hydration bladder
Baking Soda and Lemon Juice Combo
Add a couple of tablespoons of baking soda to several liters of water in your hydration bladder. Shake, then add several cups of lemon juice. Be careful as the mixture will foam up, so you will be best doing this in over the kitchen sink. Leave the mixture overnight in your hydration bladder for maximum effect. Rinse thoroughly.
This is quite an effective combination and provided you like the taste of lemon, it can enhance the taste of water from your hydration bladder. You may wish to try repeating this a few times on strong plastic-tasting bladders for maximum effect.
Believe it or not, although I haven’t personally tried this I should add, tomato skin oil is renowned for its smell-removal properties. Washing your hydration bladder out with a ketchup solution sounds a little crazy, but it’s worth a try.
Add ketchup to water and stir until it’s well mixed. Add to your hydration bladder and leave overnight or for at least a few hours. Your bladder will need to be very well rinsed afterwards.
Ketchup often gets rid of the plastic taste, especially when it is only faint to start with. However, it contains sugar which is bad news for your hydration bladder.
It’s important to ensure that you rinse and clean it well afterwards, as any residual sugars could lead to an increase in bacterial growth within your hydration bladder. You might be left with a slightly strange taste, but this will soon rinse away.
Overall, be careful with this method, as you could introduce bacteria into the process, and you want to be very careful with that.
A personal favorite of mine, for cleaning thermos flasks and hydration bladders, is ti add denture tablets to water at the recommended concentration. Leave overnight for maximum effect.
As denture tablets are designed to thoroughly clean dentures they should have no problem with your hydration bladder. They are great for removing mild odors and tastes, however, be careful in your choice as you may not want minty-fresh tasting water, although I quite like this fresh remnant when I use it to clean my hydration bladder.
Out of all these methods, this is our favorite.
Bleach is a dangerous chemical, so please take all necessary precautions when using it. You will only need a very small amount, one tablespoon of bleach for several liters of hot water, depending upon the size of your hydration bladder.
Leave the solution to sit in the bladder for a couple of hours before rinsing well.
Bleach will kill off any bacteria in your hydration bladder which can be useful for future cleaning. It can help to remove the plastic taste of your hydration bladder, but in doing so you’re likely to be left with a chlorine smell and taste for a short while afterwards.
If you drink anything other than water from your bladder, this method can help with the prevention of the growth of unwanted bacteria from sugar and so on, left behind if you are drinking a sweet drink from your hydration bladder.
If your hydration bladder tastes like plastic, you’ve got plenty of options to try to take that taste away, just don’t forget to treat your mouthpiece too.
For very strong plastic-tasting hydration bladders, it is much more difficult than removing a faint taste. In some cases, this fades over time and you will become used to it.
However, some cheaper, stronger plastic smelling and tasting models may never lose that original plastic taste.
If your hydration bladder still tastes of plastic after plenty of cleaning and rinsing, then you may have to try another brand, or simply stick to water bottles if this is something that you aren’t prepared to live with.
Our top bladder recommendation is the Platypus Big Zip LP reservoir, I use it personally and had no plastic taste issues with it from day one, which was great. You can check our best hydration bladder recommendations too, for more possible options.
Ed Fritz says
These are all fantastic ideas and I WILL be trying some of them out on my Camelbak bladders (which are the newest model and taste heavily of plastic).
I was curious about the Ketchup idea. Not because I hadn’t heard of it before and it is definitely an unusual choice, but because I had been looking to see if Vinegar (a big ingredient in ketchup) would be effective in reducing the plastic taste.
So far, I haven’t seen vinegar mentioned as possible solution to clean out your water bladder, but it makes as much sense as anything else. Plus, it’s easy to rinse out and doesn’t leave a taste or smell.
I’ll give vinegar a try and let you know. Otherwise, it’s great knowing about the baking soda and the lemon juice ideas.
You’re welcome Ed, glad you found it useful 🙂
Yes, I’d be interested to hear how you got on with vinegar, so please do let us know.