How to Clean a Camelbak (Hydration Pack) – Step-by-Step Guide and More

Knowing how to clean a camelbak bladder is essential to making sure you can use it safely again in the future. This article will give you a step-by-step tutorial on the best way to clean a camelbak.

If you already purchased one of my recommendations of best running hydration pack, then you’ll need today’s article to make sure it will last as long as possible, and it’s always safe to use.

Products to Clean a Hydration Pack

We will look at what products you can use that you can find them at home already, or purchase some specially designed for this particular chore, from most outdoor apparel stores, or even online.

We will examine each step involved in getting your hydration pack clean, dry, and ready for storage until its next use.

The next time you use your hydration back, the bladder will hold the water and provide you with crystal clear, clean hydrating fluid.

Home Cleaning Products

Products that are suitable to clean your hydration pack that are probably in your home already, include:

  • Bleach
  • White wine vinegar,
  • Lemon juice or lime juice.
  • Water

Lemon or lime juice

The lemon or lime juice tends to be a better option to use if you need to clean the bladder of your Camelbak while you are out in the field, as a temporary quick fix to stop bacteria or mold from growing.

Lemons and limes are convenient to transport, as they do not bruise or get damaged easily, and can easily be cut in half in order to access the acidic juices inside the fruit.

These juices can also be diluted with water at a 1:10 part ratio before use. Many hikers also find the taste of lemon in their water very pleasant, and may actually choose to keep a lemon in the drinking water during hikes too.

White wine vinegar and bleach

White wine vinegar and bleach are both great options but should be diluted in water before use, at a 1:10 ratio with water.

Bleach is more harmful to the human body than vinegar is, so vinegar should be your first option. When using bleach ensure that it is washed out very thoroughly before the camelback or hydration pack is used again.

Vinegar has a very strong smell, and therefore it is important to rinse everything thoroughly to ensure that the vinegar smell will not taint the flavor of your drinking water.

Bought Cleaning Products

Cleaning tablets

An alternative to the options listed above for killing any mold or bacteria when you are cleaning your hydration pack, is to buy specialized cleaning products online. One of these options is cleaning tablets.

Cleaning tablets need only 5 minutes to work and should be prepared by adding 1 tablet to 1 liter of warm water.

These tablets are designed to lift and remove any residue that will cause an undesired taste or odor in the water.

Cleaning kits

There are quite a few cleaning kits available on the market that are specifically designed to make the cleaning process of a hydration bladder much easier. They are generally equipped with items like a brush, hooks and cleaning tablets.

The Camelbak Antidote Cleaning Kit is a great example of an aftermarket cleaning kit which contains all the necessary components to clean out your camelback.

The tablets that are contained in the kit can be replaced or restocked, or they can be substituted with one of the above-mentioned home ingredients, such as white wine vinegar, bleach or lime/lemon juice, once you run out of tablets.

The cleaning kit also contains hooks and other utensils that are designed for various shaped bladders, and it is important to make sure that the tools you are using are safe and compatible with the bladder of your hydration pack.

How to Clean a Camelbak

how to clean your camelbak

Care should be taken with brushes to ensure that they do not damage or perforate the lining of the hydration pack.

Hooks and snaps should also never be forced if you are using hooks that are not specifically made for your hydration pack, use them gently to prevent anything from getting damaged.

A hydration pack should be left to dry after each use, but a deep clean using safe materials will only be necessary after 3 or 4 uses, or if you plan to store the pack for a long time and you do not expect to use it again soon.

If you wish to do a quick clean in order to have your camelback usable again soon, then follow the first steps of the instructions only.

If you wish to give your hydration pack a deep clean, follow the instructions all the way to the last step. They will guide you on how to safely keep your hydration pack in optimum condition for its next use.

Step 1: Drain out all of the fluid

If you have any water or other fluid contained in your hydration pack, drain the bladder as thoroughly as you can to get it empty.

This should be done by holding the bladder in an elevated position above the hose and allowing the contents to run out through the hose by pinching the bite valve.

If you are doing a quick clean, you can hang your hydration pack like detailed at step 4. For a deep clean, continue to step two.

Step 2: Soak it Squeaky Clean

At this point, it is advised to use one of the cleaning products we have discussed, such as white wine vinegar diluted with water, bleach diluted in water, lemon/lime juice diluted in water or the cleaning tablets provided in the cleaning kit.

Fill the bladder with your choice of cleaning product, close it, shake it, and leave the solution inside for the recommended time frame.

Before soaking it, many people prefer to give it a gentle scrub along the insides with the brush in the kit.

This should be done with utmost gentleness and care to prevent any parts of the brush from hooking, damaging or puncturing the inside of the camelback or hydration pack.

For the cleaning tablets, it is recommended to leave the solution in as per the instructions on their packaging. This is usually 5 minutes.

For the home remedies, the solution can be left inside for up to 30 minutes.

Step 3: Void Your Bladder

Release the cleaning product contents held inside the reservoir of your hydration pack. Ensure that you have removed as much of the liquid as possible.

It is highly recommended to rinse the reservoir out again, especially if you used bleach, as it should not be consumed and any residues that remain may contaminate your water in the next use.

Ensure that the solution also reaches the inside of the hose. So flush and rinse the hose as well. This can be done a few times to ensure that the hose is perfectly clean and no cleaning residues will remain.

Step 4: Let it Hang

At this point, you will need to suspend the hydration pack in a way that is going to promote maximum air flow inside and outside of the device.

The cleaning kit will provide hooks that can be snapped onto the hydration pack and hang in an open fashion.

It is very important to ensure that the sides of the reservoir do not touch each other for this step, as touching sides will harbor water and moisture.

The drying technique is very important in ensuring that bacteria and mold do not adhere to the surface of the reservoir inside.

Step 5: Repeat if Necessary

Taste test hydrator bladder

Once the hydration pack and all of its components are thoroughly dry, it is recommended to taste the water to ensure that it is clean and free from any strange flavor or odors.

If you feel it needs another clean, you should repeat the step-by-step process, starting at step 1, until the camelback passes the taste test.

It is best to perform the taste test with water, rather than juice or any other fluid, to be able to make sure the taste is clean, without the flavor of other fluids.

Aseptic Storage

Once your hydration pack is clean and dry, and you do not have any intentions of using it again soon, it is highly recommended to store it, neatly folded with its components, in the freezer.

Bacteria and other microbial life cannot flourish or even survive in such cold temperatures, which is also why perishable foods are stored in the freezer.

Your hydration pack will stay clean and intact safely and away from germs and bacteria until you are ready for its next use.

These devices only require deep cleaning efforts every few months, provided they are always drained and dried immediately after use.

If anything other than water was contained inside the reservoir, it will be necessary to deep clean after every use.

Reasons to Clean your Hydration Pack

Healthy hydration pack

Once a hydration pack has been left and accumulated mold or other bacteria, drinking from it will get unpleasant, even after it has been thoroughly cleaned.

You can even use water enhancers, to give your water a bit of flavor and even add some benefits, read more about it in my article to see which are the best water enhancer to help you stay hydrated.

If you gave it a decent clean previously, but you notice the taste is bad, you should rethink your cleaning technique and try to be more thorough, a simple rinse may not always be enough.

There are a number of shortcuts and easy methods that will make the cleaning process fast, easy and highly effective. It’s better to have it hygienic and ready to use whenever you need it.

Cleaning kits are not a necessity at all, there are also some easy and inexpensive ways to clean a camelback at home by using some common household items.

Knowing how to correctly clean your camelback will also prevent unnecessary trauma or damage to it.


Knowing how to clean your hydration pack bladder will not only extend its life, and prevent discoloring but will also prevent the growth of bacteria, mold and mildew inside it, which can lead to problems on your health.

Considering the importance of having a clean, easily accessible water on your outdoor adventures, taking your time to give your camelback the right cleaning, will make all your hiking experiences more pleasant in general.

Cleaning stale water out of a camelback after a few days, will be an unpleasant experience, and also it might still have a bad taste after a deep clean. 

Here are some of the best hydration bladders that you might want to check them out and make sure you know what to look for when choosing your own.

Have you cleaned your hydration pack in a more efficient way, or do you have an interesting story about your camelback? Share your experiences with us, we’d love to hear from you!


4 thoughts on “How to Clean a Camelbak (Hydration Pack) – Step-by-Step Guide and More”

  1. This is awesome, thank you for the step-by-step guide. I think that this is really important in order to extend the life of our hydration bladder. It really bothers me when it has discoloration, which I have experienced before so this will be helpful. Will definitely share this to my friends.

  2. I have always used lemon juice to clean my hydration bladder because it is cheap and effective. Though next time, I will also try the vinegar and bleach mixture just to test it. It is always nice to know that I have other options that are easy to do too.


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