Art of Fencing, Art of Life

How to clean a water bottle – a Magical Secret from a Russian Grandma

How to clean a water bottle without soapDid you ever dream of having your own magical Water-Bottle-Cleaner-Elf? A little magical helper that would take care of all the dirty bottles, big or small, and wash away those hardened signs of juices and chocolate milk from the sides of the bottle? I did, many times!

Sometimes my kids fill their bottles with surprising liquids like a mix of milkshake and watermelon juice. Someone needs to polish these bottles up after those kinds of adventures, right? Until my bottle elf comes along, I guess I’ll have to do it myself.

Recently I talked to my mom and she revealed me my Russian grandma’s simple trick for how to clean all types of bottles – from tiny perfume bottles to huge five gallon bottles – in just two minutes and without soap!

Yes! It is kind of like finding my own little bottle elf, isn’t it?  Back in Russia in the 1970’s, they didn’t have either a dishwasher or those fancy detergents we have today, so my grandmother and my mother learned to clean all kinds of stubborn stains with: TA-DA – FOUR SIMPLE INGREDIENTS!! Let’s not keep up the suspense – the magic parts of this potion are rice + soda  + vinegar + water.

I took to the kitchen cabinets to get the things to try it out. My two guinea pig water bottles were a fencing competition water bottle that had been rinsed and refilled, rinsed and refilled innumerable times, then rinsed again; and a 5-gallon plastic bottle from club’s cooler.  I couldn’t believe it – the trick worked like a charm on both!!! Here we go then, the three step of the secret –

How to clean a water bottle without effort and chemicals:

  1. Put into your dirty bottle:

    • white rice – a handful for small bottles, more for larger ones.

    • baking soda – start with a couple of tablespoons, add more for a larger or dirtier bottle.

    • vinegar – same as for baking soda.

    • lukewarm water – about ⅙ of the bottle full (don’t cook your rice with hot water!).

  2. Close the bottle and shake until the water turns a disgusting yellowish color,  we call this a “rice shake.”

  3. Rinse, fill and drink!

Few more tips:

Tip 1: When you pour in the vinegar, it becomes  family fun chemistry experiment. The baking soda causes the vinegar to fizz, reaching even the most difficult corners.  Be sure to leave room for fizzing and have fun!

Tip 2: If you don’t have either vinegar or baking soda on hand you can actually omit these ingredients, though the process won’t work quite as well.

Tip 3: If the rice sticks to the bottle’s walls or bottom, add a little more dry rice and a bit more water and shake again.

How to clean a water bottle without soapThis secret works on: teeny tiny antique bottles, perfume bottles, narrow-neck bottles, weird shaped bottles, perfectly shaped classical bottles, huge cooler bottles, and of course, your standard athletic sport drink bottles. Well, you got the idea – everything that includes a word BOTTLE. Good luck!

Fence well, and be happy!

A Fencing Mom


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  1. Jen

    Thanks! This looks very interesting, I’m definitely going to give this a try when I’m able to get all of the ingredients. Would this work on metal water bottles? Also, usually metal water bottles usually have a ring of plastic that encircles the cap to prevent leakage, and with time, they usually get dirty and look like they have some kind of mold or mildew growing on them. Do you know of any ways to clean them?

  2. Ben

    Worked like a charm. I have a 5 gallon carboy that’s been sitting outside for almost 5 years. It was disgusting. Cleaned most of the gunk out with bleach and soap and soaking, but there was some stubborn nastiness that wouldn’t come off the glass. Your method cleaned ALL of it out. My arms are tired though. Whole process took about 10 minutes. Thank you!

    • Jim McCubbin

      Hello! How much baking soda, vinegar, rice, and water did you use (5 gal. container)?

      • Igor Chirashnya

        Hi Jim,
        There are no exact measurements – it’s not a cooking recipe, so even if you use different proportions, it’s not a big deal. We use about a half cup of rice and a bit of vinegar (1-2 cups).

        • Jim McCubbin

          Thanks for that. Does it matter if I use white or brown rice?

          • Igor Chirashnya

            Absolutely not! Any rice will do the job – all it does is scrub the bottle’s walls.

  3. This is such a brilliant idea in cleaning water bottles. Rice + soda + vinegar + water is just a perfect combination. Thank you very much for sharing this to us!

  4. Jim McCubbin

    Thank you Igor Chirashnya! I’ll try again.

    • Jim McCubbin

      I used 1/4 cup baking soda, 2 cups vinegar, 1/2 cup brown rice, and around 2 cups water (5 gal. Colman soft plastic collapsible container). Worked wonderful!

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