A new study has come to an alarming conclusion about everyone’s favorite handy gadget: the humble drinking bottle.
The chokehold of the so-called “emotional support water bottles” of society cannot be underestimated: this trend emerged during the lockdown and has since garnered hundreds of millions of views on tick tock.
“These are objects that cannot betray us,” said Australian Catholic University clinical psychologist and hoarding disorder expert Associate Professor Keong Yap. Sydney Morning Herald, comparing the phenomenon with objects that children use to calm anxiety (for example, soft toys). “They are reliable and predictable, unlike people who can harm us.”
However, it turns out that they can “betray” you if you don’t clean them regularly.
A recent study by US site waterfilterguru.com found that reusable bottles can contain up to 40,000 times more bacteria than a regular toilet seat – describing them as a “portable petri dish”.
The researchers swabbed parts of different water bottles three times, including a spout cap, a straw cap, and a squeeze cap, and found the presence of two types of bacteria: Gram-negative rods and bacilli.
Gram-negative bacteria can cause infections that are becoming increasingly resistant to antibiotics, while some types of bacteria can cause gastrointestinal distress.
Comparing the cleanliness of bottles to household items also paints a dirty picture: they are twice as likely to be contaminated with germs as a kitchen sink; can contain four times more bacteria than a computer mouse; and 14 times more than a pet drinker.
“The human mouth is home to a wide variety of bacteria,” said Imperial College London molecular microbiologist Dr. Andrew Edwards.
“So it’s not surprising that drinking vessels are covered in germs.”
And while bottles can be a breeding ground for a lot of bacteria, University of Reading microbiologist Dr Simon Clarke said “it’s not necessarily dangerous.”
“I have never heard of anyone getting sick from a water bottle. Likewise, faucets are clearly not a problem: when was the last time you heard someone get sick after pouring a glass of water from the faucet?
“Water bottles are most likely contaminated with bacteria that people already have in their mouths.”
Roll-top bottles ended up being the cleanest of the three styles tested, with a tenth of the bacteria count compared to screw-top or straw-top bottles.
Suffice it to say that bottle cleaning should be a part of your daily routine.
Experts recommend washing it at least once a day with hot soapy water and disinfecting it at least once a week – although increase the habit if you feel unwell, drink from it with meals, or fill it with something other than water (like a heart) .
Originally published as Reusable water bottles contain more bacteria than toilet seats, study finds