How to clean a camping water jug

If you look around campsites the past couple of years, you notice a couple of trends. An exciting development is that there are more campers out in the woods now than ever before. Another trend is that tents have become increasingly colorful. But a final trend we’ve noticed is that camping water jugs have become extremely popular around camping sites.

And, for good reason. We are a big fan of water jugs and what they can add to your camping experience!

However, we’ve also seen some camping jugs that look a little dirty. As reported by the government, multiple types of bacteria can grow in water. That’s why we’re big believers in the need to clean your camping jug, and wrote this article!

What are camping water jugs?

Before going any further, let’s stop to explain what camping water jugs are. You’ve probably seen them before. They’re typically large, heavy, and can carry 5-10 gallons of water in them. There are a couple good examples, like this one from Amazon:

They’ve become increasingly popular as people struggle with idea of figuring out how much water you should bring per person when camping.  Also, it’s much better for the campsite if you bring reusable jugs with you instead of a 24 pack of water bottles from your local grocery store.

Most of these jugs are extremely lightweight when they aren’t full, so another popular strategy is to bring them with you empty. Then, people can fill them up at the campsite, with either running water from the tap or water that you purified yourself.

How often should I clean it?

Since these are reusable, you’re going to need to clean them quickly. Remember, bacteria is the enemy here and you want to ensure no one gets sick when you are out in the woods and not near medical care.

There are two rules-of-thumb to use regarding how often to clean it.

The first is to clean it after every single trip, when you are back at home. We’ll cover how to do that shortly, but it’s important not to skip this step. This ensures that the jug will stay clean when you store it between uses. If you don’t clean it before storage, it could be stored dirty and become incredibly dirty.

The second rule of thumb is to clean it every 3 days when out at the campsite. Since we are talking about the water supply, it’s worth it to be extra careful here to ensure that it stays safe. Again, we’ll tell you how in a bit!

However, make sure to err on the side of caution here! If you think dirt, or something similar, got into your water supply, then make sure to take the time to clean it out immediately. We know people who’ve gotten sick because of this and we don’t want it to happen to you!

How do I clean a camping water jug at home?

You just completed your camping trip and you are back home. It’s time to clean the jug before storage.

The good thing is that many of these jugs are dishwasher safe. Check your jug to be sure, it’ll typically say on it, but you should be good to go. Remove everything else from the dishwasher, remove the cap and lid, and set it to run.

As a tip, run the jug by itself to ensure it gets thoroughly cleaned. Also, try to lower the heat of the dishwasher. We’ve heard of a few stories where the hot water can melt the cap of the water jug, even if it says it is dishwasher safe.

How do I clean a jug while camping?

As discussed, you should aim to clean your water jug every 3 days while out camping or anytime you think it might have become dirty. Since many people just go camping for a weekend, you are within the 3-day window and might not need to clean it at the campsite.

However, let’s say you are out their long or your water became contaminated. Here are three different ways you could try to clean it.

The brush method

The brush method is exactly what it sounds like. This has historically been the most-used method. Bring a brush or a sponge from home. Grab some soap, then go wash it in the river or lake.

While this method is simple, it’s often not the best. Not only is it difficult to do, since you often can’t reach inside and get all the corners of a water jug, but you are rinsing it out with lake water that probably isn’t clean in the first place. Also, you’ll get soap in the lake water which isn’t great for most species of fish.

We’re not huge fans of this method, but it has the advantage of being cheap.

The boiling water method

Also another simple and cost-effective method. In this case, you simply boil a big pot of water, then dump it into the water jug, then pour out. Then, repeat.

This theoretically cleans out teh water jug, but we’ve always been a bit dubious. Additionally, it often takes a long time to boil enough water to clean out the jug a couple of times.

The tablet method

This method often costs money, but we think it works best. There are cleaning tables, like Bottle Bright, where you can drop them into water bottles or water jugs. The minerals within the tables disolve and clean out your jug for you. Then, you dump the water out and it’s completely ready to go.

We’ve seen great success ourselves with this strategy and know it works well. However, it does mean you need to budget a few more dollars for your camping trip.

Cleaning your water jug is incredibly important

In this post, we’ve covered why water jugs have become much more popular. However, their growing popularity means there is a need for better ways to clean them out. For that reason, we’ve shared our thoughts on how often to clean water jugs and how to do it both at home and at the campsite!

We’ll see you at the campsite!