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How to Clean a Water Cooler: A Step-by-Step Guide with Tips

How to Clean a Water Cooler
Written by Warner Levit

Having a clean water cooler is one of the best ways to enjoy a constant supply of drinkable water. Your water dispenser can serve you for long if you maintain it.

Knowing how to clean a water cooler yourself is very important. In fact, it is the best and easiest way you can enjoy the health benefits it provides at all times.

How to Clean a Water Cooler?

How to Clean Your Water Cooler

You must clean your top-class water cooler to prevent the accumulation of germs and bacteria. As you may know, failure to do this might result in health problems. Here are the instructions on how to clean a water cooler.

1. Unbundle the Parts

You need to kit-up for this task by wearing an insulated glove on both hands. The first thing is to unplug the water cooler from the power source. If it’s a type that’s not secured to the ground or wall, you can take it outside.

Unscrew the parts that are with screws using your screwdriver. Remove the rear panel as well. Detach the parts of the dispenser that does not need screwing tools. One of such parts is the drip tray. Keep the screws or bolts in a secure place (tool racket).

You should try to remove and dry off any water in the dispenser.

2. Start the Cleaning Process

At this stage of cleaning water cooler, you’ll get it wet with a pressured hose. This is more effective if you spray all the sides with water. Apply soap on the body of the dispenser.

You may consider using lukewarm water. This is because it produces a thorough cleaning effect than room temperature water. Wash the surface. Check to see if there are some tough stains that might require some further cleaning action.

3. Prepare and Apply the Cleaning Solution

The best solution to use in cleaning a water dispenser is a gallon of water and two spoons of bleach. You can pour them into a bucket and empty into a different one. You can do this for about three times to ensure that they mix.

Moreover, it is important to protect yourself by covering your nose. Especially if you consider the smell of the bleach to be offensive.   

Now, you’re ready to apply the solution on any stains or spots found on the dispenser. One of the main functions of the bleach solution is that it clears off any odor that is in the dispenser.

You shouldn’t be in a haste to rinse off the bleach solution. This is to enable it to act on the stains, spots, and smell. You can wipe the bleached surface with a moist cloth or sponge to clear any leftover stain.

Check to see if there’re stains that the bleach solution cannot remove. If there’s any, then you’ll need to tackle it with a vinegar solution.

4. Cleaning Water Cooler with Vinegar

So, the next question is how do you clean a water cooler with vinegar? First, you must dry the dispenser by wiping off the moisture with a soft cloth.

Mix water and vinegar in a bucket in the ratio of 3:1.

Apply the vinegar solution on the tough stains on the surface of the dispenser. Try to use a bottle sprayer to achieve a better result.

You can clean the internal parts of the dispenser by filling the water bottle with vinegar. Keep the spout of the filter open to allow the solution to flow through the internal chambers. This will help to remove any harmful bacteria. Moreover, it’ll prevent further spread of infections in the dispenser.

Rinse off both the internal and external parts of the dispenser with clean water after a few minutes.

5. Couple the Water Cooler

Now is the time to re-assemble the parts and the screws you’d removed at the beginning. Reconnect the water and the power supply to the dispenser. You may not have to use the water immediately since it’ll contain traces of vinegar or bleach.

You should drain off the water through the spout for a few minutes to wash off any leftover soap, bleach or vinegar.

Now that you know how to clean water cooler, let’s consider other important facts.

6. Gathering the Essentials

Water Cooler Clean
First, you need to decide the tools or items you’ll need to when cleaning water dispenser. These are:

  • Plastic gloves – for protecting the hands against water splashes.
  • Dish soap – this serves as a cleaning agent.
  • Sponge – scrubbing with a sponge helps to remove some of the tough stains.
  • Screwdriver – used in removing and reinserting the parts.
  • Plastic bottle sprayer – for applying the solution on the surface of the dispenser.
  • Bucket – you pour the bleach and the water into the bucket.
  • Water – used for cleaning the inside, surface, and the parts.
  • Garden hose – used in rinsing the surface with the water.
  • Bleach – for disinfecting and removal of spots and stains
  • Vinegar – for removal of corrosive spots and stains.
  • Funnel – to pour the water from the bucket into the reservoir.
  • Ratchet wrench – to secure the tools and screws.

Cleaning Different Types of Water Cooler

The following instructions are the ways for cleaning different types of water coolers.

How to Clean a Top-Loading Water Cooler

Top-Loading Water Cooler

It does not need much effort to clean a top-loading water dispenser. The only condition is that you’ll have to wait until the bottle is completely empty. You can either use vinegar or bleach or both depending on the nature of the stains.

  • Takeout the power cord – This is very essential as it’ll allow you to work on the unit without the fear of electric shock. Also, you can move it to any position of choice.
  • Take down the water bottle – This will allow you to inspect the bottle holder against any dirt or mildew. If you spot a speck of dirt, remove it by wiping with a soft paper towel.
    If the dirt is tougher than the paper towel, you can dip a brush in soapy water to wipe off the dirt. Wipe the area of contact between the water bottle and the dispenser with a sponge dipped into the cleaning solution.
  • Remove the water guard – Some of the water dispensers come with guards that penetrate the bottle during its installation. You’ll need to take this piece out and clean it using a sponge and disinfectant. Rinse it in clean water and keep it to dry.
  • Remove the drip – The drip guard should be removed and cleaned with soap and water. If there are dirt or mildew on it, scrub it with the sponge, wash again with water. Then, leave it to dry.
  • Remove germs from the Reservoir – Empty the cleaning solution in the bucket. Pour it into the dispenser through the mouth at the top. Ensure that the solution settles in the reservoir for about five minutes. Then drain it out.
  • Clean the reservoir – fill the reservoir with at least two gallons of water. This is to clear any trace of the solution. You can empty the water through the two spigot lines. You should repeat the process if the smell of bleach of vinegar persists.
  • Replace the parts – Once there is no smell or dirt again in the water, it’s time to replace the new bottle and other parts.
  • Clean the drip tray – Wipe the drip tray with a soft cloth dipped in bleach or vinegar solution. Dry your dispenser with a hand towel.
  • Plug in the cord – Connect the clean water dispenser to the socket. Then, allow it to run for about 30 minutes before drinking from it.

How to Clean a Bottom Loading Water Cooler?

Bottom Loading Water Cooler

The following steps will help you on how to clean a bottom loading water cooler with ease. Note that this process is almost the same as that of a top-loading water cooler.

  • Unplug the power cord – this is to prevent electric shocks as well as eases your movement.
  • Remove the bottle – This is very important as you’ll use the bottle for mixing your cleaning solution. Meanwhile, no water should be allowed to remain in the reservoir.
  • Fill the water bottle with the cleaning solution. Add the bleach or vinegar solution to your bottle and shake it to mix.
  • Replace the bottle – Ensure that you fill the reservoir with the cleaning solution. this is to clear out any disease-causing germs. We recommend that this stage should last for at least 10 minutes.
  • Drain the reservoir – Empty the cleaning solution in the reservoir through the outlets.
  • Clean the reservoir – Fill the water bottle with water again and allow it to settle in the reservoir. Then drain the water again and again until there’s no trace of bleach or vinegar solution in the water.
  • Clean the drip tray – Remove any excess water on the drip tray and dry it using a soft cloth.
  • Install the parts – Replace all the parts that you’d removed. Ensure that they align in their respective positions.
  • Plug in the power cord – Now your machine is ready for use. Ensure that you keep it plugged in for about thirty minutes for the water to chill before use.

3. How to Clean a Cold Water Cooler?

Cold Water Cooler

The best way to clean a cold water cooler includes the following steps.

  • Remove the power cord from the socket.
  • Check if the water bottle is empty and remove it.
  • Drain any water that is in the reservoir through the spigot.
  • Take out the no-spill guard. You must handle this part with utmost care to prevent it from damaging.
  • Pour the cleaning solution into the reservoir and use a soft brush with a long handle to scrub the inside. Allow the solution to be there for a few minutes to remove all germs and bacteria.
  • Open the spigot to drain the cleaning solution completely out of the reservoir.
  • Fill the reservoir with clean water and repeat the process of draining. This should continue until you’re satisfied with the quality of the water.
  • Replace the parts including the no-spill guard and the baffle.
  • Replace the power cord and switch on your dispenser.

4. How to Clean a Hot Water Cooler?

Hot Water Cooler

You shouldn’t use bleach or other active cleaning agents when cleaning your hot water cooler. Cleaning a hot water dispenser requires the following steps.

  • Boil about one gallon of water.
  • Fill the reservoir with the hot water. Allow it to sit in the reservoir for about five minutes.
  • Empty the water in the reservoir through the spigot.
  • Scrub the tank with a brush.
  • Fill the reservoir with clean water and rinse it. Drain the water through the spigots.
  • Plug and use your hot water dispenser.

Additional Tips for the Cleaning Process

  • Clean your water cooler to prolong its life.
  • You should clean out dirt and dust from the wire grid at the back at least once a month using a brush or blower.
  • Don’t apply lubricants on the compressor.
  • Endeavor to unplug your dispenser whenever it is not in use.
  • You should clean the water dispenser yourself or appoint someone else.
  • Keep any unused water bottle in a clean, safe, and well-ventilated area.
  • Your cups and water bottles shouldn’t have direct contact with the spigot. This is a preventive measure against the spread of germs.
  • The hot water tank should not be cleaned with a bleach or vinegar solution.
  • The air filter should be kept dry throughout the stages of cleaning.

How to Sanitize a Water Cooler?

The recommended time for cleaning water cooler whether at home or office is once in two to five months. It is important to adhere strictly to the manufacturer’s instructions. Especially on the timeframe for its cleaning.

It is important to sanitize your water cooler. If you’re not careful to follow the steps, the water may have a bad taste and it’ll affect your health.

You should not combine vinegar with bleach while cleaning the dispenser. This is because they produce chlorine gas which can be toxic to health.


A water cooler is a very important unit for the home, office, or restaurant. It provides chill water for use at any time. Most water coolers do not need much maintenance except for routine cleaning.

Your knowledge of how to clean a water cooler can save you the cost of hiring a cleaner. Also, drinking from a dirty or infected water cooler can result in sickness.

It is often a good idea to ensure that you clean your water cooler each time you’re to replace the water bottle.

Here are other interesting articles that might interest you…

  1. Water Filter Pitchers
  2. Touchless Faucets

About the author

Warner Levit

Water Filtration Expert

As a trained chemist and an independent researcher I started working on a portable water filter project as part of my business plan. While carrying out my research, I got involved with FaucetsReviewed. My fields of expertise include environmental science, biochemistry and water purification chemistry. Apart from contributing to this website, I’m currently working on my book “Water Filtration Science”. It will be published soon. I grew up in California, and completed my postgraduate degree from the University of California-Berkeley. I also work as a private counselor on the household water management system.

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