How Often Should Water Coolers Be Cleaned – The Complete Guide

Cleaning your water cooler is an essential practice to keep it sanitary. Water coolers are a staple piece of equipment in offices and waiting rooms. So, like any product in any working environment, water coolers must be safe for people to use. Maintaining the hygiene of the water cooler will ensure the water is pure at all times.

water cooler in an office building


How often should water coolers be cleaned?

It is necessary for you to take apart the water cooler to check and clean it at least once every 3-6 months. The British Water Cooler Association recommends sanitizing your water cooler every 3 months, or once per business quarter.

It is advisable to disinfect and clean the water cooler every time that you change the bottle, or at least once every 6 weeks. If you have a mains-connected water cooler, then you should only need to clean it and replace the filters once every 6 months. Sanitizing should involve a full mechanical check as well as cleaning.

Why do you need to regularly clean water coolers?

Surface cleaning of water coolers is necessary to prevent a build-up of dirt and bacteria. Not only is a dirty water cooler an unpleasant feature in any office, but unsanitary‌ ‌practices‌ ‌can also lead to people getting sick from drinking contaminated water.

Even if the bacteria present doesn’t cause the spread of disease, it can cause the water to have an unpleasant taste. Water coolers have relatively simple mechanisms, but there are lots of areas where harmful bacteria could grow if given the chance. This is why it is so important to sterilize the water cooler regularly enough to keep it sanitary so that the water in it is fit for consumption.

What equipment do you need to clean a water cooler?

Remember to unplug the water cooler before cleaning it and then move it to another area where you can clean it safely. You will need to use a cleaning solution to do this, but it must be safe and fit for the purpose. This means using the correct concentration of chemicals, which can be used on food-contact surfaces and will be flushed after use for cleaning. You need:

  • Safety glasses/goggles
  • Disposable gloves
  • Waterproof apron/overalls
  • 1-3 teaspoons of unscented bleach per 1 litre of warm water
  • Bucket and cleaning brush
  • Clean dry cloth


Please note: you should not clean a hot water cooler tank with bleach. The heated water is hot enough to sanitize itself, so plug up the hot water tank if you are cleaning other areas of the water cooler with bleach. Otherwise, traces of bleach affect the taste of the hot water.

How to clean a water cooler

  1. Wait until the water bottle is empty then unplug the water cooler to disconnect it from the power outlet.
  2. Remove the empty water bottle and drain any remaining water in the reservoir through the spigot into a container. Dispose of it and wash the container.
  3. Put on your gloves and safety gear and prepare your cleaning solution in a bucket.
  4. Remove the water-spill guard and the baffle from the cooler (a steel or plastic plate or tube which you can lift out easily). You can wash these separately, being careful not to damage them.
  5. Fill the reservoir with your solution of warm water and diluted bleach. Let it sit for a couple of minutes and then use a long-handled scrubbing brush to clean the inside of the reservoir.
  6. Remove the drip tray and wash it separately. Check the grill at the back of the water cooler and clean away any build-up of dust.
  7. Clean the exterior of the water cooler and the faucets. Drain some of the solution from the reservoir through spigots to sanitize them on the inside.
  8. Empty the remaining solution out of the reservoir and fill it with clean warm water. Run the water through the faucets to flush out the solution. Repeat this process a couple of times to ensure that the inside of the machine is clean.
  9. Wipe down all of the parts of the water cooler until they are dry with a clean dry cloth and then reassemble it.
  10. Wipe down the new water bottle before installing it and plugging the water cooler back in again.
  11. Flush a couple of cups of water through the spigots from the new bottle and discard them to ensure that any traces of cleaning solution are gone.
  12. Resume drinking pure water safely from your clean water cooler.


How to maintain a water cooler

In addition to cleaning and sanitizing your water cooler, you need to make sure that you are maintaining its good condition. Cleaning it will be easier when the time comes if you take action to prevent the growth of bacteria. Keep water coolers in shaded and well-ventilated areas.

Wipe down its exteriors at least every few days to avoid any build-ups. Encourage hygienic habits like washing hands and cleaning refillable cups or bottles. Clean the area around the water cooler regularly and check behind it in case there is dust blocking the grill.