How to Clean a Water Cooler

Keeping your water cooler clean is essential for providing safe, great-tasting drinking water in your home or office. A build-up of mineral deposits, dirt, and germs can negatively impact the quality and taste of your water. Fortunately, cleaning a water cooler is a straightforward process that can be done in just a few steps. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll walk you through everything you need to know to keep your water cooler in tip-top shape.

Supplies You’ll Need

Before diving into the cleaning process, you’ll want to gather the necessary supplies. Having these items on hand will make cleaning quick and efficient.

For cleaning the outside:

  • Microfiber cloths
  • All-purpose household cleaner or disinfecting wipes
  • Small brush or old toothbrush for hard-to-reach areas

For cleaning the inside:

  • White distilled vinegar
  • Baking soda
  • Large pitcher or bucket
  • Funnel
  • Long-handled bottle brush
  • Clean towels

Optional extras:

  • Rubber gloves to protect hands
  • Eye protection like goggles

Gather all of these cleaning supplies ahead of time so you have everything close at hand when it’s time to clean.

Cleaning the Outside of the Water Cooler

Let’s start with the exterior of the water cooler. This includes the dispensing area, the bottle cap fitting area, the drip tray, any exterior panels, and the area surrounding the machine.

Follow these steps to thoroughly clean the outside of your water cooler:

Wipe Down All Surfaces

Using your microfiber cloths or disinfecting wipes, carefully wipe down all exterior surfaces of the water cooler. Make sure to scrub away any dirt, dust, fingerprints, and spills.

Pay close attention to the spout and dispensing buttons where hands frequently make contact. Give some extra scrubbing to sanitize these high touch areas.

Use a Brush on Tight Spots

Use the small brush or old toothbrush to gently scrub any tight spots and hard-to-reach crevices. This includes the small openings around dispensing buttons, the underside of the drip tray, and the cap fitting area.

Clean the Drip Tray

Remove the drip tray and give it a thorough cleaning in the sink with hot soapy water. This will remove any mineral deposits or grime that have built up.

Clean Surrounding Areas

Don’t forget to give the areas surrounding the water cooler a good wipe down as well. Clean off the floor underneath and a foot or two on all sides.

Deep Cleaning the Interior

Now it’s time to tackle the interior components like the reservoir, tank, and tubing that deliver your drinking water. This is where mineral scale, biofilm, and bacteria can accumulate if not cleaned regularly.

Here are the steps for deep cleaning inside your water cooler:

Unplug the Cooler

Start by unplugging the water cooler from the power source. You want to make sure it’s powered completely off when cleaning the interior components.

Drain the Reservoir

Following the instructions for your specific model, drain out any water remaining in the cooler’s reservoir or internal tank. This may require removing a drain plug or turning the machine upside down to empty.

Make a Cleaning Solution

In a large pitcher or bucket, mix together equal parts white vinegar and warm water. You’ll also add in a couple tablespoons of baking soda for extra cleansing power.

Alternatively, you can look for powdered cleaner packets made specifically for water coolers and follow the product’s mixing instructions.

Circulate the Solution

Using a funnel, pour the solution into the water cooler’s reservoir. Turn the machine back on and run the cleaning mixture through the dispensers. This circulates it through the internal components to break down mineral scale and kill bacteria.

Dispense about 1/3 of the solution, then let the remainder sit in the tank for 15-30 minutes to soak.

Scrub with a Bottle Brush

Reach the bottle brush inside the reservoir and tube openings. Gently scrub to remove any clinging debris the solution loosened up.

Rinse Thoroughly

Drain any remaining cleaning solution from the water cooler’s reservoir and internal tank. Refill with clean water and run it through the dispensers 2-3 times to rinse everything out.

Dump out the rinse water and repeat with fresh water until it runs clear.

Air Dry

Leave all compartments fully open and allow the cooler to completely air dry before refilling with water. This prevents any moisture from becoming a breeding ground for mold and bacteria.

Optional: Disinfect Daily

For extra protection, fill a spray bottle with half water, half distilled white vinegar or 70% isopropyl alcohol. Lightly mist dispensing nozzles and buttons then wipe down daily.

How Often Should You Clean a Water Cooler?

To keep your drinking water fresh and prevent potential problems, aim to thoroughly clean your water cooler:

  • Every 3-4 months for the interior.
  • Monthly for the exterior.
  • Daily quick disinfecting of key touchpoints.

However, the optimal cleaning frequency can vary based on:

  • Water Quality – If you have hard water, scale will build up faster requiring more frequent cleaning. With soft water, you may be able to clean less often.
  • Usage – High traffic office water coolers will need cleaning more regularly than home units only used lightly by a family.
  • Location – Coolers in dusty environments or around construction may need exterior wipe downs more frequently.
  • Appearance and Taste – If water quality declines noticeably with more odors, tastes, or dirty appearance, it’s definitely time for a cleaning.

Get to know your water cooler and find the cleaning routine that keeps it looking, tasting, and operating at its best. When in doubt, giving it a refresh is better than letting it go too long.

Troubleshooting Common Water Cooler Issues

In addition to cleaning, perform regular maintenance checks to catch any problems early. Here are some common water cooler troubles and what to do about them:

Leaking or dripping:

  • Check for misaligned components, cracked hoses, loose fittings. Tighten, reattach, or replace parts as needed.

Buttons not working:

  • Clean dispensing buttons thoroughly to remove any sticky residue. Check for disconnected wires or electronic issues.

Water flow reduced:

  • Clean mineral scale out of tubing and valves. Replace filters if needed.

Cloudy or discolored water:

  • Clean interior and replace filter. If issue persists, may need professional servicing.

Strange smells or tastes:

  • Clean interior, replacing water, tank, and lines. Sanitize with bleach or vinegar solutions.

Loud noises:

  • Ensure water bottles are securely positioned. Check for issues with fans and motors. Have professionally serviced.

Not cooling properly:

  • Make sure cooler is away from heat sources. Clean dust from condenser coils. May require professional repair.

Professional Deep Cleaning Services

For an occasional deep clean or assistance troubleshooting issues, consider hiring professional water cooler cleaning services. Reputable companies can provide:

  • Skilled technicians to properly sanitize and service your model.
  • Powerful commercial-grade cleaning solutions.
  • Replacement of worn parts like tubes and fittings.
  • Expertise evaluating issues and performing repairs.

Look for licensed and insured companies who thoroughly clean and sanitize both the exterior cabinet and internal components. Ask about their process, cleaning solutions used, and any replacements or repairs included.

Although an investment, professional deep cleaning helps optimize performance and prevent costly damages from neglected maintenance.

DIY Water Cooler Sanitizing

For regular upkeep between full cleanings, you can easily sanitize your water cooler’s interior components yourself at home.

Here are two simple sanitizing methods to try:

Vinegar Sanitizer

  1. Mix a solution of 2 tablespoons white vinegar per 1 quart of warm water.
  2. Pour solution into the water reservoir.
  3. Run the sanitizing liquid through the dispenser for 45 seconds.
  4. Let it soak inside the reservoir for 30 minutes.
  5. Drain vinegar solution and rinse 3 times with fresh water.

The acidic vinegar dissolves mineral deposits and kills bacteria for fresh clean tasting water.

Bleach Sanitizer

  1. Mix 1 teaspoon plain unscented bleach per 1 quart of water.
  2. Pour bleach solution into the reservoir.
  3. Run it through the dispenser and let soak 30 minutes.
  4. Drain and rinse thoroughly until bleach smell is gone.

Be sure to use a diluted bleach concentration for safety and to avoid damage to components.

Rinse very thoroughly after using bleach to prevent any residual tastes. White vinegar is gentler if bleach makes you wary.

Keeping Your Water Cooler Clean

With the proper supplies and following these detailed steps, you can keep your water cooler clean and well maintained.

Remember to:

  • Wipe down exterior surfaces regularly.
  • Deep clean the interior every 3-4 months.
  • Disinfect nozzles and buttons daily.
  • Change filters as needed.
  • Address leaks, odd noises, or other issues promptly.

Putting in this cleaning work allows your water cooler to operate at peak performance for years to come. The reward is always having delicious, refreshing water on hand.

So grab those cleaning supplies and get that water cooler sparkling from the inside out! Maintaining excellent hygiene ensures the purest tasting water for you and your family or employees to enjoy.

Frequently Asked Questions About Cleaning Water Coolers

Cleaning your water cooler regularly is important to keep water fresh and prevent buildup of mineral deposits and bacteria. Here are answers to some common questions about how to clean water coolers the right way.

What is the best way to clean a water cooler?

Start by mixing a cleaning solution of equal parts white vinegar and warm water. Pour the solution into the empty reservoir then run it through the dispenser and let soak. Use a long bottle brush to scrub inside then rinse out several times with clean water. Finish by disinfecting surfaces with a diluted bleach solution.

Can I use bleach to clean my water cooler?

Yes, bleach can sanitize and disinfect your water cooler. Mix 1 teaspoon of plain unscented bleach per 1 quart of water. Run the diluted solution through the dispenser and reservoir then let soak for 30 minutes before thoroughly rinsing. Vinegar is a gentler option. Never mix vinegar and bleach.

How do you clean a water cooler tap?

To clean a water cooler tap, unscrew the nozzle and soak it in a mixture of equal parts warm water and white vinegar. For a deeper clean, use a narrow bottle brush inside the nozzle opening. Wipe down the outer tap surface with disinfecting wipes.

How do you clean a water cooler tank?

Remove any remaining water, then clean by pouring a sanitizing solution directly into the tank. Let soak 30 minutes, scrub with a long bottle brush, then drain and rinse several times. Or hire professional cleaners with power flushing equipment for a deeper clean.

What disinfectant can I use in my water cooler?

Good options are diluted bleach, hydrogen peroxide, citric acid powder, or vinegar which break down mineral scale and kill bacteria. Always rinse thoroughly multiple times with clean water after using any chemical disinfectant in your water cooler.

How do you clean a water cooler reservoir?

To clean the reservoir, drain any standing water, disconnect hoses, then lift out removable reservoirs to clean in a sink. For fixed reservoirs, siphon out water then reach a long bottle brush inside to scrub walls. Finish by rinsing thoroughly with clean water.

How often should you sanitize a water cooler?

Ideally, water coolers should be sanitized every 3-4 months. Clean and disinfect the taps and dispensing nozzles daily. Sanitize more frequently if you notice odors, dirty water, low flow, or other issues indicating bacteria buildup.

Why does my water cooler have a bad smell?

A foul smell from your water cooler is likely caused by harmful bacteria growing in stagnant water or on dirty components. Thoroughly clean the reservoir, tank, and hidden tubes with a sanitizing solution. Then improve maintenance by cleaning more often.

What is the white stuff in my water cooler?

White mineral deposits in your water cooler are caused by calcium and magnesium accumulating over time. Cleaning with an acidic solution of vinegar dissolves these water scale deposits so they don’t continue building up.

Can I use limescale remover to clean my water cooler?

Yes, limescale removers that contain citric or other acids safely dissolve mineral deposits from water coolers when used according to package directions. Vinegar or citric acid powders also work well. Avoid abrasive cleaners that could scratch.

Keeping your water cooler clean using safe cleaning and sanitizing products allows it to operate at peak performance for years of reliable service.

How to Clean a Water Cooler Step-by-Step

Cleaning a water cooler thoroughly is important for fresh tasting water and reducing bacteria.

Here is a step-by-step guide to cleaning all components:

Step 1: Unplug the water cooler and drain out any remaining water from the internal tank and reservoir using drainage tubes or by turning upside down.

Step 2: Remove removable reservoirs and bring to the sink to clean. Use a mild detergent and warm water solution, scrubbing gently with a bottle brush.

Step 3: For fixed reservoirs, mix a sanitizing cleaning solution of equal parts white vinegar and warm water. Pour the solution into the reservoir using a funnel.

Step 4: Power the cooler back on and run the cleaning solution through the dispenser tap for 30 seconds, then let soak for 15-30 minutes.

Step 5: Use a long narrow bottle brush to scrub the inside of the reservoir, tanks, and tubes. This loosens any biofilm or built up debris.

Step 6: Drain the sanitizer solution and rinse the system thoroughly by flushing with clean water several times.

Step 7: Wipe down the outer surfaces with disinfecting wipes or diluted bleach solution paying close attention to button panels.

Step 8: Remove nozzle heads from dispenser taps and soak in a diluted vinegar solution to remove mineral deposits. Brush inside openings.

Step 9: Rinse nozzle heads thoroughly and reattach to faucets when done soaking. Wipe down outer faucet surfaces.

Step 10: Allow all components to fully air dry before reassembling and refilling with fresh water.

Following this detailed cleaning routine for both the exterior and interior components keeps your water cooler in tip-top shape! Be sure to clean every 3-4 months or whenever you notice any changes in performance or water quality.

How to Maintain a Water Cooler

Proper maintenance keeps water coolers functioning optimally to deliver great tasting water always on demand. Here are top tips for maintaining your water cooler:

Change Filters Regularly – Replace filters every 2-4 months as directed. Clogged filters allow mineral scale and sediment buildup.

Check for Leaks – Inspect for dripping taps, connections, or wet areas indicating a leak. Have professional service for repairs.

Clean Spouts and Drip Trays – Wipe down exterior surfaces daily with disinfectant spray or wipes.

Use Water Treatment – Adding bacteriostatic drops discourages contamination between cleanings.

Keep Bottles Clean – Dust and dirt on new water bottles introduces bacteria. Wipe down first.

Check Water Quality – If quality declines with odor or taste issues, clean and sanitize the unit.

Listen for Noises – Unusual gurgling, popping or rumbling could indicate problems.

Protect from Dust – Use dust covers and keep air vents clear so the condenser can work efficiently.

Call Professionals When Needed – For thorough power flushing or repairs, hire experienced water cooler cleaning companies.

Clean Interior Quarterly – Deep clean the reservoir, tanks and tubing every 3 months minimum to keep interior fresh.

By following this water cooler maintenance checklist, your unit will stay in good working order for years of reliable operation delivering delicious cold water.


Cleaning and sanitizing your water cooler thoroughly on a regular basis ensures the highest quality water for you and your family or employees to enjoy. By keeping your cooler hygienic and well-maintained, it will operate at peak performance for many years.

Be sure to deep clean interior components every 3-4 months using disinfecting vinegar solutions or diluted bleach. Wipe down exteriors daily and address any leaks or issues promptly. With the proper care, your trusty water cooler will continue being a safe and refreshing source of hydration.