What You Need to Know About Plastic Bottles
Plastic water bottles are EVERYWHERE—in every grocery store, convenience store, office, and home. They're the most popular and economical method of storing, transporting, and dispensing water. However, the truth is that plastic bottles are not the best option for a number of reasons:
They're harming the environment. Plastic doesn't biodegrade, which is why there are so many landfills filled with plastic bottles and garbage. On top of that, massive quantities of water and natural resources are used to produce plastic bottles every year, and the manufacturing plants release a lot of chemicals into the air and groundwater.
They're potentially toxic. There are many types of plastic, each with their own potential toxicity risks:
- PET plastic can leach antimony into the water, particularly if liquid is left in the bottle for long periods of time in warm/hot environments.
- HDPE can leach an endocrine disruptor called nonlyphenol when exposed to bright sunlight.
- Polycarbonate can break down and leach Bisphenol-A (BPA) into the water, which can disrupt hormone function.
These three plastics are the only ones used for water bottles, but all plastic can be potentially toxic if not stored properly.
They're not cost-effective. Buying water in large quantities is the penny-saving choice, and it will even be significantly cheaper to install a water filtration system in your home and use that to provide clean drinking water. The amount you pay for each small bottle of water is significantly higher than you'd pay for the same amount of water sans bottle.
As you can see, plastic (disposable) water bottles are definitely not the smart way to go. They're environmentally damaging, potentially dangerous to your health, and will waste your money.
Instead, you'd do well to use a reusable water bottle, one that you can take with you wherever you go. It's cheaper, easier to transport all the water you need, and much safer for your health.
Types of Water Bottles
You'd be amazed by how many different types of water bottles there are on the market! Here are a few of the water bottles you can find:
Reusable Plastic Water Bottles –
These are the cheapest type of water bottle, and you can find them in literally every supermarket and department store. They may look like a water bottle or thermos, and they'll have a plastic screw or pop-cap that makes it easy to drink. They will cost you anywhere from $2 to $10, and they're the most economical choice.
The downside of these bottles is that they're made of plastic! While highly durable and damage-resistant, they may leach toxins (see above) into your water.
Stainless Steel Water Bottles – Stainless steel water bottles are made from stainless steel, which is resistant to rust (a problem when metal is exposed to water) and grime. They're a highly durable option, and they won't leach chemicals into your water.
The downside of stainless steel bottles is that they tend to be on the pricey side—upwards of $10, easily—and they can be a bit heavier to carry around. They can also heat up in the summer, may dent if dropped, and may give your water a metallic taste. However, you'll find they're one of the most durable, safest choices for water bottles.
Aluminum Water Bottles – Aluminum water bottles may look identical to stainless steel bottles, but they're significantly lighter than proper steel. They are lined with an enamel or epoxy that prevents the bottle from rusting, but which may leach BPA and other toxins into the water. The metal is equally likely to heat up if left in the sun.
The design of most aluminum bottles is narrow-necked, making them tough to keep clean. The metal is also easily dented when dropped. If you're going to opt for a metal bottle, ALWAYS go with stainless steel. It may be more expensive, but it's significantly safer.
Insulated Water Bottles – Insulated water bottles are half water bottle, half thermos. They have vacuum insulated walls that trap the heat/chill of your water inside the bottle for hours. They're usually created for cold liquids (ice water), but you can find them for hot water. They're not as heavy as thermoses, but they are shaped like a proper water bottle.
Most insulated water bottles are made with stainless steel, though some are made of aluminum or hard plastic. They may become dented if dropped, which could interfere with the insulation.
Glass Water Bottles – Glass is a fairly fragile material, but most modern glass water bottles are wrapped with a layer of silicone that prevents it from being damaged when dropped. Glass water bottles certainly aren't the most durable option. However, they're the safest in terms of health risks. Glass will not leach any toxins into the water, but it will keep your water as pure as possible.
On the downside, glass is as prone to heating up as metal—more so, in the case of transparent glass. If you leave your water out in the sun, it will heat up. It's also a heavier material than steel or plastic, so the bottle is heavier to carry around.
Running Water Bottles – Running water bottles are usually made from plastic, stainless steel, or aluminum, but it's their style that makes them unique. They come with a built-in hand-grip, so it will sit on your hand without the need to hold it. Some running bottles are also designed to be carried on a belt.
For example, FlipBelt manufactures water bottles and running belts, while Camden manufactures a running belt with two small BPA-free plastic water bottles included. Running water bottles are usually fairly durable and easy to drink from, but they have to be lightweight—thus smaller than average. If you're a marathon or long-distance runner, they're a great choice for you.
Collapsible Water Bottles – Collapsible water bottles are a new trend, but they are quickly becoming popular. Hydaway and Vapur are two of the trendiest brands producing collapsible bottles.
Usually made of plastic, silicone, or some other lightweight material, these bottles are intended to fold/roll up and store in your pocket when empty. However, they can hold up to a quart of water (depending on their size) when filled. They're made of materials that won't leach toxins into your water, and they're a highly convenient option for transporting water without taking up too much space (in hiking or camping gear). On the downside, they're not the most durable water bottles around.
Water Bottle Buying Guide
When it comes time to buy a water bottle, you may find there are a lot of options to choose from. We've come up with a simple guide to help you narrow down your choices and find the perfect water bottle:
Consider the Use – Are you going to use the water bottle in your home office, while sitting in traffic, at the gym, or while out running? The type of bottle you choose will depend on your use!
- For gym bottles, think durable stainless steel or silicone-wrapped glass. The risk of damage is fairly low, and the heavier weight won't matter because you won't be carrying the bottle around.
- For running, consider a running bottle—belt and all. It's easier to run with your hands free, and your waist can bear the load of a water bottle or two.
- For your office/home, you want a brightly-colored bottle, as that will remind you to drink water throughout the day.
- For your car, you want a bottle that fits in your car cupholders, but which can carry at least ½ a liter of water (more is better).
Choose the Material Wisely – Plastic is the cheapest material, but remember the above-mentioned list of health risks? Stainless steel and glass are the two safest choices for water bottles, but they each have their own downsides. Think about where and how you'll use the bottle, and choose a material that suits your purposes.
- For indoor use, BPA and paraben-free plastic bottles are suitable.
- For sedentary outdoor use, always go for glass bottles.
- For active and athletic use, stainless steel is the choice for you.
Think about Size and Shape – This is always something important to consider. If you're running, you can't be lugging around a 2-liter bottle of water. However, for a bottle of water to drink during your daily commute, you can afford to have a larger, heavier bottle.
The size and shape of your bottle should match its use. The type of water bottles used for cycling will be different from a running water bottle, and you may need to find a taller, narrower bottle to fit in your car's cupholders.
Find the Right Cap – Plastic water bottles have a simple screw cap, as do many stainless steel bottles. Athletic bottles, on the other hand, will have either a flip-top lid or a pop-out nozzle. Find the cap/lid/nozzle that suits your use of the bottle. A pop-out lid may be messier and thus inadequate for an office space, but it's ideal for runners. Conversely, a screw cap may be perfect for indoor use, but require too much effort for a runner to open and drink.
Other Important Factors – Other water bottle factors to consider include:
- How easy is the bottle to clean? Is it dishwasher safe, or does it need to be cleaned by hand?
- How easy is the bottle to carry, both during the day and during athletic activity?
- How brightly colored and attractive is the bottle? Is it eye-catching enough that you'll see it throughout the day and remember to drink?
- Does the bottle keep your water cold? Does it motivate you to keep drinking?
The Best Way to Clean Water Bottle
The downside of reusable water bottles is that they can get dirty and grimy after regular use. You may find that your bottle begins to taste a bit moldy or "stale", but by that time it has been dirty and full of germs for weeks or even months!
If you're going to use a water bottle, it's vital that you keep it clean. Thankfully, many water bottles (steel, aluminum, glass, and even plastic) are made to be washed in a dishwashing machine. It's recommended you run the bottle through your dishwasher at least once a month.
But what about bottles that aren't dishwasher safe? Here's how easy it is to clean your water bottle:
Soap and Hot Water –Empty the bottle and fill it half-way with hot water. Add in a splash of dish soap, replace the cap, and shake the bottle vigorously for a minute. Empty the water and rinse thoroughly to get rid of any traces of dish soap. Make sure to thoroughly clean the cap and nozzle. Let the bottle air-dry overnight.
Bleach – Bleach is highly effective for killing off germs and bacteria, but it's very potent. Pour a capful of bleach into a full bottle of water, and let it sit for 15 minutes. Empty the bottle, rinse well, and let it air dry overnight.
Vinegar – White vinegar is a natural cleanser that can eliminate any bacteria and germs. Rinse the bottle with soapy hot water, then fill it 20% with white vinegar and 80% with warm water. Leave the bottle full overnight, then empty and rinse in the morning.
Cleansing Tablets – If you're a more high-tech user, bottle-cleansing tablets (produced by brands like CamelBak) offer a modern solution to bacteria and germs in your water bottle. Simply fill the bottle, drop in the tablets, and let the bottle sit for up to 30 minutes (as directed on the tablet package). Rinse well and your bottle is clean!