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Drinking Water Safety

Water coolers

It's a good idea to clean and disinfect your water cooler every time you change the water bottle. This will kill germs (microbes) so they don't get in the water. Always unplug the water cooler before you clean it.

What should I use to clean my water cooler?

Use a cleaning (disinfecting) solution to clean your water cooler. You can buy a cleaning solution or make your own.

To make your own cleaning solution, mix together:
  • 15 mL of 5%, unscented bleach
  • 5 litres of clean, warm water

How can I be safe when working with cleaning solution?

Whenever you make or use cleaning solution, protect yourself by wearing:

  • safety glasses with side shields
  • disposable gloves
  • a waterproof apron, smock, or overalls
If you use a chemical product to clean, descale, or disinfect your water cooler, make sure you:
  • check that it's approved to use on surfaces that have contact with food
  • use the right amount and use it in the correct way (follow the instructions)
  • store it properly
  • flush it out after cleaning with water that's safe to drink

How do I clean my cold water cooler?

The best time to clean a water cooler is when you replace an empty water bottle. Follow these instructions for cleaning:

  1. Unplug the water cooler.
  2. Remove the empty water bottle.
  3. Drain all water left in the cooler through the peg or plug (spigot).
  4. Remove the no-spill guard and baffle (a disc-shaped part). Be careful not to break or damage these parts. You can clean these parts in a dishwasher or see "How do I clean the plastic parts?" below.
  5. Fill the cooler reservoir with cleaning solution and scrub the inside with a clean, long-handled brush with soft bristles.
  6. Drain some of the cleaning solution through the spigots. Let it sit for at least 2 minutes (but no longer than 5 minutes).
  7. Drain the cleaning solution from the reservoir through the spigots into a bucket. Flush the solution down a toilet.
  8. Fill the reservoir with clean tap or bottled water and rinse very well to remove the bleach. Do this 2 or 3 times. Drain the rinse water through the spigots into a bucket. Flush the solution down a toilet.
  9. Put the baffle and no-spill guard back on.
  10. Put the new water bottle on top of the cooler.
  11. Press the spigots until water flows.
  12. Plug in the water cooler.

How do I clean the plastic parts?

Whenever you clean your water cooler, it's a good idea to clean the drip tray, spigot paddles, no-spill guard, baffles, and the outside of the cooler. Do not use abrasive cleansers as they can scratch surfaces. You can put any removable parts in a dishwasher (see the manufacturer’s instructions) or clean them with these steps:
  1. Put the parts in hot, soapy water.
  2. Rinse the parts with clean water.
  3. Clean the parts with your cleaning solution.
  4. Let the parts dry completely or dry them with a clean cloth.
  5. Wipe the outside of the cooler with a clean, hot, soapy cloth.

What else do I need to do to maintain my cooler?

  • Clean your water cooler regularly to keep it running well.
  • Once a month, check the wire grid across the back of the cooler for lint and dust. Vacuum or clean these areas with a brush.
  • Do not lubricate the compressor. It has an air-tight seal.
  • Unplug your water cooler whenever it's out of water.

How do I clean a hot water cooler?

Do not use bleach on hot water cooler systems. To clean a hot water cooler:

  1. Boil some water.
  2. Pour enough boiling water into the cooler to fill the reservoir. Be careful not to burn yourself with the boiling water.
  3. Drain some hot water through the spigots. Let the hot water sit in the cooler and spigots for 3 minutes.
  4. Scrub the inside of the reservoir with a clean, long-handled brush with soft bristles.
  5. Drain out the water and rinse the reservoir well before you use the cooler.

If you have any questions, contact Alberta Health Services Environmental Public Health.

Current as of: September 28, 2021

Author: Environmental Public Health, Alberta Health Services