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Drinking Water Safety

Water Coolers

It is a good idea to clean and disinfect your water cooler thoroughly every time you change the water bottle. Always unplug the water cooler before you clean it.

What do I need to do before I clean my water cooler?

Before you clean your water cooler, you will need to make a cleaning (disinfecting) solution. Whenever you make or use the solution, protect yourself by wearing:
  • safety glasses with side shields
  • disposable gloves
  • a waterproof apron, smock, or overalls
To make the disinfecting solution, mix together:
  • 15 mL of five percent, unscented bleach
  • 5 litres of clean, warm water
If you use a chemical product to clean, descale, or disinfect your water cooler make sure it is:
  • approved to use on food contact surfaces
  • used at the right concentration with enough retention time (follow manufacturer’s instructions)
  • stored properly
  • flushed out after cleaning (with water suitable to drink)

How do I clean my cold water cooler?

The easiest way to clean a water cooler is when you replace an empty water bottle.

  1. Unplug the water cooler.
  2. Remove the empty water bottle.
  3. Drain all remaining water through the peg or plug (spigot).
  4. Remove the no-spill guard and baffle. Do not break or damage these parts. You can clean these parts in a dishwasher or with the steps outlined in the section 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) to prevent corrosion.
  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 thoroughly to help 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 is 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 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 help keep it running well.
  • Once a month, check the wire grid across the back of the cooler for lint and dust build-up. Vacuum or clean these areas with a brush.
  • Do not lubricate the compressor. It has an air-tight seal. Most coolers have an automatic-reset overload protection switch.
  • Unplug your water cooler whenever it is 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, call Environmental Public Health.

Current as of: March 12, 2018

Author: Environmental Public Health, Alberta Health Services