Is Your Water Cooler Making You Sick?
July 26, 2021

The Proper Way To Clean
Your Standard Water Cooler

A guide to cleaning your standard water cooler – your company’s most valued appliance.

Perhaps you already know that at PureAquaTek, we believe the modern office should not rely on the dated and dangerous 5-gallon and standard office water cooler.

But that is beside the point. If you are going to sport one of these ancient appliances, we want you to be safe. It’s somewhat ironic, but yes, a water dispenser needs to be cleaned to be safe and operate at peak efficiency. Microscopic remains of contaminants, toxins, as well as bacteria, lurk in your filters, tanks, and tubing if you don’t perform a routine and rigorous cleaning procedure. Before we discuss the process recommended by IBWA (International Bottled Water Association), we should answer some common questions:

How Does The Water Cooler Get Dirty?
Bacteria are microscopic organisms that live everywhere. They can be found in just about every environment and ecosystem on earth, making them nearly impossible to escape. Even before you unpack your new water dispenser, it may already have attracted these pesky yet necessary microorganisms. As the 2014 abstract explains from the Iranian Journal of Public Health, “Drinking water quality can be deteriorated by microbial and toxic chemicals during transport, storage and handling before using by the consumer .”
The surface, tubes, exterior, interior, and reservoirs all have bacteria. When you unwrap your water dispenser, put it on your countertop or kitchen, and plug it in, it begins accumulating bacteria lurking in your home or office. Just by handling your water dispenser, you are leaving bacteria behind.
Is Cleaning Your Water Cooler Really Necessary?
A study by scientists at Northwestern University in Boston tested the bacterial count in water coolers. Their testing revealed almost 4x the number of bacterial organisms limited by the federal government. Again, bacteria thrive in humid, moist conditions. Even after your water dispenser with the hot water tap shuts off overnight, it cools down. Inside, moisture creates the perfect breeding ground for bacteria to develop and grow.
Meet the four common bacteria and viruses found in water. 
  • Coliform: naturally occurring viruses, their presence indicates the possibility of other harmful bacteria
  • E. Coli / Fecal Coliform: their presence in water indicates the presence of other harmful bacteria that can cause short term health effects (cramps, diarrhea, vomiting, etc). Individuals with weakened immune systems are particularly at risk
  • Enteroviruses: small intestinal viruses living inside people and animals which can lead to 62 non-polio viruses, including meningitis and gastroenteritis
  • Legionella: causes a type of pneumonia called Legionnaires disease
Too much of the wrong kind of bacteria can be harmful to humans.
Convinced you should clean your water cooler? Great, here is how IBWA would like you to do that.
Supplies Needed:
  1. Clean rubber gloves
  2. Paper towels
  3. Lint-free towel
  4. Plastic scrub brush (a long handle will make cleaning easier)
  5. Teaspoon measuring spoon
  6. Calibrated container (2-gallon pail)
  7. Unscented household liquid bleach
  8. Clean 5-gallon container filled with bottled water