Cleaning Your Hydration System

Photo by Steve Howe

HydraCare Total Maintenance Kit

Hydration systems are great for fighting dehydration, particularly in hot, dry climates like that of Utah, where I live. For the past 5 years, I’ve used tube feeders almost daily on trail runs near my redrock home and to help me maintain my pace during long treks. Unfortunately, I’ve found that hydration systems incubate all kinds of nasty slime and cooties, particularly if you fill them with sugar-rich sports drinks. Disgusting, scummy buildup that can appear in mere days builds up in the hard-to-clean places, like the bottom of the bladder and the valve end of the drinking tube. As more people use hydration systems for training, events, and wilderness travel, reports of serious illnesses being caused or prolonged by infected hydration systems are also increasing.

That’s where the HydraCare Total Maintenance Kit comes in. During 2 months of hot-weather testing, I used this kit simply and effectively to keep my tube feeder clean and healthy. The kit comes with a wire frame for hanging a bladder to dry, a sample-size packet of antimicrobial HydraCleanser, a bottle brush for cleaning the reservoir, and a narrow, flexible 42-inch brush (like a gun-barrel cleaner) for cleaning the drinking tube.

Use of the kit is straightforward, and directions are printed on the package. Just mix the HydraCleanser with hot water and partially fill the system. Pop the pressure-fit bite valve off the end of your system’s feeder tube and clean the tube with the gun-barrel brush. Next, scrub the reservoir with the bottle brush. Rinse all the parts with the remaining solution and then plenty of clean water. Finally, hang the reservoir to dry on the handy frame. Voilà! A cleaner system that will stay cleaner longer and give you better-tasting water. And HydraCleanser can also be used to disinfect a water filter by pumping it repeatedly through the system.
HydraCare recommends cleaning your system after every two or three uses, and after each use for sports drinks. Adding a teaspoon or two of chlorine bleach to a bladder filled with hot water (making sure to run the solution through the tube), leaving it to stand overnight, then rinsing kills most garden-variety pathogens, as does using the all-natural HydraCleanser ($6 for a 2-ounce bottle). But if there still are persistent deposits of mysterious stuff visible in the tube and bladder, the HydraCare kit will send them packing.
Do-it-yourselfers might be inclined to search for similar cleaning brushes separately, but the HydraCare system’s low price and well-designed components make it a good buy.

PRICE: $16.50

CONTACT: HydraCare, (888) 693-2482;

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