27/02/2012 By Joe Cox
It's a practice that is commonplace in office up and down the UK. Plastic water bottles bought off the shelves from supermarkets getting refilled using the office water cooler at work. Many of us have done it before and many do it every day. I will admit to occasionally filling up an empty 500ml bottle of Fillongley Spring Water myself to take in the car with me on a long journey or business trip.
But is it safe to keep doing this indefinitely? We’ve discussed before on these pages how important it is to keep your water cooler hygienic but what about that small water bottle you’re refilling; the kind you get from the shelf of your local supermarket or newsagent? How many times should you reuse a 500ml, 750ml or 1ltr plastic bottle before it becomes unhygienic? We’ll start by looking at the bacterial concerns and put them in context.
The problem lies in the small amount of water left in the bottle itself, especially round the rim where the mouth can pass on germs and bacteria which will then breed. It’s worth mentioning here however that plastic is no more dangerous as a breeding ground for germs and bacteria than any other type of packaging or a plate or glass. The only problem is that plastic bottles have a small opening which prevents you from cleaning and scrubbing the inside.
The truth is there isn’t a simple answer to exactly how many times you should reuse a water bottle but it seems pretty accepted that ok to reuse and refill plastic bottles for a short period of time, as long as they are cleaned regularly with warm soapy water. Although this won’t necessarily kill every single individual bacterium you’ve passed onto the water and the water bottle (most probably through your own mouth having contact with it) your body can certainly handle a few bacteria without kicking up too much of a fuss (we all have a lot of it living inside us anyway).
If this still sounds unhygienic to you then you’d probably feel a lot better just using a plastic disposable cup or a glass on your next trip to the water cooler.
In the next instalment we’ll look at chemical concerns and whether they should concern us at all when refilling our water bottle.
© 2013 Office Water Coolers
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