As people and countries scramble to get on top of their responses to the coronavirus, many different measures to delay spread are being talked about. For example, some people have become concerned about re-useable water bottles; but is this concern warranted?

As the coronavirus is found in saliva and mucus, it is probable that sharing a water bottle (or any drinking vessel) with an infected person could pass on the infection, but people are unlikely to be doing this. Probably more importantly avoiding contamination of the bottle (particularly the drinking spout) with virus-containing droplets directly from coughs, sneezes, sharing or through dirty hands, makes common-sense.

The best advice to minimise the risks of transmission of any infectious disease is still good hygiene. This includes not sharing water bottles with others, daily washing of water bottles, and regular handwashing. People can also fill their water bottles at home if they are worried about using public drinking water dispensers, but in-fact there is no evidence we found that these are likely to be a significant source of viral infection.


Where did the story come from?

Heightened awareness of hygiene and risk of coronavirus has led people to question the cleanliness and hygiene of a range of places and objects, including cash, gyms and re-useable water bottles.


What is the basis for the claim?

The hygiene of reusable water bottles has come into question a number of times in the past. Some research has suggested that they can harbour bacteria, but it’s unclear how often this is the case, and whether this is having any impact on human health. Despite increasing use of water bottles in recent times, there is little research on this. Existing studies mostly relate to the safety of the water itself and the materials from which the bottles are made rather than the risks from external contamination of the bottle.

While viruses such as the coronavirus can live outside of the body for a short period of time, they can’t multiply outside of the body like bacteria or fungi can. So coronavirus won’t be “breeding” in your water bottle. Tests on other coronaviruses suggest that they can survive on surfaces for between 2 hours and 9 days (depending on factors such as the type of surface and conditions) if not disinfected.

In its information about water provision in schools, the Public Health Agency in Northern Ireland gives tips on water bottles including:

  • Water bottles should not be shared
  • Ideally bottles should be clear plastic
  • Water bottles should be washed daily in warm soapy water, rinsed, and left to air dry upside down
  • Nozzles of a sports cap should be opened and flushed through during cleaning
  • Bottles can also be washed in a dishwasher, with bottle and cap separated
  • A sterilising agent can also be used to clean drinking vessels and bottles.


What do trusted sources say?

The major public health bodies such as the World Health Organization and the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) have not specifically produced guidance on reusable water bottles during the coronavirus outbreak.

In terms of the safety of drinking water itself, the WHO has stated that coronavirus has not been detected in drinking water supplies, and risk to the water supply is low. It has also reinforced its general water, sanitation, hygiene and waste management principles. This includes that frequent and proper hand hygiene is one of the most important measures that can be used to prevent infection with the COVID-19 virus.

Analysis by EIU Healthcare, supported by Reckitt Benkiser



Torres M. Is it OK to use a reusable water bottle during the Coronavirus outbreak? Huffington Post, 6 March 2020. (Accessed 11 March 2020)


Reading list

1.     Kampf G et al. Persistence of coronaviruses on inanimate surfaces and their inactivation with biocidal agents. Journal of Hospital Infection, Volume 104, Issue 3, 246 – 251.

2.     Health Promotion Agency for Northern Ireland. School food: Water Provision. 30 January 2009. (Accessed 11 March 2020)

3.     WHO. Water, sanitation, hygiene and waste management for COVID-19. 3 March 2020. (Accessed 11 March 2020)