Water dispensers are nowadays present in many offices, staff kitchens and waiting rooms around the world. They are convenient, affordable, easy to install and use. Even if they are less expensive in maintenance costs than hot drink or vending machines, it is still recommended to clean water coolers (bottled or plumbed-in) every 4-6 weeks, and sanitize them twice a year to prevent bacterial build-up.
Bottled and plumbed-in water coolers are easy to maintain. You can entrust this task to a professional, but you can also clean your water cooler yourself. It takes around 30 minutes, and costs virtually nothing.
How to clean your water cooler’s exterior
The first obvious step is to unplug the device from the main power supply: it is always safer not to mix water and electricity! Be aware that most water dispensers are made of plastic, so don’t use aggressive products (alkaline or acidic detergents for example). Most of the time, a damp, lint-free cloth will do. Dip it into a solution of water and vinegar, scrub all the accessible parts, but not the back of the machine. Then, rinse the cloth and wipe up all traces of vinegar. Use the small brush attachment of a vacuum cleaner to remove dirt and lint from the black wire and tube condenser on the back of the cooler.
Cleaning the inside
You can also use vinegar (a teaspoon for a gallon of water) for regular cleaning. Take out the bottle and the waterguard (the device that punctures the caps on the bottles to allow the water to be dispensed) if there is one. If your water cooler is mains fed, just remove the top cover and the tank’s lid. Drain the remaining water from the tank, fill it with the vinegar solution, let it soak for five minutes, and empty it through the spigots. To finish, replace the waterguard and a new bottle (or the tank’s lid and top cover), and drain half a pitcher of water to completely flush out any remaining traces of vinegar.
Cleaning a water cooler: sanitizing
Every 4-6 months, it is recommended to sanitize your water cooler. It is not as difficult as it seems, if you observe a few simple safety rules.
Cleaning a water cooler is pretty straightforward, and so is sanitizing. Just replace the vinegar in your solution with half a teaspoon of bleach. But be very careful! Do not let the solution in the tank for more than five minutes, and if your dispenser is equipped with a hot water faucet you must plug it off (with a small cork usually provided by your water delivery company) and never use it to drain the bleach solution from the tank. Always rinse thoroughly with clean water before replacing the bottle.
Filters and filtration systems
Water bottles contain already filtered water, but plumbed-in water coolers often come with built-in filters to prevent limescale build-up and eliminate bad taste and chemicals. Filter maintenance includes replacing the filter cartridge; the approximate lifespan of a filter is measured in both gallons and months. Cartridge life may vary depending on the water’s quality. Make sure you wrote down in your agenda when the cartridge was changed so you will know exactly when you need to replace it again. Do not try to stretch the life of the filter to reduce your water cooler’s costs as the quality of the water may be altered.