If It's A Problem For Liz Lemon, I Usually Also Have That Problem
March 26, 2010 10:43 AM   Subscribe

I can't believe she's wasting a question on this filter: Is there some technique for changing the bottle in a water cooler that I'm completely unaware of?

Ok, this is embarrassing, but it's making enough of an impact in my life that it's worth asking about.

Have you ever seen the episode of 30 Rock where Liz Lemon and Tracy Jordan are fighting about 'equality' and he challenges her to change the big bottle in the water cooler in front of everybody, and she gets water everywhere and looks like a big dumb fool?

Yeah, well, I have never laughed so hard in my life, because that is basically my greatest fear. I have worked in male-dominated companies for a very long time, and on principal, I never ask anybody to change the bottle, because it's not my style, but I always feel guilty when the water runs out and I silently slink away, because I'm TERRIFIED of making a mess and embarrassing myself further. I remember trying it once before -- it did not go well.

I'm strong enough normally to carry relatively heavy things, I think I can pull this off, but I just literally do not know the best way to go about it. So. Can someone please post some easy steps to non-messy non-humiliating water cooler jug changing?

Thank you in advance.
posted by pazazygeek to Food & Drink (35 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Step one - remove the old water bottle. Set it aside.

Step two - grab a hold of the new bottle. It has a handle. Use two hands. It is not unreasonably heavy.

Step three - remove the sticker that covers the opening.

Step four: using the handle and your other hand for balance, lift it up to the cooler and turn it over. Push it down so that the opening is now securely in the cooler.

If there is a better way, I would like to hear it.
posted by amicamentis at 10:46 AM on March 26, 2010

Oh, and about water going anywhere - on our water bottles, at least, there is some sort of protective plastic sheath on top that keeps water from coming out when you turn it upside-down. Check for that.
posted by amicamentis at 10:48 AM on March 26, 2010 [3 favorites]

Amicamentis, I don't know what kind of water bottle wonderland you live in, but the bottles we get at work do not have handles. You have to sort of grip it by the neck, and lift it up .. and well, you know, put it on the top of the cooler. So, in summation, not always a handle, but in every other way that's the way to do it.
posted by Geckwoistmeinauto at 10:49 AM on March 26, 2010 [1 favorite]

As for step three above: that depends on your water cooler. The ones I use have something that punctures the sticker, and so the water doesn't leak out until that happens, at which point the bottle is already on the stand. If you pull the sticker off before you put it on, then water spills everywhere. In fact, I haven't seen one where you have to pull the sticker off in years.
posted by brainmouse at 10:50 AM on March 26, 2010

1) Open bottle
2) Lift it, with your hands on the bottom of the bottle, so that its mouth is near the reservoir-hole at the top of the cooler. Let the bottle's neck lean against the top of the cooler.
3) Now tilt it sideways, so that the water starts glurgling out of the bottle and into the reservoir. It's spilling, yes, but spilling into where it's about to go anyway.
4) As the bottle is glurgling, tilt its bottom up toward the ceiling, as you push the bottle right into place in the cooler's hole. When you're doing that tilting, the neck of the bottle can rest on the edge of the hole in the cooler; you're using a simple pivot-point as a type of lever, and the cooler itself is taking most of the weight!
posted by Greg Nog at 10:51 AM on March 26, 2010 [11 favorites]

My departmental water cooler has a little thing in it so that you don't have to remove the sticker -- basically the cooler itself just punches through the sticker and the top of the bottle so that you don't need to take the sticker off. (This means that you don't have to be afraid of changing the bottle if you are short and/or lack upper-body strength, because even if you tilt it or drop it, the water will stay in the bottle.) It might be worth checking some of the empty bottles for the presence of a sticker with a big hole in it, to see if your water cooler is set up the same way. I made a mess (luckily I was alone so I didn't have to own up to it) once, before I realized that you didn't need to take the top off the bottle for our cooler.
posted by kataclysm at 10:51 AM on March 26, 2010 [1 favorite]

Most water-cooler bottles have a plastic lid on the top that prevents water from pouring out. It's not just an open hole...
posted by jckll at 10:51 AM on March 26, 2010 [1 favorite]

there is a little plastic plug that is wedged in the mouth of the water bottle, so that it doesn't go everywhere when you turn it upside down. there is a matching post in the dispenser that pushes the plug up into the bottle when you install it.

The plug doesn't go back in the hole in the bottle when you pull the bottle out though, so that if the bottle isn't empty, water will go EVERYWHERE.
posted by ArgentCorvid at 10:51 AM on March 26, 2010

Older style bottles had a cap that needed to be removed. The technique was to remove the empty bottle, remove the cap on the new bottle, tip the bottle over, pouring water into the cooler, then let the bottle settle into place.

I think they all have the newer style caps described above nowadays.
posted by Doohickie at 10:56 AM on March 26, 2010

Or... what Greg Nog said.
posted by Doohickie at 10:57 AM on March 26, 2010

Also, I think the key is DO NOT PANIC. There may be a moment where you're turning the bottle upside down and the water is coming out and you're worried that it's not going to work, but don't try to hesitate or backtrack: just keep going in one fluid motion until the bottle is in the right spot. It's not as hard as it seems!
posted by cider at 11:00 AM on March 26, 2010 [2 favorites]

Five gallons of water weighs over 40 pounds. That's probably 1/3rd of Liz Lemon's body weight. Opinion: it is not unreasonable for her to ask someone else to lift it.
posted by miyabo at 11:00 AM on March 26, 2010 [1 favorite]

Also, I think the key is DO NOT PANIC. There may be a moment where you're turning the bottle upside down and the water is coming out and you're worried that it's not going to work, but don't try to hesitate or backtrack: just keep going in one fluid motion until the bottle is in the right spot. It's not as hard as it seems!

This is exactly it. I change the bottle at my office, and the key is to not to let panic overwhelm you when the water starts pouring it. In an attempt to "help" once (because no one believes I'm capable of doing it myself, despite the fact that I've done it over a dozen times), two co-workers lifted the bottle, started pouring- and panicked. I had to jump in to push the bottle into the dispenser.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 11:06 AM on March 26, 2010

Regarding different styles of water bottles: next time the water runs out, instead of feeling all guilty, you can watch how someone does it. Is there a sticker? Is there a handle? Do they rest the water bottle on top of the cooler? Do they have to push down on top of it to get it in right? That way you feel better knowing that after this you have a better idea going in.
posted by amicamentis at 11:16 AM on March 26, 2010

Don't panic is key. My other strategy is to set the new bottle on a high surface when removing the cap (think counter top instead of table), so I don't have to lift it as high to get it onto the cooler. Also, it helps if I can get a hand under the bottle, so the flip is smoother.

I'm glad I'm not the only one who has thought about this.
posted by donajo at 11:17 AM on March 26, 2010

In older style coolers, where you do have to remove the cap completely, and there is no internal flow limiter in the water bottle, there is a ceramic or glass bowl into which the neck of the water bottle goes. Normally, water flows out of the bowl, which is chilled, drawing down its level as water is demanded at the tap, until the level in bowl goes below the neck of the water bottle, allowing air to bubble into the inverted bottle, and breaking the vacuum lock that holds the remaining water in the bottle, until enough water has bubbled back into the bowl, to rise again above the lip of the water bottle neck, establishing again statis with the internal vacuum lock of the bottle, created by the weight of the remaining water. So, it's a good idea to drain almost all the water out of such a machine, through the demand tap, to give yourself additional time to make a smooth and controlled tipping action of the new bottle, into the bowl. While you're drawing down the level in the bowl, that's also the time you look in the bowl, from the top, and clean it with a paper towel, if needs be.

Also, if the 5 gallon bottle is too heavy a lift for smaller people, you can order 3 gallon bottles from most water cooler service companies.
posted by paulsc at 11:18 AM on March 26, 2010

If, by chance, you find your cooler is outdated and requires you to use a bottle without a puncture-seal, check with Office Services or your vendor to see if they can / will / should update your equipment.

While this is partly out of "Get the better equipment," I've had additional issues with ones that had an open bottle and a reservoir at the bottom to catch the water - they became filled with algae, and had to be cleaned regularly. Not by the office or service, mind you, one of us took it home on a regular basis to run the assembly through the dishwasher...
posted by GJSchaller at 11:19 AM on March 26, 2010 [1 favorite]

Thirding "DO NOT PANIC."

And if your bottles don't have a handle or something to hold them by, try picking up a bottle and turning it over without taking off the cap or breaking the seal so you can figure out the best way to hang on to the bottle without also worrying about the water spilling at the same time.
posted by Blue Jello Elf at 11:20 AM on March 26, 2010 [1 favorite]

ahahahaaahaha the title for this post is the best ever. chiming in to say that i, too, slink away due to being afraid of having the water run out (though i am also very small and have NO UPPER BODY STRENGTH) and my biggest nightmare is to have a coworker or superior come in and see me struggling comically with the huge water bottle so YOU ARE NOT ALONE.
posted by raw sugar at 11:21 AM on March 26, 2010

If you have trouble with the five gallon bottles, three gallon bottles are probably your best solution. Also three gallon bottles with handles are probably a lot more common than are five gallon bottles with handles.

Re: the safety caps and all of that; my cooler is set up to use the safety caps, and they work, but they also slow down getting water out of the cooler, particularly when the bottle starts getting low. As a result, I take the caps off. The trick is to flip the bottle over while holding one hand over the opening, holding the water in (wash your hands first!). As soon as you're in position, yank your hand out, and drop the bottle into place. (Granted, this does take a little bit of upper body strength to do with a full five gallon bottle...)
posted by nonliteral at 11:40 AM on March 26, 2010

Hmm, there are a number of visuals on Youtube for technique, if you learn better that way. What an interesting question. :) I've wondered about it in passing as well at some point, but eh...
posted by Ky at 11:41 AM on March 26, 2010

I'm the person in my hall (we have three water coolers in different kitchens in my office) that people come to when a new bottle needs to go into the holder.

Our bottles have a cap that has to come off. There's no sticker or safety cap or anything underneath - just the opening. Sometimes the delivery guy brings the kind with handles, and sometimes he doesn't.

You can be strong enough to lift the bottle, but if you're on the short side, it can still be difficult to quickly lift-and-flip the bottle into the holder.

It's mostly knack, though, and not strength. I lift the bottle and sort of rest the bottom of it on my hip or pelvic area so I can change my grip. One hand rests on the shoulder of the bottle, and the other goes on the bottom. With the bottom hand, I lift and use the shoulder hand as a sort of pivot point - the shoulder hand helps hold the weight and guide the bottle, but most of the lifting is done by the hand on the bottom of the bottle. So I lift, tip/guide and without thinking about what I'm doing or wondering if this is the day when I miss the opening or drop the bottle, I quickly up-end it into the holder.

The only times I've spilled water is when I let my brain go "Hey, are you holding this thing right? Are you tipping it correctly? Are you going to end up with five gallons of water all over the floor?"

So: Don't think about it while you're doing it; don't panic - it's only water.
posted by rtha at 11:41 AM on March 26, 2010

Oddly enough, being able to do this was a source of pride for me. The game was to let as little water as possible escape. I weigh around 100 lbs and was able to do this with the standard size office water bottle. There was no handle and you had to pull the top off like a gallon on milk almost. I had to place the water bottle on the counter, slide it so that it was resting on my right forearm, while I held it around the neck with my left hand. Then doing most of the work with my right arm I would very quickly lift, flip, and place without any spillage.

Try doing it when there is no one around and have something handy just in case you spill. This job was really boring so doing this was kind of fun.
posted by mokeydraws at 11:44 AM on March 26, 2010

Our bottles don't have the fancy handles or stickers/puncture caps either.

1. Grab vertically-stored bottles by the neck with your non-dominant hand, tilt them, and slip your dominant arm under them to lift. If you need to remember to lift using your leg strength to avoid straining your lower back, don't bend at the waist to get bottles from the below; bend your knees and engage your legs to lift.

Horizontally stored bottles are a little trickier, especially when they are in those plastic crates. I use my left hand to pull it out about halfway by the neck, the use my right arm beneath the barrel to heft it up and into my arms.

2. Prop it on a nearby level surface. I often sort of prop it on my thigh to free the arm beneath the base, and to help lift it because of the height of the closest counter-top. Remove the cap.

3. Grab the neck of the bottle with your non-dominant hand and pull the bottle towards you so that the base is just a little off of the surface.

4. Put your dominant forearm under the bottom of the bottle and lift.

5. Lay the spout as close to the lip of the cooler as you can and, as suggested above, tilt the bottle over onto it with your left arm.

Pro-tip: I sometimes have to move the bottles across the office. This is when I look mildly ridiculous giving joyrides to water bottles on my rolling office chair.
posted by juliplease at 11:46 AM on March 26, 2010

Take the empty bottle off and set it back on again to see how it fits.
Like Blue Jello Elf says, try flipping a sealed (full) bottle over to experiment with the best ways to lift it and flip it.

Our bottles had a handle, and the handle had to be lined up to the back or it wouldn't seat right, but I figured that out one night when nobody else was around. Whee! After changing the water out a couple of times unobserved, and feeling like I was pretty good at it, I had a coworker see me mid-process and get all fluttery and concerned like I was going to (a) do it wrong or (b) injure myself, but I think the problem was (c) make him feel unchivalrous. The thing is, nobody looks graceful doing this, so people who don't know how stupid they look will give you a hard time and say you look stupid. Roll your eyes at them.
posted by aimedwander at 11:46 AM on March 26, 2010

mokeydraws describes it succinctly. also I meant "dominant" not "left" hand in #5.
posted by juliplease at 11:48 AM on March 26, 2010

I can't believe nobody else has mentioned this: Clean off the top of the new bottle first! Once it's upside down, the water will rise up to touch it (or at least that's how it works on ours), washing all the grime and germs and whatever was on the delivery person's hands right into your drinking water.

Does nobody do this? Am I drinking germy water every time I drink out of a water cooler? Or maybe some water coolers don't work this way?
posted by HotToddy at 12:18 PM on March 26, 2010 [1 favorite]

Does nobody do this? Am I drinking germy water every time I drink out of a water cooler? Or maybe some water coolers don't work this way?

Nope, I was scrolling down to say exactly the same thing.
posted by inigo2 at 1:30 PM on March 26, 2010

Yeah I do it like monkeydraws and juliplease, and I am a short woman.

The other thing to know is, at least with that kind of water cooler (I had no idea there were even other kinds!), you can pour a good amount of the water into the cooler as you are tipping it. So you don't have to worry about hurrying really fast.
posted by grapesaresour at 1:35 PM on March 26, 2010

FWIW, make sure you bend with your knees, not with your back. Water jugs can be pretty heavy, and if you're somewhat slight, can be a bit of a strain to lift.
posted by jenkinsEar at 1:43 PM on March 26, 2010

grapesour: you can pour a good amount of the water into the cooler as you are tipping it

This is how I overcame my fear of water cooler changing. I used to think that replacing the jug involved some kind of magical, single, snapping motion (something like the weightlifting snatch) to bring the bottle from a spout up position to a spout down position. However, once I realized that you can start by pouring water into the cooler and then raise the jug (relatively) gradually into a vertical position, the job became a lot less intimidating.
posted by mhum at 1:57 PM on March 26, 2010

Yeah, there's a trick but it's mostly mental. Don't think of it as inverting the bottle. Think of it as pouring water out into the reservoir. Just like pouring out a soda or a beer. Unlike those, you just keep tilting up. There is no hurry and you can always back down, just like pouring anything else. Once you have it fully inverted, just put it down in the reservoir and you are done.
posted by chairface at 2:52 PM on March 26, 2010

For the sealed bottles, sometimes I *do* get splashed if somehow a little pool of water is sitting in the bottom of the hole where the bottle spout goes. Then when you put the new bottle in, clunking in place can force this pool of water up and out and on your shirt.

To solve this, either stand back as it clunks in, or pour one last glass of water to drain it.

Thank goodness for those sealed water bottles though; all others are just awful.

PS -- I am a 5'3" 115 woman and I can change 5 gallon water bottles all by myself, and proud! If you can lift a big bag of dog food or cat litter, you can do it!
posted by SarahbytheSea at 5:44 PM on March 26, 2010

You guys. I did it. You have all changed my life. Liz Lemon no more! I am now a water-bottle changing amazon. Hell yes.
posted by pazazygeek at 4:47 PM on March 27, 2010

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