Will the mold kill me?
December 18, 2014 10:37 AM   Subscribe

I thoroughly cleaned my water bottle just now and wiped black stuff from the sides of the inside. I assume it's mold, and I think it's probably been there for a while (days? weeks?) already. I drink at least 1 L of water from it daily. Will I suffer any effects?

I haven't felt sick or anything. Should I still see a doctor?

I will of course be chucking the bottle and getting a wider, easier-to-clean one.
posted by rebooter to Health & Fitness (11 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
While I'm not in poison control, I'll mention that I have called poison control for that very sort of issue--when one of my daughters was very small, she lost a sippy cup for a couple of weeks, then we discovered that she'd found it, was drinking out of it, and indeed it had stuff growing in it. They told us not to worry, that anything growing in it would be the same thing we were already being exposed to (for example, her mouth germs). And sure enough, there were no ill effects.
posted by mittens at 10:52 AM on December 18, 2014 [2 favorites]

Best answer: My sister actually did get quite sick from what we think (but obviously can't be sure) was water bottle mold. But that said, there's not much you can do about it now except wait and see if you do -- there's nothing a doctor can do pre-emptively for you, and if you're not sick there's nothing secretly bad happening. So just be aware of how you feel and stay hydrated out of your new bottle :).
posted by brainmouse at 10:56 AM on December 18, 2014 [2 favorites]

You should see the inside of the pipes that carry that drinking water to your home. :) I wouldn't worry about it; I wouldn't even toss the water bottle unless it just makes you feel better.
posted by resurrexit at 11:01 AM on December 18, 2014 [4 favorites]

Chances are it came from contact with the surface of a biological organism.. namely you, and has struck forth on colonizing a new region. You should be fine.
posted by nickggully at 11:02 AM on December 18, 2014 [1 favorite]

If you're worried about this going forwards, I use baby bottle steriliser on my waterbottle every few weeks to keep it from getting mildewy. It's pretty cheap and if it's safe for baby bottles it's safe for adult water bottles.
posted by tinkletown at 11:12 AM on December 18, 2014

You can use diluted household bleach for sterilizing things as long it's unscented / doesn't have any additives / etc.; in fact chlorine is used for sanitizing drinking water itself in some public water systems. Lots of detailed info on the web, e.g. Guidelines for the Use of Chlorine Bleach as a Sanitizer in Food Processing Operations (PDF—Food and Agricultural Products Research and Technology Center, Oklahoma State University)

I use the type of diluted solution described there on my drinking bottles about once per month or so after scrubbing them out, using a sprayer to coat the lids and seals and bottles in a thin film, let sit for ten minutes, then rinse.
posted by XMLicious at 11:42 AM on December 18, 2014 [2 favorites]

Go ahead and call poison control center to ask. It's staffed by nurses and pharmacists and can help you better than the green.
posted by discopolo at 1:03 PM on December 18, 2014 [1 favorite]

You're most likely perfectly fine. Even if you do get sick soon, I doubt it would be from the mold. Let your water bottles completely dry out overnight. This will prevent most microbial growth without a whole lot of work.
posted by Kalmya at 6:29 PM on December 18, 2014 [1 favorite]

This happens to my water bottles all the time. Especially the ones that I use to mix my flavored water drinks. I've let it go without washing it immediately more than once and not had a single issue.
posted by dithmer at 1:17 PM on December 19, 2014

You can use diluted household bleach for sterilizing things as long it's unscented / doesn't have any additives / etc.

Or you can use Milton, the fluid used for sterilising baby bottles. We use it here all the time for cleaning receptacles that get re-used a lot. Is there nothing like Milton on the market in North America? Seems like a safer option than diluting full-strength bleach.
posted by macdara at 2:27 AM on December 20, 2014

From the Wikipedia entry Milton sterilizing fluid:
Milton sterilizing fluid is produced by Procter & Gamble for sterilization uses. It contains 1% sodium hypochlorite (NaClO) and 16.5% sodium chloride (NaCl; common salt). 1:80 dilution is used to sterilise babies' feeding utensils, including baby bottles. It is sold in dissolvable tablets which are then mixed with cold water and placed in a lidded bucket. This method of bottle sterilization is marketed as "The Milton Method".

A 1:20 solution is isotonic with body fluids. 1:4 dilution is used for wound management applications.
From the Wikipedia entry sodium hypochlorite:
Sodium hypochlorite is a chemical compound with the formula NaClO. It is composed of a sodium cation (Na+) and a hypochlorite anion (ClO); it may also be viewed as the sodium salt of hypochlorous acid. When dissolved in water it is commonly known as bleach, liquid bleach, or liquid chlorine. It is frequently used as a disinfectant or a bleaching agent.
By all means, pay someone else to mix it with salt for you before you mix it with water, but your Milton fluid is also diluted bleach. If your worry is that you'd make a mistake with the proportions, it doesn't sound much less error-proof than putting a few drops of household bleach in a gallon of water.

If, on the other hand, your worry is that you don't know or can't trust what's in the cleaning products you're using in your house, I submit that this is a more grave issue, since those other products are quite possibly made by Procter & Gamble too. (Though maybe not in the next few years as the Wikipedia entry for them says that a few months ago they divested themselves of more than half their brands.)

And household bleach, BTW, isn't full-strength, at least not in North America, but is already greatly diluted; my understanding is that pure NaClO would be corrosive, just like pure vinegar / acetic acid would, or a variety of the other chemicals we expose ourselves to and even consume.
posted by XMLicious at 5:03 AM on December 20, 2014

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