How do I clean out my water pack's tubes?
June 15, 2015 2:02 PM   Subscribe

I have a hydration pack that sat in storage over winter. I pulled it out last weekend, and I found that the tube from bladder to bite valve has a thin white coating inside it. I tried rinsing them out first with a mild bleach solution, then a vinegar one. Neither of these removed the stuff from the tube. If I squish the tube, the coating comes away from the tube. How can I remove this gunk from the tube? Would I be better off buying new tubes instead of cleaning?
posted by boo_radley to Health & Fitness (15 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
I have one of these, the long flexible brush should work, especially if you soak it first. It seems to be marketed for a specific Camelbak, but I have a different one and it works with it. Your brand may vary but I think most of them will have something like this.
posted by feloniousmonk at 2:13 PM on June 15, 2015

You want the long, skinny brush from the CamelBak Cleaning Kit. You want to own one of these brushes for periodic cleaning anyway. This brush in combination with a few drops of bleach or the CamelBak cleaning tablets will keep your bladder in top shape.
posted by workerant at 2:13 PM on June 15, 2015 [2 favorites]

I would first check whether the bladder itself is clean inside. If you can't be sure, it might be worthwhile replacing the whole thing for peace of mind.
posted by Atrahasis at 2:15 PM on June 15, 2015

The tubes for racking and testing homebrew are the same diameter as the Camelbak tube. If you know somebody who brews their own beer or wine, they should have a brush that you can use to scrub yours out. They may also be willing to share some sanitizer with you. A good scrub with hot water, then another with sanitizer should do.
posted by gauche at 2:21 PM on June 15, 2015 [1 favorite]

Atrahasis: "I would first check whether the bladder itself is clean inside. If you can't be sure, it might be worthwhile replacing the whole thing for peace of mind."

The pack itself is clean and smells fresh -- I rinsed it out with a vinegar solution before I stored it and once again after I found the gunk.
posted by boo_radley at 2:24 PM on June 15, 2015

Followup question: What is the gunk? My wife is thinking it's fermented backwash.
posted by boo_radley at 2:27 PM on June 15, 2015

Seconding the CamelBak brush. You could also try Hydrogen Peroixide the bubbling action may help clean the tube.

I just use bleach on my hydration system. Bleach should kill anything that is growing in there.
posted by gregr at 2:29 PM on June 15, 2015

Followup question: What is the gunk? My wife is thinking it's fermented backwash

It's some kind of biofilm, probably a combination of bacteria and fungus (yeast, mold), probably not super dangerous, but totally gross and worth cleaning!
posted by mskyle at 2:33 PM on June 15, 2015 [4 favorites]

Denture cleaning tablets are what I use to clean mine periodically.
posted by Candleman at 2:34 PM on June 15, 2015

Seconding gauche. I use my homebrew brushes to clean out my camelbak. If you have a brewing supply store nearby, their brushes are often cheaper and higher quality than the Official Kit.
posted by rachelpapers at 2:49 PM on June 15, 2015

This sort of thing is what pipe cleaners were actually invented for before they were co-opted into colorful bendy kids' crafts.
posted by Jacqueline at 6:39 PM on June 15, 2015 [1 favorite]

And oh yeah: to prevent future yucky growths in the bladder and hose, rinse your rig with water and store it in the freezer.
posted by workerant at 6:58 PM on June 15, 2015

nthing all the suggestions for mechanical dislodgement. biofilm is magically impossible to dislodge and also often impervious to disinfectants like bleach. sort of miraculously awful.
posted by Tandem Affinity at 7:49 PM on June 15, 2015

Came in to suggest denture tablets and the CamelBak cleaning kit with the long brush. Not sure if the denture tablets will solve the biofilm problem, but at least they will disinfect everything.
posted by onecircleaday at 9:18 PM on June 15, 2015

How to mechanically clean it out without buying a new tool:
- cut a strip of cloth rag that can be tugged through the hose diameter.
- tie a narrow cord (dental floss, string, fishing line, etc) to one end of it. String should be at least 6" longer than the hose.
- tie a tiny weight to the free end of the string - something smaller than the tube that won't jam. Fishing crimp weights are perfect, a collection of small nuts/washers if you've got some that are smaller than your hose, etc.
- hold the hose vertically, and lower the weights through, until they poke out the bottom. Grab the cord, and tug the cloth through. Repeat as necessary.

The ideal is that the cloth is snug enough to wipe all the interior surfaces as it passes through, but isn't so snug that it'll be a battle. I'm not sure the precise diameters, but I'm imagining a 2" wide cloth with a string on one end, or a narrower strip and tie your cord in the middle so it folds in half behind. Cloth can be wet/dry/soapy, whatever works best.
posted by aimedwander at 7:08 AM on June 16, 2015 [4 favorites]

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