Sanitizing Water Dispensers/Coolers

A water cooler holds water for long periods of time.  This can result in settling of minerals that may be in the water causing hard scale build up over time. A water cooler can also develop a layer of slime, known as bio-film.  Bio-film can be a breeding ground for bacteria.  This is why your water cooler should be sanitized every 6 to 12 months.

Basic Sanitizing

Sanitizing is not complicated, but does require following directions closely.  You can purchase sanitizing solutions from your local water store or use household solutions such as bleach, hydrogen peroxide, vinegar or boiling water.  All will work to varying degrees.  For a quick reference on how to sanitize your water cooler you can go to this helpful video link.  Make sure that you allow whichever solution you decide on, to absorb for, at least, 20 minutes.

Scale Removal

For those coolers that have had a significant build up of scaling, it can be difficult to remove but here are some handy tips on getting rid of that nasty scale.

Firstly, if you have an old cooler, you'll have to use your best judgement to determine if it's worth keeping. If it has been running perfectly well, other than the scaling, it may be worth it. You do have to take apart your cooler. Depending on the model, there are different components, but the link above is a good example.  You can also search the internet for a manual for your model. Ideally, you'll need descaling solution. Normally, these are used in coffee machines, so check with local coffee machine suppliers or on the internet. They may come in liquid or granular form that needs to be mixed with water.  Follow the instructions on mixing.  A 1:1 vinegar and water solution can also be used, but it is not nearly as strong.  The trick is to make sure that there is plenty of contact time, with the scale, at least 20 mins but probably more if it's really caked on, for the solution to take effect.  If you have a spray bottle, it will help to spray it on the inside of the reservoir.  

Make sure you're wearing rubber gloves.  After some time has passed and the scale appears to be dissolving use use a scrubbing pad or brush to work on scrubbing the scale. If you're working too hard, it needs more time and/or solution. Remove the taps, if possible. Some just unscrew.  A small straight brush will get into the tubes connected to the taps. Run some water through it to flush as much scale as possible while letting the water run into a pail in front of the cooler as water come out of the tap holes.  The parts should then be reassembled. After descaling you should also sanitize your cooler using the method described above. Don't forget that retention time is very important for sanitizing as well.  At least 20 minutes is needed.  

Preventative Maintenance

We know it's somewhat laborious, but if your cooler is in good shape it may be worth it.  Finally, to keep your cooler from building scale in future, consider using reverse osmosis water.  Not only is it very pure H2O, but it will help prevent scaling.  The above procedure should be done, at least, annually, but it will be a breeze with RO water and regular maintenance.

We hope this is helpful.  Please send us an email or a comment online if this outline came in handy or if you have any questions.