How to Clean Your Gross Protein Shaker Bottle Properly (and What Will Happen if You Don’t)

To get the funk out of your shaker, you first need to know what the word "clean" really means.

If you’re a serious fitness enthusiast, your shaker bottle occupies a position inside your circle of trust equivalent to a long-time training partner — maybe even more so. Your training buddy isn’t always timely with their spots and affirmations as you might prefer. Still, your shaker delivers exactly 40 grams of protein to your fatigued, enervated muscles at exactly 8:00 p.m. every evening, like clockwork.

But like your flesh-and-blood training partner, your shaker bottle also isn’t immune to emitting a foul odor after going through the day-in, day-out grind with you. 

Luckily, there’s an easy fix to that — you’ve just gotta clean the thing regularly. Of course, there’s more to it than just running your bottle under some soapy water and calling it a day. No, to ensure your shaker bottle is truly free from all the odor-causing bacteria, you’ll need to understand the science behind that funky smell. 

A person holding a protein shaker bottle.
Credit: LightField Studios / Shutterstock

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What Happens When You Don’t Clean Your Shaker Bottle Regularly?

Whenever you leave your protein cups sitting out, caked with shake residue, you’re providing a nesting ground for illness-causing bacteria and several types of mold — including black mold. 

Though it’s a worst-case scenario, the ingestion of mold can lead to a whole host of issues like itching, sneezing, coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath, and chronic headaches.

Scared straight? Good. Now, let’s talk about cleaning.

First, What Constitutes “Clean”?

To truly understand how to clean your protein shaker bottle — or any surface, really — you need to know the authentic definitions of four oft-confused verbs: clean, sanitize, disinfect, and sterilize.

Technically speaking, a surface is “clean” once the tangible residue that is dirtying it has been cleared away. Therefore, when we’re talking about a gym or training environment, it is rarely adequate to just “clean” anything. If the person occupying the seated biceps curl station ahead of you drenches the arm pad with sweat, that surface is technically clean once all of the once-visible liquid has been soaked up. But you probably wouldn’t trust this “clean” surface as one you would be willing to lick your pre-workout off of.

This is where sanitization comes in. The word sanitize only carries a semi-official legal definition, but in layman’s terms, it means a surface that has been cleared of all of its harmful bacteria and some of its potential virus-causing agents without compromising the integrity of the product itself.

Soapy sponges on a blue background.
Credit: Kolpakova Svetlana / Shutterstock

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In contrast, disinfect has a strict definition provided by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). No product may legally claim to be a disinfectant unless it has demonstrated its ability to kill viruses. Or, to be very direct, the creators of a sanitizer capable of killing some viruses — including COVID-19 — can’t claim their product is a disinfectant unless approved by EPA representatives.

At the highest level of the bacteria-obliteration spectrum is sterilization, which is a standard required by most medical institutions. In order to have been sterilized, an object must have been subjected to a heat or chemical treatment method that kills 100 percent of the microorganisms on its surface.

However, when talking about shaker bottles, sterilization is neither required nor practical. So for your purposes, cleaning and sterilizing your bottle will be the highest standard of surface purification that your shaker bottle should be subjected to.

So, How Should I Clean My Shaker Bottle?

Now that you know your goal is to disinfect and not merely clean your shaker cup, here are a few tips on actually getting it done.

Get the Right Soap or Use a Dishwasher

The most efficient way to remove odor-causing bacteria and mold from your shaker bottle is to get hands-on and treat it with an antibacterial dishwashing liquid like Palmolive Antibacterial Ultra Dish Liquid, which has been legally approved to advertise that it’s estimated to eliminate 99.9 percent of bacteria from dishes in 30 seconds. 

If you’re the type of person who prefers to use a standard dishwashing appliance, please remember that dishwashing detergents aren’t typically antibacterial. Instead, they have been specifically designed to simply clean dishes by breaking down grime without the use of bubbles.

There is a trade-off, though: Most commercial dishwashing units have an advantage since they will heat their operable water to around 140°F, which exceeds the 120°F water temperature of most faucets. This is just barely enough to add some additional heat-induced discomfort to some bacteria. 

Getting water to 160°F will do an even better job, and hitting the boiling point at 212°F should put you in the clear (though some pesky spores might even survive that!)

But What if You Really Want To Kill All of the Germs?

If you really want to eliminate all doubt about any lingering organisms, the tried-and-true method for decontaminating dishes and other food containers involves a mixture of water and bleach. In the case of your 32-ounce shaker bottle, Clorox proposes that you fill the container with water and half a teaspoon of bleach

However, with diluted bleach, the killing of bacteria and viruses is far from instant; the advised soak time for your water bottle is two minutes before you allow it to air dry, with no rinsing required after the treatment.

And Remember the Lid, Too

Before you go to extremes, you should also consider the lid of your shaker bottle you might have overlooked before. If you’ve successfully washed or even disinfected the base of the bottle but somehow neglected to renew the entire lid surface with the same thoroughness, the odor-causing bacteria will begin to spread throughout the bottle once again the instant you snap it closed.

A protein shaker
Credit: Tenzen / Shutterstock

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Fortunately, nothing prevents you from applying the same treatments to the lid of your shaker bottle that you applied to the rest of it. Whether you’re hand washing your shaker bottle in the sink, blasting it with detergent in the dishwasher, or thoroughly disinfecting it with bleach and water, there is no reason why the lid can’t be purified right alongside it.

How Often Should You Clean Your Shaker Bottle? 

You should treat your protein shaker bottle exactly like any other dish you might consume food from. So ask yourself this question: How many days in a row would you be willing to scoop melted nacho cheese out of the same bowl without washing it? If you’re of sound mind, the answer will always be less than two, and you should view your shaker bottle through the same lens. 

No, your bottle doesn’t need to be dunked in bleach and water every day, but it should be thoroughly cleaned with some sort of illness-inhibiting solution after each use.

If All Else Fails, Prepare to Say Goodbye

If you’ve washed and washed but your bottle still smells (and looks) a little off, you may have to come to grips with the fact that it may simply be time to put your shaker bottle out to pasture and purchase a new one.

Cleaning experts and bottle manufacturers advise that you replace your refillable plastic water bottle after a single year of consistent use, and a shaker bottle is no different. (Though feel free to replace it more often if you notice increased wear or odors that won’t go away.)

Some surfaces simply don’t maintain their hygienic integrity for very long, even if you apply every suggested means of preservation. As much of a cliche as the expression is, it remains true that nothing lasts forever, and that includes your beloved shaker. 

The least you can do is aspire to treat your shaker bottle to a life of respect and freedom from germs as it dutifully devotes itself to your service. At least that way, it will remain loyal to you from beginning to end, contributing never to your sickness, and always to your health.

Featured Image: FabrikaPhoto via Envato Elements (background, left), qoppi via Shutterstock (background, right), Hedzun Vasyl (protein shaker cup)