BUNZL Cleaning & Hygiene Supplies Blog

How Clean Is Your Office Water Cooler?

Many workplaces opt for a water cooler as they provide high-quality, refrigerated drinking water in a fast and convenient way. Water dispensers are a great way to encourage staff to keep hydrated, maximising productivity and workplace satisfaction. Water coolers don’t require much maintenance, and each container can last for weeks at a time.

However, the British Water Cooler Association suggests that they should be sanitised after each water bottle is finished with. Getting into this habit will keep the water dispenser free from mould and bacteria, making sure it’s providing your employees with fresh, healthy water.

Why is it important to maintain good water cooler hygiene?

Bacteria can easily develop inside unmaintained water coolers, and it’s not healthy for humans to drink. Germs can also be found on the handles or taps of the water dispenser as well as external surfaces where dust could settle.

A study into the cleanliness of bottled water coolers found that the HPC, or heterotrophic plate count, was over the acceptable hygienic levels for drinking water in 60% of tested coolers. HP measurement is standard for water quality and assesses the number of heterotrophs in the water. Heterotrophs are microorganisms such as bacteria, yeast, or mould, and their presence in water coolers isn’t great for the health of your employees.

Maintaining good water dispenser hygiene could have longlasting benefits on workplace hygiene – helping to keep sickness absence to a minimum in the office. Ask your office cleaner to clean the water cooler once a week.

Sunlight and humidity

If the water cooler is placed close to a sunny window or radiator, it could create the perfect environment for germs to multiply. Instead, place the water cooler in a cool, prominent place like the staff kitchen, the reception area or next to a notice board. This will encourage staff to use it regularly, whilst keeping the bacteria inside the water tank to a minimum.


Like any stationary piece of furniture, the water cooler will gather dust from the day-to-day workings of the office. Water coolers should be located in a well-ventilated area so that they aren’t subjected to large quantities of dust and airborne particles. Wipe the surfaces of the water cooler frequently to prevent germs from re-settling on the cooler’s surface.


It’s easy for germs to be passed between hands, rims of cups, and the dispenser tap. Unfortunately, not everyone washes their hands regularly, especially in public places, and this can lead to germs growing on their surface.

When refilling your cup or water bottle, be sure to not let the rim touch the tap. Also, each surface, including the tap and handle, should be sanitised with the food-safe disinfectant spray every so often.

How to clean a water cooler

  1. Unplug the water dispenser from the wall and remove the bottle. Unplug any other electronics nearby for safety
  2. Use a food-safe disinfectant spray and cloth, and wipe the rim of the dispenser with the solution
  3. Flush the system with a cleaning solution made from 1 tablespoon of bleach into a gallon of water, opening the taps to allow the solution to pour out
  4. Rinse it out – fill the water cooler and pour it out four times into a bucket, ensuring that no taste of bleach is left behind
  5. Then remove the drip tray and scrub it clean with hot soapy water
  6. Clean the taps with a food-safe disinfectant spray

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