Start by pouring about a gallon of drinkable water into a large bucket. From here, it’s up to you whether you want to use the bleach or vinegar option. Bleach is powerful, but vinegar gets the job done and consumption isn’t toxic to humans.
If you go the bleach route, mix about a tablespoon of bleach for each gallon of water in your bucket. Unscented bleach is the more desirable option for this job, as your cooler won’t smell after you’re done cleaning. For safety, we recommend using disposable gloves and to mix the solution in an area without spill risk (like a sink).
When creating the vinegar solution, mix one part undiluted vinegar for every 3 parts of water. For a gallon of water, this means adding just over 5 cups of vinegar. You can also add a tablespoon or so of lemon juice to offset the strong smell of vinegar if you wish.
Once you’ve made your desired solution, it’s time to get started on cleaning your dispenser. Start by unplugging the unit from the power source. Then remove the empty bottle from the dispenser, if one is there. Trust us when we say that your life will be a whole lot easier if you don’t try to clean your dispenser when the water bottle is full.
You can also use the cold water tap (also called a spigot) on the dispenser to drain out any potable water still left in the system, which can be drunk or otherwise used.
If your water dispenser has a water guard (which punctures the lid of new water bottles), remove it. Not all coolers have water guards, so don’t be alarmed if you can’t find one.
Similarly, remove the baffle, which is the component that covers the reservoir inside the dispenser. Clean these parts using warm water, a cloth or sponge, and mild dish soap, as you would when cleaning dishes by hand. You may also use your cleaning solution on these parts, provided you rinse them well afterward.