Update Dec. 19, 5:55pm CT: Owala responded to our request for comment with a message from Jim Colby, VP Product Development of Trove Brands: “One of the standout features of Owala bottles and tumblers is that they are designed to be easy to clean. The spout gasket, straw, and other parts are easily removable for thorough cleaning. Customers are welcome to reach out to our customer service team with any questions or concerns at email@example.com.”
Drinking water is essential for your health, but if your reusable bottle isn’t cleaned properly, hydration may cause more harm than good.
College student Kae (@kaebrie) took to TikTok to share her horror story about what happens when you don’t clean your reusable bottle properly. The video has been viewed 2.4 million times as of publication.
Kae began her video with a warning: “Hey, this is a PSA to anyone who owns an Owala. … I got sick in August. … I had a cold that—minor, you know? Lasted a week and then didn’t go away. Went to urgent care: bronchitis.”
She said she was given an inhaler and some pills, but the pills made her break out in hives. She stopped taking them, and the bronchitis got better after three weeks—then she was immediately hit with a sinus infection.
Kae went to urgent care again and got antibiotics, which, fortunately, worked well and didn’t cause an adverse reaction. Unfortunately, Kae continued to be plagued by illness throughout the semester.
“I had maybe a week and a half where I was, like, healthy, and felt great, and didn’t have any illness,” Kae shared. “And then I get sick again.”
Finally, she contracted a terrible sore throat that set her on a path of discovery that should horrify any viewer.
“While I’m on antibiotics for the sore throat, I decide, ‘Hey, I’m going to clean my water bottle.’ This is where it goes downhill. I’m cleaning it, doing all the normal things.”
As an aside, she explained how she knew she wasn’t cleaning her water bottle regularly enough. “First of all, I know I don’t clean it as much as I should. No one does. I know it’s full of bacteria,” she said.
To ensure she was cleaning the bottle thoroughly, she Googled some tips.
“Everyone’s like, ‘remove it,'” Kae said, pointing to a rubber attachment in the lid before popping it out of the bottle. “Covered in mold. Covered in mold,” she said. “It even embedded itself into the silicone. Of course, I immediately order replacements on Amazon. So, I didn’t know it came out, so I’m horrified, of course. Once I cleaned it, got better. Haven’t been sick since.”
“I had mold poisoning from my water bottle,” she revealed. “So this is a PSA to anyone who owns one of these things.”
Commenters were equally shocked by her discovery.
“‘DoN’t YoU rEaD tHe iNstRuCtiOns’ no?? I just toss it in the dishwasher but apparently that is not enough, thank you for this video!!!” one exclaimed.
“Oh no, I’m scared to check,” a second added.
@kaebrie psa to fellow owala girlies to TAKE OUT THE SILICONE PIECE 😋 #owala #owalawaterbottle #fyp #foryou #college @Owala ♬ original sound – kae
“Please don’t tell me the reason i’m getting sick rn is because of my Owala,” a third said.
Some shared their own stories of discovering mold in the worst places possible.
“I once got a fountain soda from a local gas station and was eating the ice & chewed into something soft and it was a giant pouch of mold. never again,” a viewer wrote.
“I was sick for 10 months bc my curtains that are over my head where I sleep had mold on the inside,” another revealed.
Others gave cleaning tips.
“Don’t forget silicone seal on lid underneath the round oeixe that seals it to the main piece – it also gets moldy in the ridges it can come out too,” a viewer wrote.
“Soak the entire lid in white vinegar for at least an hour once a month and let it dry overnight to k!ll mold,” a second advised.
Even Owala chimed in to give cleaning tips: “Oh no, we’re so sorry to hear this! We have cleaning videos on our site, but we will share them more widely to bring awareness on it.”
It’s easy to forget that water bottles have removable pieces. When cleaning, the owner should always disassemble the lid by removing any rubber gaskets, straws, or other attachable pieces. Rinse all pieces to loosen dirt and debris, and use warm, soapy water to soak and scrub. Once they are thoroughly cleaned, be sure to leave the disassembled pieces out to air dry.
Another tip is to check the company website. On its Frequently Asked Questions page, Owala has a product care section. It includes answers to questions like, “How often do I need to wash my Owala bottle?” and “How do I clean the different parts of my Owala bottle?” that break down how to care for your favorite receptacle properly.
Unfortunately, mold issues aren’t confined to only one type of water bottle, and people often forget to check areas for mold. For example, one woman discovered mold in her Stanley cup after suffering a clogged throat and a cough for weeks.
The Daily Dot reached out to Kai via Instagram direct message and Owala via email for further comment.