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Many small animals can drink from a bowl but their people provide them with bottles that have nipples to drink out of. Like any container that has water sitting in it for a long time, stuff can grow in them.

What is a safe an effective way to get both the water bottle and the nipple clean?

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As Rebecca mentions in her answer cleaning quality product like glass water bottles and stainless steel nipples is much easier, than it is for plastic.

There are several options.

  1. First and most important if you must use nipples for watering, buy quality stainless steel nipples with quality valves (often this is a stainless steel ball bearing)

  2. Use a bottle brush to scrub the inside of the bottle. Sometimes you can find small ones that will fit inside the nipple, but the valve is often difficult to clean.

  3. Many farm supply stores sell water bottle nipples that attach to soda bottles. Because of the soda bottles rounded shape they are often easier to clean with a bottle brush than bottles with corners. Also if they get soiled or damaged they are easy to replace.

  4. Use water and salt. Salt is an inexpensive, non-toxic cleaning solution. When you add salt to water, only so much can dissolve, at around 25% no mater how much you shake there are still participles of salt (like sand) that settle to the bottom. High concentrations of salt kill most things that live/grow in fresh water. The additional salt works as an abrasive to scour the inside of the water bottle and nipple. Shake the bottle with the water and salt in it (put your thumb over the nipple end while shaking) if very dirty you may need to repeat with fresh solution, rinse well and everything is good.

  5. For cleaning just stainless steel nipples with the ball bearing valve, mix the water and salt solution in an bowl, submerge the nipple in the solution and capture some inside (maybe 1/3 full) cover both ends with your fingers and shake. The inside of the tube and the valve will be scrubbed clean. Rinse well.

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Boiling is your best bet but plastic is always hard to clean properly.

You can purchase glass bottles with stainless steel nipples, those you can wash in the dish washer or boil them as well. Glass is easier to keep clean.

Water should be changed daily and bottles fully cleaned at minimum once a week.

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for my rabbits, I use a strong solution of Milton to rest in the nipple for 5-10 minutes. Then I wash with dish water and then rinse all this out really well leave to dry then rinse again just to be on the safe side. this helped with getting rid of the green stuff that always grows inside the bottles and I've never had a problem with them. I do this once every 1 to 2 months depending on the temperature.

note: I have recently been putting water bottle covers on which have helped reduce the green growth that has been happening a lot recently.

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