HowTo: Clean Hydration Bladder Hose/Tubing

If you use a hydration pack, sooner or later, your hose is going to get gunked up with disgusting biofilms or other residues. Biofilms tend to be resistant to disinfectants such as bleach and hydrogen peroxide, so how can you clean the junk out of your hose? I didn’t feel like spending the $$ for a Camelbak cleaning kit, so I found a simple and cheap solution. Simply use a pair of shoelaces.

The shoelaces have to be longer than the length of your hydration hose/tubing. Make sure to use round laces, rather than flat laces. The diameter of the laces has to be smaller than the inside diameter of your hose, in order for them to easily pass through. I happened to have a pair of dress shoe laces I got from a $.99 store.

Small diameter paracord will work, as well, but it doesn’t have the nicely finished ends, which are easier to thread. If you use paracord, wrap the end with a bit of tape to simulate the plastic end of a shoelace, and it will pass through your hose more easily.

First, soak your hose until the gunk inside it softens up. Next, get out the excess water by holding the hose on one end, and cracking it like a whip. Tie the shoelaces together with a knot that’s small enough to pass through the hose, but big enough to be a tight fit to scrub the walls of the tube clean:

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In the photo above, the knot has white slime on it, because I’ve already used it to scrub out my hose. I just used a basic overhand knot. Next, thread one end of a shoelace through the tube:

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You may need to remove the attachments from the ends of your hose, in order to get access (especially on the bite valve end). Often, the attachments are very difficult to separate from the hose. Simply dip end of the hose and attachment into hot water to soften up the hose. When the hose is sufficiently softened, you should be able to easily pull off the attachment.

It’s easiest to thread the shoelace through the hose if you clamp the hose between your legs, straighten the hose vertically, and let gravity help you push the shoelace through the top. Finally, just alternately pull ends of the shoelaces to work the knot back and forth through the tube, wiping the junk out of the hose. Wash the gunk off the knot and repeat the process until the hose is clean. Wash the shoelaces, and then soak the hose and shoelaces in some water with a bit of bleach, in order to kill the bacteria and mold.

If you find it hard to get the knot to fit through the hose, try a square knot, which is a bit smaller: http://www.netknots.com/rope_knots/square-knot

You can also get away with using just 1 shoelace. Just tie an overhand knot at one end. However, you will have to re-thread the shoelace through the hose after each pull.

I find that hanging the hose to air dry doesn’t work very well, even if I leave it for a few days. The quickest way to dry it is to first crack it like a whip to expel as much water as possible, and then use forced air to dry out the remaining moisture. I have sleep apnea, so I use my CPAP to blow air through the hose:

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If you have a fish pump, you can attach the air hose to the hydration tube, and use that to blow air through until it’s completely dry.

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