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Klean Kanteen Water Bottles and Bacteria

I like to give my travel gear a good test run before yaying or naying in on the travelogue. Prior to traveling through the Balkans, Turkey, and the Middle East I acquired a couple of Klean Kanteen stainless steel water bottles. I was excited about them — even though their $20 a piece price tag [...]

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I like to give my travel gear a good test run before yaying or naying in on the travelogue. Prior to traveling through the Balkans, Turkey, and the Middle East I acquired a couple of Klean Kanteen stainless steel water bottles. I was excited about them — even though their $20 a piece price tag was a little steep — and I wrote an introductory review of them at, Stainless Steel Water Bottles for Travel.

Klean Kanteen water bottle

I have now tested out these Klean Kanteen water bottles during the past four months of travel, and found that their only major flaw is the fact that the lips on the bottles are very poorly designed. I noticed this design flaw immediately and wrote the following:

“The lip at the drinking end of the bottle folds outward, leaving a hard to clean depression where bacteria can build up and then go into your mouth.” –Stainless Steel Water Bottles for Travel

Prediction that the depression under the lip of a Klean Kanteen water bottle would act as a sink for bacteria.

This prediction has now come to fruition, I recently looked into the under the lip depression of one my bottles and found a weird world of bacterial flora and cached crumbs of food growing wild all over the place.

I then noted to myself that whenever I took a drink from this bottle, I was also smooching this bacterial mess as well.

Photos of bacteria growing under the lip of a Klean Kanteen stainless steel water bottle

Weird world of bacterial flora growing under the lip of a Klean Kanteen stainless steel water bottle.

The stainless steel lip of a Klean Kanteen water bottle is simply folded over and not welded flush to the neck of the bottle, which creates a hiding spot for bacteria to grow in.

I must state here that if these Klean Kanteen water bottles are intended for outdoor or traveling use — which I am assuming they are — then they were subjected to ordinary pressures. I did not attempt to grow this bacteria by not washing the bottles — to the contrary, I washed them regularly. But, as is evident, to be cleaned properly, the underside of the lips on these bottles would need to be scrubbed out with a bristled brush. I know of few travelers or long distance hikers who are going to consider packing out such an implement.

From my novice analysis, it seems as if it would be simple to remove this design flaw from these bottles. The manufacturer would only need to weld the upper lip of the bottle flush with the neck. It seems like a simple procedure to ensure that their product is not exposing its users to weird strands of bacteria through a design flaw that serves the function of a petri dish.

I cannot report that Klean Kanteen stainless steel water bottles live up to their name.

Filed under Travel Gear

Vagabond Journey on water bottles for travel
Stainless Steel Water Bottles for Travel
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Klean Kanteen Bottles are Petri Dishes for Bacteria

Filed under: Maine, North America, USA

About the Author:

I am the founder and editor of Vagabond Journey. I’ve been traveling the world since 1999, through 91 countries. I am the author of the book, Ghost Cities of China and have written for The Guardian, Forbes, Bloomberg, The Diplomat, the South China Morning Post, and other publications. has written 3703 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.

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16 comments… add one

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  • Byron J. Gaudette July 6, 2009, 1:13 am

    Hey Wade, have you told the Kleen Kanteen company about this design flaw? They would probably like to know about it, that way they can improve the bottle's design in the future.

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  • Wade Vagabond Journey.com July 6, 2009, 11:19 pm

    Yeah, man,

    I should send these links over to the Klean Kanteen people. Maybe they will send me a couple free ones to field test.



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  • Anonymous July 19, 2009, 11:21 pm

    This problem was also brought up on another blog. The person found that filling the gap with melted candle wax helped.

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  • Wade Vagabond Journey.com July 21, 2009, 9:16 am

    It is just silly to do these half measures when the company could just weld the lip together and make it sanitary from the start.

    Thanks for the tip, though, I appreciate it.

    Walk Slow,


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  • SAH July 29, 2009, 1:50 pm

    Just a note…
    I would avoid using JB Weld to fix the gapped lip issue. Epoxys are generally made with bisphenol A (BPA). Check this out for more information on BPA: http://www.ewg.org/chemindex/chemicals/bisphenolA.

    Also, Klean Kanteen recently issued a wide-mouth, stainless steel reusable water bottle that may not have the gapped lip issue at all. Take a look: http://www.kleankanteen.com/products/wide/klean-kanteen-wide.html.

    Thanks for the review! I appreciate your insight.
    – Steph

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  • Harley Orion December 9, 2009, 5:59 am

    Hi Wade,

    Great article. Bacteria in reusable bottles in general has always sort of bothered me. I shared your post on a Facebook page for a client of mine that has a reusable bottle with a biodegradable, BPA-free lining to try and prevent this kind of problem. Not as much of a backpacking product as a running / cycling product, but hopefully it will help keep some plastic bottles out of the landfills and also be healthier for people than other reusables. If you get a chance you can check out our product at http://www.smashsportsproducts.com.

    Best of luck in your travels!

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  • MIke Loves Water May 31, 2010, 9:45 am

    Hey ! Thanks for the article- I love my Klean Kanteen bottles, switched to one of those new Sport Tops they make just after the recall, if you havent tried one with your klean kanteen, do try one soon! THe sport top keeps our mouths off the side where that weld / fold issue is to reduce the bacteria possibilities—-they even make a cool sound these new sport tops!

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    • Wade | Vagabond Journey.com May 31, 2010, 7:11 pm

      Hello Mike,

      Thanks for commenting about the sports tops on the Klean Kanteen bottles. These probably work great for most daytime activities and day trips, but for travel I must always strongly not recommend sports tops for the simple reason that they can easily pop open in a backpack and soak everything within.

      Though a sports top would remove the bacteria problem, and would be great for most activities.

      Thanks for sharing.

      Walk Slow,


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  • Cathy November 22, 2010, 5:21 am

    Hiya Wade,

    thanks so much for the great share. I was just about to order a couple of Kleen Kanteen flasks…..with the stainless steel lids – no plastic contamination whatsoever being my only concern…..bacterial contamination never entering my head! The whole idea of stainless steel products is that they’re so easy to clean.

    That gape in the Kanteen lid is the most ludicrous design flaw – what were(‘nt) they thinking! There must have been people who got sick from that. I nearly got sick looking at your photo showing the build up of multiple ‘stuff’!…..lol.

    I’d love to travel like you – but I just wouldn’t have the courage.
    (My son is in Africa this past year, his blog is: (http://cookyinafrica.wordpress.com/) – if you want a bit of a laugh!
    He taught himself Spanish from scratch, and made friends online to meet up with in Columbia. Eh…for when he was to get there. But he fell in love with Africa so never got to South America.

    Wish I could donate to your blog but I’m living on a tight budget. 🙁

    Take care and best wishes,

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    • Wade | Vagabond Journey.com November 22, 2010, 1:10 pm

      It is good to hear the Klean Kanteen is coming up with other designs to prevent the collection of bacteria. Thanks for this update.

      Travel only takes a few steps in the most wayward direction, the courage comes later.

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  • Emily March 6, 2011, 3:09 pm

    Thanks for the article! Klean Kanteen is awesome. I use mine every day. The new sport top is really handy, perfect for jogs or walks with my dogs :). I love Klean Kanteen’s products and I know that I can trust them to not contain BPA or other harmful chemicals.

    Thanks again for the great blog!

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    • Wade | Vagabond Journey.com March 6, 2011, 3:53 pm

      Thanks for this comment. In reference to sport tops, while they could be great for walks or domestic life, they are horrible for travel as they have the tendency to open in backpacks — which create a big lose if a camera or computer is in the bag.

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  • Anonymous August 25, 2011, 2:09 am

    Klean Kanteen bottles are made of stainless steel which can withstand heat better than plastic bottles. How about sterilizing the bottle mouth using a candle or lighter flame? Or alternatively boiling the bottle in water using big enough kettle to which the bottle fits, that should kill the bacteria too.

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    • Wade Shepard August 25, 2011, 11:56 am

      Thanks for the suggestion, but I think it would be better for Klean Kanteen to just smoothly solder the lips of their bottles onto the necks like other companies do.

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  • Gennaro January 27, 2014, 4:48 pm

    This was the first thing I noticed when I took it out of the shipping box. The lid is all wrong. When you open it without thinking, you end up touching the lip- Try it. The lip needs to be welded smooth to get rid of the micro-organism growth chamber. The cap needs to cover the lid so when you drop it in a muddy duck blind you don’t have to kiss the sludge on the outside. The wide mouth version solves these two problems, but you can’t drink in a moving vehicle- come to think of it… you can’t drink while moving with this one either. $20 fail.

    On the plus side- it is metal and it fits in a cup holder.

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    • Wade Shepard January 27, 2014, 7:12 pm

      Agree completely with these criticisms. Though I guess another plus side is that it’s metal and can be used as a club if needed.

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