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Bottoms Up! A Guide to Keeping Your Water Dispenser in tip-top shape

The Question:

"I'm a little worried about the water in the water dispenser as it has an awful smell. We are having someone come to look at it from the water dispenser company but is this something that could be alarming? We have had a lot of people sick at the same time, so could it be related?"

The Answer (a long-winded one):

Water dispensers are used to provide easy access to drinking water.

  • Some water dispensers provide clean, filtered water from a replaceable bottle.

  • Other water dispensers provide water straight from the mains supply.

Some include a refrigerator mechanism that cools your drinking water supply to a cold or ice-cold temperature before delivery.

To improve the taste, water often passes through a cartridge filter. The filter removes unwanted impurities from water such as sediment, taste and odour, hardness and bacteria to produce better quality water.

Those filters get blocked and saturated and should be replaced every six months or as often as recommended by the manufacturer. Old filters will not work efficiently and may even contribute to bacterial growth.

Water dispensers are not an "Install and leave" type of equipment.

All water dispensers require regular maintenance.

Every unit, whether owned or leased, should come with instructions for cleaning and maintenance.

Ask the provider/manufacturer/distributor about the cleaning regime and products you should be using. If your unit is leased it will most likely come with maintenance scheme.

To minimise the transmission of harmful organisms, ensure that you start with the correct base:

Design and installation (HTM-04-01):

  1. Water dispensers should be located in areas where good hygiene and ventilation can be ensured. It should not be located in areas where there is a high chance of contamination (e.g. inside toilets; near rubbish bins; near exhaust hood of air-conditioner; places easily accessible by birds or other animals).

  2. The water supply to this equipment should be taken from a wholesome supply via a double-check valve to prevent backflow. They should be fitted upstream of a regularly used outlet with the minimum of intervening pipe-run, that is, less than 3m.

  3. The supply should NOT be softened.

  4. Additionally, it should be established that the usage is sufficient to avoid deterioration in water quality, for example, that the inlet water temperature does not exceed 20°C.

  5. The cold water supply pipework should be copper and fitted with a local isolation valve and drain valve;

Once installed the units require some attention:


  • Wipe the nozzle with a suitable disinfecting wipe (approved for the food industry) daily

  • Daily in the morning flush the water to avoid stagnation

  • Weekly or more often if needed - clean the tray and the surfaces of the dispenser

  • Regularly replace the filter (usually six monthly or as recommended by the manufacturer)

  • Regularly service the unit - as recommended by the manufacturer (this could include disinfection, de-scaling, maintenance or replacement of UV lamps- if fitted)

Note: Wipes should be specifically used for this equipment and nothing else like a sink or a toilet (yes, you heard it, a toilet – we have witnessed this in the past!).

And to avoid the spread of viruses not forget about the:

The use and the user:

Depending on who the user is and where the unit is located, consider whether reusable or single-use cups are best to avoid contamination. If a sick person used the unit to fill their dirty bottle/glass, it is possible that the bacteria/virus got transmitted onto the nozzle, and to another person, and another, and another....

And obviously (not just because we are writing this) water dispensers should be covered by the Legionella Risk Assessment and included in the Written Scheme of Control for Legionella and Water Hygiene.

The Answer (the short one)

Yes – the sickness of your team members could be related to the water dispenser


Sylwia Leszkiewicz

Director & Consultant


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