Bottled water might taste like plastic after being in the hot sun.

Bottled Water Tastes Like Plastic When Kept In A Hot Car

How many of you have kept plastic water bottles in your car during the summer? If you do that, you might notice that after awhile that bottled water tastes like plastic.

What does the water taste like after sitting in the heat of a warm or hot vehicle (even after it has cooled down)? Answer: Plastic.

Even though today’s plastic water bottles are BPA free, the fact that you can taste plastic after it has warmed up is probably not a good thing!

When these plastic water bottles heat up, something happens which apparently causes molecular leaching into the water to some extent.

Note: I’ve never noticed the taste of plastic in water bottles that have NOT been heated up.

So what can we do about it? It’s certainly a good idea to keep some water in your vehicle. But how do we overcome the potential issue of a hot environment causing molecular leaching into the water?

  • Use an ordinary ‘cooler’ for your water bottles (even without ice) to help normalize temperature fluctuations.
  • Used glass water bottles instead.
  • Stainless steel works too.

I’ve used all three techniques with success.

Plastic Water Bottles In A Cooler

Coleman 9 Quart Cooler
(via amzn)

According to Coleman’s website:
Exterior Dimensions: 12.5 in. x 9.88 in. x 11 in.
Interior Dimensions: 8.75 in. x 5.63 in. x 8.38 in.

Reviewers say..

  • I carry this around in my truck with 6-7 waters or 3 large Gatorades and a couple of waters.
  • i purchased this small cooler to keep cold beverages in the car. thank you Coleman for a good design and made in the USA! well done.
  • It took a while to find this perfectly sized cooler. It can fit a 16.9 fl oz bottle standing up, and there’s room for six plus ice.

It’s so convenient to simply buy a case of plastic bottled water and keep some of them in your car. Here’s what I do:

I have a convenient size cooler similar to that shown above. It fits perfectly on the floor in the back seat (in the middle). I believe it holds about 10 typical size water bottles.

I can simply reach back, flip the lid (which faces forward) and grab a bottled water.

The fact that it’s setting on the floor helps keep some of the direct sun off too. The white cover also helps reflect the heat of the sun.

Surprisingly, the water bottles stay relatively cool in there. Cool enough that I don’t get the plastic taste when I drink the water.

Note: Your results may vary a bit depending on your own weather / temperatures, where you park (direct sunlight or shade), and how long it sits in the sun.

Tip: A hard cooler is advised for in the vehicle because they typically have much better insulating value than soft coolers.

Tip: If you take out a water bottle and drink some of it, you will likely place it in your cup holder. Be aware that if you forget about it and leave it there in the sun (I occasionally do this!), next time it will taste like plastic. Better to put it back in the cooler.

Glass Water Bottles

My favorite material for any type of cup used for drinking is glass. Why? Because there is ZERO taste effect. Glass will not leach into the water or whatever you’re drinking.

I bought a few glass water bottles that fit in the cup holders. The thought being that I could get in the habit of filling them inside the house and could just keep them in the cup holder for convenience. It works.

However it does require remembering to always fill it back up.
That didn’t always work for me.

That said, glass is glass and the water will only taste like water!

Glass Water Bottles

Stainless Steel Water Bottle

Similarly stainless steel is ‘safer’ than plastic in this regard. But you will have to remember to keep your water bottle filled. This is why I like the cooler method listed above.

Stainless Steel Water Bottles

Note: I’m not suggesting that you’re going to keel over if drinking water from water bottles with a plastic taste. However I am suggesting that if you can taste plastic, that means that you’re ingesting “it”, whatever it is… Food for thought.

Just keep them from overheating and you’re fine.
Use a cooler.


  1. Yes, I can “taste” the plastic, on pretty much anything/any drink in plastic.—However due to convenience or laziness, I do still use same…..—-Plastic water bottles are much easier to store/transport/freeze ….

    1. The message that I was hoping to get across was that ‘something’ happens when the plastic heats up.

      In typical bottled water I don’t detect any plastic taste whatsoever — unless it has been heated up, as in the hot sun inside a vehicle. Then it most definitely has a taste of plastic! Very much so.

      1. Ken,
        yes, agree, much worse if it has been heated…

        —Now think of this (and yes I use purchased canned foods)….all purchased canned foods have been heated. All are lined. None of this is good for folks. Yes, I know they say that can liners are now non BPA/non this and that…But, have read many research articles which state actual tests find measureable levels of these “new”/”safe” plastics, and suggesting this is not good either. Same with all new plastics for bottles/baby soothers/etc etc..

  2. Not saying the Army gave a darn about long term effects of drinking water from the issue plastic canteens, but they ain’t nothing compares to the flavor/odor transferred in them. The older aluminum ones did cause a metallic taste, but not near that of the plastic. Our sense of smell accounts for a good portion of what we perceive as taste.

    1. I was going to say the same thing…my plastic GI canteens do it as well. Doesn’t need to be hot either.

  3. Not too long ago I received extra Kombucha bottles. The first thing I did after I cleaned and sanitized the bottles was to fill several and put them in the car. I also prefer drinking from glass. I taste plastic even when it hasn’t been heated, but yes much worse once its been heated. My only concern is how well these will hold up it the winter. I’m hoping that since they were made to hold fluids under pressure they won’t break should they freeze. We also utilize a cooler but occasionally one gets left in the cup holder.

    1. Peanut Gallery;
      I would not bet on those Kombucha Bottles (aka Swing Tops) NOT freezing.
      I have a refrigerator go bonkers once or the settings got moved,, anyways the Refer froze, and all the Swing-Tops froze right along with everything else.

        1. Ahhhh yes, like a frozen bottle, most just broke off the bottom though.

        2. Peanut Gallery
          If you leave space between the level of fluids and the top of the container, so it can expand you will find you bottles will not break at the bottom.
          Think along the lines of a canning jar…1 or 1 1/2 inches for expansion, I would use the great distance JIC.

      1. It doesn’t matter what the container is, if the air temp is 32 or below, it will freeze, eventually…

    2. Peanut Gallery,

      Regarding winter freeze, just keep at least 10% air space (a bit more to be safe) to account for freeze expansion of water.

      1. Maybe I’ll start that now before winter, just to be in the habit.

  4. I use the ice chest method as a habit from living in a hot climate for many years. The city I work in is now under drinking water alert because the water source has a toxic algae bloom so the entire town is using bottled water and it is being shipped in from all over.

    We were not affected by the water problem at home since we always keep some on hand within our storage area. ( another behavioral adaptation from living in a hot dry zone.) It was kind of funny to watch the alerts get posted/the resulting panic ensue/the run on bottled water at the stores/ the inevitable price gouging by small store merchants. ($47 for a flat of 24 pint bottles of water.)

    The water alert was posted in early evening Tuesday. I stopped by my local Safeway outlet and walked past the empty water aisle and checked out with a 12 pack of beer – problem solved/got hydration covered.

    1. Calirefugee;
      Tis it not amazing the instant panic when something goes haywire?
      I mean how hard is it rotate a couple of cases of Water out once a month?

      Anyways, YES!!!!! Hot water bottles taste like CRAPO warmed in a microwave over.
      Nasty and I do mean NASTY, and who the heck wants to drink Hot Water anyways, what’s even as bad, even when the water gets cooled back down it’s still Nasty.

      A cheap cooler is just that, cheap, and it does not take a lot more room that the water itself.

      Now if ya really want to get fancy, install one of those 12volt Refrigerators in the back seat like Ken has
      Koolatron P-20 Thermo – Electric 12-Volt 18 Quart Compact Cooler/Warmer

      1. NRP
        That is great idea BUT remember you need to fire up the truck to recharge the battery every so often.

        Do not do what we did, yes had one and next day after forgetting to unplug it…dead battery. :-(

        1. Yes, they do draw some power. Fine while engine is running, but if you leave it on overnight, maybe not so fine…

        2. Ken, NRP, AC,

          Yepsi-doodle. I have one of the 12v drink coolers (not the one Ken has, but similar). Several years ago when I returned to Texas to bury my Mother, I spent the night in a hotel and left the cooler plugged in overnight. I was driving my Chevy DuraMax with the twin super duty batteries. It’s very embarrassing to get boosted off by a hotel manager’s 4-banger Toyota. I haven’t quite recovered from the trauma.

      2. Um, no, I just have one of those old fashioned hard coolers…
        Although it does look pretty ‘cool’ ;)

    2. Calirefugee, sadly that area (I’m an hour away) has water problems fairly often. Always keep water on hand and have a water purifier.

  5. Postscript: The inhabitants in the large city under drinking water alert have not yet begun to complain about the taste of plastic in the water (yet) butt – this is Oregon and some body will probably blame the bottled water for their cancer a year from now.

  6. I just looked at the list of chemicals used in the process of making water bottles. None of these chemicals are safe by themselves. Who in their right mind would think that once you put them all together into a plastic that that would render them safe.

  7. The more I get away from plastics the more plastic I can taste when I do eat/drink something that was in plastic. Don’t believe the government when they tell you these are safe. If you can taste it, you are ingesting it.

  8. Ken is there not a Stainless Steel drinking water holder? I would be real surprised if Amazon did not have something for the anti-plastic crowd?

    1. Holder? I have two Stainless Steel water bottles that fit nicely in any existing standard size car ‘cup holder’. There are a zillion of them on AMZN. I provided a link in the article…

  9. A recent study showed almost all brands have tiny bits of plastic floating in them….some microscopic. Therefore, I’m a glass water bottle girl. In the Deep South it’s best to not to depend on plastic anything in the summer!

  10. Good and timely article Ken…
    DH and I were thinking of getting one of those little coolers each for our vehicles…
    thanks for the reminder :)

    1. Cool! Happy that it reminded you.

      My cooler is loaded up with bottled water for the summer. In fact I drank several of them this morning while doing our weekly volunteer work for the church (mowing the grounds during the summer). It was muggy today!

    2. – Ken –
      Being as how it’s dry where I am, what I do is take one of those 2 Liter canteens, full of R/O water (Hey, might as well start out clean) hang it from the strap in a nice shady tree and soak the case with the garden hose. Every time I dump the grass catcher, I get a nice, cool drink of water, too. Evaporative cooling works great when your relative humidity is around 20% or less.

      – Papa S.

  11. There are no excuses. If your water or food is in contact with plastic and you are the consumer then what happens to you is your own fault. Even consider that glucose and saline (water) is contained/administered within plastic, except it goes directly into your blood stream. Glass once was the medical container of choice. How much plastic have you consumed using plastic cutlery? PVC pipe is often used to carry water to your home. What humans use just to save big corporations money in their production costs is amazining. Ok, rant over.

  12. Did any one else save a Grolsch beer bottle from years back ? These were glass beer bottles with ceramic stopper attached with wire harness to bottle. Never lost or wondered where the cap was. I saved a pair of green bottles from a college trip I had very fond memories of. I’m guessing a commercial version of these still exists ?

    I live in deep south armpit of hot and humid (south Texas) – water doesn’t often taste like plastic because it is drank very quickly, A Little Oscar with water bottles and a Stripes cup are part of the load. Pour water – put in ice – and drive on. Summer afternoon ritual.

    1. Wow, Grolsch Beer! That brings back memories – yes I do remember (some of it).

      1. I had to check.
        Sitting on top of the kitchen cupboards. Oberdorfer Weiss.
        Ceramic stopper w/the wire holder
        I think I pulled a muscle climbing on the kitchen counters. Lol
        Just kidding

  13. I use Nalgene bottles and a few stainless steel bottles. I drink a lot of water and they are refilled every day so I don’t notice any plastic taste. But then I top them off with ice and water every norning.

    I don’t store water in the van as it’s easy to find water all over the place here and I have 2 water filters in the van.

    I also use 2 thermos bottles full of ice water, they will keep ice water for 2-days.

  14. Here in Canada, the Nestle bottle specifically state in very small print not to leave the plastic water bottles in direct sunlight, or freeze. I once had a case in the rear of my soft-top, and after a summer and winter they were nearly white with particulate…

  15. – Yes, on the Grolsch beer bottles, I think there are still half-a-dozen stashed away somewhere.

    I keep about a full flat and up to a half more of 20 oz water battles in a hard Igloo cooler in the passenger side of the floor of the back seat. I can’t park in the shade when I’m at work, but the things seem to stay cool. I can’t complain about a plastic taste from them anyway.

    – Papa S.

  16. Some good news that Iv`e read is that Big Berkey removes up to 99.9% of BPA.

  17. I keep 2 gallon jugs of water in my cooler both of my trucks along with a couple of Nalgene bottles and the single serving packets of Gatorade Zero.

    I’ve found these packets are easy to carry in a back pack or a couple in my pocket and just pour them in a bottle of water when you need one. They come in several different flavors like orange, cherry etc., are super convenient and keeps a lot of “one use” plastic bottles out of the landfill.

  18. wrong again . not all plastic bottles are bpa free . make sure they are pete plastic as in le bleu ultra pure water .

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