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I've heard that pouring boiling water into a Nalgene-style bottle is either completely fine or definitely going to kill you. Which is it?

Are there any scientific studies demonstrating exactly what happens when you pour boiling water directly into a Nalgene, and how bad this could be for a person?

Let's assume we're talking about a sturdy BPA-free plastic Nalgene-style bottle (not necessarily that brand), available today from outdoor retailers designed for (amongst other things) outdoor sports. You fill it with boiling water (from a stream, snow, faucet), then close the bottle to let it cool. You will drink the water later once it's drinking temperature.

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    Popped the link in solely as I had no idea what it was and going to save other people the effort of Googling it. – Aravona May 16 '18 at 9:39
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Most Nalgene bottles are designed to be able to stand up to boiling water.

Today, many hikers and others recognize the distinctive appearance of Nalgene-branded bottles. Its laboratory pedigree is still suggested by the markings, in hundreds of millilitres, of the volume contained. The materials resist stains and odors absorption, and can be filled with boiling water.

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Screw-in filters, which allow the user to add coffee grounds or tea, pour boiling water over the contents, seal the lid, and brew the beverage.

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Another widely available Nalgene Outdoor product is a 650 ml (22 fl oz) "All-Terrain" or "bike" bottle. The bottle itself is made from low-density polyethylene (LDPE), and its screw top has two moving parts: a drinking nozzle that seals until snapped open by pulling on it, and a hinged Lexan dome, that when closed both snaps the nozzle closed and protects the nozzle against contamination. Unlike traditional Nalgene containers, this item can be damaged and potentially ruined by filling it with very hot water.

Source

It is true that Nalgene bottles used to have BPA, but Nalgene phased out those products in 2008.

On the same date, Nalgene announced it would phase out production of its Outdoor line of polycarbonate containers containing the chemical bisphenol A (BPA).[12] Nalgene subsequently adopted Tritan, a BPA-free copolyester made by Eastman Chemical, as a substitute.

Source

and at the same time it looks like even the non BPA free bottles did not leach significant amounts of BPA.

Hundreds of studies have been conducted since this time and have shown that under normal use conditions (anywhere from freezing to a hot day), BPA does not leach from the polycarbonatein detectable amounts.

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This confirms other studies that show BPA does not leach from polycarbonateplastic in doses that will cause harm, even under the most extreme conditions

Source

  • Just a note: answer is mostly about BPA but there are other similar chemicals which are being researched and exhibit similar effects (arstechnica.com/science/2016/02/… for instance). And Tritan has been found to leach some of those as well under influence of UV light (motherjones.com/environment/2014/06/…). I'm not claiming this establishes any direct link between Nalgene and diseases but it does indicate it might not be as simple as 'no bpa so might be ok for boilng water' – stijn Sep 26 '18 at 9:44
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Nalgene is owned by Fisher Scientific. They do lab bottles, recreational bottles, and lab equipment.

Boiling water is a probable exposure. If bad thing happen the lawyers would be putting out warnings.

Not 100% but a product listed to be dishwasher safe is likely to be safe at boiling temperature.

Accoring to this Nalgene currently uses Eastman Tritan copolyester sans any trace of polycarbonate. According to this data sheet the melting temperature is 500 F. I do not find operating ranges.

See autoclave - 120 F.

No more BPA but with PBA products there is information it will leach at a higher rate at higher temperature. There is some fear other products in plastic are not good for you but have not yet been discovered.

Not sold by Nalgene but you can buy coffee presses for their bottles. one press

Video of boiling water test

  • It appears the "care and use" page (with the autoclave mention) only deal with the scientific labware, not the recreational bottles. Can you clarify what you mean by "see autoclave - 120F"? – Felix May 22 '18 at 11:03
  • @Felix I am not reading Care and Use of Nalgene Labware to mean you cannot do this with recreational products. It refers to Nalgene products in general. – paparazzo May 22 '18 at 11:13
  • The "one press" link is broken. – Martin Thoma Jan 27 at 18:30
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There are two different kinds of Nalgene bottles. The originals were soft, sort of white/translucent, and designed for lab work. You absolutely could pour boiling water into them - and much worse. I certainly did it all the time - just don't screw the lid on tight until the whole thing cools a little, or pressure differential will be hard on the bottle. A site selling them describes these as HDPE. A summary page on that site says they are fine to 120C.

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These days all the cool kids have Nalgene bottles that are clear and rigid. I wouldn't expect you could pour boiling water into those. The Nalgene website says they are made from Tritan.

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  • You can still get the original soft ones. – Charlie Brumbaugh May 16 '18 at 14:10
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    Where do you get wouldn't expect you could pour boiling water into those? youtube.com/watch?v=7nxkxKehxwg You don't answer the question on how bad for a person. – paparazzo May 16 '18 at 16:43
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    my expectation is based on my experience as a chemical engineer, @paparazzo. When a product is designed and sold to be ok with high temperatures, and not to leach "chemicals" into liquids that are put in it, it generally says so. When a plastic thing doesn't say either of those and is visibly designed for cooler liquids (eg no handle as a mug might have) then I don't expect it's ok to put hot liquids in it. – Kate Gregory May 16 '18 at 16:52
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    My experience is if it should not be used at high temperature they will issue a warning to protect from litigation. Boiling water is a definite possibility. If it happens to leach bad stuff at 212 F I am not going to use it at any temperature. I also have a BS in chemical engineering. You do not address safety in the question. – paparazzo May 16 '18 at 17:00
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Just to be clear, the 'newer' style clear nalgene bottles are perfectly fine with boiled water from a practical use point of view. I cannot comment on chemical leaching but I regularly put boiling water in mine. On a cold night I will boil a litre before bed, fill my bottle, screw the lid on tight and put it into my spare socks. As a hot water bottle this is superb and is often still warm in the morning. I don't even have to get out of my sleeping bag to get mater to make my morning coffee in the tent porch.

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    Hey Roger, welcome to The Great Outdoors and thanks for adding your experience! It doesn' answer the the safety aspect, but still it's good to know that it works in practice. Make sure to check out our tour if you don't already know how things work on our site. – Paul Paulsen Feb 17 at 10:21
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Nalgene (probably a trademark, not sure what the generic plastic name is) is not a good material for a water bottle intended to be used in the back country.

Nalgene gets brittle over time, even without abuse. I once accidentally dropped a full quart water bottle onto the ground, and it shattered. I had a different bottle develop cracks and leak into a pack. These incidents were maybe 20 years ago, and I haven't used Nalgene since. I think that boiling water accelerates this process.

Nowadays, there are many things you buy anyway that come in bottles of the right size and material to use outdoors. The common #1 recycling plastic (PETE?) seems to work well. It's light and tough and cheap. I keep a few empties handy. Even if you have to deliberately go get one, it's easy find juice or whatever that comes with the bottle. The juice+bottle doesn't cost much more than one of those fancy water bottles.

However, don't even put anything hot into such a bottle, let alone boiling. High temperatures makes the plastic shrink and deform.

  • Nalgene is designed to break down over time. It is environmentally conscious. – paparazzo May 16 '18 at 12:03
  • Are your comments about the "newer" (a few decades) clear product, or the older soft translucent product? – Kate Gregory May 16 '18 at 16:37
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    I would appreciate some feedback from the downvoters, as this seems like a good answer to the OP. – Jonathan Landrum May 17 '18 at 12:59
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    @JonathanLandrum Nalgene bottles are standard in the outdoor world, every outdoor organization I have ever known uses them. So to say that they are not a good material based on one person's experience probably has something to do with the downvotes – Charlie Brumbaugh May 17 '18 at 14:52
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    @JonathanLandrum People do it fairly frequently, mostly for staying warm at night (I think that's what started this question) or for cooking or hot drinks. – Charlie Brumbaugh May 17 '18 at 15:10

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