A little polish and elbow grease is a great way to move on…

December 2, 2013, 10:36 PM

Sometimes you never know what is going to provide a sense of closure to a chapter in one’s life.  In this case, shining up my water bottles provided a sense of closure to a chapter in my life that I have been trying to move on from.  Recall that I left Food & Water Watch in July as I looked to determine what the next chapter in my career would be.  However, it’s hard to move on when I was staring at the branding of my former employer every time that I would take a drink of water.  To put it another way, I love my stainless steel water bottles from Klean Kanteen, but what was screenprinted on the bottles reminded me of something that I would prefer to put behind me.

In other words, this:

My "Take Back the Tap" water bottles

Yes, these are my “Take Back the Tap” water bottles.  Every time I would have a drink of water, I would see those logos, and honestly, it was preventing me from moving on.  When I visited my parents in late August, Dad showed me what he had done with his water bottle, where he had polished it, changing the bottle’s finish from brushed to smooth, and also removing all of the screenprinting in the process.  The end result was a bottle that was completely clean and had a chrome-like finish.  When I visited my parents over Thanksgiving, I brought my Klean Kanteen bottles down, planning to give my bottles the same treatment.  Finally I would be able to bring some closure to an era.

This is what I used to make it happen:

The supplies necessary to clean and polish the water bottles

The gloves are to keep the polish off of my hands.  The orange spray can and the steel wool are for removing the screenprinting, spraying the screenprinting to prepare it, and then using the steel wool to remove it.  This would leave a ghosting of the screenprinting on the bottle after the screenprinting itself was removed.  Then I used two polishes: a “Neva Dull” polish and a Mothers polish to get the bottles all shiny and remove the ghosting.  Then I buffed it all clean with a terrycloth towel, revealing the new, chrome-like finish.

The first bottle to be treated was the bottle that I take to the pool, which had the standard design on it:

My pool water bottle, with the standard design for a Take Back the Tap water bottle

After I finished removing the screenprinting, it looked like this:

My pool water bottle after the screenprinting was removed, with "ghosting" where the screenprinting once was

Note the “ghosting” on the bottle where the screenprinting used to be.  However, the bottle was now smooth to the touch (i.e. you could not feel where the printing previously existed).

After that, the polish went on:

The bottle, covered with the Mothers polish.  I would use both polishes to complete the process.

Here, the bottle is covered with the Mothers polish, after having been treated with the Neva Dull polish.

Then when all of the buffing and polishing was complete, it looked like this:

The result was a clean bottle.  I had removed all traces of the bottle’s previous identity, leaving it with a blank, shiny appearance.  I was excited, because this bottle is the one that goes out in public.  I take it to the pool, I take it to events, I clip it onto my camera bag and carry it around on photo outings, etc.  In other words, if you see me out in public with a water bottle, it’s more than likely this one, as was the case with this photo of me by Andrew Bossi from SlutWalk 2012.  I couldn’t wait to show it to the other folks at the pool.

After that, I attacked the other two bottles, which had a special “Slow Food Nation ’08” design on them.  First step was to remove the screenprinting:

Spraying the screenprinting with the orange spray

The "Take Back the Tap" logo has been removed from one of the bottles (the "Slow Food Nation" printing would also be removed)  Partway through the process of removing the "Take Back the Tap" logo from the other bottle

After that, I applied the polish:

One of the now-blank bottles covered with the Mothers polish

And then buffed to a shine:

The "Slow Food Nation" bottles, with polishing nearly complete

I think you will agree when I say that the end result was stunning:

Klean Kanteen water bottles, polished to a shine

Klean Kanteen water bottles, polished to a shine, on my parents' kitchen counter

(For those wondering why it suddenly went to four and five bottles, I also polished two older bottles where the original printing had nearly completely worn off over time.  One bottle is missing a lid – that was a practice bottle before doing the others.)

And then when I got home, I put the bottles through the dishwasher once in order to blow off any residual polishing chemical, and then put the bottles back in service:

My water bottles, full of water and back in the refrigerator, ready for the moment when I want some cold water with lemon.

I think I was more surprised than anyone about how good it felt to remove the “Food & Water Watch” and “Take Back the Tap” logos from my water bottles.  It really gave me a feeling of catharsis as I removed all traces of those logos from my water bottles.  It felt like a parting of ways, cleaning the slate and erasing some emotional baggage at the same time.  That meant a whole lot to me, as I put an era of my career firmly in my past.

Postscript: Meanwhile, if you want to get a steel water bottle, I now have my own line of steel water bottles in the Online Store. I have them with the logo on them in large size and small size, and also with the fire drills design in large size and small size. They also make excellent Christmas gifts. Help support the website by buying one - or several!