Reducing the amount of disposable plastic we use each day is good for the environment and can be helpful for our budgets. Reusable water bottles have become a nearly must-have accessory everywhere and reusable straws are gaining in popularity. The one thing they don't offer is the convenience of use and toss disposable plastics. You really should wash reusable bottles and straws after every use. There are bacteria and fungi lurking in there!
How to Clean Reusable Straws
You can find reusable straws made from glass, stainless steel, silicone, bamboo, and reed. Each offers a unique look and mouth-feel. The straws come in various sizes to accommodate chunky smoothies to clear liquids; some are straight, some collapse, others have a bend that can be more troublesome to keep clean. Most come in cases or pouches to tuck in a purse or backpack (more about that later) and many are sold with a slender, teeny-bristled brush to help you clean them (hint, hint).
When you finish with a reusable straw while you're on-the-go, the best thing you can do is give it a "rinse" by sipping some plain water or holding it under a running water faucet. It will still need a thorough cleaning when you get home.
While some straws are labeled as dishwasher safe, they still need some hands-on attention before you put them upright in the silverware basket. The water from the dishwasher cannot always reach every interior surface, especially in straws with a bend.
To clean a straw, use hot water and regular dishwashing liquid. Dip the provided brush in the solution, insert in the straw, and pass it through the entire length of the straw. If you have lost the brush or never had one, you can use pipe cleaners (chenille stems) in the same way. The pipe cleaner should be thick enough so that it touches all sides of the interior of the straw. If it doesn't, twist several together to create a thicker "brush".
If you can still see bits of smoothie fruit clinging to the inside of the straw, dip the wet brush or pipe cleaners in some baking soda and try again. Baking soda is a gentle abrasive that will help remove stuck-on food.
Finish by rinsing the straw in hot water and allow it to dry upright in a clean glass or dish drainer.
Now, remember the case or pouch that you use to store your just-used straw? It needs to be cleaned as well. The case traps the bacteria and moisture in a dark, warm place making the case the perfect breeding ground for germs and even mold. At least weekly, toss the pouch in the washer. Wash a hard case in hot soapy water or wipe down the inside of the case with a disinfecting wipe.
How to Clean Water Bottles
Most water bottles are easier to keep clean because they can go right into the dishwasher (always check manufacturer's instructions). Even if they never contain anything except water, they can still harbor dangerous bacteria in the moisture that is trapped. Ideally, bottles should be thoroughly cleaned after every use; but definitely every couple of days. At the very least, take the lid off between uses so the bottle has time to breathe and dry out.
Whether you have a glass, stainless steel or hard plastic bottle, the clean-up is the same. Use very hot, soapy water and a bottle brush to reach every interior surface. Pay particular attention to the neck of the bottle. The hot water and dishwashing liquid will help remove oils and grime from your hands from the exterior as well.
If you have a bottle with a straw or pop-up sports cap, these need extra attention. Run a small bottle brush or pipe cleaner through the straw to thoroughly clean the interior.
Rinse all components well and allow them to air dry in a dish drainer.
How to Sanitize Water Bottles
Hot water and soap are great but they won't kill every type of bacteria. Once a week, you should disinfect the bottle to remove all bacteria and fungi spores. After washing, you can use either chlorine bleach or distilled white vinegar to sanitize bottles.
To use chlorine bleach, fill a clean sink or dishpan with one gallon of hot water. Add one tablespoon chlorine bleach. Add the bottles and lids to the solution and let them sit for five to 15 minutes. Rinse with hot water and allow to air dry.
If you don't like to use bleach, mix a solution of two tablespoons distilled white vinegar per one cup of hot water. Make enough to completely fill the water bottle and some extra to soak lids. Fill the bottle and let it sit for 15 minutes. Empty and rinse well with hot water and allow to air dry.