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 and reusable straws are gaining in popularity. The one thing they don't offer is the convenience of use and toss disposable plastics.
Reusable straws are made from glass, stainless steel, silicone, bamboo, or reed. The straws come in various sizes to accommodate chunky smoothies to clear liquids; some are straight, some collapse, and 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. Many water bottles can go right into the dishwasher (always check manufacturer's instructions). Even if the bottle is only used for water, it can still harbor dangerous bacteria in trapped moisture if not cleaned.
How Often to Clean Reusable Bottles and Straws
Optimally, reusable bottles and straws should be washed after every use, even those like the Monos Kiyo UVC Bottle that purifies water. If not daily, bottles should be washed every couple of days, but at the very least, take the lid off between uses so the bottle can breathe and dry out. Water bottles and straws should be sanitized weekly. The straw's pouch or case should be cleaned at least weekly.
Equipment / Tools
- Straw brush or chenille stems
- Bottle brush
- Sink or dishpan
- Dish drainer
- Hot water
- Dishwashing liquid
- Chlorine bleach
- Distilled white vinegar (optional)
- Baking soda (optional)
- Disinfectant wipe (optional)
How to Clean Reusable Straws
Mix a Cleaning Solution
Mix a few squirts of dishwashing liquid with hot water in a sink or dishpan to create a cleaning solution for the straws.
Is the Dishwasher Safe?
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.
Insert the Straw Brush
Dip a narrow straw brush or pipe cleaner (or chenille stem) in the cleaning solution, insert it in the straw, and pass it through the entire length of the straw.
Make a Bigger Brush
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."
Remove Stubborn Particles
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.
Rinse and Dry
Finish by rinsing the straw in hot water and allow it to dry upright in a clean glass or dish drainer.
Clean the Straw Case or Pouch
The straw's case or pouch 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. Every week, toss the straw's 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
Mix a Cleaning Solution
In a sink or dishpan, mix hot water and a few squirts of dishwashing liquid to create a cleaning solution.
Wash the Bottle
Whether you have a glass, stainless steel, or hard plastic bottle, the clean-up is the same. Use a bottle brush and hot, soapy water 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 accumulated from your hands from the exterior as well.
If you have a bottle with a straw or pop-up sports cap, these also need extra attention. Run a small bottle brush or pipe cleaner through the straw to thoroughly clean the interior.
Rinse and Dry
Rinse all components well with warm water and allow them to air-dry in a dish drainer.
Sanitize the Bottle Weekly
Hot water and soap won't kill every type of bacteria. Once a week, you should disinfect the bottles and straws with chlorine bleach or distilled white vinegar to remove all bacteria and fungi spores.
To use chlorine bleach, fill a clean sink or dishpan with one gallon of hot water. Add one tablespoon of 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 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.
Tips to Keep Your Reusable Straws and Water Bottles Clean Longer
- 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 thorough cleaning when you get home.
- A stainless steel, glass, or silicone straw can be cleaned by boiling it in water for 10 minutes. Let the straw cool down before use.
- If you're pinched for time and can't find a brush, use dental floss to clean a reusable flexible straw. Fish floss through the straw, submerge it in soapy water, and use your fingers to pinch and rub the straw and floss together while it soaks to dislodge dirt.
Laurie Messing, How to Keep Your Water Bottle Germ-Free. Michigan State University Extension, 19 Nov. 2018