So you’ve bought the environmentally friendly alternatives. That’s brilliant, that’s step number one! Step number two is integrating these reusable straws and cups into your everyday life, and phasing out the disposable plastics.
Silicone-grade collapsible cups are handy to use for hydration, and since they are collapsible once you are finished, they are much more portable than a plastic water bottle. Even when compared to the equally-recyclable and reusable glass bottle, they still win, because of how fragile glass bottles can be- especially compared to how dangerous a broken glass water bottle could be. However, when you use these collapsible cups for any drink, they can leave a strange odor, that countless washes somehow cannot get rid of. Fear not! This is not a sign that your cup should only be used for water, or that your cup is beginning to break down- it is merely in need of a good wash.
HOW TO WASH
Hot water is a reliable solution that the top brands recommend. Let your cup soak in some warm or hot water for up to 20 minutes. As alarming as it sounds, even boiling water will be fine. Silicone is a material that will not change shape or undergo damage at boiling temperatures. All the more reason to treat yourself to some hot drinks with!
If there is still a lingering odor that persists even after a hot soak, try re-soaking the cup, this time with vinegar and baking soda. Baking soda is a natural abrasive and good for odor absorption, while vinegar can wipe stains away. Thus, a good soak with these two components should leave your cup odorless and ready to drink from again!
STAINLESS STEEL STRAWS
Metal straws are also handy tools to use. Some of us who have seen bamboo straws and paper straws are less than impressed with how soggy or single-use they get, and are particularly fragile and single-use. Annoyingly enough, a single-use appliance is what we try to avoid, because this negates the times we would need to use it to break even on the environmental cost of its production. A stainless steel straw solves those problems, by being reusable and certainly more durable than anything non-plastic. An opinion piece stated that silicone straws were the perfect alternative, but given that the last item was a silicone-based product and would also be cleaned the same way, let’s look at metal straws!
These are also in need of a deeper clean than a simple wipe over the drinking end, because of the hole in the straw, and the hollow area inside that could be infected with bacteria. A rinse or two may not be thorough enough to address the hollow either. Cleaning it, however, is simple!
HOW TO WASH
Stainless steel straws usually come with a pipe cleaner, or their own brush, which should look like this.
The structure of the brush allows for thorough and easy scrubbing through the hole in the straw. A few scrubs should properly clean the straw enough for the next use.
For the particularly clumsy who misplace their utensils (we see you!), we recommend a good soak in boiling water over a flame for at least 10 minutes. A good boil sterilizes any metal surface of bacteria, and a prolonged exposure helps to minimize any chance of any particular heat-resistant bacteria.
If you cannot leave a flame unattended, an equally effective substitute is filling a small pot of warm water (Steely’s recommends a sink or a small tub), and then applying a lather of soap. Leave it there for about an hour- your straw will be considered dry after that!
Although bleach is a household cleaning agent, we advise against using it to wash stainless steel. Bleach will unfortunately damage or stain it, to the point of permanence. This will, unfortunately, not help with the break-even of the environmental cost of using a metal straw. Keep away from it!