We use straws because they’re convenient: You can sip iced tea or sparkling water while driving, pushing a stroller or going about your daily life. While there’s some debate about the exact number of plastic straws thrown away every day, it’s definitely a lot. A study published in 2019 by the American Association for the Advancement of Sciences estimated that some 8.3 billion plastic straws pollute beaches worldwide. Most of them cannot be recycled or reused, and they’re not biodegradable or washable.
The simplest solution for both the planet and your conscience is to switch over to stainless steel straws. They’re cheap, portable and give you instant eco cred, signaling that you’re doing your part to save our planet. They do, however, require cleaning — especially if they’re curved — because chunks of stuff get trapped inside straws, which results in a fertile breeding ground for bacteria.
To get the nitty gritty on all things straw-related, we consulted cleaning expert Sarah Paiji Yoo, co-founder and CEO of Blueland, a New York City-based startup that makes direct-to-consumer eco-friendly cleaning products.
How to clean a reusable straw
“I don’t generally ever recommend buying something additional when you don’t need it, but straws really are hard to clean. The dishwasher will sanitize straws, but it’s not great for dislodging particles inside the straw,” says Paiji Yoo. A straw cleaning brush will get the job done.
How to clean metal straws
- Use the straw cleaning brush to clean inside metal straws and other reusable straws.
- Mix a few squirts of dishwashing soap with hot water to create a bath for the straws.
- Soak the straws in the soapy water for a few minutes to loosen anything stuck inside them.
- Dip the straw brush into the cleaning solution and then run it through the straw, back and forth. The goal here is to dislodge particles stuck inside the straw. You’ll be surprised by the gunk you’ll see, especially if the straw is curved.
- Run the straw through the soapy solution again to make sure the particles have been removed.
- Now, you can put the straws in the dishwasher on the top rack and run it as you normally would.
- After it’s washed, dry the straw upright in a clean dish drainer.
How to clean glass straws
If you opt for glass straws, rinse the straw with hot water after each use. Break out your straw cleaning brushes. Run a straw cleaning brush through the glass straw, using soap and water, and follow that up with a cruise through the dishwasher.