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How to clean a Stanley cup, according to experts

Your cleaning manual to the fan-favorite water bottle. 

Once upon a time, in a world before everyone was absolutely obsessed with Stanley cups (and having multiple ones, at that), cleaning your water bottle was a simple task.

Now, thanks to Stanley’s design — an oversized, insulated vessel complete with a handle and straw — giving your water bottle of choice a thorough cleaning requires more elbow grease. In fact, you’ve got to a go a step beyond cleaning the straw (mold can grow under the spout protector — who knew?) and make sure the lid is spick-and-span too.

“Stanleys are continuing to be popular as we start the New Year,” says Allison Evans, co-founder, Branch Basics, a non-toxic cleaning products company, noting that the brand is showing no sign of slowing down with new color releases and countless TikTok cameos. “However, with Stanley cups, their mechanisms easily trap bacteria and mold. It is essential to clean your Stanley regularly to ensure that it is not only visually clean, but also safe to drink from,” says Evans

Ahead, Evans and other cleaning gurus break down exactly how to clean a Stanley cup.

How to clean a Stanley water bottle

In order to ensure your Stanley cup stays in tip-top condition, you want to take good care of it. This means rinsing the cup at least daily, per Evans, and cleaning it out completely a few times a week (this might change based on frequency of use).

If you're wondering, "Is the Stanley cup dishwasher safe?" read on, since this tactic is one that should be avoided at all costs. “Do not wash your Stanley in a dishwasher!” cautions Ferhat Bataray, a tasker on Taskrabbit. We repeat, you’re going to want to handwash your Stanley cup, straw, lid, and spout protector.

Bataray also warns against leaving drinks sitting inside the cup for long periods of time since “this can cause mold to form.”

Diana Ciechorska, the General Manager at Park Slope Cleaning, a commercial cleaning company in New York City, shares her six-step method for cleaning a Stanley cup.

What you’ll need:

Mild dish soap

Warm water

Soft-bristle brush or toothbrush

Microfiber cloth

Q-tips or cotton swabs

White vinegar (optional)

Soft towel or drying rack

Instructions for cleaning your Stanley cup, lid, and straw

1. Prepare a Cleaning Solution

Fill a basin or sink with warm water and add a few drops of mild dish soap. You can also add a splash of white vinegar for extra cleaning power. Mix the solution gently until it forms suds.

2. Disassemble the Stanley Cup

Carefully disassemble the Stanley Cup by removing the spout protector, straw, and any other removable parts. This will make it easier to clean all the nooks and crannies.

3. Soak and Clean the Parts

Submerge all the removable parts in the soapy water solution and let them soak for 10–15 minutes. After soaking, use a soft-bristle brush or a clean toothbrush to scrub away any residue or dirt gently. Pay special attention to the inside of the straw and spout protector. Cleaning beyond the straw and spout protector is crucial because moisture can accumulate in these hidden areas, creating a breeding ground for mold and bacteria. To get these hard-to-reach areas even cleaner, use Q-tips or cotton swabs dipped in your cleaning solution to reach and scrub away grime.  

4. Rinse Thoroughly

After scrubbing, rinse each part thoroughly with clean, warm water. Ensure all soap and debris are completely washed away. This step is crucial to prevent any lingering soap taste.

5. Dry Carefully

Pat each component dry using a soft towel or allow to air dry on a drying rack. Ensure they are completely dry before reassembling the Stanley Cup to prevent mold and mildew growth.

6. Reassemble and Polish

Once all parts are completely dry, reassemble your Stanley Cup. Use a microfiber cloth to gently polish the surface, removing any fingerprints or smudges.

What to do if your Stanley cup is moldy

If your Stanley cup has visible mold, Evans recommends disinfecting your Stanley cup with either distilled white vinegar or hydrogen peroxide. “Spray a few spritzes of vinegar or peroxide on the surface and let the one product dwell for 5–10 minutes. Then rinse,” says Evans, who likes to soak the Stanley cup’s components in a warm, soapy bath made with a teaspoon of Branch Basics Concentrate (any mild, natural dish soap will do). You can repeat the spraying process with the other ingredient (just don’t use the vinegar and peroxide simultaneously) if necessary, she says. 

Throughout the cleaning process, Evans stresses the importance of removing all the pieces of the lid as it could be harboring mold and other bacteria. “It’s not just about the straw — the spout protector can harbor mold if left unchecked. Disassemble the Stanley and delve into these hidden spaces during your cleaning routine,” says Evans. “Use a small, soft brush to reach the trickiest spots in the straw and spout protector. Soaking the disassembled cup is also a great way to ensure all parts of the cup are accounted for,” she adds, noting that for stubborn stains or odors, let all components soak a bit longer in the soapy solution.

Common mistakes when cleaning a Stanley cup

Now that you’ve got the play-by-play on cleaning your Stanley, it’s worth highlighting a few things to steer clear of when showing your Stanley some TLC.

Using harsh chemicals

“Avoid using abrasive materials or harsh chemicals, as they can damage the cup’s finish,” says Ciechorska. It bears repeating that you should never put your Stanley cup in the dishwasher, “as the high temperature and detergent can harm the cup,” noted Ciechorska. 

Avoid harsh chemicals for your cup’s longevity and for your health. “Many harsh products contain ingredients that are toxic to humans,” says Evans. “Especially because we are storing our water and drinking from the Stanley cup and straw, it's important to use a natural cleaning product or soap that won't leave behind a harmful residue.”

Rushing the drying process

A job well done is a job well done — not a race to the finish line. “Don’t rush the drying process; thorough drying is essential to prevent mold or mildew growth,” says Ciechorska. 

Avoid steel wool

You might think this material would effectively buff away muck and grime, but it’s not doing your Stanley cup any favors.  “Never use hard scrubbing tools such as steel wool,” says Bataray.