Are Reusable Straws Sanitary? A Guide on Keeping Them Safe

eco-friendly reusable metal drinking straw. zero waste concept

Photo by Olga Miltsova

The world has been veering away from using plastic straws, which you only use once and then throw away.  These little straws, along with other single-use plastics, are not biodegradable, and many of them end up in the ocean. Some people stopped using straws altogether, but for others, they found reusable alternatives.

But are reusable straws sanitary? For the most part, they are clean and hygienic. These straws are manufactured using food-grade materials. However, like other utensils such as spoon and fork, you should wash and clean your reusable straw after using it. 

How clean are reusable straws? There are some things that you should know.

Do Reusable Straws Develop Mold?

Most people ask if reusable straws develop mold. Unfortunately, the answer is yes. But you can avoid having to deal with mold if you keep it clean.  If you leave even a small gunk of liquid inside the straw, it will build up and accumulate. This buildup will allow mold and germs to grow.

The good news is that it is easy to clean the insides of your reusable straws. You just use soap and water and scrub the whole thing with a pipe cleaner.  What’s more, you should clean your reusable straws after using it whenever possible.

Straws can trap little particles of whatever beverage you are drinking, making it conducive to the growth of mold and germs. What’s more, cleaning the straw may not be enough: you should also keep it dry to avoid the moist and damp environment that molds and germs love.

What You Should Know About Metal Straws: Will It Rust?

Can metal straws rust? For the most part, metal straws that are made with medical- and food-grade stainless steel do not rust. However, there are different types of food-grade stainless steel available, some of which are susceptible to the elements. For instance, grade 304 stainless steel might be resistant to corrosive substances, but prolonged exposure to salt or saltwater will eat away at it. If you expect your straw to come in contact with salty drinks often, choose grade 316 stainless steel.

The good news is that you can use stainless steel straws for drinks that range from freezing to more than 500 degrees Fahrenheit.

How Do You Clean Metal Straws

Reusable metal straws should be washed thoroughly. Most people think that it is enough just to rinse metal straws, but that is simply not the case. Hold the straw under hot water to give it a good rinse. Wash both the inside and outside of the metal straw with soapy water.

If there are bits of smoothie and other liquids stuck inside and you don’t wash your straws for hours after using it, you will need to use a pipe cleaner or the included brush to clear the crusted bits of vegetables and fruits. Be sure to dry the metal straw after washing.

You can also put the metal straw in the dishwasher after rinsing.

Try Metal Straws

Interested in getting the best metal straws available today? Check out the VEHHE Metal Straws Stainless Steel Straws, which is made with 18/8 stainless steel.  This product comes in a pack of four straws with different colors for each one. There is also a cleaner brush and a storage pouch in the package. Plus, the best thing about this set? It costs around $5.

LittleGood Stainless Steel Extra Wide Smoothie Straw is for those thicker shakes and smoothies. These straws are perfect for those milk tea drinks with boba pearls. This set of four silver-colored metal straws comes with two cleaning brushes and a storage pouch so you can take them anywhere.

Copper Metal Straws

And if you are wondering if there are metal straws that do not use stainless steel, there is. For instance, the ZERRO Copper Straws is made with 100-percent pure copper and does not have stainless steel or nickel in it.  These straws are perfect for beer, rum, whiskey, and other similar alcoholic drinks.  They come in a set of four and even have a complimentary cleaning brush. However, these copper straws do conduct heat and are not recommended for use with hot drinks.  They are also not dishwasher safe, and you cannot use strong chemicals and detergent when you wash them.

Another thing about copper straws is that it might make you sick. Iowa’s Alcoholic Beverages Division has aired its concern that if you are drinking something acidic and it comes into contact with copper, you might suffer from food poisoning, vomiting, and diarrhea.

Titanium Metal Straws

Titanium straws are also available if you want a longer-lasting metal straw that is poreless. This characteristic ensures that there is no metallic taste when you’re drinking, and it will not erode in the long run.

The material also has a beautiful natural color, which means that the manufacturer doesn’t have to use dyes. Titanium straws are free from toxins.  These products are durable as well, so if you have a habit of chewing on straws or don’t want to be gentle with your reusable straw, this is the best for you.

Products like the TiTo Titanium Straw boasts of how strong it is. These sand-blasted straws are also very light and have obtained FDA certification.

Straws Made with Other Materials

Reusable straws are not only made with metal. Three of the most popular materials for these earth-savers are bamboo, silicone, and glass. Are all of these materials hygienic?

Bamboo Straws

Bamboo straws are very sustainable because they come from a type of grass that grows fast. Pesticides are not required on bamboo for it to grow lush and healthy. What’s more, bamboo straws are very durable and do not contain any artificial chemicals.

Over time, bamboo straws do become frayed at the ends. At which point, you will need to replace them. However, unlike single-use plastic straws, bamboo straws are biodegradable.

Cleaning Bamboo Straws

Most bamboo straws that are available today need to be hand-washed and are not dishwasher safe. There are bamboo cleaners that can ensure a more thorough clean because they can reach trickier places inside the bamboo straw.

The good news is that some bamboo straw sets include cleaners such as the NATURAL NEO Organic Bamboo Straws. This set of 10 organic bamboo straws comes with a coconut fiber brush that can clean the insides of the straw in no time. It also comes with a pouch, which makes it easier for you to bring your straws with you.

You might also want to consider the BULUH Reusable Bamboo Straws, which come in a set of eight straws, a cleaning brush, and a custom bag. If you want longer-lasting bamboo straws, check out the Elemental Home All Natural Bamboo Drinking Straws. This set of 12 bamboo straws also comes with a pair of nylon cleaning brushes. The outside of the straws has been polished to make it less susceptible to fraying.

Be sure to store these straws in an airy and well-ventilated area to avoid the growth of mold.

Silicone Straws

Food-grade silicone is sometimes used to make reusable straws. Silicone straws should be free from harmful substances such as BPS, BPA, lead, cadmium, PBBs, and mercury, among others. And while there have been incidents about metal straws gouging eyes, poking throats, and chipping teeth, silicone is somewhat safer because it is bendy, soft, and flexible.

However, like metal and bamboo straws, silicone products can get moldy if you do not clean them properly. Cleaning silicone straws go the usual route: insert a pipe cleaner and scrub away whatever residual gunk is inside.

You can also put the straw in your dishwasher, as silicone can withstand high temperatures of up to 500 degrees. This way, you can clean and sterilize while ensuring that the inside is clear of mold.

Silicone straws also have a neat advantage: they are colorful. For instance, the Softy Straws Silicone Straw comes in a set of five slender straws that uses laboratory inspected silicones. The BPA-free, non-rubber, and reusable product comes with a straw squeegee that helps to clean the straw after every use.

Meanwhile, the Hiware Reusable Silicone Straws come in a set of eight brightly colored straws that you can easily cut into your preferred length. This product comes with two cleaning brushes, and you can also pop it into your dishwasher.

If you like more portable straws, there are the Yoocaa Reusable Silicone Collapsible straws. These straws can be folded and tucked nicely into a specially designed carrying case with a carabiner so that you can easily clip it to your bag or backpack.

If you have kids, you will want to get something like the GoSili Reusable Silicone Straw. This package comes with half a dozen straws in different sizes:

  • 5 inches
  • 6.5 inches
  • 8 inches

These straws are made with 100 percent silicone and do not have lead, BPA, BPS, phthalates, and nay of the bad stuff you want to avoid. It is dishwasher safe and translucent enough to see if It is already dirty inside.

Glass Straws

Glass straws might sound like a bad idea because the first mental image you might have is of these straws breaking while you’re sipping your favorite drink  But it is safe if you choose well.

Buy glass straws made with the strongest commercial glass available, especially borosilicate, the same material used in Pyrex products. Borosilicate is not porous, which means the bits from your milk tea, smoothie, or milkshake won’t get stuck to it. It is also highly resistant to heat and temperature changes. It is durable, as well.

Check out products like Hummingbird Glass Straws, which look like slender test tubes. They do not chip or break easily and are easy to clean. You can just rinse or pop them into your dishwasher. This set of four comes with a cleaning brush, as well.

There are also colorful glass straws, such as these colored glass straws from the same brand. It comes in a set of four straws in different colors plus a cleaning brush.

The thing with glass straws is that you can see if there is a piece of fruit stuck inside because it is transparent. You can easily see if molds are growing or if you need to use the included cleaning brush to dislodge anything that is stuck inside. You can also rely on glass straws if you don’t plan on washing straws immediately after drinking.

Glass straws also have an added benefit if you like citrusy fruit shakes and juices: glass straws can withstand corrosion from acidity. So this is the perfect material for those who love highly acidic drinks such as fruit juices, lemonade, or coffee drinks.

Glass, Metal, Bamboo, Or Silicone? Making Sure That Your Reusable Straw Stays Hygienic

As you can see, reusable straws are a godsend for those who do not like the thought of sea turtles suffering because of a plastic straw getting lodged up its nose. However, these reusable straws do get dirty, which would require you to clean them after every use. The good news is that cleaning reusable straws is a simple task. You can just run it under the tap or use the included cleaning brush or squeegee to dislodge stubborn food or fruit particles.

If your straw does develop mold, then here is a step-by-step guide on how to get rid of it.

  1. Fill a large bowl or the kitchen sink with soapy water and submerge your straw. Make sure that it stays submerged for about 10 minutes. This immersion will help loosen the mold.
  2. Run warm water from the tap into the straw. This will push out the larger pieces of mold.
  3. Drain the soapy water.
  4. Use a pipe cleaner and wet it with warm water. You will want to use a pipe cleaner that is made with terry cloth or chenille. Inserting the pipe cleaner will help to push out the remaining mold.
  5. Continue to insert and push out the pipe cleaner until all the mold is gone. Rinse with warm water.

However, choose your reusable wisely, and you will not have to worry about molds building up. Apart from carefully selecting the reusable straw material, you should also consider getting straws that are easy to clean or get something that is easy to see if there are some things lodged inside the straw.

Easy to Clean Reusable Straws

Choose a reusable straw that is easy to clean. The good news is that some reusable straws have a design that makes it a breeze to wash afterward.

The Klean Kanteen Steel Straws fit the bill. These straws have a steel base and a silicone tip. The silicone tip ensures that you do not bite on a hard material while the metal part makes it sturdy for easy sipping.

This product comes in two pieces, and you can pull these parts apart so that you do not have to insert the cleaning brush for the whole length of the straw.

Hygienic Reusable Straws: Other Considerations

So while getting the best reusable straw will not save you from cleaning it every so often, there are also some things that you should remember.

Metal straws made with stainless steel will eventually strip, and little bits of metal might contaminate your drinks. Glass straws, on the other hand, might chip. This might put some small slivers of glass into whatever it is you’re drinking. Further, bamboo straws will get frayed at the edges over time.

What’s more, if you plan to take your reusable straws with you, choose one that has a pouch or container. This will ensure that your straws are inside a pouch or container that will keep them dry and safe from getting contaminated while inside your bag. You can also bring two pouches along so that you would have one pouch for the clean straws and then another that will hold the used ones.

Use the provided cleaning brushes whenever possible. If you need to replace the cleaning brush, you should carefully choose the right size and length.

Making Sure That Your Reusable Straws Are Clean

Deciding to take care of the environment is a good reason for saying no to single-use plastics and go with reusable straws.  Before worrying about erosion, molds, or rust, your first considerations should be the material used for the straws. You need to make sure that these are food grade and easy to clean.

After that, it’s merely a battle of keeping molds and germs away. According to Australia’s Department of Health, germs, bacteria, and mold need three things to survive: warmth, moisture, and food. Unfortunately, reusable straws potentially have all of these.  For this reason, you should always keep your reusable straws clean and dry. The appropriate cleaning brush, hot water, and soap are all you need to give your straws a good scrubbing.

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