Wednesday, January 4, 2012

How to clean reusable straws

My parents got me a juice for Christmas, it's a Hurom and wonderful! I have been juicing almost every day. I bought one of those insulated plastic cups with a plastic straw so I could take my juice on the go. I figured a reusable straw was better than all the disposable straws I use to use.

I was doing fine running water through the straw to clean it until I left juice in the cup for a few hours and food residue was left in the straw. When I ran water through it, nothing happened.

Bits of food left in the straw

I looked up straw brushes on Amazon but zero came up. I wondered, how do people clean these things? I did find a pastry bag brush that seemed like it might work but it was $12 for a set of 6 and I only need one so I didn't order them.

Then I went to Target to see if they had a pastry tube brush. They didn't. They had a turkey baster with a cone shaped brush that looked like it might fit in the tip of the baster...probably would fit in the straw, at $10, I declined and left.

Today it came to me. I just needed something to create a bit of friction, like a piece of fabric. Now how am I going to get a tiny piece of fabric through a straw?!

The same way you pull an inside out spaghetti strap through itself, with a long stick.(sewing trick) I started walking around the house getting my necessary props; hanger, pliers, wire cutters, fleece.

I cut the fleece about an inch thick and at least 6 inches longer than the straw. I cut the "hook" part of the coat hanger off and pulled the cardboard tube off. I was left with a reasonable straight piece of wire with a hook on it where the tube use to be. I used the pliers to straighten out the rest of the wire and cut the extra piece of the hook part off.
Straightened wire
I then cut a tiny hole in the fabric and slipped it over the hook part. I used the pliers to clamp down the hook so the fabric didn't move.

Then I tested it, and it actually fit! Snug but it fits. And snug is really what you want so it cleans the sides.

I ran the water and pulled the fabric back and forth through the straw. After several passes I pulled the metal wire and fabric all the way out and whola! A clean straw!

Here is a video of the process. Sorry for my arm covering the shot at one point, I'm not great at taking video.


  1. I'm surprised you didn't find the Straw Cleaners on Amazon, I found a set for $4.50 with my Prime shipping, but NOW I'm not going to order it, because I've read your How-To and I know how to make one myself! Thanks!

  2. Missmarquisha, I'm not sure I looked on amazon. Or if I did I thought they were too expensive. Most of the things I found were too big really. I actually got a second straw with a different cup that is even smaller, I have to use a pair of pliers to get the wire to come through. Still love it and it was basically free so i love THAT even better! Thanks for reading my blog, hope you enjoy your straw cleaner!

  3. Thanks I am definitely going to use this idea!

  4. Love it!! I have several of those clear Starbucks cups with the green straw, and then several similar cups from Amazon with a brown straw. I had always ran to the nearest bathroom sink when I was done drinking my smoothies or juices to rinse the straw really well, but I was never sure. It's one of those things that cross your mind when you are drinking out of it, "I hope I got this thing clean!". I am so glad I came across this. Wonderful idea!

  5. Finally clean straws! I just finished making & using this & it is amazing. I've been trying to figure out how to clean my straws for days & this is exactly what I was looking for. I couldn't see spending 10-15 dollars for just a brush.. Thanks a ton for posting this..
    I even made a few extra just in case.

  6. You can also go to the craft section at any store and get a bag of pipe cleaners for a few dollars. You can used each cleaner a few times before you have to toss it.

  7. Thanks for these hints on straw cleaning. I did a Google search since I am at that point, too, where I do not want to throw the straw away but want to make sure they are really clean.

    Thanks again.

  8. I have been using put about 3 thru the straw with soapy water and shake...Then use another qtip to push them thru...! worked this morning

  9. I am a bit of a freak when it comes to dirty gunky straws! This is a great idea, thanks so much. Gladys

  10. Thanks so much for sharing I just tried it and now i don't have throw my straw away!!!

  11. Thank you so much for this, I have been so baffled on how to clean my straw and this worked pefect and I had everything so it was free!!... even better :-)

  12. I know this comment is a bit late, but it is very effective, and very cheap! Your supplies are: your favorite kitchen dish soap and pipe cleaners (which you can find in almost every store's craft section - even the Dollar Tree usually carries them!)

    Depending on your straw's size, take 2-5 pipe cleaners, and twist them together. I usually do a tight twist on the ends to make it easier to insert into the straw. For the rest of the twist, I do it a bit looser. It can be as tight or loose as you want. Keep in mind, though, the tighter you twist it, the smaller it will be. Make sure you twisted it tight enough to fit well, but loose enough to reach all sides.

    To make sure the twisted cleaners are clean themselves, get them wet, add a little soap, and run two fingers back and forth, from end to end, until you feel it's clean (usually 30-90 seconds), then rinse it well. Next, add soap again, insert into straw (as far as it will go, but leave enough room to hold it), and move it around vigorously. You can go back and forth, twist it around, or do both. Flip the straw and repeat on other end, if needed, to make sure you get the full length of the straw. Check to see if it's clean. If not, twist on an extra cleaner or two, then repeat the above process. After about a minute of this movement, take out the pipe cleaner, and rinse both it and the straw. Your straw should be completely clean by now, but if it's not, continue repeating the process until it is clean (rinsing and using clean soap each time).

    This works great for everything I've tried it on EXCEPT things like a milkshake that didn't get rinsed and cleaned immediately. You need a stronger material for those.

    I hope this helps for anyone that doesn't have the supplies, or just doesn't want to do the work, to make the cloth cleaner described above.

  13. Stephanie, thanks for your comment. Yes, there are certainly other ways to clean straws and pipe cleaners are definitely a good choice. :) The fabric is definitely good for milkshake straws. It's not that straws are THAT expensive but it does seem a waste to use it one time and toss. Cleaning and reusing seems better. :)

  14. Hi, I'm even later to this blog than Carolyn, but I just wanted to let you know I found straw cleaning brushes super cheap on eBay. Like, two for a dollar, and free shipping. It's good to know there's a free alternative, though, so thanks for your idea!

  15. Great suggestions - I love the coathanger too, it seems more lasting as some of the straw cleaners can be really flimsy.
    Thank you
    Stainless Steel Straw Reviews

  16. It's one of the most popular - if not the most popular - question - how do I clean a straw that I cannot see inside of? Using a customised brush is the way to go, with warm water and rinsing immediately.


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