Clean and Restore Metal Straws


After a few months of use, I noticed my reusable straws didn’t look as nice as they once did. Even with regular cleaning, the stainless steel had a bit of tarnish, they weren’t as shiny as before, and the straws had water stains all over. So I set out on a quest to restore my straws back to their former glory! And now I can share those tips with you so your metal straws can look like new.

First, though, I want to make sure I go over the proper cleaning techniques to keep reusable straws from getting gross inside (or from getting all scratched up as you wash them). For this you need just a few simple things: a soft sponge, dish soap, and a straw cleaner brush.

Need a cleaning brush? Get a straw survival pack - a brush plus a dozen soft, silicone straw tips to protect your teeth. It's the perfect companion for your straws.

Thorough Cleaning for Reusable Straws:

  1. Lather up the sponge using hot water and dish soap
  2. Scrub your reusable straws on all sides with the sponge (the soft side, if it’s double-sided!) to get them nice and clean

This next step is very important! It ensures that any residue inside the straws isn’t going to come out next time you enjoy a drink!

  1. Take a straw cleaning brush, get it nice and soapy, and stick it in one end of the first straw. Scrub the inside of the straw thoroughly, take the brush out, and do it again on the other end of the straw. Repeat the process for each straw
  2. Use hot water to rinse off the straws. Be sure to run some water through the inside of the straws, too, so you get any soap out of the middle
  3. Allow the straws to air dry or use a soft towel to dry them manually. Don’t use rough materials, like paper towels, since they might scratch up the metal

 Hands holding a shiny metal straw up to the camera. Behind it on the counter are more straws laid on top of a grey towel.

What about the dishwasher?

I get asked this question a lot: “Can I wash my straws in the dishwasher?” The general answer is “yes,” which is followed by a “but…” because there’s a caveat. Of course you can run your reusable metal straws through the dishwasher! They’re stainless steel, so they will hold up just fine through the process and the outside of the straws will be perfectly clean.

However, the important thing to note is that you should ALWAYS use a cleaning brush to get the inside of the straws. And this should be done AFTER you run them through a wash cycle, not before! Why? Two reasons:

  1. The dishwasher isn’t going to clean the inside of your straws, which is arguably the dirtiest part of a used straw

A dishwasher’s jets of soapy water are great for cleaning both inside and out of larger dishes, but there’s no way they’ll do a thorough job on something so thin. The outside of the straw will be nice & clean, but the inside will need your help.

  1. There’s a lot of other stuff floating around in your dishwasher… Ew

The other dishes in your wash cycle are covered in food particles that get rinsed off by the jets of soapy water, spread over other dishes, and rinsed off again. Well, mostly. Any food particles that end up spreading into a metal straw won’t get blasted out by the water jets (see point #1) and will still be inside the straw after it’s unloaded from the wash. Yeah… You don’t want any of that in your next drink.

 

Restoring Your Metal Straws:

If a good clean didn’t remove all the tarnish from your stainless steel straws, don’t fear! All you need now is a dash of white vinegar and you can scrub away the tarnish and water stains, leaving your metal straws sparkling. Here's what mine looked like before and after a good polishing.

Left image: a pile of dull, tarnished metal straws. Right image: a pile of shiny metal straws in front of a half-full pint jar of tea.

How to Polish Metal Straws:

  1. Get two clean, soft towels that won’t scratch the metal. I used microfiber towels, which were perfect, but you could probably use any other soft material (cotton cloth, old t-shirt material, etc)
  2. Pour a little bit of white vinegar onto a corner of the first towel. You don’t want to soak it so it’s dripping – just enough to get the cloth damp!
  3. Wipe down the outside of the stainless steel straws with the vinegar cloth until they are slick and shiny
  4. Dry off the excess vinegar with the second soft towel. Admire how shiny your straws are!

Before using one of the straws in a drink, be sure to give it a good rinse or a quick wash to get off any residual vinegar flavor.

Hands polishing a stainless steel straw with a microfiber cloth. In the background is a bottle of white vinegar and a pile of un-polished straws.