Plastic straws are to 2018 as cigarettes were to the early 2000s in restaurants. And as cities and corporations have banned plastic straws, making it more and more gauche to use a disposable one — what are you, a sea turtle murderer? — the market for reusable drinking straws has flourished as quickly as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.
That plastic straws have become villainized is to the chagrin of the disabled community, who rely on disposable straws and find alternative ones cumbersome. And the amount of plastic waste generated by straws is a drop in the ocean compared to other types of pollution, such as chemical runoff and other plastics. But minimizing the use of plastic straws, for those who are able, is one small way to reduce the amount of waste we generate each year.
We took a straw poll (ba-dum-tss!) to discover the pros and cons of eight types of reusable straws. Which ones are slurpable, and which ones just plain suck?
We tried: Hiware silicone straws, $7.99 for a set of 8 with cleaning brushes
Pros: They’re fat and squishy, which makes them good for straw-chewers and kids. You won’t chip a tooth on these. They’re good for smoothies and milkshakes. It “doesn’t change temperature” so you can use it with hot or cold drinks, and you can “control the flow by pinching the straw with your mouth.” It’s the “easiest to clean” and “feels good in the hand.”
Cons: “It lets too much liquid in with thinner drinks.” “Comically large and won’t fit through the iced coffee lid.” “The thickness of the straw makes me feel like a baby.” And, because silicone attracts lint, “Wouldn’t it get real dirty in your pocket?”
Good for: Smoothies, bubble tea, children.
We tried: Rucacio foldable drinking straw, $18.99 for one straw with cleaning brush
Pros: This transportable straw folds up into a keychain container. It comes with a thin wire cleaner. Testers praised its flexibility, and how it felt “nice on teeth.” It was the most portable option, and “I felt like Inspector Gadget using it.” The silicone nub on the end is “easy on the lips.”
Cons: It’s hard to clean, and “makes a funny noise” when you pull the cleaning wire through it. It consistently got stuck in plastic coffee lids and “won’t easily come out . . . without splattering.”
Good for: “Whatever you’re drinking when you want to impress your friends by whipping out your fancy James Bond straw.”
We tried: Yihong stainless steel straws, $6.59 for a set of 8 with cleaning brushes
Pros: The straws conduct heat — which is bad with hot drinks (yes, there are people who drink hot coffee through straws), but nice with iced coffee. It “seems durable!”
Cons: The straws are long (“I feel like I’d poke myself in the eye”) and too narrow (“not good for smoothies”). Their length makes them hard to clean — “lots of stuff stuck in there” — and for those who are sensitive, “it smells and tastes like metal.” “I don’t like being burned while drinking hot coffee.” “I am sure I would chip a tooth or hurt myself on it.” It looks like a dental implement: “I’m here for my six-month cleaning.”
Good for: Iced coffee, juices
Extra-wide metal straws
We tried: Sungrace extra wide stainless steel smoothie straws, 9.95 for a set of 5 with cleaning brushes
Pros: It’s great for bubble tea and people who like to slurp things up quickly. It “feels solid.” It’s “attractive looking.” And it’s easy to clean — “You can see if there’s anything stuck inside.” This is weird, but it “reminds me of a piccolo.”
Cons: It has that metal taste, again. “The straw looks and feels like something off an operating table or in a carpentry shop.” “It’s not going to break, but it might break your teeth.” And, it’s definitely not meant for hot liquids, if that wasn’t immediately apparent — it’s “designed for . . . burning the hell out of your tongue.” And, this is also weird, but one tester “noticed tons of my own backwash” flowing back into the beverage.
Good for: Bubble teas and smoothies
Silicone-tipped metal straws
We tried: Alink 10.5-inch long reusable straws, $7.99 for a set of 8 with cleaning brushes
Pros: The silicone tip “feels nicer on my teeth” and testers “like the bendy-ness.” If you don’t put the tip entirely over the metal, you can chew it, and it doesn’t get as hot as the regular metal straws.
Cons: “Ugh, taking off and cleaning that tip?” “Worried I would accidentally suck the silicone piece into my mouth.” “I don’t like not knowing when the liquid will hit my mouth.”
Good for: Thin, cold liquids — and, one tester notes, Big Gulps, because of the length.
We tried: Primal ethic bamboo straws, $11.98 for a set of 12 with cleaning brushes
Pros: These are biodegradable, so they’re very environmentally friendly. They’re “light but sturdy.”
Cons: “It’s kind of like drinking through a colored pencil” because it has a woody taste. These are, by far, the hardest to clean of all the straws — we kept getting the brush stuck inside. “If you look inside, you’ll see it’s a little rough,” said one tester, who worried that it would flake apart over time. They can’t go in the dishwasher. The hole is thin, so it doesn’t handle thick liquids like smoothies very well. It reminded one tester of a “cheap tiki bar.”
Good for: Just water, everything else is too hard to clean.
We tried: Korsreel bent glass drinking straws, $13.99 for a set of 6 with cleaning brushes
Pros: “They’re very stylish — would look good with a cocktail.” They have a neutral taste, and they “keep hot coffee warm without getting as hot as the metal.”
Cons: We dropped one on the floor from waist height to see what happened and — no surprises here! — it shattered. So it’s not the most portable option, especially for clumsy people. It “feels like a thermometer” in the mouth.
Good for: Pretty much anything, “but only in a carpeted room.”
We tried: Alink reusable plastic drinking straws, $5.99 for a set of 12 with cleaning brushes
Pros: We’re embarrassed (because: more plastic!) to say that this was our favorite of the bunch. It works great with cold drinks and avoids the taste issues we had with the metal and bamboo straws, and the fragility of the glass. Because they’re semi-clear, they’re easy to clean — “You can see what you’re drinking, and if you missed a spot” — and the design is “lightweight and cute.”
Cons: It’s not as great with thick smoothies, but handles them well enough. “Sort of defeats the eco-friendly point, right?” They’re “stiff” and the design made one tester “feel like . . . a kid’s birthday party.”
Good for: Cool, thin drinks.
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