Straws: Humble But Essential

bar straws

Straws are an often overlooked part of any home bar despite being a necessity for the quality of some drinks. But straws are also an essential tool for maintaining cleanliness and reducing the spread of germs. Beyond that, some drinks require a good stir before enjoying them.

Regardless of why you need a straw for your drink, the sheer number of options can feel overwhelming pretty quickly. Deciding which type of straw you should use for your drink may not seem like a big deal, but a straw’s material and diameter can heavily affect the taste of your drink. As a result, you should take extra care when deciding on straws to stock your home bar with.

Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Straws (And Then Some)

This guide will cover all of the different types of straws you can choose from. We’ll also determine which ones are best for your health and which ones should be avoided for a number of reasons.

A Comprehensive Guide to Straw Types

It’s easy to discount just how many types of straws there are. After all, what does it matter what a straw is made of when they all serve the same purpose anyway? Contrary to popular belief, not all straws are created equal. While some are ideal for stirring and sipping, others are designed specifically for certain drinks, such as bubble tea.

Let’s take some time to consider the many types you have to choose from for your home bar.

Glass Straws

Glass straws are a good option for hot drinks as they won’t melt as plastic would. They are also ideal for anyone who doesn’t like strict cleaning instructions. In most cases,they can be set in the silverware compartment of your dishwasher. Not only will this clean your straw, but it sanitizes it in the process.

glass straw

With that said, it’s important to keep in mind that these are still glass. They can break if you aren’t careful. To avoid potential breakage, be sure to store them in a safe area and throw any broken ones away.

Paper Straws

Reviews for paper straws are kind of a mixed bag. While they offer an excellent alternative to plastic, they don’t last very long and will deteriorate into your drink after a little bit of time. If you plan to drink your beverage quickly or want an alternative disposable option, paper is an affordable and eco-friendly option.

paper straws

Plastic Straws

Disposable plastic straws are cheap and easily accessible, but many places are trying to cut back on their use as this type isn’t good for the environment. On the other hand, there are reusable plastic straws commonly found in tumblers and other drinkware that can be reused over and over again.

plastic straw

Reusable plastic straws aren’t necessarily the most eco-conscious option, but they are a feasible alternative to their single-use cousins. Unlike glass, reusable plastic usually won’t be dishwasher safe unless otherwise mentioned. However, they can easily be cleaned with a straw cleaner or a pipe cleaner.

Colored vs. Clear Plastic

With reusable plastic, it’s usually best to go with one that is clear enough to see through the inside. This way, you can easily clean it out and check to make sure no mold or mildew is growing inside the straw.

Metal Straws

Metal straws can consist of various materials from aluminum to copper and even brass. Each metal type has its own benefits and drawbacks as well as proper care instructions. You’ll need to be extra careful with some as improper care can lead to rusting. With some types, like aluminum or stainless steel, you may find that they’re made with special coatings that prevent rust.

metal straws

Aluminum Straws

Aluminum is extremely lightweight and very environmentally safe. For that reason, you’ll often find travel straws are made from aluminum. Additionally, they can last five years or more before they need to be discarded. This makes them an ideal alternative to other choices like disposable or reusable plastic.

Copper Straws

Copper straws are naturally antibacterial and are an excellent alternative to single-use plastic. However, they’re also more expensive than most straw types and require thorough cleaning, especially if you’re planning to share the straw with a group of people. Unlike aluminum, copper lasts indefinitely and is worth the investment if you choose to go this route.

Brass Straws

Brass straws are just stainless steel straws with brass plating on them. With that said, stainless steel is an excellent choice in terms of cleanliness and how easy they are to maintain. To clean these, you can usually just stick in in your dishwasher, and the inside is easy to clean by hand, too, as stains aren’t an issue.

Wooden Straws

Wooden straws are an excellent alternative to plastic straws because they’re biodegradable and don’t pose a threat to the environment. However, it’s worth noting that they come with a notoriously woody taste. If an additional taste of woodiness bothers you, you may want to try out a different type of straw.

Careful, these are also handwash only. The high temperatures that a dishwasher uses may damage the wood and even cause the liquids stuck on it to seep further into the porous wood.

wooden straws

Rubber Straws

Rubber straws are generally very easy to clean, and you don’t run any risk of liquids seeping into the materials to cause stains. In most cases, they are made of food-grade silicone and are BPA-free. They vary widely in quality, but a good rubber straw will be durable enough to sit in your drink but flexible enough to bend as needed.

Rubber straws are typically dishwasher-safe and also will come with a designated straw cleaner when you purchase a pack.

Bamboo Straws

Bamboo straws are biodegradable and environmentally friendly. However, they also come with a few drawbacks. For starters, they should only ever be hand washed and can’t be submerged in a drink for too long of a time. They can develop mold spores and mildew that become incredibly difficult to fully clean if they do.

With that said, they’re an excellent alternative to wood as they provide the same benefits without that unfavorable woody taste.

bamboo straws

Snap-Open Straws

Snap-open, or snap-apart, straws are a type of straw design that allows you to fold your straw into a portable size and carry it with you wherever you go. In most cases, they are made of stainless steel and are stored in a small container that can have a keychain that can clip to your keys.

They are incredibly easy to clean as you only need to clean one piece at a time. Some span-open versions are even dishwasher safe, which makes the cleaning process even more stress-free.

Telescopic Straws

Telescopic straws are another portable straw option that can be taken with you wherever you go. However, instead of breaking apart, they slide into each other in much the same way as a handheld telescope does. You usually only need to extend them completely and wash them by hand to clean these. While you could stick these in the dishwasher, the only way to guarantee all parts are clean is to do so by hand.

Swizzle Sticks and Stir Straws

Swizzle sticks and stir straws are common in home bars as they’re used to mix a mixed drink after it’s made. Additionally, stir straws are used for coffee when adding creamer and other additional flavoring to the beverage. These aren’t supposed to be used to drink from and are typically made from single-use plastic or a thin piece of wood.

Spoon-Straw Combos

Spoon straws are the perfect option for frozen drinks as they allow you the choice between slurping your beverage or eating it with a spoon. These are often made from plastic and are meant to be used as single-use. However, spoon straws that are of good quality may be able to be reused more than once as long as they’re washed properly.

Tiki Straws

Tiki straws are normally made from stainless steel and have a slight bend towards the top. These straws are generally used for cold, tropical drinks, and the stainless steel materials help deliver a cool drink with each sip. In many cases, you’ll also find they come in “fun” ad vibrant colors.

Flavored and Edible Straws

Lastly, some straws may come with flavored crystals attached to the insides of the drinking vessel. These crystals add additional flavors to your drink and can be sour or sweet. In the same vein, there are also edible versions that are typically made from chocolate that can be consumed once your beverage is finished. Win-win!

Manna Straws

Manna Hydration is a straw brand that makes reusable straws for all kinds of preferences. From antimicrobial stainless steel to flexible, food-grade silicone, this brand is incredibly well-known and well-loved pertaining to the reusable straw community.

What Are Safety Straws?

Safety straws are an important medical device that helps limit how much liquid can be consumed through the straw at a time. The device is designed for patients with a lack of oral motor skills as well as anyone who has trouble limiting the speed at which they drink a beverage.

These come equipped with a special valve that only opens just enough to let a restricted flow of liquid through the vessel and into the person’s mouth. Generally, they allow for approximately one teaspoon of liquids for every sip taken.

It’s also important to note that safety straws aren’t technically straws at all. Instead, they’re a holder that the straw is placed into before placing the straw and holder into a drink. While the hole in the holder is designed for disposable straw sizes, there are plenty of reusable options that will fit correctly too.

Choosing a BPA-Free Straw

BPA is a harmful substance that is commonly found in plastics. BPA is harmful to the body as it can cause problems with our endocrine system as well as disrupt the overall balance within our body. Luckily, most plastic straws on the market are guaranteed to be BPA-free, and this harmful substance is becoming less of a worry.

If you aren’t sure how to find a BPA-free straw, you can simply look at the packaging. Companies are required to list whether or not a plastic product is BPA-free. This listing can normally be found on the front or backside of the packaging and is distinguished by a small logo-sized statement of “100% BPA-Free.”

Reusable Vs. Non-Reusable Straws

In order to best protect the environment, it’s always best to go with a reusable straw. However, this may not always be feasible for everyone. If you find you can’t justify buying bulk reusable, you can opt for a non-reusable alternative to single-use plastic. In most cases, this alternative will come in the form of paper.

Straw Diameters: Which is Best?

Along with the plethora of straw types out there, finding the right diameter is equally important. After all, you won’t want to use a straw meant for bubble tea with a hot beverage like coffee. So which diameter is the best for a home bar? That depends entirely on the type of drinks you choose to serve.

Skinny Straws

Skinny straws are more commonly referred to as stir sticks or swizzle sticks. These are generally served with cocktails and are meant for casual stirring while enjoying your drink. While you can use them for sipping, they’re best utilized only as a stirring mechanism. Along with alcoholic cocktail drinks, these straws are also commonly served with coffee and hot chocolate.

swizzle sticks

Extra-Long Straws

Extra-long straws are generally made in the form of “bendy straws” and are meant to aid in hands-free drinking at longer distances. You’ll often see these in the form of single-use plastic, although some companies are working to make more reusable options.

Large Diameter Straws

Large diameter straws are usually made from single-use plastic and are meant for drinking bubble tea. These straws normally have a pointed bottom as they’re used to puncture a hole at the top of a bubble tea beverage. The large diameter allows the large popping bubbles in bubble tea to successfully come up the straw without clogging it.

Large diameter straws

How to Clean Your Reusable Straws

The cleaning instructions for reusable straws will depend entirely on the material the straw is made out of. For example, bamboo and wood require hand washing as high temperatures can cause liquids to melt and seep into the porous material.

cleaning straws

On the other hand, reusable glass and metal can usually be run safely through your dishwasher. If a straw requires hand washing only, you can usually use a specified cleaning stick that came with your straw or a pipe cleaner to get inside the hole to clean any residual liquids.

Parting Thoughts

Of all the types you can choose from, the right choice will depend entirely on the drink you want to enjoy and how dedicated you are to the cleaning process. If you don’t want to spend much time cleaning, you’ll do best with a stainless steel or glass option. Paper is your best bet if you’re looking for disposable and eco-friendly options.

Regardless of the type of straw you choose for your home bar, having a few different options is best to accommodate all of your guests. We hope this comprehensive straw guide has been helpful in your decision-making process.

More Posts