Metal Straws: Your Ultimate Guide
Looking for a reusable and sustainable alternative to single-use plastic straws? Metal straws are a versatile and robust option but navigating the market to ensure you end up with a safe and quality option isn't as straightforward as it may seem. Our guide is one of the most comprehensive you will find and covers each of the points below...
- Are Metal Straws Safe + Safety Tips
- Stainless Steel Straws
- Grades of Steel Explained
- Titanium and Silver Straws
- Manufacturing Process
- Straight or Curved?
- How to Clean
- Where to Buy
Are Metal Straws Safe?
Providing they are used in the correct way there is little evidence to suggest that metal straws aren’t safe for most people. However, there have been reports of disabled charity groups highlighting they are not safe for use by people with certain disabilities. It is important to note that in such cases where someone can not manage reflexes or feeling, the hard nature of steel could cause serious injury. Biting the straw or choking are the main dangers. This is also true with young children, who shouldn’t use metal straws without supervision and a level of teaching. It highlights how accustomed we have become to plastic straws when one of the main risks of using steel straws is biting them. After all, that’s what many people do to a single-use plastic straw. Other precautions that we suggest are not walking or running while drinking from a metal straw. Being very careful when using them in hot drinks is also recommended (they are best for cold drinks) as steel is a fantastic conductor of heat.
Taking the above into consideration, the transition for us and for 99% of our customers to metal straws has been a smooth one. The first few times of using them it pays to remind yourself that you are using a non-flexible material rather than plastic. Soon after, it becomes second nature and both safe and enjoyable to use a stainless steel straw.
- DON'T bite metal straws
- DO Supervise children’s usage
- DO Apply caution with hot drinks
- DO Beware of choking - don’t walk / run and drink
Stainless Steel Straws
Steel is the most recycled material on earth - in fact, it is recycled more than all other materials combined. The beauty of steel is that it can be recycled time and time again with no detriment to the end product. Steel is used to make the vast majority of metal straws on the market. Stainless steel is usually the preferred choice, due to its corrosion and rust-resistant make up. Certain drinks and foods (you may be eating at the same time as using your straws) can be corrosive to steel, so food grade quality is a necessity…
Stainless steel Grading
You may notice a reference to 304, 316 or 18/8 stainless steel when searching for reusable straws. We won’t get too technical with this, as all you really want to know is whether the straws are safe and if will they last. 304 is a common steel to use for most metal straws - also referred to as 18/8 and 18/10 (confusing, right). These grades are classed as food grade stainless steel and are the most commonly used material for metal straws. Thankfully, the majority of manufacturers use high food grade steel for the manufacture of metal drinking straws and these are perfectly safe. However, be wary of cheap imitations that substitute manganese for nickel. Although classed as food grade they are not resistant to corrosion. This means they are not suited for this purpose and could even leach toxins, and a metallic taste, into your drinks.
Titanium and Silver Straws
Marketed as higher quality premium versions of reusable straws, titanium and silver straws have found their way into high end department stores and the beverages of some famous celebrities. If we are totally honest, having tried them, we have found no tangible advantage to stainless steel straws - other than being slightly lighter and stronger. However, quality stainless steel straws will not come under anywhere near enough pressure in normal use to affect their shape. Silver straws are even further up the premium scale and sterling silver has certainly stood the test of time in terms of quality and durability. If you don't mind spending upwards of $200 for a single silver straw then who are we to argue. Personally, we'll stick to stainless.
Metal straws are made with a relatively simple manufacturing process. They originate from stainless steel tubing of different diameters and are cut to length. Then, they are cleaned and finished (especially important to avoid any sharp edges). Your straws should arrive polished and smooth at the ends. Cheap versions may not be finished as professionally and could be inconsistent in quality.
Straight or Curved Metal Straws
In our experience it is handy to have both. Smoothies and juices can be easier with straight straws, as there’s no bend for any bits of fruit or ice to get caught in. Some people find curved easier when drinking cocktails and other soft drinks. Personal preference so do enjoy experimenting!
We recommend 6mm and 8mm straws in a mix of straight and curved. They should cover 99% of your needs.
Not only are metal straws more sustainable but they also provide the chance to add a bit of style and individuality to your beverage. You can buy stainless steel straws in a range of awesome colours - not just silver. Black, rose gold and rainbow are some of the most popular alternatives. If you want to mix it up, we provide the chance to pick and mix the colours in your pack of straws.
This is probably a whole new world to you - who knew straws could be so complex. How on earth are you supposed to know your 6mm curved to your 8mm smoothie straws? Our handy guide below will help. Metal straws are typically available in diameters 6-12mm, with 6mm and 8mm undoubtedly being the most popular.
- 6mm - perfect for soft drinks and cocktails
- 8mm - An all-rounder - good for soft drinks, as well as smoothies and juices
- 10mm - good for smoothies and juices.
- 12mm - generally used for ‘bubble tea’ a little on the large size for general use
The majority of stainless steel straws on the market are 21.5cm long (8.5 inches approximately) - very similar to a typical single-use plastic straw. Shorter versions are available via some suppliers for particular glasses but we’ve found the typical length to be good all-rounders. There’s always going to be someone that wants a longer or shorter version depending on their favourite glass but remember the objective is to reduce unnecessary production and wastage so 21.5cm (8.5 inches) is a good one-size-fits-all straw.
How to Clean Metal Straws
Some packs of metal straws will come with a straw cleaner supplied. You may not need to use this regularly if you are able to rinse your straws after use.
Once you have finished your drink, a quick sip of water will help clean the inside of your straw out and prevent any impurities drying and becoming stuck inside.
Our straws are dishwasher friendly, so once you have used them at home or out and about you can pop them inside and they will be sparkling soon after. If you are unable or forget to clean your straw quickly you may have to use the straw cleaner supplied. Simply push it inside the straw and slide it back and forth to effectively polish the inside of the straw and remove any stubborn impurities inside. Then wash with warm water and detergent.
Most suppliers have cottoned on to the fact that eco-conscious people want to take their straws out and about with them - so they will often include the option to buy them with or without a straw bag or case. Normally, these are made from a linen or hemp material that can house a range of straws with a cleaner inside and be reused time and time again (don't forget to wash this, too). The case complete with straws can then be kept in the car, gym bag, handbag or office draw until you need to use them. Don’t forget to pack them in your suitcase if you’re heading off on holiday, either.
Where to Buy Metal Straws
If you are a consumer you will probably be looking to buy one or several packs of straws and want fast delivery. A local supplier (in the same country) is often the best option. Look for a reputable brand with reviews of service, a robust returns policy and active presence online. The idea is that you buy one pack that will last you a considerable amount of time, so don’t just opt for the cheapest straws around.
If you want to buy in a larger quantity, you may own a shop, restaurant or cafe - or perhaps you are getting married and want to provide your guests with a sustainable gift. In such case you can ask the same retailer if they provide a discount for larger orders (if they don’t already display bulk options).
Large Bulk Orders
For much larger orders (example - 5,000 straws+) you may consider going direct to the manufacturer (usually, they will be in China - as they process a huge amount of steel manufacturing in the world). The downside to this is, you will have to sample the supplier yourself, perhaps several, and risk very long lead times before the product arrives with you at your chosen destination. It could be considered a better option to pay a higher price for the product, but with the peace of mind of short lead times and a built in quality control. In essence, the retailer or wholesaler has already done the hard work and ironed out many of the brick walls you will inevitably face dealing direct to the manufacturer. You will also have to find a supplier that will supply you without masses of plastic packaging. Otherwise, that’s kind of defeating the object.
Conclusion - What You Should Look Out For
- Food grade 304 steel or higher
- 6mm-8mm straws are good all-rounders
- 21.5cm straws (8.5inch length) are good all-rounders
- A supplier with short lead times (nobody wants to wait a month for their straws!)