my travel mug stinks.
January 13, 2007 1:18 PM   Subscribe

Anyone know how can I make my travel coffee mug not stink of old coffee? I have a fancy, semi-new travel mug made of some almost indestructible hard plastic. It's great, except for the surprisingly strong stink of old coffee and cream, which seems to have permeated it permanently. This is particularly a problem with the soft plastic seal around the lid.

I tried soaking it in very hot water and dish detergent. Nothing. I tried soaking it in vinegar (it then smelled like a not-pleasant combination of old coffee and vinegar).

So...any miracle cleaning products out there? Is bleach a good (or safe) idea? I should add that I don't have a dishwasher. I'm also aware that rinsing the mug out diligently after each use would prevent the stink. Realistically, that's not going to happen.
posted by lindsey.nicole to Food & Drink (17 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Have you tried baking soda?
posted by konolia at 1:21 PM on January 13, 2007

Second the baking soda. Make a paste with it to abrade as much staining/permeated gunk as possible, rinse out the resulting dark crustiness out and dry. Then make another baking soda paste to smear in and around the seal and the rest of the mug, and add lemon juice to foam it off and deodorize it.
posted by truenorth at 1:31 PM on January 13, 2007 [1 favorite]

If the baking soda does not do the trick try some charcoal. Bust up a briquette into a powder. Make a slush: 50% water, 50% charcoal powder. Let it sit over night. Seeing how they use this to get the stink out of colostomy bags your problem should be rectified after one application. Further, once rinsed there will be no lingering after taste or smell of the charcoal.
posted by bkeene12 at 1:44 PM on January 13, 2007

I asked a similar question and got some good answers.
posted by SeizeTheDay at 1:48 PM on January 13, 2007

I always use well diluted bleach and let it soak for a little while. Rinse thouroughly.
posted by lyam at 2:15 PM on January 13, 2007

I have had good luck removing food, but not coffee, odor and taste from hard plastics (mainly high density PE) by rinsing with very hot water - about 190-200 degrees F. I second the soaking in vineger or backing soda paste suggestions.
posted by wylde21 at 3:40 PM on January 13, 2007

I soak mine in baking soda and hot water and run them through the dishwasher. You can't soak them with soap, it makes the coffee taste like soap.
posted by unrepentanthippie at 3:52 PM on January 13, 2007

My work mug (stainless) gets a NaOh cleansing about every 4 months or so. The sodium hydroxide totally blasts away any residue, but since stainless doesn't leach smells so I don't know if that would help your plastic mug. Also, NaOh is particularly nasty stuff that you aren't likely to want to mess with. YMMV.
posted by isopraxis at 4:20 PM on January 13, 2007

i'm w/ lyam. dilute bleach and air dry. l loves me some bleach. great for cleaning coffee pots, too.

warning... some plastics do not like some chemicals. you may get discoloration and hazing. best to test first.
posted by FauxScot at 6:09 PM on January 13, 2007

A few drops of automatic dishwashing liquid, a bottle brush, some hot water, and 2 minutes of your time each morning, will keep your travel mug smelling great, with little risk of harm to it, or you. Automatic dishwashing liquids usually contain significant chlorine bleach as a sanitizing agent, plus various surfacants and rinse agents that cut oils easily, and yet release from polypropolene and styrene plastics easily and completely.

But if you're serious about your road coffee, consider a better travel mug.
posted by paulsc at 8:46 PM on January 13, 2007

A coworker of mine had fantastic luck cleaning out a nasty mug by letting a denture-cleaning tablet (and water) soak in it for a day.
posted by cali at 12:04 AM on January 14, 2007

Long-term, the key is to rinse it out when you're done. Don't have to fully wash it, but wherever you are, at least swish some water around in it. In addition to the tips above (although I'd be careful with bleach + plastic), I'd suggest:
-- Dampen an old toothbrush in baking soda and scrub, especially around the edge and the threads if there are any
-- Disassemble it as much as possible before cleaning
-- Does it only smell bad, but not really taste bad? There may be dirty water trapped between the walls (depending on the construction of the mug), for which I suggest leaving it upside-down on some paper towel, or right-side up on a rad or other moderate heat source
-- Does it have a gasket on the lid? Most do, and they're removable, and often have a surprising amount of coffee-crud stuck behind them...take it off and wash/scrub with baking soda
-- Put it in the freezer for a day or so, then re-wash. I'm not sure why this works (kills the bacteria that make the smell?) but it's worked for me when the above don't

As an aside, most of the above methods (soaking with baking soda for sure) will also help with that ghastly soap smell.
posted by sarahkeebs at 6:58 AM on January 14, 2007

Funny enough, I recall having heard cali's denture-cleanner suggestion before.

I'd try bleach first, myself. I keep it on hand because it's useful for all kinds of cleanning needs.
posted by Goofyy at 7:21 AM on January 14, 2007

Thanks, all - when I work up the energy I'll give these a try, and say which one worked best (as a disclaimer, if the first method works, it's unlikely I'll try the others).
posted by lindsey.nicole at 12:51 PM on January 14, 2007

I should add that while the "rinse it out every day" suggestion is certainly ideal, I'm a rather forgetful coffee slob. Not gonna happen, I'm afraid.
posted by lindsey.nicole at 12:55 PM on January 14, 2007

I've heard before that bleach is not safe to use with plastics for consumables.
I suggest giving it the best cleaning you can, then leaving it out in a hot sun for a week to bake everything out.

Longer-term, I suggest you get a mug that has stainless steel on the inside, instead of plastic. It makes a HUGE HUGE difference; I always crapped up plastic mugs with a quickness, but my stainless steel mugs can go on and on for years with no odor issues. Ideally, find one you can throw in the dishwasher. The only reason I've ever had to retire a stainless-steel-interior mug was because of one of the plastic parts (handle/cover/rubber-sealant) eventually breaking.
posted by Sprout the Vulgarian at 4:04 PM on January 14, 2007

fill with lemon juice and leave in the hot son for a while
posted by Lylo at 12:54 AM on January 15, 2007

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