A stainless steel travel mug is a good investment because a quality mug can last for many years. When you have a favorite cup and carry it every day, you rapidly become attached to it and using a different mug seems like abandoning and old friend. The trouble is that your old friend can sometimes become a bit soiled and even stinky if you don’t give it the care that it needs.

Many travel mugs come with “handwash” only warnings, and only a few are dishwasher safe. One of the main reasons for this lies in the polypropylene and plastic parts that are attached to the stainless steel. Poly parts are often used to make the threads at the top of the mug, plus handles or handle inserts, grip bands, etc. The reason many of these mugs aren’t dishwasher safe is that the shape of these parts can sometimes hold water, allowing contaminants to lie in a small channel around the inside of the mug. Hand washing eliminates this since you would normally turn the mug right side up to scrub it, then upside down to dump it, then right side up to rinse it, etc. this repeated turning allows all of the water to flow out of the mug to ensure that it is truly clean.

Even a stainless steel mug can sometimes become stained by coffee, tea or other beverages. If you have an older cup that you want to rejuvenate and give some additional life to–or if you simply want to remove the stains–you can try one of these tricks.

The first is good old baking soda and vinegar. Take the lid off the mug and dump in one or two teaspoons full of baking soda. Then add a generous amount of vinegar. A couple good double-shots should get you started. The idea is to make the vinegar foam up and clean the inside of the mug by the action of the baking soda being rapidly agitated against the metal. You can use any vinegar for this and the cheapest is just as good as the best. Those who use vinegar to clean their coffee makers, may want to clean their mugs at the same time by reusing the vinegar that was run through the coffee maker. It cuts the amount of vinegar you need to buy and you get to recycle once before throwing it away. The cleaning ability of the vinegar isn’t harmed by running through the coffee maker since it is the acid that we are after and that doesn’t change much.

Another method that some people use is to drop in a couple of ordinary denture cleaning tablets and let the mug soak over night. The tablets won’t hurt stainless steel and will blast coffee and tea stains right off, at least according to the television commercials.

One area problem area to clean is the lid. Almost every stainless steel travel mug made comes with a polypropylene lid that is composed of several parts. Often, there are small spaces between the parts that can retain fluids even after the mug is empty. For coffee and tea drinkers who don’t add anything to their drinks, this isn’t usually too much of a problem, just rinse the lid under hot running water and set it out to dry.

Those who enjoy milk, cream, creamer, sugar or sweeteners will find that cleaning the lids can be a bit more problematic. If left in the crevices of the lid, these additives can cause a sour taste or even become smelly. The good news is that most lids are made to be disassembled for cleaning. Watch for flip open spouts that can be popped off their hinges so you can get to the insides. Other lids with sliding doors will sometimes have a catch or a button that must be depressed to take the lid apart for cleaning.

In the odd event that the lid cannot be disassembled, you can try cleaning it in the same way that you would clean the rest of the mug, with baking soda and vinegar or denture tables. Just use a bowl or other container to hold the lid and cleaning compounds and be sure to rinse the lid well under hot running water.   

A little care in cleaning can extend the life of almost any stainless steel travel mug.