Cleaning Travel Mugs, No Elbow Grease Required

Travel Mug Cleaning

Travel mug filled with baking soda, vinegar, and boiling water cleaning itself…

Well, we should start by admitting that cleaning travel mugs usually consists of a quick rinse of water to get out any leftover tea before quickly refilling it in the morning and heading out the door to work. So any true cleaning really doesn’t happen until the weekend, and that is only if we remember to do it. Well, that leaves us to the problem of a very stained travel mug that eventually leads to all the tea tasting the same. So what is the easiest way to clean travel mugs? Diluted bleach will do the trick, but I am not too fond of putting chemicals that could possibly poison me if I fail to properly rinse into a container I routinely drink out of. So I return to my favorite standby cleaners of baking soda and vinegar. It does a great job with zero elbow grease.

Cleaning Travel Mugs

You will need the following:

  • A bowl big enough to hold the lid to your travel mug and possibly another bowl or plate to weigh down the lid if it floats once you fill up the bowl with water.
  • Enough baking soda to put 1 tablespoon per 8 oz of volume of the travel mug, plus an extra 2 tablespoons for the lid
  • Enough white vinegar to allow for 2 tablespoons per 8 oz of volume of the travel mug, plus an extra 4 tablespoons for the lid
  • An old toothbrush
  • A soft sided sponge, dish towl or paper towls
  • Enough boiling water to fill the travel mug and submerge completely the lid of your travel mug in the bowl
Travel Mug Before & After

One of my favorite travel mugs before and after cleaning with baking soda, vinegar, and water.

It is recommended you work in your kitchen sink just in case the baking soda and vinegar bubble over the sides of your mug. Start by adding the baking soda to your mug (1 Tbsp/8 oz in size) and then add vinegar. The travel mug pictured here is 16 oz, so I put in 2 tablespoons of baking soda and then 4 tablespoons of vinegar. It will start bubbling up but will likely not run over the sides. Allow the bubbles to decrease before adding in the boiling water, as the water will cause more bubbling. Place the lid of the travel mug in the bowl and put in 2 tablespoons of baking soda and 4 tablespoons of vinegar. Then pour boiling water over the lid until it is fully submerged. You may need to weigh the lid down with another dish if it floats. Fill up the travel mug with boiling water to the point that it covers all the tea stains. You will need to fill the travel mug slowly as the baking soda and vinegar will bubble again. At this point, set a timer for 1 hour and walk away.

At the end of the hour pour out the water and wipe the inside of the mug with a sponge or dish towel. The stains will come up easily. If it is too narrow for you to get your hand in, twist up the dish towel and push it into the cup using the tooth brush and twist it around to wipe off the stains. If necessary, use the toothbrush to wipe off the stains around the bottom edge of the cup where it meets the sides. Next, use the toothbrush on the lid to clean around the edges of the lid and the closure pieces. You will notice quickly that the toothbrush gets dirty, rinse it as you go. Once you can run the toothbrush over the lid and not have it come back brown you will know you got off all the tea build up. Last, rinse both the cup and lid with water to ensure the vinegar and baking soda are gone.

If you need to remove tea stains from your other tea accessories, take a look at this post on cleaning teapots, infusers and mugs.

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