Every tea drinker knows that you can’t (or shouldn’t) use a travel mug for both coffee and tea. The coffee smell and taste can linger for a long time and this is problematic for those who like to drink tea all the time.
In most cases true tea aficionados use a dedicated mug for their tea so that they don’t have to deal with this issue but for the occasional misuse of a dedicated mug or the repair of a well seasoned coffee tumbler you have some options.
First things first, plastic mugs will retain that coffee smell and taste far longer than mugs made of ceramic, steel, porcelain, or glass. In some cases lower quality plastic mugs that are frequently used for coffee over a long period of time may not be able to fully recover.
If you have a dishwasher safe mug then you can try running it through a long cycle but for the vast majority of high end insulated travel mugs you are going to have to resort to hand washign and soaking in one of a few different solutions.
The simplest and frequently most effective method is to hand wash your mug as well as all disassembled parts to the lid with a good bottle brush, dish soap, and hot water. Once cleaned you then soak the interior of the mug overnight with a solution of 1 part white vinegar to 1 part water.
The lid should be disassembled as much as possible and submerged in the same solution in a bowl to remove the odor for it as well.
In all but the most extreme cases this will work just fine but for troublesome mugs or for the sensitive nose you can also try using denture cleaning tablets instead of vinegar. These tablets are designed to clean and remove odors and may be effective at eliminating some odors that the vinegar leaves behind.
Others have reported soaking tumblers in bleach/water mixtures and then thoroughly rinsing and washing afterwards. I’mm not a fan of this because I don’t like the idea of putting bleach in my travel mug but to each his own.
In most cases high quality plastic mugs can be repaired but the cheaper the quality the more difficult it may be to clean up the smell entirely.
Preaching to the choir here but it’s always recommended to have a dedicated mug for coffee and try to keep the coffee out of other travel mugs. If you use coffee only ever now and then in your mugs then you don’t even need a great mug, just something to keep your non-coffee mugs smelling fresh and tasting pure.
Ohh, and please do leave your own super-secret tips to getting rid of coffee smells in the comments below. I’m sure there are a few awesome untapped ideas out there.