How to Wash a Contigo Travel Mug


Brenda asked: I have a Contigo coffee travel mug. It seals by a vacuum-like press. How do I clean in the tight places of the lid? I use milk in my coffee and it gets yucky. I almost need a brush the size of a cotton swab, but bendable.

Cleaning the deep grooves of travel mug lids is a common problem and reason that many travel mugs end up in the trash. Whether it’s milk or sugar for coffee or tea, when these items get trapped, they lead to mold and growth that no one wants close to their beverages. To clean these grooves we have to think outside the box and re-task our cleaning tools.

You Will Need:

  • Dish soap or detergent
  • Warm water
  • Soft cloths
  • Bottle brush (some have nipple brushes as well that are smaller)
  • Small brush (such as Wilton tip brush)

Steps to Wash the Mug:

  1. Fill the sink with warm water.
  2. Add a small amount of dish soap or dish detergent.
  3. Agitate the water to mix until suds form.
  4. Place the entire cup into the water so that it is completely submerged.
  5. Allow the cup to soak for several minutes to loosen any dried on dirt or drinks.
  6. Use a soft cloth or sponge to wash the surfaces, both inside and out.
  7. Use the bottle brush to clean the inside of the cup/mug and remove any residue from the beverages on the bottom.
  8. Use a small brush to clean the grooves and tight areas in the lid. This brush is built on a wire and can be bent to reach difficult areas.
  9. Rinse all pieces of the cup/mug thoroughly with clean water.
  10. Dry with a soft cloth.
  11. Set it on a drying rack and allow it to air dry completely.
  12. If any dirt or drink residue could not be removed, place the lid (and mug/cup if metal) into the dishwasher for additional cleaning.

Additional Tips and Advice

  • To remove build up, some have found it helpful to fill the mug and add a polident tablet. Allow it to soak for several hours before washing and rinsing thoroughly.
  • Always store the mugs and cups with the lids removed. This will prevent moisture from becoming trapped in the cup, and ward off mold and other growth.
  • Metal cups can be placed in the dishwasher along with the lids. However, painted and ceramic cups should be hand washed. All lids can be washed in the dishwasher.


  1. Mimi says:

    Instead of Polident, you can use one tablespoon baking soda and one tablespoon vinegar + some water.

    Clean the lid vigorously with water to get gunk out. Push the button a few times as you run water on it. Rinse the lid.

    Over the sink, hold the lid on it’s back. Put about 2 warm tablespoons water INSIDE the lid.

    Put the baking soda in. Shake the lid a bit so the baking soda dilutes in the water.

    Now add the tablespoon vinegar. The water will fizz.

    When it’s nearly done fizzing, push the button a few times so the mix cleans the “closed” area too.

    Rinse the lid under warm water, and clean it. You’ll need to rinse REALLY well because it might smell like vinegar, but the smell will go away.

    It takes less than 30 seconds when you’re used to it.

  2. Jaime says:

    If you frequent a coffee shop, ask the nice people behind the counter to “Steam your lid” using the high pressure steam from the Cappuccino machine. The people at my coffee shop do this for everyone who brings in their own mugs. It works great if done regularly, but not sure if it will work for lids or mugs that have been left to build-up mold.

  3. Scott says:

    I have had the stainless Contigo travel mug for about a year now. I am from the Seattle area and drink coffee, Kool-Aid and milk out of mine daily. I like it because I have real wood floors in my house and I don’t like for people or myself to spill the contents all over the floor. Also, I work outside for a living so it gets dropped by accident a lot. I guess it’s like a Timex – takes a lickin’ and keeps on tickin’! Anyway, I put my mug in the dishwasher and let it do its thing. Every now and then maybe throw some vinegar in there and agitate it, but beyond that, these things are a breeze to clean. :)

  4. Vikki says:

    I swear by these mugs; LOVE THEM! The best way to clean out the top is to use the hottest water and pressure to get in the small areas. I left coffee in mine once and it got a big nasty, so I soaked it in hot soapy water for a few hours, then used the high power hot water to get all the small spots, then cleaned again. It worked great. I see here they are saying to put the mug in dishwasher. Disregard that. You can put the lid in, but not the mug itself because it is vacuum sealed. This may mess up the seal. Always best to clean the mug part by hand.

  5. Rallysmurf says:

    If you have an air compressor, I use a blower and hit the lid with 100 psi air after soaking. Gets all I can see out.

  6. Erica says:

    After soaking the lid, I use a pipe cleaner. Works well and is cheap.

  7. CJ says:

    Boiling the lid for 10 minutes helps get all the black gunk out of the inside of the lid. Just soap and water will not do it. I need to try the 30 second baking soda and vinegar treatment recommended here.

  8. Kim says:

    I’ve had the same Contigo stainless steel travel mug for almost 3 1/2 years and I use it daily. I am just now considering replacing it because the auto-seal button actually comes off when I wash it. Amazingly, it still doesn’t even leak!! It’s a travel mug that after one use, you will NEVER use another.

  9. Nancee says:

    I’m really considering buying one of these Contigo travel mugs because the reviews are so good. I want a non-leaking mug that keeps my coffee hot and is comfortable to use. However, if so many people find it difficult to keep the lid free from gunk and odor, it is a concern. Why doesn’t the company address this problem and/or change the lid?

  10. Guy says:

    To clean the lid, I would suggest temporarily jamming open the mouth piece and then placing into the dishwasher. Otherwise, the sealed parts that are compressed against the lid are not exposed for cleaning.

  11. Harv says:

    These are the best travel mugs ever! The only downside is the cleaning part.

    I had a black lid on mine and I guess I didn’t realize or see the build up. I washed it daily and then after about six months, I took a sip of coffee and ended up with a long, rubbery string in my mouth. Kinda gross.

    So here is what I did. I took two tablespoons of dish washing machine detergent and poured it into the cup. I then took hot tap water and filled it up 3/4 full. I put the lid back on and shook the mug upside down for about 20 seconds. While still holding the mug upside down, I pushed the button to release a bit of the soapy water. Shook it again for about 10 seconds, and again released a bit of water. Then I placed the mug in an empty kitchen sink upside down. The water/soap was able to eat away at the crud.

    In the morning, I shook the mug again for about 30 seconds, then opened it and looked inside (if you’ve had your mug for a few months and have only been hand washing it, you will see lots of crud floating in the water). I poured out the water, and filled it 3/4 of the way up with hot water. I put the lid on it again and shook upside down while periodically pressing the button. Once there was no more crud in the water, the mug was clean.

    In addition to hand washing, I do this technique once a week to keep it shiny clean!

  12. Nicole says:

    Jamming the lid open is a good call! I used a toothpick and that did the trick. Now, when soaking the mug or putting it in the dishwasher, I know I’m getting the sealed-off portion of the spout! Thanks guys!

  13. JDub says:

    To clean I:
    1. Soak both the lid and mug in hot soapy water for 10 minutes or so. Wash the mug with a soft cloth and/or brush.
    2. Rinse the lid well to get any currently-loose gunk out.
    3. Take some of the soapy water and put it in the mug. Put on the lid.
    4. Shake it vigorously! (Be careful not the press the button while you do!) When done, press the button to let some of the hot air out.
    5. Open and check out all the black gunk in the water! Dump it into empty sink.
    6. Repeat with soapy water 1–2 more times, then do 1–2 repeats only with hot water from the tap (no soap) until you aren’t seeing gunk.
    7. Now refill one last time, fill halfway or so with hot water again, put on the lid, turn it upside down and press the button to let the water drain out the spout.

    Should be good!

  14. Cliff V. says:

    Fill the mug with very hot water, put lid back on tight, then shake mug and lid vigorously. Place it towards the sink with the lid facing down. Allow water to shoot through the hole by depressing the button. Do this several times. Avoid pointing it at any body parts, as this water will come out pressurized. Take the lid off and dump the excess water in sink. Repeat until the desired clean level is achieved. (Again, avoid pointing directly at body parts! Not responsible for anyone not following the safety of this cleaning method.)

  15. Mary says:

    I use my Contigo once per day for latte. I clean it thoroughly after each use, including soaking the mug full of hot soapy water upside down, shaking vigorously and shooting the water out the vents and drinking spout, baking soda, vinegar (balsamic), etc. That disgusting stuff still comes out in my mouth sometimes, and I was wondering what I was doing wrong as this simply could NOT be acceptable performance to Contigo. Well, it appears that there is really no way to avoid this. If it wasn’t for the things the mugs do really well, they would have gone in the trash a long time ago. I wonder when someone will get E.coli, or salmonella, or who knows what from these things. Just hope it’s not me!

  16. Evan says:

    This morning, I came up with an idea. It seemed to work. I used my bathroom WaterPik oral irrigator (basically a miniature power-wash) and blasted the crap out of the lid. Then, I proceeded to put in 1/4 cup of hot water and did my morning “shake weight exercise” on it. Tonight, I’m going to boil the crap out of it!
    These mugs are great, but they really need to come up with a design that can be disassembled for cleaning!

  17. rejane says:

    I love my mug. It’s the best mug I found on the market.
    The only thing is, be careful, as it can leak!

    I had placed my mug in the gym bag and something inside must have press the “ON” button, and my gym clothes got wet.

    However after that mistake of mine done once, now I try to avoid placing the mug near something that might trigger the button and leak inside the bag.

  18. Barbara says:

    Enjoyed all comments and suggestions, have actually tried most, except the vinegar and soda. The smell, just can’t do it to my coffee mug! My thinking is in the assembly line of putting the pieces together for the lid, there should be a way to disassemble! I don’t want to experiment on mine, though! Wouldn’t you know it, I never see one at a second hand store. So in the mean time I use pipe cleaners, and definitely will try the toothpick application.

  19. Arlene says:

    I love the concept of these cups, but they are absolutely disgusting and should really be taken off the market until the manufacturer can devise a way to take them apart to clean properly. I have four of them and they are all going in the trash. What a shame; the company should replace these cups for anyone who has them.

  20. Gerry says:

    I am a coffee addict. I drink it from morning until night in my Contigo cup. I didn’t realize how gross it was getting until one day I sucked back a large chunk. I thought that I was cleaning it quite diligently after that with hot water, high pressure and overnight soaking a couple of times per week. The coffee tasted fine. Last night, I dropped the cup and broke the plastic lid. I don’t think that I’ve been that grossed out for a long time. There was brown sludge everywhere. Visually, I would have to say it looked like it was covered in feces. Maybe it’s time to hear about these cups on the six o’clock news.

  21. Nannette says:

    I have been using these cups for years and absolutely love them. I try to rinse it out as soon as I finish my coffee. When I put the lids in the dish washer, I hold the button down and shove it over the top of one of the retaining dividers – this keeps the drinking area open. I have never experienced the “gross factor.” A couple times a year, I soak them in soapy bleach water. I use a picker from a nut cracker set to very carefully pull the sealing ring out (it is not easy to get it back in) and the picker can also reach down into the tight spots to loosen any gunk.

  22. Barb says:

    We have been using the Contigo mugs for a couple of years now and love them. I have tried all the cleaning methods suggested here as well. I would like to suggest that everyone follow the recipe for the vinegar and baking soda method, as I used about 1/2 cup of vinegar with water and baking soda and the solution blew the lid off the cup. It also fired the metal cup into my sink with such force that it dented the cup. I find that the WaterPik method is best so far, but I am definitely going to try the air compressor!

  23. Alyssa says:

    I have been using my Contigo for the last eight months and washing it in the dish washer every time. I noticed a little gunk build up from the milk so I got a cotton swab out to clean that and the rest is frightening! A little piece of black gunk came out so I started banging it on the counter and more and more came out. So I soaked it in boiling water and then banged it on the counter and I swear the amount of grossness that came out was not only overwhelming, it was disgusting. I couldn’t believe I was drinking out of it with that gross stuff in the lid! I’m almost scared to drink out of it again because more and more of that stuff keeps coming out. It’s like the clowns in the car; I have no idea where it’s all coming from!

  24. Dan says:

    I also tried all off the suggestions and have found the cotton swab suggestion the best.

    FYI: They now make an “Easy-Clean” version in which the crossbeam on the inside of the lid pulls away. Found it on Amazon.

  25. Belinda says:

    Has anyone called or e-mailed Contigo; what was their answer? I have two and am thinking of getting rid of them… thanks.

  26. Carla says:

    I just emailed them today and the answer pretty much was, “Wash it often and perhaps buy some of our brushes or you can save 20%, we have a sale on right now. Sorry, gunk is not covered under the warranty.”

    I cleaned our two out over the last few days; absolutely disgusting!

  27. Bruce says:

    The easiest and most efficient way to clean a Contigo mug:
    Heat a ceramic cup of water in the microwave for 2 minutes or 2 minutes and 30 seconds. Place a single drop of dish soap in the lid. Remove the ceramic cup from the microwave, and pour the water into your Contigo mug. Shake vigorously, holding the mug up right for a few seconds. This will build up pressure in the mug. Aim the mug into the sink, then press the button until all water is gone. Everything that was trapped will be removed.

  28. Chuck says:

    A very simple solution to this issue…Contigo needs to re-design the lid so that you can reverse thread the inner part out of the lid for easy cleaning.

  29. Doh says:

    Like Evan above said, they should think about a cap that can be dissembled for thorough cleaning. I was cleaning mine every time, but did not realize how bad the buildup was after a year of use. I used a tooth pick and the stuff it dislodged was disgusting! I tried to take it apart but was not successful. If you have an air compressor, it might work or if you have one of those water pick thingys, it might work to a certain extent. Best is if it could be taken apart for thorough cleaning!

  30. Mani says:

    Out of all the suggestions, the water pik worked like a charm. I had to do it twice to get all of it out, but I couldn’t believe how much goop ended up coming out. I think I’ll be washing it at least once or twice.

    Another benefit is that now I have to keep my water pik out so I’ll be using it more often.

  31. Sharon says:

    My coworkers and I were told if we want to drink hot beverages at work, we need to use a Contigo mug…since we all work with children. We all have Contigo mugs. I wash my mug and lid each day with soap and water…rinsing thoroughly. I also run the mug and lid through the dishwasher. I began noticing an odor in the lid. After some probing of the lid, running hot water, vinegar and baking soda, dish detergent, more rinsing and banging the sides of the lid against the sink…chunks of black gunk became loosened and came out of the lid. My coworkers are experiencing this as well.

    It would be great if Contigo would come up with a lid that would disassemble so this problem could be alleviated.

    It really is disgusting and UNHEALTHY!

  32. Julie says:

    Harv & JDub have it right! I use the same method to clean ALL my travel mugs EVERY time (as a prep BEFORE putting the LIDS only in the dishwasher, to ensure they are disinfected by the ultra-hot water and heated drying) make sure to store them with the lids flipped up, and I have NEVER had that gunk build-up problem. Maybe I’m OCD, but considering all the hidden spots, I couldn’t bare the thought of drinking out of them without knowing they were thoroughly cleaned, and my hubby is allergic to mold, so this was a no-brainer. I was shocked by the number of complaints on Amazon about how they “can’t be cleaned” thoroughly…however, for those who would like procedure (also detailed above by the previously mentioned posters):
    If the liquid is getting into those parts, then logic says use the same principles behind drinking from the bottles to get to those parts – just with hot, soapy water…and that same thing that causes the liquid to “spit” at you…the build-up of pressure…can help you to clean if you SHAKE the bottle (creating more suds, getting into those parts in the process), and then using that high pressure to FORCE the bacteria and gunk that may have built up OUT of the drinking spout (which helps clean that in the process); if you have a tiny bottle brush, a bristle brush with longer sets of bristles, or even just a q-tip, you can stick that through the drinking spout to clean out the gunk build-up left from drinking (well-known by tea and coffee drinkers). Also, the longer you soak the lids in hot water, the looser the gunk and particles will be…problem solved!

  33. Gloria says:

    Love my Contigo travel mugs! I bought tiny tattoo machine nozzle cleaning brushes from Ebay to clean mine. The brushes are pretty stiff and don’t fall apart like a q-tip. They can also be bent, which helps to get into the tight spots of the mug lids. That black rubbery gunk that comes out is nasty!

  34. Daisy says:

    I just cleaned my Contigo cup. I love it and use it everyday…I clean mine with bleach; let it soak, then one hour later, rinse it very well. BLEACH EATS AWAY THE MOLD.

  35. Michael says:

    Can I put the Contigo water bottles in the dishwasher? Thanks.

  36. Melanie says:

    The plastic Contigo cups are labeled as “Top Rack Dishwasher Safe” if they can be washed in the dishwasher. However, the Contigo water bottles in particular have a warning that they should not be used for hot liquids, which probably means they are not dishwasher safe. As a rule of caution, only wash your Contigo cup in the dishwasher if it is labeled as dishwasher safe. However, all of the lids can be washed on the top rack of the dishwasher.
    Source: Contigo – General Cleaning Instructions

  37. Lee says:

    Piece of junk mugs these Contigos are! My golly! Coffee all over my mustang on the leather seats and the carpet in there. Yeah, it leaks out of the hole and around the lid, from brand new.

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