Are Travel Mugs Dishwasher Safe?

So you want to take your morning coffee to go. You don’t have time to drink it at home before heading out to work. Or, you want a nice cup of coffee at work without spending a lot of money on buying coffee from a coffee shop like Starbucks. A travel mug is the answer.

But you don’t want a lot of hassle from that travel mug. It needs to keep your coffee warm and should be easy to clean.

Therefore, You might wonder: are travel mugs dishwasher safe? The answer is: No. Travel mugs are generally not dishwasher safe because of the vacuum seal that gives your travel mug its insulating properties. The high heat in a dishwasher can damage these vacuum seals. A damaged vacuum seal causes the travel mug to lose its insulating properties, and it might cause the travel mug to leak.

That’s a bummer. Now you have to clean it by hand every night—something you don’t want to be spending time on in a busy life.

Luckily there is one brand of coffee travel mugs that are dishwasher safe. But more on that later. 


A collection of coffee travel mugs

How do you know if a travel mug is dishwasher safe?

Usually, travel mugs and items have symbols on the bottom that tell you about their properties. The glass and fork symbol tells you that an item is food safe. That doesn’t make it dishwasher safe, though. This is important because many people confuse ‘food safe’ for ‘dishwasher safe.’

The icon you are looking for is the dishwasher-safe icon that looks like a set of dishes (usually a set of plates or a plate and a glass) with some straight lines above it. This icon tells you the item is safe for the dishwasher. But only on the top rack! 

Unfortunately, there is no universal symbol for fully dishwasher safe items. Some manufacturers design their own, but the only way to know for sure is to refer to the package or the user manual if the item comes with one.

So, to find out whether your travel mug is dishwasher safe, look at the bottom first. In most cases, you won’t find any information there. You could refer to the manual or package it came in if you still have that, but let me tell you:

99% of travel mugs are not dishwasher safe. Most modern travel mugs have dishwasher safe lids, but the vacuum-sealed body is not dishwasher safe.

Fortunately, there is a manufacturer that makes dishwasher safe insulated mugs. We will dive into that at the end of this article. First, let’s find out WHY many travel mugs are not safe for the dishwasher.

Why are many travel mug NOT dishwasher safe?

As we discussed, most travel mugs are not dishwasher safe because of the vacuum seal. The vacuum seal is what allows the travel mug to keep your coffee hot for hours.

To keep the liquid in a travel mug hot (or cold, it doesn’t matter), we have to prevent the heat from escaping. Heat escapes through conductivity. When you pour coffee in a regular mug, the hot coffee transfers its warmth onto the wall of the mug and up into the air. If you put a lid on it, the heat can’t escape up. But it still transfers to the wall of the mug and from the mug to the air outside the mug.

How a travel mug keeps your coffee hot

A travel mug tries to keep heat in by having two containers, one smaller than the other, separated by a thin layer of empty space. The air is sucked out of that empty space, and a seal prevents air from getting back in. Now the inner container has no air to transfer its heat onto. A vacuum is terrible at conducting heat. So, the heat stays inside the inner container, keeping your coffee warm. 

The weak point in a vacuum-sealed, double-walled, travel mug is the seal that keeps the vacuum intact. If this seal gets damaged, air can get into the space between the two containers, and the power of vacuum insulation is lost. 

Also, when the seal is damaged, water from the dishwasher can get between the double walls. And you don’t want any water sitting there.

Why a dishwasher will destroy the vaccuum seal

So, keeping the seal on your double-walled travel mug in good condition is vital. And putting it in the dishwasher is the best way to destroy a vacuum seal, short of pounding the travel mug with a hammer. A dishwasher can produce a lot of heat and movement. Hot water is sprayed on the dishes from all sides is what cleans them. And it will clean your travel mug too. But what is really bad for the vacuum seal is the high heat the dishwasher produces to evaporate excess water at the end of the washing program. This will destroy the vacuum seal. Not the first time you put it in, but slowly over time.

There is probably no need to stress this anymore, but: don’t put your vacuum-sealed travel mug in the dishwasher!

Bonus: an old, but fun video explains how a thermos (i.e., a big travel mug 😊) works.

What are the best dishwasher safe travel mugs?

Well, I told you that 99% of travel mugs are not dishwasher safe. So finding any dishwasher safe travel mugs would be a challenge itself. Some manufacturers claim their travel mugs are dishwasher safe.  

Sometimes these are just claims. Usually, reviews on Amazon or after some Googling will tell you that these claims are false. Sometimes you read in the fine print that indeed the travel mug is partly dishwasher safe. Lids of most big brand high-quality travel mugs like Contigo or Thermos are dishwasher safe nowadays. And that’s a good thing!

The lid of a travel mug with all its nooks and crannies is very difficult to clean properly by hand. Sure, you can rinse it with hot water or soak it in some soapy water for a bit. This will clean the lid superficially, but over time you will see the coffee stains remain after a rinse or a soak. A dishwasher will clean your lid properly.

And to be fair, the body of a travel mug is pretty straightforward to clean. You put in some water and a mild detergent, break out the dish brush, give the thing a scrub and a rinse, and let it dry. No biggie.

But if you really want a fully dishwasher safe travel mug, there is only one way to go.

Yeti Ramblers are the best dishwasher safe travel mugs (period).

Yeti is an insulated gear manufacturer known for its coolers (hard and soft) and its insulated drinkware. And they make quality products. 

The Yeti mugs and tumblers will keep your coffee piping hot. They are durable, look cool, and dishwasher safe! Yeti has found a way to protect the vacuum seal so that you can put your rambler or mug in a dishwasher without risking damage.

I have found that Yeti’s insulated drinkware has one major downside. They don’t have leakproof lids. The lids are splash resistant but put them upside down in your bag, and they will leak. 

Fortunately, several third-party manufacturers produce leakproof lids to fit Yeti tumblers and mugs.  

I don’t want this article to turn into a sales page for Yeti products, but they do have the dishwasher safe feature of their tumblers and mugs down. Good products deserve to be mentioned.

If you are interested: check out  Yeti’s store on Amazon.com

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