As moms, we often do things that aren't exactly glamorous. Once you've got a few years under your belt, you start to feel like you aren't capable of being grossed out anymore. But that's not true at all. One look at this mom's picture of a nasty sippy cup valve will have your stomach turning in no time.
Sippy cups are a toddler staple. Once they get the hang of it, kids carry those bad boys everywhere. Keeping track of them is important. When you lose a half-filled sippy cup of milk to the Bermuda triangle that is the backseat of your car or underneath your sofa for a few days, it's a lost cause by the time you find it again. There's no eradicating the funky smell left behind.
But even if you have a homing device attached to every single sippy cup and you clean them immediately, it isn't always enough. Even the most thorough attention to the tedious task of disassembling a sippy cup's thousand parts can still leave something behind. Especially if you can't get to it.
Just ask Stephanie Phelps. She's had trouble with the Tommee Tippee brand of cups before. Specifically, the valves aren't easily taken apart and cleaned. She even stopped using them for a while because she didn't feel she could thoroughly clean them. She was right. Once she figured out a way to open the little suckers up, what she found is a surefire way to lose your lunch. Take a look at what Phelps posted to Facebook:
That's mold. Phelps posted the picture to let the company know she was super-skeeved out by the petri dish her kid used to put in his mouth. Tommee Tippee got back to her to let her know that they're aware of the problem and have been working on a fix:
"We would like to assure you that we have extensively tested the valves and this included a panel of moms... and we will be making clear valves available shortly."
That's good, because those pictures are downright nasty. There's no word on whether or not the new valves will actually come apart for cleaning, but at least the clear ones will help you make sure you get all of the gunk out of there.
Sippy cup valves are fantastic little doodads. They keep your kid from choking on a deluge of apple juice that pours out too fast, and some of them even keep your car and furniture drip-free. The only problem is that they're tiny and they can be pretty tough to keep clean even when they're less complicated than Tommee Tippee's mechanism. It isn't enough to just wash them thoroughly, too. You have to be able to get them dry, which is slightly more complicated.
Your best bet is a multistep process. Most cups are dishwasher safe, but the valves aren't. You have to wash them by hand, and a good place to start is with a long skinny brush, like a dental brush or even one of these special sippy cup brushes.
If you feel like a soap and water bath and a few pokes with a brush won't do it, though, you want to find cups with valves that can be sterilized either in a hot water bath or with a tablet and water solution. The tablets used for dentures suffice pretty well. Just don't use bleach. Ever.
Finally, you have to let the valves dry. You can shake out the excess water and turn the valves a few times while they're drying to expose as much of the residual water to the air as possible. After that, instead of reassembling the cups, store the valves separately. That will keep the air circulating around them.
Eventually, though, it just isn't a bad idea to replace the valves completely. Scratched and worn valves are happy little bacteria farms and should be disposed of, along with discolored ones. Or you can replace them just for piece of mind. A lot of companies sell packs of replacement valves for you to use when it's convenient, and the companies that don't will typically replace valves free of charge through customer service.
If the image of moldy valves is just way too pervasive for you now, switch to a straw instead. Generally, the rule of thumb is that if a kid can drink from a sippy, he or she can drink from a straw too with some practice. Some moms even skip the sippy cups entirely and go straight for the alternative.
So, remember: Clean your sippy cups' valves thoroughly, dry those little suckers out, replace them regularly and whatever you do, if you must satisfy your curiosity about what lies in a sippy cup valve's dark recesses, never do it on a full stomach.
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