Why Some Drinkware is Not Dishwasher Safe

Alyssa Mertes

Alyssa Mertes

Promo Expert

Published: February 6th, 2017

Updated: April 22nd, 2019

So you’ve just been given a promotional item that you really like. You’re going to want to keep it around as long as possible… which means at some point, you’ll have to clean it (yes, especially your favorite custom t-shirt). That’s why Promo University® put together this lesson on the best ways to wash the most popular imprinted items!

Thanks to conveniences like dishwashers and washing machines, we no longer have to spend hours each day hunched over a washtub scrubbing individual stains. Old-fashioned washboards have been relegated to the land of bluegrass music instruments, where they belong.

But wait! You can't just toss a branded promotional item into a machine. Well, okay, there's technically nothing stopping you from doing that, but if you want your item – and its custom imprint – to last, you might have to use a little extra TLC.

So here's the Quality Logo Products care guide, full of recommendations and suggestions, for some of the most common promotional items we sell.

How to wash custom drinkware

Using a dishwasher is pretty much the nuclear option when it comes to cleaning your mugs, glasses, and other drinkware. Yes, it'll get them clean, but the high temperatures and harsh detergents a dishwasher employs can damage a custom imprint (along with the thin layer of surface coating on many metal travel tumblers and water bottles). That's why so many custom cups are labeled "hand wash only."

Additionally, a number of plastic travel mugs have a dual-wall construction, with an inner layer and an outer layer. It's great for keeping beverages insulated, but between those two layers is a space where water can seep in, linger, and create all sorts of funky growth. For that reason, it's also recommended that you don't submerge travel mugs and keep them soaking underwater for long periods of time.

So what can you do to wash your custom drinkware?

Wipe your item down with a sponge and warm, soapy water, and rinse it quickly under running water.

For stubborn stains, you can dilute a tablespoon or two of white vinegar with a cup of warm water, fill the mug or bottle with that solution, let it sit for fifteen to twenty minutes, and rinse it out. You can also try scrubbing the stains by using a soft-bristled toothbrush to apply a paste made from baking soda and water.

If your tumbler has a lid, you can clean the lid by soaking it in a similar mixture of hot water and vinegar as above. (The lid is okay to soak; it's the tumbler or travel mug itself that you don't want to keep underwater!)

Hand-washing is definitely the way to go, however, if your sports bottle has been labeled as "dishwasher safe," we recommend washing it on the top rack, where it's less likely to be exposed to a harsh cannon-like blast of water.

How to wash custom apparel

Cold water is the best choice whether you're washing your item by hand or in the machine. Hot water is harsher on fabric.

Avoid bleach, which can fade imprints and ruin the color of your garment if the fabric isn't white. Instead, go for a mild detergent or Woolite.

Turn your shirt inside out before washing it. This is less important for embroidered items, since embroidery thread often pokes through both sides of a fabric, but it's extremely helpful for shirts with a screen-printed or heat transferred logo, which has the imprint on one side of the fabric.

If possible, line dry your item or hang it on a hanger, and don't throw it into the dryer. In case you haven't gathered by now, heat can really wear on imprint inks and materials!

Custom hats, especially baseball caps, can be especially tricky to wash and dry because they have a shape that's important to retain. We have a guide dedicated specifically to caring for your favorite baseball cap, which you can read here.

How to wash neoprene

Because neoprene is so water-friendly (wetsuits are made from neoprene), simply rinsing it under running water for a few minutes will do wonders.

However, if a deeper cleaning is necessary, fill a tub or small wash basin with cool water and add a small bit of mild detergent, baby shampoo, Woolite, or special neoprene cleaner (trust us, it exists). Submerge your item in the sudsy water, squeeze it a few times, and then rinse as above.

Always let your neoprene items air dry! However, don't place them in direct sunlight – UV rays can break down neoprene material.

How to wash small plastic swag

This one’s easy: just wipe any plastic surfaces with a damp cloth! If your item has an electronic component, like the USB plug on a flash drive, avoid getting that wet. Electronics and water aren’t exactly good friends.

Whether your favorite promo item is a mug, a t-shirt, a koozie, or a bright yellow smiley-faced stress ball with charm to spare, there’s a way to care for it. Each item has its own best cleaning techniques, but in many cases, handwashing or spot-cleaning the product will do the trick. With a little bit of love and affection, your promo items will stay clean and show off a crisp, clear imprint for years to come!