Menu
Search
Menu
Close

Glass Water Bottles

Published November 2018

How we tested

Reusable water bottles can be plastic, metal, or glass, all environmentally friendly alternatives to disposable plastic. We previously tested plastic and metal water bottles but excluded glass because of weight and durability concerns. However, interest in alternatives to plastic is growing, and glass models have proliferated in the market. We decided it was time to examine them.

We chose six popular models priced from about $10 to roughly $40, ranging in capacity from 16 to 22 ounces, and put them through a battery of tests that included sipping, opening and closing lids, staining, shaking, washing, and, of course, dropping. (Yes, this resulted in a lot of broken glass, even though most models came with a protective sleeve made of silicone or, in one case, nylon. One model was sleeveless, as its glass interior was fully encased in a plastic exterior instead.) We also assigned each model a temporary owner for one week, sending the bottles into the real world—to the grocery store and gym; to restaurants; to yoga, boot camp, and barre classes; they rode in cars, trains, and buses and sometimes just sat around the office, too.

All models passed our staining, odor-retention, and leak tests. Bright red sports drink didn't color the glass or the undersides of the lids, and while most of the lids smelled faintly fruity if we really sniffed, it wasn't noticeable while drinking. None of the bottles leaked, even when we turned them upside down and shook them vigorously. They all looked great after 10 washes, too, with no signs of wear and tear. The real differences came down to how easy they were to use. From an aesthetically pleasing model that was a pain to fill to a loud lid that interrupted an otherwise peaceful yoga class, there were clear factors that separated the top performers from the rest.

Bottles with Wide Mouths Were Easier to Fill

Water bottle openings ranged in diameter from 1 to 2¼ inches. The model with the smallest opening was difficult to fill, requiring laser-like focus. We often accidentally hit the rim and consequently found ourselves wiping down the exterior. The other bottles had larger openings that were much easier to fill.

Lid Style Was Key

Every bottle had a screw-on lid. Two were problematic. One had a metal cap, which, like nails on a chalkboard, felt and sounded grating when screwed onto the glass bottle. The other troublesome lid was plastic, with a rigid looped handle that was positioned at a roughly 45-degree angle. The asymmetrical loop made the cap unbalanced and difficult to grip, and the top-heavy lid sometimes fell off as soon as it was unscrewed—both because it was hard to grasp and because the uneven weight distribution caused it to shift to one side. The lopsided handle also made the lid wobbly and challenging to screw back on.

Our top two performers had lids that were far more user-friendly. One model, besides having a screw-on lid, offered an additional option: a button-activated, hinged cap over the drinking spout. It was a cinch to operate, as it popped open with the press of a button. We didn't have to fiddle with screwing anything off to sip, and though we didn't always like the loud “pop” that it made upon release—one user said it threatened to disrupt her yoga class—if we held a finger on the lid as we released it, it was quieter.

We liked another model's plastic screw-on cap with a fixed handle that arched from one side to the other, perfectly symmetrically. While it sometimes took an extra second or two to find the bottle's grooves, it was relatively easy to close.

Bottles with Few Parts Were Easier to Clean

Glass water bottles are typically daily-use items, so they need to be easy to wash. Three models were downgraded because they were challenging to clean, for varying reasons.

One, which was hand-wash only, had an excessive seven parts. “It's not something I want to clean at all,” said one tester. Not only was this model cumbersome to disassemble and wash but we also had difficulty putting all seven pieces back together. Another model had a nylon sleeve, similar to a koozie, that got dirty during everyday use. It soaked up sweat at the gym, giving us an additional item to wash and dry. The third model was downgraded because it had a chain metal loop that was difficult to detach prior to washing and held water if we opted to leave it on; additionally, the silicone sleeve on this model wasn't very tight and water sometimes got trapped underneath.

Our top models had only two parts to deal with during cleaning: bottle and lid. We also preferred water bottles that were dishwasher-safe, which eliminated the need for a special bottle brush.

Capacity Preferences

Testers had no clear preference in terms of capacity, as it depended largely upon activity and personal preference. At work or home, where bottles were mostly stationary, larger water bottles were advantageous because it meant fewer refills were necessary. At the gym, though, testers said the 20- to 22-ounce bottles (which were roughly 2½ pounds when full) felt heavy to lug around. And some people preferred smaller bottles because they fit well in bags and purses. But one gym-goer with a 16-ounce bottle noted that it was too small to bring to spin class because she didn't want to have to leave class to refill it. So capacity preferences were situation-dependent, but some models in our lineup, including our winner, come in additional sizes.

A Note on Breakability

We didn't dock points if bottles broke when we purposely dropped them, as that's to be expected of glass. Also, larger-capacity water bottles were at a disadvantage because they were heavier. But we did want to gauge the likelihood of damage if a bottle was dropped, so we knocked filled water bottles off a counter onto the floor from three different angles (upright, sideways, and upside down), and if they survived, we then dropped them onto concrete, again from three different angles.

Two of the three heaviest bottles—roughly 2½ pounds when filled with water—broke on our hard indoor flooring. The two lightest bottles, by comparison—about 1¾ to 2 pounds when full—didn't shatter, even when dropped onto concrete. And our winner was an outlier: Despite weighing a hefty 2½ pounds when filled to capacity, it was the only heavyweight bottle to survive all three indoor drops. (Though it did eventually meet its demise outside, on concrete.)

To find out why our winner may have fared better than other similar-weight bottles, we contacted Michael Tarkanian, senior lecturer in the Materials Science and Engineering department at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He explained that a glass bottle's likelihood of breaking can vary a lot depending on how the glass itself was processed, including how quickly it was formed and cooled. Glass thickness is another factor, as is bottle geometry; a sharper bottom edge would be more likely to crack than a rounded bottom. Finally, a protective sleeve that's thicker and more rubbery would dissipate more energy than a thinner or harder sleeve.

While we don't know the manufacturing details for each bottle, we did closely examine them all and noticed two traits that may have helped our winner survive when other models broke: It had a more rounded bottom edge, and its walls (which we measured with calipers) were slightly thicker than the others.

Our Favorite Water Bottle: Lifefactory 22 Oz Glass Bottle with Classic Cap

Our winner, the Lifefactory 22 Oz Glass Bottle with Classic Cap-Orange, had the widest mouth in the lineup, which made it easy to fill, and a lid that we could remove and replace with minimal effort. This bottle was also easy to clean, and as a bonus, it was more resilient than similar-weight models when knocked off a counter. We appreciated the generous capacity, but for those who want a lighter bottle and don't mind refilling more often, our winner is also available in a 16-ounce size.

Methodology

We purchased six glass water bottles ranging in capacity from 16 ounces to 22 ounces, priced from about $10 to roughly $40. We filled them with red sports drink to test staining and odor retention, turned them upside down to see if they were leakproof, and knocked them off the counter while full, and then—if they survived that—dropped them outdoors onto concrete. We also repeatedly removed and replaced lids, drank out of the bottles, washed each model 10 times per manufacturer instructions, and sent them home with testers for a week for use in the real world (i.e., outside of our testing lab)—including yoga, barre, and gym classes; restaurants; errand running; and commutes.

RATING CRITERIA

Ease of Use: We filled bottles with water and repeatedly opened and closed lids, giving higher ratings to models that opened and closed efficiently and had wide enough openings for spill-free filling.

Cleaning: We filled water bottles with red sports drink and left them to sit for three days, had testers use and clean bottles, and washed every bottle 10 times according to manufacturer instructions. We gave highest marks to models that didn't stain or retain odors, had few components to disassemble and wash, and were easy to thoroughly clean.

Try All Access Membership Free for 14 Days

Included in your trial membership

  • 25 years of Cook's Illustrated, Cook's Country, and America's Test Kitchen foolproof recipes
  • In-depth videos of recipes and cooking techniques
  • SAVE all your Favorites for easy access
  • Up-to-Date reviews and product buying guides

Get America's Test Kitchen All Access — become the Smartest Cook you know, guaranteed.

Email is required
How we use your email address

The Results

Winner
Recommended

Design Trifecta 360 Knife Block

Admittedly expensive, this handsome block certainly seemed to live up to its billing as “the last knife block you ever have to buy.” The heaviest model in our testing, this block was ultrastable, and its durable bamboo exterior was a breeze to clean. Well-placed medium-strength magnets made it easy to attach all our knives, and a rotating base gave us quick access to them. One tiny quibble: The blade of our 12-inch slicing knife stuck out a little.

$248.64*
Recommended

Schmidt Brothers Downtown Block

This roomy block completely sheathed our entire winning knife set using just one of its two sides—and quite securely, thanks to long, medium-strength magnet bars. Heavy, with a grippy base, this block was very stable. An acrylic guard made this model extra-safe but also made it a little trickier to insert knives and to clean; the wood block itself showed some minor cosmetic scratching during use.

$141.90*

Schmidt Brothers Midtown Block

This smaller version of the Downtown Block secured all our knives nicely, though the blade of the slicing knife stuck out a bit. With a base lined with grippy material, this block was very stable. An acrylic guard afforded extra protection against contact with blades but made it a little harder to insert knives and to clean; the wood itself got a little scratched during use.

$67.99*
Recommended with Reservations

Swissmar Bamboo Magnetic Knife Block

This small, scratch-resistant model had a stable, rubber-lined base and could hold all our knives, though the blade of the 12-inch slicing knife stuck out a bit. But inch-long gaps between its small magnets made coverage uneven and forced us to find the magnetic hot spots in order to secure the knives. Its acrylic guard made it safer to use but harder to insert knives and to clean.

$49.93*
Not Recommended

Messermeister Walnut Magnet Block

This handsome block was done in by its shape—a tippy, top-heavy quarter-circle that wasn’t tall or broad enough to keep the blades of three knives from poking out. It lacked a nonslip base, and its extra-strong magnets made it unnerving to attach or remove our heavy cleaver. Finally, it got a bit scratched after extensive use.

$129.95*

Epicurean Standing Knife Rack 12"

This magnetic block sheathed all our knives completely, though with a bit of crowding. But it was hard to insert each knife without hitting the block’s decorative slats on way down, and because the block was light and narrow, it wobbled when bumped. Worse, we couldn’t take it apart, so splatters that hit the interior were there to stay. Additionally, the outside stained easily, and when we wiped it down, the unit smelled like wet dog.

$99.95*

Kapoosh Rondelle Knife Block

This model stabilized knives with a mass of stiff, spaghetti-like bristles that shed and nicked easily after extensive use, covering our knives with plastic debris. While all our knives fit securely, several of the blades stuck out, making this unit feel less safe overall. Finally, though the bristles could be removed and cleaned in the dishwasher, their nooks and crannies made this block hard to wash by hand.

$24.99*

Kuhn Rikon Vision Knife Block, Clear

This plastic block required us to aim each knife into the folds of an accordion-pleated insert that was removable for easy cleaning but got nicked easily with repeated use. Because we could only insert the knives vertically, longer knife blades stuck out; a cleaver was too wide to fit. The lightest model in our lineup, this block was dangerously top-heavy when loaded with knives.

$35.88*