Reusable Plastic Cups
How we tested
We love to enjoy food and drinks outdoors—at picnics, backyard barbecues, clambakes, and more. While we could use the glasses from our kitchens for these gatherings, many of them are breakable and too heavy to transport easily. Reusable plastic cups, which are sometimes marketed as “shatterproof cups,” are meant to survive an accidental tumble onto a hard patio or deck and provide a safe, convenient alternative to indoor glassware. We liked most of the cups we tested, but our favorites are the Amazing Abby 16-Ounce Ice Cube Plastic Tumblers. The eight cups in this set have thin rims that made for a pleasant drinking experience and textured exteriors that allowed us to grip them securely. The cups’ bases are wide, so they are stable on various surfaces, and they can be stacked for efficient storage. Like all the other models we tested, they didn’t crack or break when we dropped them onto concrete.
What You Need to Know
Lightweight and durable, plastic cups are meant mainly for outdoor use, though we know plenty of families with small children who use them indoors, too. With outdoor dining on the rise and with so many models of plastic cups on the market, which set is best? We focused on cups that could hold 12 to 16 ounces, the size we like for drinking everything from lemonade to iced tea to soda to water. Some of the cups in our lineup can be purchased as single units, but most are sold in sets of four, six, or eight.
The cups we tested were made from different types of plastic, including acrylic, melamine, and Tritan. All were free of bisphenol A (BPA), a compound common in plastics that many people choose to avoid. All the cups were equally durable. After we dropped them on concrete, we noted that each retained small nicks and dings on either the rim or the bottom of the cup, depending on how the cup landed. None shattered, cracked, or was seriously damaged. We fully recommend six of the sets of cups we tested.
What to Look For
- Thin Rims: Cups with thin rims—those measuring from 1.83 to 3.64 millimeters—were the most pleasant to drink from. Their delicate rims reminded us of the glasses we use in our own kitchens, so it didn't feel like a compromise to be using plastic. We were able to spend more time enjoying our drinks and less time thinking about the cup from which we were drinking.
- Textured Exteriors: The exteriors of most of the cups in our lineup were covered with textured patterns, including water-like ripples, raised diamonds, or etched detailing. These textured surfaces made our grip more secure, which is especially important for outdoor dining, as you may be holding your glass for most of the time.
- A Wide Base: These cups will likely be placed on a variety of uneven or bumpy surfaces such as picnic or patio tables, grass, and blankets. We preferred cups with wider bases because they proved to be more stable.
- Stackable Sets: Since you will most likely not be using these cups every day, efficient storage is an important factor to consider. We favored the sets that were specifically designed to be stackable because they took up less space in our cabinets. Another bonus: It’s easier to carry them from the kitchen to the backyard or deck.
- Dishwasher-Safe: Sets of cups that are dishwasher-safe—including those that must be cleaned on the top rack—are more convenient because they’re easier to clean.
What to Avoid
- Thick Rims: Cups with thick rims were less enjoyable to drink from than those with thin rims. Two models in our lineup had rims that measured more than 4 millimeters thick (about twice as thick as the thinner rims).
- Narrow Bases: Cups with narrow bases were less sturdy than those with wider bases. While none of the cups fell over during testing, those with smaller bases sat less securely on uneven surfaces.
- Heavy Cups: The cups in one set were considerably heavier than the rest. They weighed 7¼ ounces, while all the other cups in our lineup weighed 4¾ ounces or less. We preferred holding and drinking from the lighter cups, as they were easier to carry, especially when filled with drinks.
- Ask several testers to hold and drink from each cup while sitting and standing
- Place full cups on uneven surfaces to see if they slide or tip
- Fill the cups with iced coffee, set them aside for 12 hours, and then wash them and check them for stains and odors
- Drop the cups onto concrete from waist height
- Wash 10 times according to the manufacturer's directions