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Reusable Plastic Cups

Published September 2021

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.

Methodology

  • 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

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*