diamond geezer

 Wednesday, October 07, 2015

How dirty is your mug?

Or rather, how long can you go before you need to give your mug a scrub?

Some people feel compelled to clean a mug after every use. No sooner is their tea or coffee consumed than the mug is whisked off to the kitchen to be washed. That might mean a run under the tap, or might mean filling up the bowl, or might just mean hiding it away in the dishwasher to await purification. For these people a dirty mug is an object of peril, and must be eradicated at the earliest possible opportunity. Obviously the dishwasher option is nothing but a delaying mechanism - out of sight, out of mind - but for these people all that's important is signalling intent, because this mug must be clean.

Others leave it a little longer, but each mug only gets one use. A single tea or coffee in each is all they'll approve, because every drink requires a fresh receptacle. These are the Mug Cupboard Emptiers, a new vessel on every occasion, which at least helps keep the whole collection in circulation. Too many of us own more mugs than we know what to do with, and a refusal to re-use is the best way to ensure that even those at the back of the cupboard get their chance. This often means that the draining board becomes a ceramic forest, gradually accumulating before the critical number is reached. But a 'one drink one mug' philosophy is favoured by many for its clarity of purpose.

Some are willing to reuse their mug a certain number of times before feeling the need to cleanse. It might just be the once, before the nagging voice at the back of your head insists that any further recycling would be unwise. It might be twice, the second refill the moment your unease at repetition becomes palpable. Or it might be more often, because what the hell, it's only a mug, what harm could reusing it actually do? A certain logic kicks in, that all this excess washing up might perhaps be pointless, and you could be spending more of your life enjoying tea rather than forever trying to scrub it away.

I'm a multiple user myself, edging around the borderline of double figures. I have no qualms with dropping my teabag into a mug I've used before, several times, not least because it saves the hassle of getting another mug out of the cupboard. I have a favourite mug I always use, much bigger than all the others, so there's no great incentive to work my way through my collection of lesser receptacles. My used mug then waits until there's sufficient other crockery piled up beside the sink before it gets a wash, which I see as a pragmatic solution to household hygiene. And even if there there is an issue with cleanliness by the tenth repeat, it's surely nothing that can't be solved by a fresh burst of boiling water.

Not everybody downs their hot beverage of choice before it goes cold. These people leave a dribble at the bottom, maybe an inch, and leave that to settle, congeal and stagnate. The resulting liquid may be no big deal an hour later, but it's not a nice thing to stumble upon the following day. With this pattern of reuse the surface above the meniscus remains mostly clean, but tannins and/or caffeine have plenty of time to stain the lower interior of the mug, and a deep brown shade ensues. And whilst some Last Inch Refusers give their mug a good wash after every unfinished drink, others simply compound the problem with refill after refill, and the muck becomes increasingly engrained.

And a few people go the whole hog and never let their mug see detergent. Its surface must once have been perfectly clean, on the mug's first outing, but with each successive use a patina has slowly built up. After a few weeks the interior will be looking distinctly brown, and after a few more perhaps approaching black. Ultimately a crust appears, which could be described as 'adding character', perhaps even 'protective', or might be considered an organic entity in itself. But isn't this precisely what our grandparents used to do with teapots - the insides were never washed - and all we're doing is continuing the tradition?

Or perhaps the entire situation never arises. An increasing number of people never drink tea or coffee from a mug, only from a one-off paper cup. Modern caffeinated beverages usually come from a machine - a simple single-use operation ultimately requiring you to chuck the cup away. Or in the case of coffee more likely the special blend comes from a takeaway counter, where some barista wields beans and foam and nozzles to create the perfect mix, then delivers it in a paper vessel and slaps a plastic lid on top. This may not be the most environmentally friendly way to consume, each daily purchase emblematic of a throwaway society, but at least there's never the need to worry about washing anything up.

Assuming you still make drinks the proper old-fashioned way, how dirty is your mug?
    1 Instant Washer
    2 Mug Cupboard Emptier
    3 Double Dip Filler
    4 Single Digit Recycler
    5 Serial Offender
    6 Last Inch Refuser
    7 Crusty

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