Wednesday, May 2, 2012

DIY Straws

A version of this story appeared on eHow, in the Hobbies & Science section.

Nearly all types of grass will grow hollow stems
that can be used as drinking straws.
The natural world provides lightweight, hollow tubes suitable for sipping beverages in the form of grass stems. Humans have been making use of these as drinking straws for thousands of years, as we know from evidence of the ancient Sumerians. Dried grass stems -- straw -- is the model from which man-made drinking straws were first mass-produced in the late 19th century. Drinking straws are cheap and readily available at any grocery, but it can be fun to make your own out of unexpected materials.

Things You'll Need

  • Growing wheat, rye, bamboo or lawn grass
  • Light-duty electrical extension cord
  • Hand soap or hand sanitizer dispensers
  • Plastic, hollow coffee stirrers
  • Aquarium tubing, unused
  • Hollow licorice sticks


Natural straws

  1. Plant a patch of bamboo, cereal grasses like wheat or rye, or ordinary lawn grass. Most grasses have hollow stem segments that can be dried and used as drinking straws.
  2. Grow your grass until the stems are the length you desire for your drinking straws. This will take several weeks. Alternately, find a vacant lot where the grass is already long enough for your purpose.
  3. Harvest your grass. Use garden snips to cut the grass stems to the length you desire. Cut off any seed heads. Snip off the nodes, the elbow-like joints that separate the stem segments.
  4. Use your grass stems immediately as drinking straws, or, for better results, dry them into straw. Spread out your grass stems in a sunny location outdoors and allow them to dry, or tie them in a bunch with string and hang them in a well ventilated spot. They should be dry enough to use as drinking straws within three to five days.

Extension Cord Straws

  1. Cut off the ends of a light-duty electrical extension cord. Light-duty cords have two parallel flexible tubes.
  2. Make a 1-inch vertical cut along each of the parallel tubes of the cord.
  3. Get a firm grip on the electrical wiring inside one of the tubes by winding it a few times around the shaft of a screwdriver.
  4. Pull the wiring out and discard it. Repeat with the other tube.
  5. Cut off the slit portions of the tubing and discard. Use the empty tubing as a super-long drinking straw, or cut it into several flexible drinking straws of whatever length you choose. You can also separate the two tubes and make single-barreled drinking straws.

More DIY Straw Ideas

  1. Cut aquarium tubing into whatever lengths you desire for your clear, flexible DIY drinking straws. Incorporate these into, for example, an undersea-themed party. Make several 2-foot to 3-foot lengths of drinking straws and place them by a punch bowl filled with light-blue colored punch and toy plastic fish so your guests can sit around the bowl with their straws directly in the punch bowl.
  2. Use plastic, hollow coffee stirrers as drinking straws. Legions of small children have independently discovered these DIY straws already, but that's no reason you can't take advantage of their ingenuity.
  3. Repurpose a hand-pumped soap dispenser into a drinking-straw assembly. Empty and thoroughly rinse a hand-pumped soap dispenser or hand sanitizer dispenser so that no trace of soap taste remains. Fill the dispenser with the beverage of your choice and sip from the nozzle.
  4. Snip off the ends of licorice sticks. Serve these edible drinking straws along with fruit punch at a children's party.

Tips & Warnings

  • Bamboo will grow in the southern regions of the United States. Wheat and rye will grow just about anywhere in the continental United States.
  • Lawn grass cut to the usual height is only long enough to form blades. After a few weeks without mowing, it will form the hollow stems characteristic of grass plants.
  • Aquarium tubing is similar in diameter to commercially made drinking straws. It is inexpensive and available just about anywhere pet supplies are sold.
  • You can purchase empty soap dispenser assemblies from craft and boutique stores and make these into drinking straws, too.