Have you ever pried a straw out of the mouth of a young child, only to find it macerated and dripping in saliva? Let's all let out a collective "eeeewww." In general, my "clever uses" articles are meant to teach people how to get a second use out of something disposable. In the case of straws, I'm honestly going to have to suggest that you be very picky about which straws you reuse. I really don't expect anyone to reuse chewed up, spit-covered drinking straws.
Now: It is not too gross to wash plastic drinking straws and save them for DIY projects. That is, it is not too gross to wash plastic drinking straws that are in relatively decent condition. Soak them in hot, soapy water, and maybe some nice disinfecting vinegar or vodka. Never mind. Don't waste vodka on this. You are better off pouring yourself a martini (or a Long Island iced tea; I'm not judging!) with the vodka, and disinfecting the straws with vinegar or bleach (but not at the same time! Never mix vinegar and bleach!).
When the plastic drinking straws are clean and dry and you've amassed a decent-sized collection, try your hand at one of the following projects.
Woven coasters: According to Country Living, woven drinking straws are a great material for making coasters. It looks like a good project for kids to do on boring car rides.
Weaving loom: True Blue Me & You introduced the idea of using drinking straws as a portable, simple, DIY weaving loom. As you weave around the straws, you pull the straws out, producing a length of woven fabric.
Lamp shade: The L.A. Times featured a drinking straw lamp shade from the Addicted 2 Decorating blog that would fit into a whimsical modern design scheme. It's awesome: Bright colors, weird texture, and it's a design object that makes a person reconsider the limits of materials. Electrician for wiring the pendant light not included.
Tiny vases: One of my favorite blogs, Coolhunting, featured tiny vases made from drinking straws. A drinking straw can be an effective way to keep a single flower hydrated in transit.
Condiment pack: Adventures in Fluff shared a DIY travel condiment packet idea made out of reused drinking straws with the ends burned together. Obviously, the straws would need to be sanitized before using them to transport mustard. In a similar vein, a number of DIY bloggers have used a similar technique for making DIY ointment packets for travel or camping.
Gummy worms: Just the picture of these DIY gummy worms gives me the creeps. They are long and shiny and wormy. They are a bazillion times more disgusting-looking than prefabricated gummy worms. If you are inclined to make creepy crawly gelatin worms, head over to Cool Instructographics for instructions.
Caulking: Quite a few DIY blogs suggest taping a small length of drinking straw to the nozzle of a caulking gun to get caulk into tight corners. Silver Spring, Md., HVAC contractor Harvey W. Hottel also recommends using drinking straws to smooth caulk lines.
Do you have any great uses for drinking straws? Please share them in the comments.