How We Tested Sippy Cups

By:
Juliet Spurrier, MD, Wendy Schmitz, & BabyGearLab Team

Last Updated:
Wednesday
September 14, 2016

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We like to make sure we hit the important points when testing products here at BabyGearLab. For leak-free cups, this means testing their tendency to leak (a crucial metric), but it also means considering how easy the cups were to use, how easy they were to clean and assemble, and what eco-health attributes the products offered. While one or two of these metrics might be more important to you than others, we feel the complete picture of a cup includes all the metrics.

We included other information in our individual product reviews that did not count toward the final scoring, like cup size and styles. We felt the merit of these specifics were subjective, and more swayed by personal opinion than anything else. While parents might find the information helpful in making a choice, the information had little to do with how well a cup functioned. Given this, we chose not to make assumptions on what parents would consider "better" when it came to attributes like size and available graphics.

Below are the details of how we tested each toddler cup, how their scores were determined, and the behind the scenes process at BabyGearLab.

Ease of Use


Even though leakage is the primary concern of most parents it won't matter if a cup leaks or not if it is too hard to use. For this metric we tested how easy the cups were to drink from, and whether or not the cup was hard to hold or maneuver, given its weight or other design features.
This stainless steel cup by Eco Vessel was one of the heaviest cups we tested
This stainless steel cup by Eco Vessel was one of the heaviest cups we tested

To determine ease of sucking, we filled each cup with water and compared them side by side by actually using them. We first determined which cups were the most difficult to use compared to the other cups, and these set the standard for the low score of 1. Then, the remaining cups were rated according to how they compared to the worst the cups. Cups that earned a 10 were those cups that required no effort to use at a flow rate chosen by the user.

When it came to grip and hold of the toddler cups, we gave higher points for those cups that had more user-friendly designs. Cups with slim profiles, silicone sleeves, contoured bodies, and handles, all earned higher scores than cups with none of these factors. We compared each cup against the other cups we tested to determine their scores. Cups with a score of 10, were cups we felt toddlers could easily pick up without dropping,and hold for longer periods of time.

The cups empty weight was also a factor in determining ease of use. We gave higher points to the lightest cups, and the lowest points to the heavier options.

Leakage


We felt that in order to test leaking potential, the cups should go through a series of leak-inducing scenarios in order to give them a score on a scale from 1 to 10; 10 being completely leak proof and a score of 1 indicating that it spilled every last drop it contained.

First, we tipped full cups on their sides.
We monitored them for leaks for 5 minutes, taking photos at 30 seconds, 1 min, and 5 minutes. The cups either leaked a small amount immediately, or their entire contents; some didn't leak at all. NO cup needed a full minute, to begin or finish leaking. Cups were scored based on how they compared to cups that didn't leak at all, or the one cup that spilled everything.

Next, we tested the cup's "upside down" leaking tendencies.
Lifefactory - low leakage
Lifefactory - low leakage
While most of the cups did well on their side, some of them did not do as well when tipped completely upside down. We even shook them vigorously to mimic the effects of toddler carrying, diaper bag bumping, and car ride vibrating. The cups were rated on the amount of fluid that escaped, and whether or not that fluid flowed freely, or needed significant jostling and coaxing to emerge. They were then rated on a 1 to 10 scale, and received marks on how much liquid escape compared to their brothers in cups. To earn a perfect 10 in this metric, cups had to exhibit no leaks at all.

It is important to note, that some of the cups came with closeable lids or caps, that would reduce or eliminate leaking if used properly and consistently. We chose not to utilize the separate cap options, but we did use the attached caps for testing. We made the assumption that detached caps would probably get misplaced, or be unavailable when parents needed them, while attached lids would always be there. The goal of our testing was to determine results in real world scenarios; in our experience, the real world rarely has the time to find and put a separate cap on.

Ease of Cleaning


This cup had lots of parts to clean and assemble. Sometimes the parts were difficult to get back together
This cup had lots of parts to clean and assemble. Sometimes the parts were difficult to get back together
We scored ease of cleaning by counting the number of parts each cup had, and recording how long it took us to take them apart and reassemble them. We also took into consideration whether or not the cups needed special tools to clean them. The cups that required a straw brush, or special cleaning kit, were the cups that scored lower in this metric. The fewer parts a cup had, plus the least amount of time necessary to clean it, equaled the higher the scores.

In addition, cups scored points for being dishwasher safe; most cups claimed to be with only painted cups specifying hand wash to avoid damage to the cup graphics. However, when scoring ease of cleaning we looked at how difficult a cup was to clean by hand as opposed to whether or not it could be put in the dishwasher.

Eco-Health


Thermos Foogo Phase 3 Insulated Straw Bottle
Thermos Foogo Phase 3 Insulated Straw Bottle
The eco-health metric of the toddler cups was scored by rating the composition of each cup's body, valve, and spout. Cups earned higher scores for being stainless steel and glass, due to their inert qualities, and safer properties. The fewest points were given to cups made entirely of plastic, but plastic cups with silicone spouts and valves did score slightly higher. We determined what materials the cups were made from, by the package or manufacturer website. If the specific types of plastic were not identified, we considered it a generic plastic.

Insulated cups received higher points than the non-insulated variety, with the assumption that some liquids are healthier if kept at a constant temperature or are not allowed to get warm. Milk, for example, might need to retain a specific temperature in order to stay fresh. There were more insulated cup offerings in the toddler stage than the transition, and still more in the kid bottles than toddler.

The EIO Training Cup does not have a leak-proof valve; it only has a spill resistant lid
The EIO Training Cup does not have a leak-proof valve; it only has a spill resistant lid
The final eco-health metric pertained to the ADA preference for no valve cups, and the implication that increased sucking action could potentially increase the risk of dental decay over time. Cups scored points for not having valves, or for having valve types that allowed liquid consumption with very little sucking effort.

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