Solo cups have become synonymous with American parties, and it’s easy to see why. They’re affordable, durable, and recognizable by their iconic red solo cup logo. Whether you’re tailgating at a football game or attending a backyard BBQ, chances are that red solo cups will be present.
Even country music singer Toby Keith famously sang about the versatile party cup in his hit song “Red Solo Cup.” These little plastic cups might not seem like much, but they’ve become an essential part of American party culture.
One of the most common questions I get asked is whether or not you can microwave solo cups.
So, Can You Microwave Solo Cups?
The answer is no, you should not microwave solo cups. Solo cups are made from a type of plastic known as polystyrene, this material is not safe for use in microwaves. When exposed to high levels of heat, these plastics can begin to break down and release harmful chemicals into food and drinks.
But what about other variations of the solo cup, such as the paper cup or the biodegradable cup?
Unlike plastic solo cups, paper solo cups can be used to hold hot beverages such as coffee. The heat from the beverage will not be enough to cause the cup to break down and release toxins.
However, when it comes to microwaving solo cups, the same rule applies to these cups as well, they should not be microwaved.
While paper and biodegradable cups are not made from polystyrene, they can still be damaged by microwaves. The intense heat of the microwave can cause paper or biodegradable material to release toxic fumes and when it gets hot enough, it can cause a fire.
So, if you’re looking to heat food or drinks at your next party, it’s best to transfer them to a microwave-safe container before doing so. There are plenty of other microwave-safe options available that won’t put your or your guests at risk such as glass, ceramic, or stoneware.
The Brief History of Solo Cups
The year was 1936 and Leo Hulseman had just invented the paper cone cup. This product would go on to form the foundation of what would eventually become the SOLO Cup Company. Fast forward to the 1970s and the Hulseman family expanded their paper product portfolio to include plastic cups in an assortment of colors including red, blue, yellow, and peach.
It was in 1976 that the iconic plastic Solo cup was patented. This new cup quickly became a hit with consumers and, over the next two decades, Solo Cups became a staple in households, restaurants, and grocers across the United States. In 2008, Solo Cups launched Bare®, a new line of eco-forward products made from recyclable*, recycled, compostable, or renewable materials.
In 2012, Dart Container Corporation purchased Solo Cup Company and continues to produce high-quality products under the Solo brand. Today, the company sells over 7.4 billion cups per year and has become a symbol of American culture.
How to Tell If a Cup Is Microwave-Safe
When it comes to microwaving solo cups, the answer is no, you should not do it. If you’re looking to heat food or drinks at your next party, it’s best to transfer them to a microwave-safe container before doing so.
But how can you tell if a cup is microwave-safe? There are three main ways to tell if a cup is microwave-safe:
1. Look for the Microwave-Safe Symbol
All microwave-safe containers will have a symbol on them that indicates that they are, in fact, safe to use in the microwave. This symbol will usually be a picture of a microwave with waves coming out of it, or the words “microwave safe.” If you see this symbol on your cup, then you’re good to go!
2. Check the Label for Microwave Instructions
Another way to tell if a dish is safe for the microwave is to check the label for instructions. You can check the instructions on the package or visit the manufacturer’s website to see if they have any specific microwave guidelines.
3. Do a Simple Microwave Test
The third and final way to tell if a cup is microwave-safe is to do a simple test. To do this, all you need is a cup of water and your microwave. Fill the cup with water and microwave it for one minute. If the water is hot and the cup is cool, then your cup is safe to use in the microwave.
But of course, this test is not recommended with a Solo cup as they are obviously not microwave-safe.
5 Things You Might Not Know About the Red Solo Cup
How much do we really know about this iconic piece of plastic? Here are five things you might not know about the red Solo cup.
1. The Cup Didn’t Originally Include Grips
One interesting fact about the Solo cup is that it didn’t originally include grips. It wasn’t until 2004 that the cup was given its iconic ridges on the sides. This design change was made to make the cup easier to hold, and it quickly became popular with consumers.
2. The Lines on the Inside of a Cup Are Not There To Measure How Much Liquid To Pour
If you’ve ever looked at the lines on the inside of a Solo cup, you might have assumed that they were there to help you measure how much liquid to pour. The company said it was a coincidence that the lines match up with the measurements.
3. Despite the Availability of Other Color Choices, Red Is Undoubtedly the Most Popular
While the Solo cup is now available in a variety of colors, the most popular color by far is red. According to the company, red Solo cups are responsible for 60% of their sales.
4. These Cups Don’t Have To Be Thrown Out After One Use
Most people believe that plastic cups should be thrown out after one use, but that’s not the case with Solo cups. Since these cups are top-rack dishwasher safe, you can reuse them more than once.
5. These Cups are Difficult to Recycle
While you can certainly recycle your Solo cups, they are not easy to recycle. This is because the cups are made of plastic number 6 and not all recycling facilities accept this type of plastic.
Solo Cups have been a part of our lives for over 80 years now and show no signs of disappearing anytime soon. The next time you reach for a red Solo cup at your next party, take a moment to appreciate all that history packed into such a small space. Who knows? Maybe someday your great-grandkids will be raising a glass in your honor using one of your very own solo cups!