It can be pretty frustrating when your water bottle’s straw stops working like it should.
Contigo Bottles, especially those with their AutoSpout lid, are prone to suction problems. But the good news is, they’re often pretty easy to fix — at least as long as you know what to look out for.
The most common reason for suction problems with Contigo Bottles is that the drinking spout is clogged. A thorough cleaning is an easy solution. Other times, a misplaced or incorrectly sized straw, a blocked or flooded air vent, or a damaged straw or lid may be to blame.
Before I knew any better, when my bottles had suction problems, I’d just replace them. I’m sure I could have easily saved four or five water bottles over the years if I had just known what to look for.
In hopes that you can save your own bottle, these are the five most common causes of suction problems with Contigo Bottles, what causes them, and what you can do to fix them.
1. The Spout Is Clogged
By far the most common cause of suction problems with Contigo Bottles is a clogged drinking spout — usually caused by less-than-perfect cleaning habits.
Remove your lid and take off the straw. Look for any gunk, mold, or dried smoothie (my bottle’s worst enemy) in the straw or drinking spout.
If you don’t see anything obvious, try blowing through the spout. It should feel unrestricted and air should flow freely through.
If it seems harder than you think it should, it’s time to give your Contigo a deep clean (you might as well do it either way… I know you haven’t lately):
- Start with a 20-30 minute soak in 50/50 diluted vinegar or water bottle cleaning tablets.
- Using a small bottle cleaning brush, scrub out the underside of the lid, the interior of the straw, and as far into the drinking spout as you can reach.
- Clean the rest of the bottle and lid with a mild detergent and bottle brush.
- Rinse thoroughly.
- Air dry upside down on a drying rack.
2. The Straw Is Out Of Place
If the straw gets shaken loose or isn’t fully reinserted after cleaning, suction problems are a likely result.
A misplaced straw normally causes one of two issues:
- The bottom of the straw presses against the bottom of the bottle, making it very hard to pull water through the straw.
- The loose seal between the straw and lid allows too much airflow, making sips feel weak and full of air.
Luckily, the fix is pretty simple in either case.
Remove the straw and firmly place it back into the slot on the underside of your cap, making sure it slides snugly into place.
For the adult versions the straw screws into place. Screw it as tight as you can and see if this fixes the problem.
For the kids versions the straw pushes into place and sometimes kids don't attach them properly. Make sure it's fully pushed into place and test and see if the suction has improved.
3. The Straw Is The Wrong Size
If you need to replace your straw, I always recommend using official Contigo straws. Third party straws (even those specifically designed for your bottle) are often slightly too long, too wide, or too narrow.
But, if you’ve already bought a third party replacement, you may still be able to make it work.
If the straw is too long and pressing against the bottom of your bottle, simply trim about ¼” off the bottom with a clean pair of scissors. I like to cut mine at about a 45 degree angle to maximize water flow.
If your straw is slightly too narrow, it can be a little harder to tell.
Look for weak, airy sips or listen for a faint whining sound as you pull through the straw — both decent signs that your straw is a bit too narrow for your bottle.
Straws that are too wide are much easier to identify, they simply won’t fit into the straw slot on the underside of your lid.
Unfortunately, straws that are the wrong width can’t easily be adjusted. You’ll need to buy a proper-fitting replacement.
4. The Air Vent Is Blocked Or Flooded
Most Contigo lids have an air vent that allows for faster, smoother drinking by allowing air to flow into the bottle as water flows out. It's a one-way valve so water shouldn't be able to get out through the lid if your Contigo water bottle is leaking then the valve could be the cause of the issue.
Unfortunately, if the air vent gets blocked or flooded you’ll have a hard time pulling water through the straw. And making matters worse, it’s not always very obvious what the problem actually is.
To fix a flooded air vent, locate the air vent plug on the underside of your cap (usually just beside the straw port). Pull it back and shake the cap until all trapped water is removed. You may even need to fully remove the air valve to clean it. I explain how in my article on Contigo gasket problems.
If you see any gunk or mold under the vent cap or in the air vent, give it a thorough cleaning by soaking the lid in vinegar for an hour or two then scrubbing out the air vent with a small bottle brush.
I’ll usually follow it up with some water bottle cleaning tablets, just in case I missed anything or there’s mold hidden out of sight in the air vent.
5. The Bottle Is Damaged
Some suction problems are caused by physical damage to your bottle’s lid, straw or the silicone spout itself.
If the straw or the silicone spout has a hole or crack, suction will be weak and airy once the damaged portion is above the water in your bottle.
To test if the straw is the issue, remove it from your bottle, place a finger over one end, and try to pull air through the other. If you’re able to suck any air through the straw, you’ve found your problem.
Luckily, replacement straws are pretty cheap.
If the lid or silicone spout itself is broken (small cracks near the straw port or air vent usually lead to suction problems), it’s a bigger issue and there’s no reasonable way to fix it. You’ll need to buy an entire replacement lid.
The bad news, however, is that Contigo doesn't actually sell replacement lids — which is an even bigger bummer because I’d love to buy a couple extras to use on my Nalgene Bottles.
A workaround that may sometimes save you a few bucks is to buy a cheaper plastic Contigo (which are about the same price as the replacement lids of many other bottles) and use that lid with your more expensive stainless steel bottle.
Just keep in mind, not all Contigo lids are cross compatible. A quick email to Contigo’s customer support can help you choose a matching replacement.