Stainless Steel vs Plastic Water Bottle

Three girls talking to each other while holding their water bottles

Are you wondering what's the best type of water bottle? Stainless steel and plastic are among the most popular materials for drinking bottles, yet they also have pros and cons. For such reasons, we're exploring the similarities and differences between stainless steel vs plastic water bottles.

Stainless Steel vs Plastic Water Bottle: General Overview

While stainless steel and plastic water bottles are functional, stainless steel is more sustainable and good for health. On the other hand, plastic bottles are lightweight and cheap, yet they have a lower recycling rate and shorter life cycles.

Woman carrying a water bottle while hiking

Stainless Steel Bottle

Stainless steel is a corrosion-resistant alloy consisting of nickel, chromium, iron, and other metals. Unlike other bottle materials, it has excellent mechanical properties despite ambient temperatures. This property enables a stainless steel water bottle to boast ductility and withstand heavy wear.

Food grade 304 or 18/8 is among the best options for stainless steel water bottles. Hydro Cell bottles mainly use 18/8 stainless steel, which means it has a high amount of carbon and iron to resist corrosion and protect from rust.

Plastic Water Bottle

Plastic water bottles typically use plastic #1 or polyethylene terephthalate. PET is a lightweight, clear plastic commonly used for disposable packaging foods and beverages.

They are cheaper to produce than stainless steel, making them more accessible to consumers. However, it takes 700 years for 1 PET bottle to decompose because there are no natural organisms that break down petroleum-based plastics.

Similarities and Differences

Understanding the differences and similarities between plastic and stainless steel helps determine which material would suit your needs the most.

Similarities Between Stainless Steel and Plastic Water Bottle

Stainless steel and plastic water bottles continue to be reliable materials for people to get quick access to water. With plastics, you can conveniently buy one from a store. For stainless steel, you can easily refill bottles and save time in washing glasses.

While they both provide convenience, there may be instances where your drinking water may taste different. If you don't know how to clean a stainless steel water bottle, rust and mold may grow over time, causing a change in the water's taste. 

Unlike using glass bottles, which have a neutral taste effect, water can get a weird taste when it's been sitting in a plastic water bottle for a long time. Chemical leaching and toxicity can also affect the water's taste and smell.Man leaning on a huge rock while holding a water bottle

Differences Between Stainless Steel and Plastic Water Bottle

Comparing the differences between plastic and stainless steel water bottles can help you better understand their qualities.

Cold and Heat Retention

A stainless steel water bottle wins the battle in keeping beverages hot or cold.

  • A plastic bottle can't maintain heat. The coffee or tea would be lukewarm with a burnt plastic taste.
  • Stainless steel bottles like Hydro Cell contain vacuum seal technology to keep liquids hot or cold for hours.
  • Even if you freeze a plastic bottle overnight, the ice will melt fast once you take it out.
  • You can easily add ice cubes in a stainless steel bottle, especially if it has a wide mouth. A plastic bottle's narrow neck prohibits you from doing so.

Health Hazards

Stainless steel bottles use a good-grade material that resists toxin leaching and corrosion.

  • Unlike plastic, stainless steel is chemical-free, ensuring no Bisphenol A, a chemical used for producing plastics and resins. Some plastics that contain recycle codes often come with BPA.
  • Hot drinks can cause bottles to break down and release carcinogenic phthalates. While these chemicals improve a plastic's durability and pliability, phthalates are endocrine disruptors linked to health concerns such as breast cancer, male fertility issues, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, and obesity.
  • The risk of consuming microplastics is another health concern in using plastic water bottles. Studies show these tiny pieces of plastic, often less than an inch long may be prevalent in bottled water. It may be safer to have a home water filtration system and then use a stainless steel bottle for refilling.Three girls talking to each other while holding their water bottles

Durability and Fragility

Proper maintenance can prolong a stainless steel's lifespan as long as you know how to disinfect a water bottle or remove rust.

  • Plastics have become stronger over the years. However, their chemical compositions still make plastic bottles susceptible to degradation. If you fill plastic water bottles with a hot beverage, they will warp, melt, and shrink.
  • Plastics are flimsy. They are also prone to breaking and splintering, so outside pressure or force can break a plastic bottle. An accidental drop on the floor or squeezing in your lunch bag can leak or spurt water out.
  • Stainless steel isn't totally indestructible. However, its metallic components make it more resistant to corrosion and temperature variations.
  • Although frequent washing can let you reuse plastic bottles, they are not strong enough to withstand multiple uses. Temperature changes, as well as creases and cracks in plastic bottles, can cause unwanted leaching of chemicals into your drinking water.

Ergonomic Design

Among the benefits of investing in a reusable stainless steel water bottle is that its design can meet user-specific needs.

  • A plastic water bottle is a lot more lightweight than a stainless steel bottle. As a result, it won't usually add weight or bulge to your bag. In comparison, some stainless steel bottles can be heavier or bulkier, depending on the size.
  • Unlike plastic, stainless steel can serve as exterior walls to prevent condensation.
  • You can add accessories like a paracord or sports cap with a straw to make a stainless steel bottle more convenient to bring water while hiking or going to the gym.
  • A stainless steel water bottle can also suit your personality. Most bottles come in a myriad of colors, so you can choose which one would suit your gym clothes or office aesthetics.

Recyclability and Environmental Impact

Stainless steel has a significant edge over plastics in terms of recyclability and sustainability.Woman looking at her Hydro Cell water bottle

  • Stainless steel is 100% recyclable. Thus, buying stainless steel water bottles already means you're helping the planet by purchasing a recycled material and sustainable bottle.
  • Even when you won't use the bottle for drinking, there are other ways to reuse a stainless steel bottle, like turning it into a container or gardening tool.
  • Plastic water bottles require oil to produce, which already contributes to pollution. Even the production process consumes 3 to 6 times as much water per container as the bottle.
  • Plastic water bottles contain cross-linked polymers that form an irreversible chemical bond. As a result, it's extremely difficult to remake them into new material.


The average plastic bottle costs $1 to $3, whereas a reusable stainless steel water bottle can be around $14 to $17. While plastic bottles are way cheaper per bottle, buying them daily can be costly in the long run.

For example, if you need 5 or more bottles per day, you would spend $25 or more each day. Do this for a year, and you may need to shell out around $9,100 or more. In contrast, buying a reusable stainless steel water bottle like Hydro Cell only requires a one-time fee.

Major Distinguishing Factor

Stainless steel is a material that guarantees durability, recyclability, and the ability to retain heat and cold for long periods. You can also monitor water intake because stainless steel bottles come in various sizes. On the other hand, plastic is cheaper and more lightweight.

When to Use a Stainless Steel Bottle?

Use a stainless steel water bottle if you want a reusable container for cold and hot drinks. This is a more practical and convenient option because of its functional features, food-grade material, and insulation properties.

When to Use a Plastic Water Bottle?

Use a plastic water bottle if you want a lightweight, more portable material. It's an ideal choice if you don't like washing bottles, although you would contribute to plastic pollution.

The Verdict

Stainless steel and plastic bottles can help you monitor water intake and ensure hydration. A stainless steel bottle has better temperature retention, corrosion-resistant properties, and functional features than a plastic bottle. However, make sure to consider your needs and budget before choosing the perfect drinking bottle.

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