Thursday, May 5

Keep? Toss? A dilemma—

I appreciate clever design. Even of such mundane objects as mustard bottle caps. Here are two mustard bottles with different caps. The smaller bottle has a Stay Clean Cap. It is very cleverly designed, having a built-in silicone rubber stopper. There’s a tiny x-shaped slit cut into the silicone. When you squeeze the bottle, the pressure forces the slit open, letting mustard through. Stop squeezing, and it slams shut. Hold the bottle upside-down without squeezing and no mustard drips out. Its only flaw is that over time a tiny mustard scab can form that has to be popped out and tossed (or munched—Yum! Mustard jerky!). So its Stay Clean promise is compromised.

The larger bottle has a NEW! No Mess Cap. Less intriguing for sure, with no moving parts, it has a very small dispensing hole, so small that the thixotropic-ness of mustard plus a clever built-in trap keeps it from running out when you tip the bottle into squirting position. It doesn’t dispense mustard as robustly as the Stay Clean Cap does, though, so I’m not sure it is suitable for the high-volume mustard squeezing you’d find at a popular hot dog emporium.

Both bottle tops are intriguing enough to me that I want to keep them for future generations to enjoy.

My collecting-of-containers passion started a long time ago with a collection of roll-on deodorant bottles. They had tiny marble-sized roller balls. It took lots of strokes to get full coverage. I knew in my heart that those rollers would get bigger as time went on. My own armpits were getting bigger as I grew up, and I figured everyone else’s were too. Sure enough, the width of my most recent deodorant stick is a near whole-armpit-wide in size.

When I was a kid, mustard came in a small glass jar. Matter of fact, it seems everything came in a small glass jar. Once I was exploring an old dump in the mountains and found a Listerine mouthwash bottle. Glass, with a cork stopper, it held four ounces! Imagine! Back in the 1920s people must have had very small mouths. Compare it to the bottle of Listerine I recently got from Costco—1.5 liters! That’s a hefty one quart, one pint and 2.7 fluid ounces, twelve-and-a-half times bigger. I must have a big mouth.

Diapers used to be small too. Now you can get them big enough to fit an adult. So far I have no need for them. Wish me luck.

Back to my mustard bottle dilemma. As unbelievable as it sounds, I am sure that as time and technology march onward, another cap will be introduced making mustard dispensing even easier and mess-free. Would I be cheating future discoverers by tossing these bottles and caps into a recycling bin, rendering them faceless and soulless to be reborn as who knows what? Or should I squirrel them away, waiting for some fresh-faced innocent explorer to discover them and be delighted by their cleverness? Or does anyone care? (My unselfish offer to donate them to the Smithsonian was politely turned down even though I offered to pay for shipping!)

Maybe these bottles with their clever caps should rest their souls in cyberspace, memorialized only in this blog post. Who knows?— in a hundred years these bottles’ high density polyethylene could be pronounced highly toxic and ownership of it made a felony. It’s a good thing I didn’t save some other common hardware store items from my youth—cyanide, DDT, lead bullets, blasting caps and dynamite—any one of which could get someone tossed in the pokey nowadays, myself included.

Decisions, decisions.


On the left, the silicone-stoppered cap. On the right, the simple small-hole cap.

The silicone-stopper cap in closeup. What makes it work is the x-shaped slits cut in the silicone, keeping it from dripping when the bottle is inverted but opening wide when squeezed.

The small-hole cap in close-up. Its secret is beneath the outlet, an offset entry which acts kind of like a speed bump on a residential street. The descending mustard has to make a sudden sharp bend to one side in order to flow from the nozzle. A very clever way to prevent inadvertent drippage.

But, as with anything else in commerce, a major determining factor in switching from the silicone-stoppered cap to the small-nozzle-plus-speed-bump cap is cost. Compare the pictures of the two caps. The one on the left is made of three separate pieces which must be assembled! Which is time-consuming and expensive! A potential looming inventory nightmare! What if, at the end of a typical million-bottles-of-mustard production day, you have a million cap bases, a million silicone stoppers, but only 999,999 toppers of silicone stoppers? Fire that cap designer!

On the right, the small-nozzle cap is a single piece of plastic. It only has to be munched together into one elegant mustard-squirting miracle. Winner!


Agneta and David said...

The added s, the puzzle, the dilemma, it is good you are back to the blog. I always enjoy the rotting mind.


Tom Hurley said...

Thanks, David. Comments are the fuel, the protein and carbohydrates that keep bloggers alive.

Pat said...

You said in your April 20 blog to "stay tuned for some pictures of how huge things can get." I'm still waiting.

Daffy said...

Just back from the south of france... a Barge-buying expedition for friends of mine; I was the resident expert... got a free lift to the SUN in the process! ANYWAY; bought my usual supply of Dijon Mustard (actually FROM Dijon)...which i love; I keep "American" style mustard ("frenchs" confuses EVERYbody); and english; which is GREAT for stripping paint; and as i said; Dijon. interestingly; the "no name" american mustard comes in a French's squeezy-type bottle(with a "turn top to close"-top; is the point of my ramble...the dijon and english still come in small glass jars... the dijon being "keepers", as they have cartoon characters printed on them. Perfect for drinking cheap french red wine.yum.

Eric said...

I saved a French's mustard bottle with the stay clean cap because, at the time, I thought it was an interesting change from the usual twist-cone design. That was a fortuitous whim on my part, given the news the cap design has been switched out.

I found a use for it: cooking oil dispenser. I buy large bottles (eg, 128 oz) of cooking oil. I prefer not to pour oil directly from the large bottle due to drip waste and poor pour control, so I transfer the cooking oil to a smaller bottle. A wide-mouthed smaller bottle was better, but still dripped and pour control was less than I liked. I then switched to a twist-cone mustard bottle. The pour (squeeze) control was good, but it leaked oil at the bottom seam of the cap, which is as bad as drip and made the cap greasy, thus harder to twist open. I'm now using the French's mustard bottle with silicone 'stay clean' cap. After one use, so far, so good: excellent pour control and it hasn't leaked (yet). Granted, it has been only one use, and I was pleased after my 1st use of the twist-cone cap, too.