The Ingenious Way To Use The Built-In Hole On The Opening Tabs Of Soda Cans

Unless you're paying close attention, you'd likely be surprised to learn the true purpose of everyday objects and discover the full extent of their potential. Take the little white ketchup cups at restaurants as an example. Did you know they expand to allow more room for your condiments? Milk jugs are another example. Have you ever wondered why they have circular indentations on the sides? It's so the plastic can expand in the freezer without bursting, should you decide to freeze your milk.

Soda cans also have a feature that may seem meaningless at first, but can serve a specific purpose. That feature is the built-in hole on the metal pull tabs. These tabs made headlines in January 2023 during the Miss Universe competition when Miss Thailand made her dress out of them. The holes gave the dress a textured appearance, but they can be used for something more practical than clothing a beauty pageant contestant.

The hole on soda can tabs can be used to hold a straw

If you've ever used a draw to drink soda from a can, you know about one specific annoyance: the moving straw. Sometimes it leaves you awkwardly moving your mouth around while you try to find it. Various internet sources insist the hole on a soda can pull tab can be used to solve this problem. All you have to do is bend it backward or flip it around and insert your straw into the hole. Foodbeast shared a demonstration on YouTube in 2012, appropriately entitled "How to Sip a Soda, Like a Sir."

But is this what the hole is actually for? The question of purpose surfaced on Quora, with a headline that reads: "Was the soda can tab really invented to hold the straw in place?" One person suggested that the hole is a result of a modernized design of the removable ring-pull lever, which was around in the 1960s. This original version included a hole for the index finger to pull the tab off the can like in the picture below — hence the name "pull tab."

Evolution of the soda can pull tab

American engineer William Hammack confirmed the historical details of the pull tab in his "The Ingenious Design of the Aluminum Beverage Can" video (via YouTube). He also added that these removable pull tabs became a litter problem that affected both humans and wildlife. The modern stay-on tab was the solution. This newer design still features a large hole even though it's no longer necessary to insert your finger in the hole to open a soda can.

In another Quora thread that addressed the question of holes on pull tabs, one person suggested the weight and cost of aluminum cans as reasons for the holes. The less aluminum that gets used, the less the can will weigh — and the cheaper it will be to produce. At the time of writing, aluminum was priced at $1.078 per pound (via Daily Metal Price), which makes this theory plausible. 

So, can the hole on a soda can tab be used to hold a straw? Yes. Is that why it was invented? There isn't enough evidence to support the claim that "straw-stabilizing" was its intended purpose. Instead, the hole is more likely the serendipitous result of mimicking the removable pull tab's original design and, potentially, a money-saving engineering decision by can manufacturers.