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How to Wash Reusable Grocery Bags

A woman's hand unpacking a package of meat from a a reusable grocery bag.
Sean Locke Photography/Shutterstock

Taking reusable bags to the grocery store is a trending movement worldwide to reduce waste, which is important. However, making sure your bags are clean to prevent contamination and illness is also important.

It’s especially vital right now due to the coronavirus pandemic because it can mitigate the spread of the virus. Whether your shopping bags are plastic, canvas, nylon, or even an insulated material, germs are lurking in every crevice.

And if you normally unpack your grocery bags on the counter, definitely try to stop doing so! If you forget, be sure to clean and then disinfect your counter, too.

How to Wash Grocery Bags

The best practice is to wash your grocery bags after each use to ensure you’re killing any bacteria in the nooks and crannies.

If your bag has a tag or label inside with washing instructions, just follow those. Otherwise, here’s a general guide of what to do:

  • Recycled plastic: Clean the in- and outside with warm, soapy water and a cloth towel or scrub brush. Don’t forget to wash the seams, too. Rinse with water. Next, go over all areas again with a disinfecting spray and paper towel. Let the bags air-dry in the sun.
  • Canvas: Cloth bags of any material are the easiest to clean. Just throw them in the washing machine.
  • Nylon: You might also be able to throw these in the washing machine on the gentle cycle. Don’t put them in the dryer, though, as high heat will weaken the material over time. Let them air-dry, instead, but not in direct sunlight, as this might affect the fabric’s color.
  • Insulated: Use disinfecting wipes to clean the inside of the bag after each use—especially after buying raw meat or fish. Use a cold-water cycle and mild detergent in the washer, and they’ll be good as new. While you are at it, throw your lunchboxes in there, too.

Many states have banned single-use plastic bags, so people will purchase and use the eco-friendly kind. While this is a worthy cause for our environment, reusable bags carry much more than your groceries. They pick up germs and bacteria with every shopping trip.

Make sure their final destination after each use is the washing machine!

Emilee Unterkoefler Emilee Unterkoefler
Emilee Unterkoefler is a freelance food writer, hiking enthusiast, and mama with over ten years of experience working in the food industry. Read Full Bio »
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