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Wash Reusable Grocery Bags

Updated on February 6, 2015

Why You Should Wash Your Reusable Grocery Bags

It seems like a given, but it is surprisingly often forgotten...and that is that we need to wash our reusable grocery bags.

Using reusable shopping bags can be good for the environment. (And prevent the mass accumulation of plastic bags in your kitchen after several shopping trips to the point it becomes overwhelming.)

But there has been some indication that many reusable grocery bags can get bacteria in them that could lead to food poisoning and other health problems. A microbiological study has found that reusable shopping bags may become contaminated with not only bacteria, but also yeast and mold, which could compromise your health. If you continue to use reusable grocery bags, or are thinking about switching to reusable bags, here is how you can prevent food poisoning as well as other potential contamination problems.

Tips for Washing Reusable Grocery Bags

Unless the care instructions for your grocery bag says to clean them with a certain method here are some general instructions that should be good for most bags.


  1. Wash frequently. It may seem like a lot, but washing your reusable grocery bag after each trip to the store can be a good idea.
  2. Turn your grocery bag inside out. This can be good to help protect any design printed on the outside of the bag when it is being washed and dried. Plus it will help dislodge any dirt or other debris, such as crumbs, that may be inside the bag (or that receipt you forgot about).
  3. Use hot water if you can. Screen printed or dyed bags should be washed in cold water, at least for the first few washes. Synthetic materials are probably best washed in cold water too in most instances.
  4. Add a 1/2 cup of distilled white vinegar and/or a 1/2 cup of borax to the wash cycle. If you are hand washing and using a smaller amount of water than a full laundry machine load, adjust the amount of white vinegar and/or borax accordingly.
  5. Line dry or dry in the dryer. Make certain that it as dried fully, as moisture can cause those nooks and crannies in your bag to become a breeding ground.

Cleaning reusable grocery bags is worth the effort and time to keep you, your family and friends safe.

Reusable Washable Grocery Bags

Looking for some Reusable Washable Grocery Bags? Here's some for you to consider.

Why It's Important to Wash Reusable Grocery Bags

This video serves as a reminder of why it is important to wash resusable grocery bags.

Washing Reusable Grocery Bags that are Plastic

Plastic shopping tote bags, like the awesome totes from Blue Q, can't be washed like regular laundry. Use a wet cloth that is soapy or or a solution of water and borax or vinegar, or use an anti-bacterial wet wipe, to wipe to wipe the plastic down. Be sure to get into those nooks and crannies where bacteria can reside.

Wash Me!

Do you wash your reusable grocery bags frequently?

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What to Wash Reusable Grocery Bags With

Here are some eco friendly products for washing reusable grocery bags with, both cloth and plastic kinds of bags.

Additional Tips for Reusable Grocery Bags

  1. Don't use your reusable grocery bags for any other purposes. Carrying things like diapers and your gym shoes in them could contaminate the bags and any food that is later used in them.
  2. Designate specific reusable bags to be used for the different types of food you purchase. An easy way to do this would be to color code your bags for produce and tan for meat, for example. Or you could have fun and stencil words or images on them with fabric paint. Or just write on them with a permanent marker. Or buy bags with designs on them that designate their purpose.
  3. Consider accepting a non-reusable plastic bag from the grocery store for meat products that you can dispose of when you get home while using your reusable bags for the rest of your purchases.
  4. Wash your reusable grocery bags frequently. Washing the bags after each trip to the store doesn't seem so excessive when you think about how fast the bacteria in them can grow. Hot water and bleach or Borax may also be used to help kill bacteria, yeast, and mold.
  5. Let your reusable shopping bags air out. When you fold them up, although it saves space, it gives bacteria a nice place to incubate.
  6. Be careful where you store your reusable grocery where you keeping them a place where they can pick up harmful bacteria?
  7. Use basic precautions to prevent food poisoning when preparing and cooking food such as washing your hands and the food preparation area, as well as cooking food thoroughly.

Do you use reusable grocery bags? Do you remember to wash them?

Guestbook Comments

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    • gottaloveit2 profile image

      gottaloveit2 4 years ago

      Excellent article - never seen this documented before. Well done, Sharon.