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How To Clean Your Reusable Bags, Because They Probably Need It

reusable bags

I used to have such a hard time remembering to bring my reusable grocery bags with me to the grocery store, but I’ve gotten a lot better about it. It’s not easy to change our routines, but taking reusable bags to the store helps reduce waste, save resources, and cut down on plastic pollution.

Speaking of which, did you know that a single set of reusable bags can eliminate as many as 20,000 disposable plastic bags? The benefits of using them are clear, but many people don’t realize how dirty their reusable bags can get if they don’t get cleaned regularly.

Researchers at the University of Arizona and Loma Linda University asked shoppers in California and Arizona, if they washed their reusable bags, and most shoppers—a whopping 97% of them—either said they didn’t wash them regularly or didn’t wash them at all.

After testing 84 of the shopper’s bags, high concentrations of bacteria were found on all but one bag, while coliform bacteria (often from raw meat) was found in about half of the bags. But on the bright side, the researchers also determined that washing the bags reduced the levels of harmful bacteria to next-to-none, which leads us to today’s post!

So in order to help us form better (not to mention safer) habits, today I’ll be sharing some simple methods for how to clean reusable grocery bags. That way, we can ensure they are both good for the planet and safe for us to use! :-)

How To Clean Reusable Grocery Bags

reusable bags

Cotton, Canvas, And Nylon Bags

Reusable grocery bags made of cotton, canvas, and nylon are the easiest to clean because you can toss them right in your washing machine. Keep in mind that printed designs may not fare well in the wash, but washing in cold water can help preserve them.

After washing, tumble dry cotton and canvas bags on low heat, but nylon bags should be allowed to air dry.

reusable bags

Polypropylene Bags

Reusable bags that have a crinkly, plasticky feel to them are usually made of one of two materials: nylon or polypropylene. Nylon bags are usually fairly thin and don’t support themselves well, while polypropylene bags are thicker and sturdier (like those big blue IKEA bags).

To clean reusable grocery bags made of polypropylene, wash them by hand in warm, soapy water. Rinse well after washing, wipe them down with a clean towel, and allow them to air dry completely. (Avoid the dryer as it may cause the material to melt.)

reusable bags

Insulated Bags

To clean reusable grocery bags that are insulated, your best bet is to hand wash them with warm, soapy water. The thermal lining is a bit delicate, and you wouldn’t want to accidentally ruin it by using a harsher cleaning method. Once your insulated bags are nice and clean, pat them dry and then leave them out to air dry for a while.

reusable bags

Dos And Don’ts For Reusable Grocery Bags

DO…

  • Wrap raw meat in a disposable bag before putting it into your reusable bag to prevent the spread of bacteria.
  • Consider using ice packs in your reusable bags to help keep refrigerated and frozen foods cold until you get home.
  • Wipe down your bags after each use, and aim to wash them around once a month.
  • Remind yourself to take your bags to the store by writing it on your shopping list (or use my printable shopping list, which has a reminder on it already!)
  • Let your reusable grocery bags dry completely after cleaning them to discourage mold and mildew growth.

DON’T…

  • Place raw meat, fresh produce, and ready-to-eat foods in the same bag. Keeping them separate is more sanitary.
  • Keep reusable grocery bags in your car all the time, as a warm car can encourage bacterial growth.
  • Use reusable grocery bags for other purposes. Keep a dedicated set of bags for grocery shopping, and assign a category to each bag to help keep them sanitary (like designating one for meats, one for produce, etc.)

What sort of reusable grocery bags do you like to use?

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Jill Nystul (aka Jillee)

Jill Nystul is an accomplished writer and author who founded the blog One Good Thing by Jillee in 2011. With over 30 years of experience in homemaking, she has become a trusted resource for contemporary homemakers by offering practical solutions to everyday household challenges.
I share creative homemaking and lifestyle solutions that make your life easier and more enjoyable!

About Jillee

Jill Nystul

Jill’s 30 years of homemaking experience, make her the trusted source for practical household solutions.

About Jillee

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Homekeeping Tips

  • I really wish more people would wash their bags. Having worked in a grocery store – bags that smelled strongly of cigarette smoke were the worst. People just don’t realize how long those strong smells linger. We occasionally would get a few customers like Barbara who would just load their groceries back in their carts and then put them in their reusable bags in the car. The store I worked for never charged for either kind of bags.

  • This is interesting. I work for a grocery store. Customers like CTY are our worst nightmare. We don’t mind if you want to bag your own groceries. However 3 carts full of stuff will make the checkers lane get backed up. I agree with the wrapping meat in plastic before putting it the bags.. We have a few customers who will actually go postal and give us a lecture. We have one lady who goes berserk because the meat is already in plastic. Please be considerate because customers have no idea what we have to put up with.

  • I resent having to pay for the plastic bags at the grocery store – especially the stores that don’t give a credit for using your own bags. If I forget to bring in my bags, I just simply put my unbagged groceries into the cart, and take them to the car. Its just my little rebellion at the attitude of some of these large chain grocery stores.
    I do usually carry at least one “fold-up” bag in my purse – the one that you can fold into a tiny square and carry with you – so handy but easy to forget to wash. Also they don’t really hold a lot.
    I am with the majority – I don’t wash my bags often enough.

  • I wash my shopping bags every month in the washing machine & hang them to air dry. I rotate & leave them in my car so they are there to use.

  • Like others, I don’t always remember my reusable bags, but I have ways to reuse the plastic bags that I haven’t seen in the comments. I make “bags of bags” and take them to the dog parks so owners can clean up after their dogs. I tie them to the chain link fence so they don’t blow away. My local library is always glad to get bags to make it easier for people to take a stack of books home. Thrift stores and such always need bags. I also use them to line trash cans as others have said. Good topic, Jillee.

  • I keep mine in the trunk – guess I will have to rethink that! I have been using the reuseable bags for at least 5 years, I love them. I remember the old paper sacks that were much sturdier and held more than the ubiquitus plastic bags, which I cannot stand. I have washed my bags once or twice, though I need to wash them more often. And I agree that baggers do not know how to fill the bags; I remember there used to be a bagging competition among the baggers in some stores and store chains, and there was an “art” to filling the sacks. Sometimes I get dark, resigned looks when I hand over my bags….that “this is such a pain” look. LOL

    I also place a camping cooler in the trunk in which to place cold and freezer items to help presreve them on the long drive home, especially in the summer. I know military retirees do this as they sometime live far away from the commissary and only shop there once a month.

  • 837300 190321This Los angeles Weight Loss diet happens to be an low and flexible going on a diet application meant for typically trying to drop the weight as properly within the have a significantly healthier lifetime. shed weight 441725

  • Washing canvas reusables: I wash them when I have a couple days until the next trip or don’t wash them all at once, then stretch and smooth them out and just dry flat or hang them by their handles somewhere to dry. They don’t have to look 100% perfect, you’re just tossing purchases in them. The non woven bags, I remove any inserts, wash then tumble dry low (no softeners in any bag laundry loads by the way); they turn out softer and kinda fluffy-feeling but no worse for the wear. If you lose an insert, remember most bags will stand up just because of their shape anyway, and unless you have a long way to go when you get home with them they will hold up fine even full. Haven’t had occasion to wash the new plastic-y ones yet, but I theorize I would do better with a cloth wet with an antibacterial cleaner or using an antibacterial spray than washing them, though knowing me I will try at least once. I always put meat in one of those clear bags, then just use the same bag to dispose of that day’s trash once I am home. Another thing I feel I should bag is fruit and veggies; although they are washed before eaten, I am still kind of squeamish about those things getting contaminated from other things.. I keep a styrofoam cooler (got it with an order of chocolates years ago) in the trunk at all times, and put anything cold in there right away. The cooler doesn’t add any weight to the car. I just put my bags on top of the first items I put on the conveyor, and the cashiers always seem to use them; my only peeve is, I also separate everything into categories and bag sized piles to make it quicker and easier (learned how to bag in retail so it is second nature for me to do this)-if they just bag is as they ring it they don’t even have to think. BUT, they bag so dumb sometimes…who puts something heavy in with bread or eggs? Sigh…OH! one more thing: I was in the dollar store one day and they had little laptop and tablet cases made of neoprene-I splurged a whole dollar and got one, I fold some of my bags and put them in so all I have to do is pick them up and go. I had just seen something similar, a tote bag case, selling for about $12. So if you have a spare at home you can use it for that-the neoprene is so stretchy you can fit quite a few bags in!

  • I have my master shopping list in my computer, I hang it on the fridge and all one has to do is circle what we need. I’m adding shopping bags to the top of the list so I remember to take them.
    DON’T put canvas shopping bags in your dryer, they will shrink tremendously! hang them outside on a sunny day.
    Happy shopping!

  • a lot of stores crush their boxes, if you call ahead, they can save some for you and you can use them, when thru, you can put them in recycling centers. you don’t have to worry about washing bags or contamination.

  • As soon as I empty them out I get them ready for my next trip to the store and put them in my trunk. If I forget to bring them in to the store – since most stores around here you have to bag your own groceries. I just take the cart out to the car and empty it there so I can also enjoy the weather!

  • My sister gave me some awesome bags this spring. They are vinyl outside and aluminum lined inside. Very easy to wash and keep clean. They are insulated and have a zipper so they keep food cold for a very long time (it is 40 miles to our store). Plus they fold and snap for very easy storage. I bring them home, wipe with a bleach/water solution and let them dry then fold and put away. Bleach is the ONLY know product that kills e-coli (as a previous meat processor we were required to bleach EVERYTHING nightly to prevent e-coli).

    The bags were bought these from QVC, but unfortunately I am unable to find them to purchase more. Mabye if enough of us requested them we could get them to restock them. I have several others that I use and wash for non-perishibles but these are far and away the best I have ever seen.

  • I love the dog food bag idea! I do clean my bags, but probably not enough – however, lately I’ve been using large totes from Thirty One. They rock! They hold a lot, wipe clean easily, fit nicely in the top of the cart and on the bottom, and they keep things from moving around in my truck area (SUV). I usually buy them when there is a discontinued print sale (my cousin sells them). They are super stylish and have many uses! I put a soft sided insulated cooler in the child seat area for frozen items. I use the scanner as I shop and do self checkout so I bag according to my needs as I shop (double time saver). It’s become habit to bring them with me, and after I unload and wipe down they go by the door to get brought back out to the vehicle. When u did forget to bring them into the store, my young son was a helpful reminder :)
    I never forget to bring them back to the vehicle, because I make sure they are blocking the door out to the driveway so I’d have to trip over them if I didn’t pick them up and move them out. Love, love, love this blog, Jillee! Thanks to everyone for sharing, too!

  • Thank you for your beautiful testimony, Tracy! It has to be cathartic to not keep this “secret” bundled up inside you. I’ve learned that by sharing our stories, we don’t give them power over us, and we’re not wasting energy trying to keep it secret. And too many of us (myself included) are numbing ourselves with food…M&M’s do make you feel better, don’t they? God bless you and keep you and family. May your daughter be healed, and if that is not part of the divine plan, may your and your family provide comfort and love to her, and may you find joy in your time together.

  • I hope that while your husband goes to his three meetings a week, you will consider attending Alanon, many groups have them at the same time. Alanon will help you deal with the ups and downs.

  • Well, I gave all my reusable bags a bath today (I believe I counted 30) and hung them outside to air dry. I think I heard a thank you whisper from my bags as it has been the first time, (Yes, embarassingly, I am admitting, my first time) to get them washed.

    I am going to start washing them the same day I wash my towels as a reminder. I also happend to post this reminder on my Facebook and surprisingly, I have a friend comment saying she refuses to use reusable bags for the reason that she does not think they are sanitary.

    Well thank you for the reminder!

  • About the bags…I wash often (those that can be) and those that can’t, I spray with rubbing alcohol…..turn them inside out and spray and hang to dry (dries quickly) I don’t think that you should store in your purse as most don’t get washed often enough (personnel opinion) referring to the purses getting washed/cleaned….I have also had checkers comment on my clean bags (and those that aren’t)…..For a reminder to take bags you could put it first or last on your grocery list and for those that don’t use a list (or need an extra reminder) you could put a note on your dash or the center of the steering wheel, with a sticky tab or something more permanent…….I also store my bags in the car, but am thinking of storing by front door as well…..I hook my bags over the headrest of the middle seats of my suv and have them hang over the back (out of the way but still accessible)…….Last but hardly least, I greatly appreciate all the comments, as they are quite helpful…..thank you and thank you Jillee for your time and commitment…In case you haven’t heard it enough, YOU ARE AWESOME !!!!

  • I live in New England and I HATE going to Big Y b/c the baggers always put my cold stuff in the canvas bags and the hot stuff in the insulated bags! Grr! It’s not hard to figure out that the insulated bag is for cold stuff. So i always have to re-pack my bags. Hence, I try not to go to Big Y anymore.
    My husband refuses to use the reusable bags and since he usually ends up going to the grocery store every day he allays gets the plastic bags and they just pile up. we do use them in the bathroom trash can, but I really need to recycle the rest!

    • Haha, I have had the same problem at other stores! I can never figure out why they do this. I have even had them put regular non perishables in the insulated bag and cold stuff in the canvas. I am happy to bag my own, prefer it in fact and will go to self check out whenever it’s available but they don’t take well to you doing that and I don’t want to step on toes so I often end up re packing bags when I go through the regular check out. When they use the plastic they put two items in each bag and I end up with 10 or more bags of stuff I could pack in one or two of my good canvas ones. I don’t mean to bash all packers though they are usually very nice often young and learning…I think it’s more of an indication of how little training or direction they get, I doubt it’s as easy as one thinks to make everyone happy. Just reading through here I realize different people prefer different things when it comes to packing their grocery bags.

  • Thank you for this. I am a grocery bagger/checker and you have NOOOOO idea what we go through with your bags lol. I was once bagging a person’s groceries and went to put her can of green beans in her reusable bag and saw that there was something black and green on the bottom of it. I said to her, “I think there might be mold growing in your bag. I don’t think I feel comfortable continuing with my bagging process being given this bag.” She was super embarrassed and vowed to go home and wash her bags immediately. No actually she didn’t seemed shocked at all and just asked for me to use another one…. Aside from that, I deal with bags all the time that have pet hair on them (I’m allergic to animals), tobacco smoke, and bags that obviously haven’t been washed since you got them. I know it seems silly but thank you for posting this and I really hope that people listen and clean their bags frequently and properly.

  • The heavy plastic red bags from Trader Joe’s can be wiped with Clorox or Lysol wipes, or sprayed with any anti-bac kitchen surface cleaner and allowed to air dry. Or even sprayed with Lysol. Those bags are GREAT for that reason alone.

    The cheapy common type of reusable bags that are often free on Earth Day or $1 at the grocery store CAN go in the washing machine and air dry, even though they are thin and not very resilient. The lettering usually fades and they get soft and wrinkly, but they are still perfectly useable.

    • I just toss them all in the washer every couple of trips to the store and let them air dry. My daughter put her Trader Joe’s bag in the dryer after laundering and it shrunk to the size of a lunch bag!

  • I don’t like cloth bags. The handles tend to be too long for me to carry without them touching the ground. The bags are often big and the cashiers will usually pack them full. This leads to too much weight and sometimes items get squished. And then there was the inconvenience of letting them air out (especially if there is condensation), washing them, and folding up a dozen bags that are all different sizes. So, I use plastic bags from stores that still provide them. I use them for garbage once they have transported meat and throw them away when they get a hole. I never run out and I never pay for bags.

  • Yes, I do regularly wash mine, and the check out staff often comment that they appreciate a clean bag.
    I have a homemade bag made from old jeans that is my fav, then several of those bags youbuyfrom the store in that mystery fabric. I find those bags somehow attract pet fur. I am slowly trying to replace with homemade.

    When you are able to bag your own, you can put items in the bag that are stored in the same area, I find this really speeds up put away time.

    I do get plastic bags on occasion but we find many uses for them. Trash can liners, dog poop bag for walks, stuff like that. I also use the bag that my newspaper comes in for ths type of stuff.

    I am an RN and I manage the Quality departments in 2 large hospitals so infection prevention is near and dear to my heart. Yes, keep those bags clean and dry!

    Amie

  • I keep my reusable bags in the trunk of my car when not in use. I have one that is insulated for frozen/refrigerated items. They are folded and kept in one of those fabric storage cubes. That way, even I get inside the store and realize I don’t have my bags, they are just steps away.

  • I store my reusable bags in a large camping-style cooler in the garage; it’s hard to walk past without remembering to throw it in the trunk! The cooler corrals my perishables (stored in heat-reflective bags for an extra layer of insulation), keeping everything cold til I get home without even using ice packs, and that’s a good 25-minute drive. Those heat-reflective bags can be inverted and sprayed with disinfectant to dry in the garage until the cloth bags are washed and dried, then everything gets put back in the cooler together for next week!

    I shop mostly at Aldi, so you pretty much have to BYOB or pay per in-store bag. It’s harder to psych up enough to BYOB to the regular supermarkets, though, because often the cashier isn’t used to handling cloth bags and you end up holding up the line behind you. I generally let them bag it in regular plastic, then reuse those bags for trash can liners and other things.

  • I buy the most awesome shopping bags at……SAM”S CLUB of all places. They sell a 2 pack for less than 5 dollars that have short handles to carry by hand or longer ones to put over your shoulder. They are pretty big since they are made for warehouse items, but I find I can fit a weeks worth of groceries in 2 bags. Surprisingly sturdy and always amazed at how much they hold. I hate myself every time I forget to bring them with me. They are too big to be used at traditional grocery stores, so I have the cashier scan everything, I put it into my cart unbagged and bag it as I put it in my trunk. Things are packed how I like them-some canned goods in each bag so I can lift them, bread, eggs and chips together, etc. People always ask where I got them because they are so cute: black and white hounds tooth, black and white paisley, black and white harlequin…are you seeing a trend?

  • As for baggers (which we do not have) who do not use your bags to your convenience or if you let them use the plastic ones for the sake of time or whatever: why not simply ask them to put all products back in the cart for you, instead of packing? That way, you can pack your stuff yourself afterwards.

    Being from Germany, almost everybody now brings their own bags for shopping. Plastic ones are charged at 0,25 EUR for the smallest. I never think about bringing bags, it is a habit here.
    I always have one or two shoppers that fold themselves into a pouch in my handbag which hold quite a lot and even in my gym bag for emergency shops. I also got large ones from IKEA or a self-made one in which supersized (think 10pack toiletpaper plus kitchen towels etc.) and lightweight stuff find their place. And even one of those fits nicely in my handbag additionally to the folded smaller one. The only thing I do is, I do not shlepp around unnecessary stuff in my medium-sized handbag, so I always have enough space.

  • The city of Eugene just stopped the use of the plastic bags and charge for the paper ones. I shop at Winco where you bag your own groceries which I love. I can only put certain things together and I don’t have to make them too heavy to carry into the house. Have not used a plastic bag now for months. When I grew up in England we never got bags at the grocery store we always carried them so have gone full circle. I take a bunch with me to the farmers market too.

  • I love my reusable bags and I’m a nurse so I always wash my reusables right after using and then put them on the table by the front door until I can get them to the car. Problem is with a lot of the reusable bags, washing and this crazy florida heat I was having them disintegrate into nothing. So I went to a site called Baggu.com and the bags are a little pricey to start out (around $8 each for the standard size) but they are made of parachute material. Light weight and VERY strong. I’ve had my set for about 8 years now and wash them at least 1 time a week and no rips, tears or frays. Well worth what I paid for it and with the money saved from store discounts for bringing my bags… paid for many times over.

    To give you an idea of strength. I can carry 2 gallon jugs of tea in one.

    (Baggu.com has a lot of different sizes and styles too! Not just the one similar to your I’m a keeper bag above.)

  • We make use of all those scandalous plastic bags. Liners for all the small wastebaskets in the house, sending meals (six-eight people at a time) to the field during planting, harvesting, etc, sending things back and forth to our family’s houses (forgotten grandkids shoes, etc) . Preschools use them. If I ever get more than I need the thrift shops appreciate them. I’m not against reusable bags at all and I have several I use but we need to remember everyone’s needs are different. I am all for conserving resources and protecting our beautiful planet. Empty oatmeal canisters are useful to send cookies home with grandkids. I try to reuse throwaways when I can. We burn our trash so if possible I reuse my large kitchen garbage bag at least once. This was a really good post about keeping our bags clean. I like the idea of a spray bottle of vinegar and eo.

  • Our local grocery store (Hannaford Brothers based out of Maine) USED to offer a nickle for each cloth or reusable bag you brought in. They stopped it. WHY? I can only guess because they’re cheap and for all their posturing about being green and sourcing local veggies, etc. they really don’t give a darn about the environment or their customers.

    I know, Jillee, that I probably shouldn’t use their name, but they deserve to be shamed in my opinion.

    • It could be that the effort worked so well that most of their customers now bring bags and yes, the 5 cents per bag became more expensive for them. But stopping the program while still driven somewhat by the expense, is more of an indication about how well their program worked and less about nickle and diming their customers. They have had the program for a long time (I didn’t know it had stopped) and I think were one of if not the first in our area to do it. I still have one of the first canvas bags they used to sell when they started encouraging reusable bags and have to say it is my favorite. I try to use it just for veggies but have to admit that doesn’t always happen, it’s worn and well used and does get washed. :)

  • I have had a cashier tell me some cashiers don’t actually like when people bring their own bags in. I don’t know why – they seem easy enough to pack. Certainly easier to handle on my part.

    Plastic bags drive me crazy as they are of poor quality and the stores try to shove $75 worth of groceries into 2 bags (I think they forget they are not carrying them into my house for me).

    Nevertheless, I always forget my reusable bags (thanks for the reminder by the way – they are getting washed tonight). You would think with my gripe about the plastic that I’d remember a little better.

    But that said, all is not lost as I accumulate the plastic bags and donate to a local children’s hospital thrift store here in Virginia Beach. They get out of my house and into someone else’s.Everyone wins. :D

  • I have gotten in the habit of using reusable bags. I wash the bags periodically, but they are probably due for another washing. One more thing to add to the weekend list…

  • I had no idea that you should not leave them in your vehicle like I DO! Thanks for the tip, but Lawd I’m gonna forget to take them now. Thanks for the tip!

  • I make t-shirt shopping bags which I love and just throw in the wash everytime I use them! Find great ones at thrift stores for $1 or less.

  • Jillee- by now you have figured I am a little bit of an odd critter and have no problem sharing my thoughts. I love this post. Washing the bags is something people rarely think about; thank goodness for science experiments. How about the experiment on the shopping cart child seat–all those leaky diapers–nuff said. I place the hand carry basket stores offer in the seat & and fill my tee shirt bags as I go.
    When it comes to bagging I am really very aggressive. I let the bagger/cashier know up front; I tell them I am fanatical about organizing the bags and that I will bag myself. My shopping orders are generally 3 carts full. They sigh–but when they see me empty the bag they packed so I can pack it my way, they either conform or give up

    For produce, refrigerated/frozen & meats I make bags from old shirts (like Jillee taught)–I make mine, when I can, out of old sweat shirts because they are more rugged. They get washed after each use.

    For dry goods I use bags I made from empty Dog Chow bags. They are super strong and I have plenty of them. Sounds crazy I know. I cut a strip off the top (it will become the handle), fold them in on themselves so the top meets the bottom and duct tape it closed, I then use the cut strip to form 2 handles and actually use machine screws to attach the handles. When the bags finally give (hasn’t happened yet–been almost 2 yrs.)–I’ll take off the hardware (to re-use). I have had several people ask if I sell them. Every so often I spray the bags with vinegar & water solution to disinfect them.

  • I buy cute reusable bags and hang them off the back of my seats in my car. They make cute garbage bags that don’t have to be thrown away when full. I don’t put food or drink items in them so they stay clean for a long time. :)

  • I love using my t-shirt bags that I learned about here. Because they are made from old shirts I know I can wash and dry them with no issues.

  • In our town they have banned plastic bags and now charge 25cents per paper bag. I really miss having my bags from the grocery store as they were far from one use in our home; dog waste, bathroom trash liners, taking things to friends….Now I often forget to bring them into the store and end up bagging things up when I return to my bags in the car. Doesn’t bother me too much unless the cart wheels lock before I get there.

  • I’m a bag snob and am mildly horrified that people don’t washe their bags on a regular basis. I use the Trolley Dolly (which is a bag of bags) and I store it in my kitchen. We use cloth napkins so my shopping bags go in with the wash with the cloth napkins.

    These are some AWESOME tips! thanks for sharing them!

  • I have been a reusable bag user for a while now, but never have the “washing” issue a lot of thought till my previous hometown if Austin, implemented the law banning throwaways. At that time someone made a comment, and that got me thinking, so now I’m an avid washer. I toss all my totes in the wash with both my detergent (Allen’s Natural) as well as BAC-Out, to ensure I’m getting those puppies clean. We also started using reusable produce bags, which I regularly wash in the same manner.

    I still feel that while toting clean bags are good, you can’t just blindly think that these same germs/bacteria are not elsewhere, like the cart and the conveyor belt at check out. Just do your best, but don’t have a panic over it all. ;)

    • I live in Austin currently, and definitely need to get in the habit of washing my reusable bags with the new plastic bag ban in place. This biggest problem I’ve run into is remembering the bags when I arrive at the grocery store. I always have them in my car trunk, but in my haste of locking the car and thinking about my grocery list I usually walk into the store without them and have to go back!

      • I do the same thing, Allison. I do wipe out my reuseable bags with a hydrogen peroxide spray, about every two to three weeks.

  • I keep my canvas bags washed all the time. It never fails that I go into the store and the checker/bagger comments…and thanks me…about my clean bags. They have tales to share about the bags people use that would literally curl your hair. Gross! and beyond gross!

  • I always wash my reusable bags, each time I use them. Mine are all the nylon ones sold by Greater Good websites, so I am also helping charities like Animal Rescue and Breast Cancer when I buy the bags! They have pictures of dogs, pink ribbons, etc. on them, which helps get the info about the sites out there. Someone is always asking me where I got them. Since they are nylon, they also take up very little space, and can be carried in my larger purses, and that is where I put them as soon as I take them out of the drier. By the way, Jillee, I am using my homemade detergent from your recipes when I wash them!

  • Last year I was in Maui and found that it was illegal to use/dispense or sell plastic bags for groceries or any retail sale. Maui is the first of the islands to go this route and they’re trying to keep plastic bags out of the oceans. They have in the stores paper bag, re-usable bags and insulated bags. And the latter two are sold almost everywhere. As a nation we are very good at throwing things out instead of re-using. Since being on Maui, I’m trying my best to repurpose or recycle items every chance I get.

  • You could also spray them with cheap vodka. This is what mascot costumers use to disinfect costumes that can’t be laundered or dry-cleaned on a regulare basis.

  • I do re-use grocery bags, so I don´t mind when I forget my reusable ones at home.
    On the other hand, how about the environmental damage of washing reusable bags frequently? that comes from the use of detergent. This laudry detergent would not be used and sent to water sewers if you didn´t use and wash a reusable bag. You are actually using more water and laundry detergent. So, what has less impact on the environment? Anybody has answered this question?
    Pat

    • Good point. I wonder about things like that too!
      Also–why don’t stores go back to paper? Trees are a renewable resource and can easily be recycled.

    • I would add them to an existing load of laundry which would then mean you do not have an additional load of laundry. It is hard to balance the true effectiveness of using reusable bags against environmental impact. But it seems that even if you do have enough bags that you have to wash them separately, you would not do that every time you go shopping, and the benefits would outweigh the risks. That is my humble opinion.

  • I found that keeping them in the car is all I need to help me bring them. They charge is 5 cents a bag here too and there are big signs in the parking lot to bring your own bag. So I put them in the car when I am done un

  • I keep a tote basket in the back of my Denali with an assortment of sizes of bags. I use the cloth ones for meats and vegetables only. They can easily be thrown in the washer and dryer. I keep the plastic ones for canned, boxed and bagged items. I almost NEVER go into ANY type of store without at least one re-useable bag. I take them to estate sales, thrift stores, antique stores and even to malls. More stores will give you a 5 cent credit per bag used!! Fifteen, twenty, twenty-five cents in one store doesn’t seem like much, but that can add up fast in a year. To remind myself to take them in with me, I always keep one sticking out from along side my seat. When I’m thrifting, I have one just for that with hand sanitizer, tissues, tape measure, extra bags, note pad and pen in, ready to go. Then I throw in my wallet, cell phone, and water bottle and off I go.

    Love your Blog. I look forward to every post. Thank you. You got me hooked on E.O’s!!!! :-0 !! On the road to recover and hopefully fewer Rx’s thanx to you!! :-)

  • I have gotten so many compliments from checkers and baggers on this idea, I have to share it. Take a few of your old tank tops and just sew along the bottom on your sewing machine. Takes 30 seconds and you have a reusable bag that is also easily washable! Great for produce.

    • What an excellent idea! I have so many tanks lying around that are too small or I plain don’t like anymore. You can probably find them cheaper at a yardsale than what it would actually cost to buy reusable bags. I am going start this righ away. In fact, I’ll be saving my kids’ tank tops too :)

  • My bag has a care tag on it – wash by hand as it is from cellulose. I turn it inside out, fill my sink with hot soapy water and vinegar, and wash all my bags by hand. Air dry inside out in the sun. At our Safeway, so many forget to bring their bags in, that they cut us some slack. I usually remember my bags while I’m in checkout. Old habits are hard to change. Thanks for the great tips on separating items; I like that.

  • Our grocery store was selling bags one day. They were preprinted with “meat” and the bag was red, “produce” and the bag was green, etc. I bought both because this was a concern for me. Got home that day and the bagger had put meat in the produce bag and produce in the meat bag! Really? Then I felt like I couldn’t use the produce bag again. Lol

  • What about the insulated bags? You can’t just throw those in the washing machine can you? I haven’t yet and am hesitant to do so. Anybody ever washed theirs in the washing machine and dried in the dryer?

    • I have a Trader Joe’s insulated bag and I’ve put it in the washer and air dried it. I used to have a less expensive Aldi’s insulated bag, and I would wipe it down with soap and hot water.

    • I have a couple of the big insulated ones and I can’t imagine putting them in the washer or dryer either. I do turn them inside out and wash in the tub or outside with the hose though using a disinfecting cleaner or just soapy water when they get really dirty. I have also put backing soda inside to sit for a while before or after the couple of times they have gotten really stinky for some reason. I also use a spray kitchen counter cleaner and sponge or rag to clean them out in between the major ones.

  • Even if they aren’t really washable, in the true sense, go ahead and turn them inside out and let them air in the full sun for an hour or two. The UV light, dry air and heat is a marvelous natural anti-viral and anti-bacterial agent.Flip them right side out and sun/air some more and they should be good to go. Sure they will probably fade. But if you are going for practicalisty then, who cares.

  • I’ve sen bags made from old clothes, so if you have clothes that are no longer wearable, but you can’t bring yourself to part with them, this might be a good idea :)

    I love my bags because I can fit 6 two liters in a bag and not have to worry about breaking. (DH refuses to quit drinking Mt Dew) I don’t really worry about germs in the bags, I’m not eating out of them ;) I just wash them when they start to look grungy.

  • Where I live in Canada they now charge you $.05 per plastic bag. Although it’s only a nickel, it does make you cringe when you spend money on something so silly…and the bags are even cheaper quality now. It took a bit to remember the bags but now I have a system. When I know I am getting groceries I put the bag of bags on the door handle of the door I am using to go outside!!

    I do wash them…but this has made me want to wash them more often. I do suck it up and buy one plastic bag to put all my meat items in.

  • Aren’t a lot of bags actually made of paper? I think the basic WalMart ones are. Maybe I’m mistaken. I doubt they’d hold up to being washed. Anyone know if you can wash them? Cleaning them is certainly a great idea, if it can be done without ruining them. Thanks for the tip.

    • I’ve washed the Walmart bags before and just hang to air dry. It must depend on the WM as my checkers always do a great job when I remember to bring them.

      I don’t mind using the store bags either. We use them to empty the litter box, in our bathroom and bedroom trash cans…one of my big concerns is that if they totally do away with them, we’ll still have to purchase bags for our trash cans, litter boxes, etc.

      • really, how do you clean out cat boxes without store bags? I even raid the recycling bag bin sometimes when we run low, I also use them in the car as waste bags, but I use my reusable bags for all my major shopping trips, I shop at ALDI and they charge for bags, sure helps me remember to take my own! I collect the store bags at wallmart to do the litter,

  • The problem we have with the reusable bags is that the baggers at the groceries are so horrible with them. It slows them down tremendously and they just pack them horrendously. I don’t mind taking and using them during slower times (my fave time to grocery shop is Fri or Sat night after 8! ;) but when we have to go at peak times I do let them use the store bags. I don’t feel so bad though, as those bags get lots of reuse as well.

    • Regarding the baggers, it really depends on where you shop…I shop here in the midwest at Hy-Vee and they are VERY good at promoting and accepting the use of BYOB. They even give you 5 cents back per bag each time you bring them. The baggers do a very good job. However, I’ve brought my bags to other places, say, Wal-mart, and that IS a disaster! The checker has no room to put your bags on the bagging corral to place your items inside, even though they themselves sell their own Wal-mart brand reusable bags. All the more reason not to shop at Wal-mart! ;)

  • I keep a small basket in the trunk of my car filled with reusable shopping bags and totes. If I am in a hurry, I sometimes forget to bring my bags into the store, but I have a pedometer and when I remember I have left the bags in the car, I smile and realize I can “wrack up” more steps just by takinig a moment to go back out to the car and get my bags!

    • I keep mine in the trunk, too. I have made it a habit to take them right back out there when I have emptied. If I’m feeling lazy, I will put them on top of my purse, so I will remember to take them out with me the next time I go to the car.

  • Any tips on how to wash the ones that have cardboard in the bottom so they stand up? I have the ones you buy at the grocery store that fold up into a little square but if I wash them then the cardboard is going to turn to mush. I’m really grossed out now but don’t know how to fix it.

      • When the cardboard wears out– I use plastic canvas. They sell it at craft stores like Micheal’s (probably even Walmart). It is a plastic grid about the size of a place mat that you can cut to size easily.

    • Those rollable cutting boards can sometimes be found cheaply, too, and are a great replacement for cardboard inserts. If the cardboard is sewn into the bottom, you’re probably stuck just using the vinegar and water spritz Jillee described as your only option. I would probably dismantle one with sewn-in carboard and reassemble it without, then cut the plastic canvas or cutting board as a removable insert for stability. My sewing machine and I are old friends, though.

  • i’ve had trouble washing canvas reusable bags, they completely lost their shape and just looked horrible! but, i will have to try washing the less expensive bags i’ve collected. thanks for sharing!

  • I always have my reusable bags. I kind of get snippy when the cashiers bypass my bags and start bagging in plastic. i just grab them off the hook by the door on the way out. J have a few “just in case” bags under the seat of the van in the event I do unplanned shopping. I have different totes I use when I go to the mall and for non food shopping. I made produce bags out of lightweight material so I can keep track of produce without using the plastic bags in the store. That last one drives cashiers crazy-they often just don’t understand the concept.

    • Me too! tulle and cotton cord, why don’t the cashiers understand this? They keep produce so much better and I even made one that fits the celery prefectly, one that holds just the right amount of potatoes, etc. I’m not sure why this is such a hard concept to wrap their brains around. Now if I could just get them to let me bring my own containers for bulk items and not make me use those plastic bags it would be perfect.

  • I suggest air drying your bags. I made the mistake of putting all of my canvas bags in the dryer at one time, and now my bags have shrunk to half their size :-(
    Great reminder to keep them clean, thanks Jillee!!!

  • Wow I didn’t realize the amount of people who don’t wash their totes.

    Make sure to remove the bottom insert if your bag has one, they either crumble or get all bent out of shape. Found this out the hard way once.

  • I keep my reusable bags folded up in the “cracks” of my car between the seat and the center console. Helps keep miscellaneous stuff from dropping down into those cracks, too!!

  • Petroleum is used in the making of plastic bags. I’ve read you could drive a car 1 mile on the amount of petroleum it takes to make 14 plastic grocery bags so I take a sticky note and put the number ’14’ on it and post it to the dash of my car so I can see it when I get in. When I see that number I always know what it stands for and remember the bags.

    I was going to post the number ‘1,000,000’ because that’s how many birds die every year from the ingestion of plastic but the number 14 seemed an easier cue and more appropriate for use in a vehicle.

  • You’ve touched a vein. Maybe if I had the “Jeep” bags my husband might use them since we drive a Jeep.

    I truly hate store bags, the way the store checkers fill them, and the quantity they use. I always compliment the better baggers. To avoid slowing the checkers, I place their bags inside my bags; usually at least two of theirs to one of mine. Keeps groceries from escaping when I make a sudden stop; lost a head of cauliflower once under the driver’s seat and found the smell about a week later. Have been thinking about using a plastic tote system since I already sort my groceries in the cart.

    • If you put your bags down before you put you food down then the first thing the cashier will pick up is your bags and that will be he first thing the bagger will pick up then there is no need to use their bags and you won’t feel like you are slowing the down. just a suggestion.

    • I read your comment and wish I had your baggers in my area. If I let them use disposable plastic bagsI can fit 4 or 5 bags in my reusable one. The thing is I believe it is the store policy to only put a couple of items per bag.

      I don’t know what happens to the bags in the inland states, I live close to the ocean and my work takes me all over the coastline, it is heartbreaking to see the little islands of garbage even in the middle of nowhere many miles offshore. The glue of those islands is the stupid supermarket bag, they get caugh with floating floating seaweeds (sargassum and such) and then start collecting other floating waste, agrrrr such a shame.

      Please everyone do remember your reusable bags, but not only to the supermarket. If you go to the hobby store, or hardware store or any store, take your own bag.

      • Your comment about store policy to only put a few things in the bag reminded me of when I worked at a store. There was no store policy about that, but whenever I put more than a few items in the bag, people would whine and complain. (You sure put a lot of stuff in there, or, That needs to be double bagged, or other ridiculous comments.) I really didn’t fill the bags that full, so I started only putting a few things in the bags so I wouldn’t get grouched at anymore. (Needless to say, I do not work retail anymore. Hallelujah!)

  • I got the kind of bags that roll up and fit into my little purse. They are also very washable. I wash them and put them back in my purse most shopping trips. It is very rarely under 90 in Bahrain.

  • Jillee, I keep my bags on the backseat of my car and still sometimes can’t remember to take them in the store! I like the idea of the disinfectant spray, thanks for sharing it.

  • Thanks for the article! I’ve been thinking about this lately and I shudder to think how awful my bags are! I’ve been using, but not washing them for…gulp…years! Thanks Jillee!

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