How to Clean Reusable Grocery Bags

Here's how to clean reusable grocery bags, no matter what they're made of.

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Reusable grocery bags are a great way to go green, and they’re often your only option in states and cities that banned plastic bags. Yet many people neglect to properly wash them often enough, or at all! Here’s everything you need to know about how to clean reusable grocery bags.

Why Clean Reusable Grocery Bags?

A University of Arizona study revealed that reusable grocery bags can harbor some pretty nasty stuff, like E. coli, which can lead to foodborne illness. Bacteria, viruses, yeast and mold can attach themselves to reusable grocery bags. While cleaning washes all this away, you might consider sticking to disposable grocery bags if you’re immunocompromised, sick or especially worried about catching an illness.

How Often to Clean Reusable Grocery Bags

It might sound like a lot, but experts recommend cleaning your reusable grocery bags after every use. Consider it a small price to pay for keeping you and your family healthy.

How to Clean Cloth Reusable Grocery Bags

The two most common cloth materials in reusable grocery bags are cotton and bamboo. Durable cotton bags can handle machine washing with hot water and laundry detergent. Bamboo bags should be hand- or machine-washed on the gentle cycle with mild laundry detergent. You can air dry or machine dry either fabric.

How to Clean Nylon Reusable Grocery Bags

Petroleum-based nylon bags should be hand washed in warm soapy water. Skip the dryer and air dry these bags.

How to Clean Recycled Plastic Reusable Grocery Bags

You have two choices with recycled plastic bags: hand washing with soap and water or machine washing on the gentle cycle with cold water and mild detergent. Always air dry recycled plastic bags.

How to Clean Insulated Reusable Grocery Bags

Insulated bags that keep your food warm or cold should never go in a washer or dryer. Instead, wash by hand with warm soapy water or wipe them down with an antibacterial wipe. Then air dry.

Amanda Prischak
Amanda Prischak is a freelance writer based in Erie, Pennsylvania.