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Don’t Panic…Just Clean Your Reusable Grocery Bags

A recent study funded by the American Chemistry Council found that nearly every reusable bag examined for bacteria contained bugs, coliform bacteria (suggesting raw-meat or uncooked-food contamination) or E. coli. However, the study didn’t specify which strains of E. coli were found—many of which are harmless. And don’t forget that the American Chemistry Council represents plastic bag makers, and opposes a California Bill that would ban single-use plastic bags.reusable_bagWhat is slightly more annoying (dare we say misleading?) about this study, and the buzz surrounding it, is that if you conduct a similar study of kitchens, refrigerators, sponges, or dish towels, we’re sure you’d find equally alarming results. Plus, with the abundance of over-packaged grocery store items, what are the chances that these germs are actually going come in contact with your food or your family? Regardless of the study’s motives, it does stress an important reminder: clean your reusable grocery bags regularly.

So how do you keep all the different bag materials clean? It really depends on what the bag is made of. Cotton reusable grocery bags and many hemp reusable grocery bags are machine washable and dryer safe—making them the easiest to wash.  If your personalized reusable bag is screenprinted or dyed in any way, you should wash in cold water for the first few washings.  Some polyester reusable grocery bags can be machine washed, but we only recommend machine washing ‘poly-canvas’ bags.

Nonwoven polypropylene reusable bags and recycled PET reusable bags are trickier to clean. Some people do wash these bags in a washing machine, but we don’t recommend it.   If you feel you must machine wash these bags, use cold water only and definitely don’t put them in the dryer.  However, machine washing shortens the overall lifespan and can ruin them.

We recommend hand washing your non woven polypropylene reusable bags in a sink filled with warm, antibacterial soapy (preferably antibacterial) water.  Let them air dry completely, both inside out AND right side out. This ensures all the seams, nooks, and crannies are dry and aren’t retaining any moisture that can turn into mold.  Non woven polypropylene bags can also be sprayed down with an antibacterial spray cleaner, but remember to turn the bags inside out and carefully clean the inner seams.

Nylon or poly-nylon reusable bags should be hand washed in warm soapy water and hung to dry—again, inside out and right side out to ensure all the moisture is gone on the inside.

Laminated reusable bags (either laminated polypropylene bags or laminated recycled pet bags) should be wiped down with a wet cloth or “washed” with a disinfectant spray. Other non-fabric reusable shopping bags can also be cleaned this way.

If you’re unsure of how to wash a particular reusable shopping bag, or if you’re not sure what your bag is made of, contact us and we can help!

Finally, our best tip: sort and assign specific bags to specific tasks:

MEAT: Choose a bag that’s easily identifiable. For example, look for a specific personalized reusable shopping bag, color or design that will remind you that this is your ‘meat bag’. Make sure it’s made of machine washable material. Pull the bag from your pile and put the meat on top at checkout, then tell the cashier to use that bag for meat. Don’t forget to wash it when you get home.

PRODUCE:  Use a reusable shopping bag for produce to avoid plastic produce bags. Unload your fruits and veggies at checkout, then reload them into the same bag. Don’t forget to wash your bag, and your produce,  when you get home.

PREPACKAGED FOODS:  Once your meat and produce bags are separated, you’ll know that the rest of your bags are only used for prepackaged foods and groceries.  With layers & layers of packaging used these days, your food should be more than safe.



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