How to Clean Reusable Shopping Bags, from Canvas to Nylon and Everything in Between
You've been diligent about cleaning your hands, your phone, your groceries, even your keys. But what about those handy reusable shopping bags you keep by your front door for grocery runs? Or the giant canvas tote you’ve used to stow your family’s beach supplies for the past two years? We’re guessing those eco-friendly bags haven’t been washed or sanitized since the day you bought them (don’t worry, we’re guilty too) and could do with some refreshing. Here’s how to get it done.
How often should I be cleaning my reusable shopping bags?
The answer depends largely on what you’re putting in those bags. If you’re using them for packaged groceries, bottles of wine, clothes or beauty products then you probably only need to wash them every few months. However, if you’re stowing your sweaty gym clothes, shoes with dirty soles or loose produce, or if any of your other groceries happen to leak (like raw chicken juice or a cracked egg), then you should be cleaning them with every use or at least with every other use. These items are much more likely to carry bacteria and other germs you don’t want in your home. This is doubly true if you tend to leave your reusable bags in your car or by a window where the heat from the sun can create a lovely little petri dish for all that bacteria to multiply and spread. Don’t worry though—most of these reusable shopping bags are super easy to clean.
How to clean canvas bags
These incredibly popular durable cotton carryalls are also the easiest to clean. If you’re not worried about your bag losing shape, i.e. if it’s your average branded tote style, you can go ahead and toss them in the wash with your regular laundry before running them through the dryer (or hanging them to dry, if you prefer). We suggest turning them inside out first and avoiding super-high heat.
If you’re working with a more structured bag, you can try spot treating or handwashing first. Simply soak the bag in hot water before working detergent into the fabric with your hands. Flush with water to ensure all the soap has been removed and then either lay flat or hang to dry.
You might want to make note of any logos, slogans or imagery on your bags. If it’s painted or embroidered into the fabric, it can probably hold up to multiple wash cycles. However, if it’s been ironed on or if it’s been adorned with plastic stickers, those designs will probably start to peel.
Shop canvas bags:
How to clean nylon or plastic bags
These water-resistant totes are also simple to clean. Fill a basin with hot water and allow your bags to soak. Then, add a small amount of detergent and work the suds into each bag, focusing on any nooks and crannies where dirt or grim might get stuck. Flush your nylon bags with clean water until all the suds have gone, then lay them flat or hang them up to dry. If you’re really into multi-tasking you can also just take them into the shower with you and use shampoo or hand soap to scrub them clean. When you’re done, just drape them over your shower rod or hook them onto your shower curtain’s hooks to dry.
Shop nylon bags:
How to clean reusable produce bags
Similar to our handy dandy canvas totes, most reusable produce bags are made from cotton, hemp or linen, meaning they are safe to stick in with your regular load of laundry. If you’re a fan of net totes, we suggest putting them into a mesh washing bag, the kind you’d used for delicates to ensure nothing snags on all those wide open loops.
Shop produce bags:
How to clean insulated bags
While wonderful for picnics, beach days or transporting meat and other perishables on long trips, insulated bags are not so easy to clean, or at least as thoroughly as the other types. Because you’re likely packing these bags with perishables, you should definitely wipe them down with a disinfectant after every use. If you’ve owned them for years and have started to notice a smell, it might just be time to replace them. As for disposing of the old ones, if you can take them apart the insulation itself should go in the trash while any canvas or plastic parts can go in with your recycling. (If you're unsure what goes where, you can call your local recycling center to get the details.)