How to Clean Reusable Grocery Bags

Yes, you should be cleaning them.

You wipe your countertop. You clean your dishes. Heck, you even disinfect your refrigerator handle. But have you ever thought to clean your reusable grocery bags?

Guilty as charged, y'all. If you're anything like us, you may have overlooked cleaning reusable grocery bags, too—but it's time to start doing it on the regular. First off, kudos to you for using reusable bags when you grocery shop over plastic—the more people who make an environmentally-friendly choice to avoid plastic, the more we can all make a difference. Now, consider this for a moment: You wear a pair of jeans for a day (okay, maybe two), you throw them in the wash; You go grocery shopping with your reusable bag, you empty it and...well, use it again for your next grocery haul. Do you see what we're getting at here? In the same way you wash clothing, towels, and linens, it's important to wash reusable grocery bags to ensure they don't become a breeding ground for germs.

Girl taking groceries out of reusable shopping bags
Getty Images / RgStudio

University of Arizona microbiologist Charles Gerba, PhD told Reader's Digest that unfortunately only an estimated three percent of people wash reusable grocery bags with any kind of frequency. In some situations, as Gerba cautioned, "[the] meat leaks, you don't notice, then back the bags go into your warm, dark trunk," he said. "Two days later, you put a head of lettuce in the same bag. Now you've got the makings of salmonella salad." No, thank you.

To keep your reusable grocery bags clean, throw them into the washing machine after each use. You can also spray them with a bleach-based cleanser in lieu of placing bags in the washing machine. To cut down on cross-contamination, consider designating specific grocery bags for produce, animal protein, and packaged goods.

We'd love to hear from you: Do you have advice you follow at the grocery store to keep things as sanitary as possible? Remember to wipe down the surface of a grocery cart or basket with a sanitary wipe or use hand sanitizer since these items get used with high-frequency every day and aren't typically washed between uses.

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