Monday, May 13, 2013

Cleaning Reusable Grocery Bags

I love reusable bags and have quite the collection. I use them for groceries, dog traveling accessories, beach/lake bags, and the list goes on. Confession: I have never washed them, until now. I've seen the news stories about reusable grocery bags being a breeding ground for E. coli and other nasty things. But, I figured it was other people's bags and not mine because mine are stored under my car seat, behind the couch and hanging in the garage. Perfectly and most definitely clean...not.

Last week, I was unloading my groceries, noticing how dirty my bags were. They are several (four,eek!) years old and have never been washed. Gross. I have two stuff bags I carry in my purse and I have sprayed them out a few times or when they get something on them. But the cloth-like bags, that I use for food and bring into my kitchen....yuck!

I researched the best way to clean these bags. Here's what I found:

For 100% non woven polypropylene: wash in cold water and air dry. (The label said hand wash, so I put it on that setting in the washer.) 
For cloth bags: wash in hot water and tumble or line dry.
For the shiny plastic, nylon or insulated type: wipe down with an antibacterial wipe or spray and air dry. Or read the label if you didn't rip it off, one of mine says to wash on cold. 
Tip: Turn the bags inside out prior to popping them in the washer to make sure the insides and seams get clean.

So...gathering the bags I use for my shopping (and leaving the several hundred that I use for other things), I head to washer and put them in. I feel slightly guilty here. Why? I'm reusing bags to help the environment and now I'm using the washer - a big household waster of resources. I quickly overcame my guilt, and decided that I'm not washing them often enough to outweigh the benefits. Plus, I hate plastic bags on the side of the road, in trees, or their negative impact on wildlife.

My grocery sacks are 100% non woven polypropylene. I turned them inside out, removed the plastic bottom and washed them on cold, then set them out to dry on the floor (no sunshine here on wash day). I washed the plastic bottoms with warm soapy water. 

**Light bulb moment** I need a spray to keep these bags clean (or at least cleaner than doing nothing) in between the machine washing. Thinking cap on...

Reusable Grocery Bag Disinfectant Spray
Grab a spray bottle, vinegar or water and your favorite antibacterial essential oil. Fill your bottle with vinegar or distilled water (or a combo of both), add a few drops of EOs* depending on the size of your bottle. Shake well before each spray. When you spray, make sure to get the seams and corners.

Here's a list of a few antibacterial essential oils:

  • Bergamot
  • Cinnamon
  • Clove
  • Cypress
  • Eucalyptus
  • Lavender
  • Lemon
  • Oregano
  • Peppermint
  • Rosemary
  • Sage
  • Tea Tree 
  • Thyme

*1 drop of EO per 1 oz of water (or vinegar) - you can always add more if you'd like but remember with EOs, less can be more. You can select one type of EO or mix a few together. 

I chose clove and did a mix of water and vinegar. I plan to put this bottle on the shelf in the kitchen and spritz the bags each time I unload my groceries. And I vow to wash my bags more often.


  1. What a great idea Lea. Now if I can remember to take my bags to the grocery store :))

    1. Exactly! Half the time I forget them in the car or they never even make them to the car...

  2. I have a million of these bags! WHY have I never thought to wash them either? thanks for the idea...Im on it!
    -your newest follower-

  3. What a great idea! I have never washed mine either-uff da-but I must confess they are usually in the trunk or hanging in the back hallway and never make it in to the store!

  4. Thanks for this! I love your antibac spray. I would've never thought about spraying grocery bags but it is important. Found you via a link at Wondercide blog. I love learning about essential oils and I blog about green cleaning. Totally keeping in touch! Hugs!
    -Olivia at Olivia Cleans Green

  5. I just found this blog, Lea. I'm going to make this spray for the bags tomorrow while doing laundry. I've washed mine once, but like you, probably need to do it more often! I put them back in the trunk, in the mesh holder until my next shopping trip. The only place I'd rather get their bags is Trader Joes, I like their thick paper bags with handles.

  6. I had washed my first bag (100% non woven polypropylene) in my washing machine. It is now flimsy, and a pain to load groceries into. A different website said to wash by hand with anti-bacterial soap, in the sink. I'm going to try that and see if the bag still holds it's shape. I'm going to spray with your EO idea after. Thanks.

  7. This sounds great...Also Try