post off: do you clean your reusable shopping bags?

Remembering to snag my reusable shopping bags on my way out the door? On that, I’m doing pretty good. Cleaning my bags, though? I have to admit I haven’t given it much thought, other than wiping out the occasional spill, until I stumbled across this article while looking for replacement bag inserts. According to a study published last summer by a plastics industry group, reusable shopping bags are just plain dirty. The local store still puts meat in a plastic bag before adding to my reusable bags (I’m weary of telling them not to), so I probably don’t have to worry about meat contamination. But should I be worrying about the rest? Do you? Or is the plastics industry trying to hang on to a not-so-good thing? — Sarah L.

Update: sarah in comments posted this link to BarfBlog’s response to this study, and we thought it was worth sharing. Thanks!

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My envirosax go right in the washer & air dry (though the instructions say to handwash).


This study was analyzed early this year on barfblog (here) and they thought the study was bunk, BUT recommend washing every few weeks and never putting raw meats into your bag.

Eek! Guilty. I never wash them, although it would be super easy. I have a set of Envirosax and ACME Earth Totes – both easily washable. But I have to say the thought never crossed my mind to toss them in for a wash. In the article, the sample of bags used for the study is tiny (only 24 bags tested?!?) and I’d be hesitant to make any sort of sweeping statement based on that. But it certainly wouldn’t hurt to wash my bags out every once in awhile!


I don’t eat meat, so maybe I’m not as scrupulous as I should be…but in truth, I rarely wash them. If I see visible grossness, I will wash and air dry them.

I’m with ellobie–Envirosax, washer, air dry. I have enough of them that it doesn’t matter if a few are out of commission for a day. Apparently you’re supposed to wash them after carrying not only meat but also produce. I’m not that strict about the produce thing; mostly I wash them when they start to smell a little musty (the flip side of having them fold up so small).


I never wash mine. I do the occasional wipe out with a cloth or a paper towel and some pine-sol. This is low on the list of things I worry about. :-P

To be honest, this is not something I ever even considered. I have a slew of Baggus that I put in the wash after the occasional spill (like you), but all my other bags have never even seen a sponge. Some of them aren’t even a wipable material so how would even clean them? Interesting topic!


We wash our Envirosax maybe once a month. I never even thought to read the directions. They’ve done fine in the washer/dryer so far!

This is why I love my canvas bags – machine wash, air dry, maybe a couple of times a month. The big waxy weird ones (hello Trader Joe’s) I never know how to clean but they are usually freebies so they may get passed on in the future (somebody else’s problem, and I know a lot of people use them for other things than groceries).

Although I hadn’t thought about that with my Baggus since I don’t use them as much, maybe they need a spin in the delicate cycle now that you mention it. Thanks!

I use a random assortment of canvas bags for reusable carrier-bags; they just get tossed in the washer and dryer like anything else, easy-peasy. (probably once a month) I’ve been doing this for years now.

It never occurred to me to purchase “special” re-useable grocery bags…I suppose if I had some of the new kind of bags (which are not made of cloth) that I’ve seen for sale near the cash register in various mass market shops, it might be challenging to clean them

Yes I wash mine, but I didn’t always. I only started to wash them this past October after someone mentioned the Dr. Oz. show about how filthy grocery stores are. I don’t buy meat so I don’t worry about that, nor do I use my bags for eggs I get from the chickens in the country. I still wash them every few times.

Liz Butler

I don’t think I would worry about the butcher putting meat into a carrier bag because that would keep the meat clean – I was my canvas bag once every month or so, or I should do. I admit I don’t really do it as often as I should because I don’t own as many canvas bags as I really need.
Although the need to be super-clean all the time does make me wonder – what is this doing to our immune systems, when we can’t build up a proper defense?

I do not eat meat and had not washed any of my bags (though I thought I should) until yesterday. I spilled soup inside one bag so I washed the lot of them and aired dried. Now I am happy I did!

Mary T

Most of my bags are made of recycled plastic ala an Ikea bag — you can wash those by filing them at the sink, but it’s not that easy. I have washed the canvas bags but it’s not a regular thing. I do understand the concerns about meat and will keep up with that, but like a many-moons-ago scientist boyfriend once told me, this is why humans are born with advanced immune systems. (Not that we should care NOT AT ALL, just that we tend to worry a lot more than we usually need to.) Thanks sarah for the link to barfblog above — will check it out!


Guess what, the world is full of germs. We are full of germs. It’s only natural! I only clean my bags if something gets spilled or they smell funny.

Sarah L.

Thanks for the BarfBlog link — it just answered my green shiny lunchmeat question, too : ) Glad I’m not the only one that just spot cleans, although I will start tossing mine in the wash ever now and again. Baggers adding a grocery bag over the meat dept. bag I place on still seems excessive, but maybe it’s part of store policy.


I don’t wash mine regularly, perhaps once every few months or so. But rarely am I putting exposed foods in them, most foods are already packaged in something else. And produce is washed before I eat it.

But since this association has a vested interest in increasing the number of plastic bags used, I’m not putting too much stock in their ‘study’.


I pop my Baggus in the wash about every 6 weeks — I go by “funkiness” and not by the calendar. Wash on gentle, air dry overnight, bingo — back in business. Wonder how I ever lived without them.


What a ridiculous made up problem. Are they trying to say that a grocery store is really clean? That a delivery truck is? The hands of other shoppers? So as long as I put my purchases in a freshly pried-open plastic bag, I need not fear germs or dirt? I assume that any unwrapped food needs to be washed, whether it’s been in a reusable or a disposable bag.

If they weren’t comparing the reusable bags to disposable bags, it really is a bunk study- unless they are assuming that 0% of disposable bags were contaminated with “some level of bacteria”- a really vague measure in itself.

We almost never buy meat, so I don’t worry about cross-contamination. The bags do occasionally get grubby at the farmers’ market, if I get a particularly dirty bunch of carrots or chard, or if a beet oozes its rich color onto the fabric. I just shake ’em out over the rubbish bin. We wash all the veggies before eating them, so what does an extra speck of dirt matter?

Once, though, a bottle of olive oil sprang a leak inside my reusable bag. I washed it by hand with plenty of dish soap; the oil washed right out. The bag is still going strong a decade later.

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