How To Clean Reusable Grocery Bags Of Any Kind

reusable bags

I used to have such a hard time remembering to bring my reusable grocery bags with me to the grocery store, but I’ve gotten a lot better about it. It’s not easy to change our routines, but taking reusable bags to the store helps reduce waste, save resources, and cut down on plastic pollution.

Speaking of which, did you know that a single set of reusable bags can eliminate as many as 20,000 disposable plastic bags? The benefits of using them are clear, but many people don’t realize how dirty their reusable bags can get if they don’t get cleaned regularly.

Researchers at the University of Arizona and Loma Linda University asked shoppers in California and Arizona, if they washed their reusable bags, and most shoppers—a whopping 97% of them—either said they didn’t wash them regularly or didn’t wash them at all.

After testing 84 of the shopper’s bags, high concentrations of bacteria were found on all but one bag, while coliform bacteria (often from raw meat) was found in about half of the bags. But on the bright side, the researchers also determined that washing the bags reduced the levels of harmful bacteria to next-to-none, which leads us to today’s post!

So in order to help us form better (not to mention safer) habits, today I’ll be sharing some simple methods for how to clean reusable grocery bags. That way, we can ensure they are both good for the planet and safe for us to use! 🙂

How To Clean Reusable Grocery Bags

reusable bags

Cotton, Canvas, And Nylon Bags

Reusable grocery bags made of cotton, canvas, and nylon are the easiest to clean because you can toss them right in your washing machine. Keep in mind that printed designs may not fare well in the wash, but washing in cold water can help preserve them.

After washing, tumble dry cotton and canvas bags on low heat, but nylon bags should be allowed to air dry.

reusable bags

Polypropylene Bags

Reusable bags that have a crinkly, plasticky feel to them are usually made of one of two materials: nylon or polypropylene. Nylon bags are usually fairly thin and don’t support themselves well, while polypropylene bags are thicker and sturdier (like those big blue IKEA bags).

To clean reusable grocery bags made of polypropylene, wash them by hand in warm, soapy water. Rinse well after washing, wipe them down with a clean towel, and allow them to air dry completely. (Avoid the dryer as it may cause the material to melt.)

reusable bags

Insulated Bags

To clean reusable grocery bags that are insulated, your best bet is to hand wash them with warm, soapy water. The thermal lining is a bit delicate, and you wouldn’t want to accidentally ruin it by using a harsher cleaning method. Once your insulated bags are nice and clean, pat them dry and then leave them out to air dry for a while.

reusable bags

Dos And Don’ts For Reusable Grocery Bags


  • Wrap raw meat in a disposable bag before putting it into your reusable bag to prevent the spread of bacteria.
  • Consider using ice packs in your reusable bags to help keep refrigerated and frozen foods cold until you get home.
  • Wipe down your bags after each use, and aim to wash them around once a month.
  • Remind yourself to take your bags to the store by writing it on your shopping list (or use my printable shopping list, which has a reminder on it already!)
  • Let your reusable grocery bags dry completely after cleaning them to discourage mold and mildew growth.


  • Place raw meat, fresh produce, and ready-to-eat foods in the same bag. Keeping them separate is more sanitary.
  • Keep reusable grocery bags in your car all the time, as a warm car can encourage bacterial growth.
  • Use reusable grocery bags for other purposes. Keep a dedicated set of bags for grocery shopping, and assign a category to each bag to help keep them sanitary (like designating one for meats, one for produce, etc.)

What sort of reusable grocery bags do you like to use?

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