Skip To Content

    Why Your Reusable Grocery Bag Needs To Be Cleaned Asap

    Because 97% of us never have — not even once.

    The reusable grocery bag may very well be the perfect way to decrease your ecological footprint and ditch single-use plastic. We have no choice but to stan (go, bag, go!).

    JJ Reddington / BuzzFeed

    But have you ever thought about what resides inside your tote? Exactly what type of creepy-crawly germs are rummaging through your groceries or touching your insulated water bottle?

    The answer: possibly E. coli.

    Let’s rewind with an honest question. Do you wash your reusable bags? When’s the last time you tossed a canvas or nylon bag into your washing machine or took a disinfectant wipe to the polyester or polypropylene bag slung across the back of your kitchen chair? Chances are…not super recently. Well, you’re part of an overwhelming majority.

    JJ Reddington / BuzzFeed

    We spoke with microbiologist Charles Gerba, PhD, to get the rather nasty details about your reusable bags, and according to studies conducted by the University of Arizona and Loma Linda University in California, almost no one gives their bag a good old-fashioned scrub. In fact, 97% of those interviewed in a study conducted in Tucson, Los Angeles, and San Francisco never once washed or bleached their reusable bag. Big yikes.

    It’s time to bolster the ranks of the 3% who actually clean their bags. Prepare to join their inner circle of cleanliness by following these three trusted methods to properly care for your trusty tote.

    Wash your reusable bags weekly.

    3 Arts Entertainment

    That’s right! Weekly. The next time you do a load, consider throwing in any canvas or nylon totes that you use on the reg. Try to wash them on their own instead of mixing them in with any of your unmentionables (if you can). Also, always wash with hot water. And if you’re using bags made of plastic or recycled materials, a thorough cleaning with disinfectant wipes will do. Remember to let the bags fully air-dry before your next use.

    Use separate bags for separate needs.

    Nicktoons Productions

    Gerba suggests differentiating bags based on usage (groceries versus everyday items versus gym clothes). He also noted the importance of using separate bags for different types of groceries: one for meats, one for produce, and one for canned goods. Cross-contamination can easily occur if you’re putting your clothes in the same ol’ bag as your weekly food haul. You can avoid any potential microbial calamity as long as you remember which bags are for which things.

    Store reusable bags at home.

    United Plankton Productions

    Ever leave your bags in the trunk of your car? Of course — it’s the only way you remember to use them at the grocery store. Next time, though, you should really bring them back indoors. “Your trunk can act as an incubator, especially in regions with warm weather,” Gerba says. Storing your bags at home will also make washing much more convenient. In the end, you and your gut will be much better off.