Why You Need To Clean Your Reusable Shopping Bags Today

Why You Need To Clean Your Reusable Shopping Bags Today

The most important part of owning reusable shopping bags is remembering to take them with you to the shops, but remembering to wash them regularly is a close second. A recent study showed way too many creepy-crawlies lurking in grocery totes.

Photo by x-ray delta one.

Fresh meat products should be wrapped separately in plastic bags for the trip home from the market, but that doesn’t mean other contaminants won’t find their way into your reusable bags. Bacteria, yeasts and moulds from produce, and other food items can easily transfer their way onto the welcoming interior surface of your sacks and linger there, waiting for a chance to leech onto your new purchases.

Canada’s Times Colonist reports the results of a study that tested random samples of reusable grocery bags:

Of the bags tested, 64 per cent were contaminated with “some level of bacteria,” about 30 per cent had “elevated bacterial counts” higher than what is considered safe for drinking water, 40 per cent of the bags had yeast or mould, and some of the bags had “an unacceptable presence of coliforms.”

That’s pretty gross, but fortunately there’s an easy solution. Most reusable grocery totes are made of canvas or heavy cotton-poly blend that can withstand multiple washings in hot water. It’s a good idea to toss your bags in the wash after every use, then tumble dry on a low setting to keep them from getting wrinkled and balled up. Most bags cost a few bucks – stock up and keep extras on hand so you always have a fresh supply of bags that you can grab as you run out the door to the market.

If you’ve got some great tips for washing or using reusable grocery bags, share them in the comments.

Soiled, Reusable Shopping Bags Pose Health Risk [Times Colonist via Shelterrific]


  • Yet another reason not to be sucked into the hysteria around plastic shopping bags. They have their uses – and useful reuses. How “environmentally friendly” are cloth bags particularly once you start tumble drying them?

  • It’s not just the micro stuff. Bought a couple of bunches of grapes from Coles last week, and got a “bonus” black spider crawling up my hand when I reached in. Scared the sh** out of me. Couldn’t identify exactly what species, but it was fat, black and had 2 huge fangs at the front.

  • Nice. Always thought my green bags were getting scummy.

    Just one question, can we put in those blue bags with the reflective lining (cool bags) in the wash? probably not yea?

  • Alternately, wash and reuse plastic bags like most unfashionably green people do. When you stop considering them to be one use objects which must be thrown out the window once used, theyre a better option than the green bags a lot of places profiteer from.
    Just bring in your groceries, half fill a sink with runoff from the shower, dip them and hang them on the line and you can get 10 or so good uses out of them before they go to shreds. Its a lot friendlier than buying mass produced bags often made of plastic anyway and often shipped in from those sunny work centres in china. The only discernable reason why green bags are considered better is that the fact that they are expensive makes people feel obliged to keep them rather than throwing them out the car window.
    All thats left to do after cleaning them is curb your lust for murder when prissy shoppers look derisively at you and your wares, having just purchased a new set of 10 green bags.

  • Wow! “Some level of bacteria”. How is this a health hazard?

    Also note that the study was funded by the Environment and Plastics Industry Council, maybe they have a vested interest in scaring people to use disposable bags.

    Get out the disinfectant people, our immune systems can’t possibly handle our food possibly touching a surface that has a 64% chance of having some level of bacteria on it.

  • A public service announcement to the population of Australia from your local checkout operator:

    Please do not use green bags! They are horrible to pack and take 5 times longer than plastic to biodegrade. Get your groceries packed in plastic bags and return them to the store recycling bin each week. This option will actually keep costs down as stores are paid for their plastic waste!

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