Reusable Bags 101


We're all washing our hands more frequently, disinfecting high-touch areas whenever possible and using copious amounts of hand sanitizer. Although reusable grocery bags are considered a high-touch item, not many people clean them regularly or store them properly. Here are some tips on how to take care of your reusable shopping bags.


General Cleaning Practices 

  • remove the bottom insert of your bag before cleaning 
  • spray and wipe down the insert with a disinfectant 
  • turn the bag inside out before washing 
  • pay special attention to the nooks and crannies around the seams when hand-washing a bag

Fabric or Canvas Bags

There may be instruction labels on how to clean your shopping bags. If your fabric bag doesn't have instructions, use the following cleaning methods:

  • Wash in hot water with your usual detergent. Hot water is necessary to kill E. coli and other bacteria 
  • Put it in the dryer or line dry it (don't put cotton bags in the dryer if you don't want it to shrink)
  • Hand-wash in hot water and air dry a mesh, hand-knit, or crocheted grocery bag made of any material
  • Don't bring your bag to the store until it is completely dry; a moist environment encourages the growth of mold and mildew

Plastic (Polypropylene) Reusable Bags

For bags that are made of fibers like polypropylene and recycled PET (a type of plastic resin), hand-wash or use the gentle cycle on your washer using warm water. Here are a few dos and don'ts:

  • Use a disinfectant spray or use anti-bacterial wipes if you don't have the time to put your bag into the wash.
  • Air-dry polypropylene bags.
  • Don't use chlorine bleach to clean reusable plastic bags because it will damage and weaken the fibers.
  • Don't put polypropylene bags in the dryer or they could melt.

Nylon Bags

  • Clean in your washing machine (gentle cycle) or by hand in warm, soapy water
  • Pay attention to cleaning the nooks, crannies, and crevices of the bag while washing by hand
  • Air-dry nylon bags
  • Don't put nylon bags in the dryer because high heat may cause the material to melt, become distorted, or weaken.

Insulated Bags

Insulated shopping bags or totes must be cleaned as frequently as any other reusable grocery bag.

Spray and wipe them with disinfectant solutions. If your bag or tote has zippers, make sure to wipe down or spray those too.


  • Do not use the same bags for other purposes; designate specific bags for groceries 
  • Try to designate specific bags to handle raw meat, a different bag for produce, and another bag for packaged goods 
  • Be mindful of areas where you place your shopping bag. If you place your shopping bag on your kitchen counter, be sure to clean your counter after
  • Do not leave unwashed bags in your car - heat can cause bacteria to multiply 
  • After you've cleaned and dried your bags, fold it up and store it in a dry, cool place


Reusable Bags 101 Reusable Bags 101 Reusable Bags 101 Reusable Bags 101