How to Keep Bacteria from Reusable Bags

I keep a bag of bags in my trunk. Do you? Reusable grocery bags have become an environmentally friendly fad over these last few years. I love everything about the bags, well, almost everything. They are lightweight. They make carrying heavy items easier. They don’t take up a spot in a landfill or litter street corners or parking lots. They appear to last for a very long time. However, they do harbor nasty bacteria. A Norovirus outbreak in Oregon has been attributed to the use of dirty reusable bags. Who would have thought that something we use to help the environment could actually hurt us?
Practice Safe Sacks

When you stow the gallon of milk in the bag at the grocery store, some milk lingers on the bottom of the jug and then smears onto the bottom of the bag. Think of what happens if you left a glass of milk out for days, weeks or months. That’s what’s happening when that reusable bag stays with the milk. Gross!

That same bag heads to the grocer the following week and gets filled with items, like boxes of cereal, coffee and ice cream. The bacteria is now rubbing against these items. Gross!

The reusable bags are great but can be even better if we remember to clean them. I recommend designating certain bags to be meat and dairy bags. These bags need to be cleaned after each trip.

Alternatively, you can place these bacteria prone items in plastic bags for transport in the reusable bag. We do this naturally in the meat case with the plastic baggies that are meant to hold the meat and seafood packs. This is not seen in the dairy case. Pack the milk and other dairy items in a plastic bag, then in the reusable bag to keep the bacteria from accessing your reusable bag!

What’s your current reusable bag cleaning routine?



  1. Anne Coleman 15 May, 2012 at 20:54 Reply

    I use separate bags for produce, meats and poultry and wash ’em inside and out whenever I’m in doubt! Bags that can be thrown in the washer are done so once a week!

  2. Matthew 17 May, 2012 at 06:50 Reply

    This is a very nice informative post. I am cleaning my reusable bags after every trip to the grocery so I am confident that I am safe from the contamination of food.

  3. Claire 17 May, 2012 at 07:53 Reply

    Awesome post. I use separate bags for produce, meats and poultry and wash ’em inside and out whenever I’m in doubt!

  4. Sommer @greenmom 18 May, 2012 at 09:38 Reply

    I wash mine frequently or hose them off and hang dry them. I’ve started actually having my meat put into the plastic bags and recycling those plastic bags. Good post.

  5. Rene 19 May, 2012 at 23:04 Reply

    Wow, here is my routine, I just reuse the bags over and over and never clean them! I never even thought about this, thanks for raising awareness.

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