Some bags allow meat juices to leak through, while others soak up moisture and become bacteria breeding grounds

Reusable Grocery Bags Should Be Cleaned Regularly to Prevent Illness
Image: Pixabay
Updated: February 20, 2017

Do you use reusable grocery bags? If you are like many consumers, chances are that you have taken advantage of these heavy duty bags to reduce plastic bag waste in landfills, increase the amount of groceries you can carry, or any combination of factors. But did you know that failing to clean these bags regularly can put your health at risk?

Not all reusable bags are created equal. Some bags allow fluids, such as leakage from meats, to flow right through the bag, thereby leaking on the inside of your car or dripping on the way into your home. Meat juices aside, some bags will soak up moisture deep into the fabric where it can fester and become a breeding ground for dangerous bacteria that can infect all of your later purchases. Some bags are better and easily repel moisture and fluids, leaving for easy clean up.

Regardless of the type of reusable bag you use on your shopping trip, it is very important for you to regularly clean and disinfect them. A simple mild solution of bleach and water can be enough to kill most bacteria and leave the bags smelling clean and fresh. If you don't want to take the time to hand wash your bags, place them into the washing machine on a delicate cycle with some bleach and an extra rinse. Afterwards, either hang your bags to dry or place them in the dryer on very low heat. Washing your bags too aggressively can reduce the life of the bag.

We recommend that you keep a separate set of bags for meats so that any inadvertent leakage won't contaminate your other foods. Make sure that you clearly label these bags. Even better, buy a set of bags in a different color to make it easy to tell the difference.

Regardless of what you decide to do, we applaud your commitment to protecting and preserving the environment. Just do yourself a favor, too, and clean out the bags every once in a while. You'll be glad that you did.