How to Dry Reusable Sandwich Bags for Reuse

No matter your choice, be it plastic or silicone, a sandwich bag's durability depends on whether or not you're taking proper care of them.

While this could entail whispering sweet nothings and playing them light jazz, these reusable bags really just need a good ol' wash and dry from time to time. As for the TLC itself, well- plastic and silicone bags need cleaning that is one-part thorough and one-part tender. This way all the food build-up and stubborn odors can be removed while the sensitive edges and seals remain damage-free and intact.

The case for cleaning sandwich bags

Despite their name, sandwich bags (plastic Ziploc bags and silicone bags) are used to store and protect all sorts of food items. I prefer to refer to them as food bags and will do so for the rest of this how-to.

The zero-waste movement is all about extending and maximizing our use of everyday items to reduce our imprint on the world. Single-use items like plastic bags are an example of small things that really add up to serious waste.

If you can use alternatives to silicone and plastic, great! You might find some good ideas in my Guide to Eco-Food Wraps.

But if you do prefer plastic and just want to extend the life - that's also a great step. Start by washing bags in between uses. That's to say: if I was using a bag to store my work lunch and would then like to use it to store leftover homemade granola- it's time for a wash!

Sure- this is an article on how to dry your reusable food storage bags but you best believe I'm going to throw in a little bonus step or three on how to properly wash them too.

What you'll need:

  • Washing liquid/aid of choice
  • A non-abrasive sponge or soft-bristled bottle brush
  • Microfiber cloth
  • Warm water
  • Small bowl
  • Clothing pegs (optional)
  • Chopsticks (optional)

Step 1 - washing the silicone/plastic bag

First thing's first, you have to roll up your sleeves and give your reusable silicone or plastic bags a good ol' wash.

Simply put: You'll want to presoak your bags in warm water making sure to fill the bags during their initial soak. After fifteen minutes or so, rinse the water making sure any dislodged food matter is drained with it.

Next, you'll want to refill your basin or bucket, this time adding a liquid soap of choice. Here, you'll want to gently wash each bag’s interior and exterior, making sure to get into the corners where food often gathers. Once your bags are adequately washed, you'll rinse each bag, inside and out, using warm water before moving onto the drying section of the tutorial.

If your bag still doesn't quite look or smell like new, I wrote a more detailed article on how to remove stubborn odors and stains from reusable bags.

Step 2 - pat down

Though many online resources advise turning your reusable food storage bags inside-out during the drying process, I'm going to go ahead and call this fake news. The action of turning your bag inside-out only to turn it back again puts strain on the sealed edges and can lead to a shorter lifespan or breakages.

Instead, start off your drying process with a non-abrasive cloth or paper towel. Gently pat the bag’s interior and exterior, removing excess water to make for a speedier drying process while mitigating any watermarks or damp odors.

Step 3 - air dry

The final step is good old-fashioned air dry. How you choose to do this depends on preference as well as the availability of certain household items.

To air-dry your reusable silicone/plastic bags:

  • Use clothing pegs, peg your bags to your washing line and leave to air dry in the sun. The sun is also an excellent aid in purifying unwanted odors, making it a double-whammy and my personal go-to option.
  • Or air dry on your drying rack, making sure to place the bags over rounded items like upside mugs (think of it as a little party hat) to ensure the bags stay open during the drying process.
  • If you don't have a drying rack, you could get creative and hang your silicone or plastic bags via their open mouths off chopsticks (placed standing up in a jar)- that way, each bag remains open and perfectly ventilated.

How long can I reuse sandwich bags?

A good question - the answer is: probably a lot longer than you think. Lauren Singer, founder & CEO of Package Free says silicone bags can be reused up to 3,000 times! So this is a great way to turn your shameful plastic Ziploc bag into a low-key win for sustainable living.

Final thoughts

That was easy, right? The main takeaway is to forget what you've been told about turning the plastic bag inside out during the drying process. The rest is easy. With a good clean and aeration, they will be ready to go for your next packed lunch.

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