By now, everyone should be familiar with how bad plastics are for the environment. In the kitchen, one contributor to waste is the use of disposable plastic bags. Though they can be washed and reused in certain instances — bags that contained raw meat, seafood or eggs should be tossed — eventually they will break and find their way to the trash.
An easy solution to this problem is to invest in food storage bags made out of materials such as silicone or PEVA that are meant to be used and reused time and time again. They aren’t necessarily cheap, but with the proper care they can last for years and pay back your initial investment multiple times over.
Reusable food storage bags can be cleaned like any other dish, with soap and water. When washing by hand, though, make sure to not to use an abrasive sponge or scrubber, as they can damage the bags. Pay close attention to removing any crumbs or other debris from the corners and creases, which if left, can lead to mold. A soft-bristled brush can help.
Many silicone bags, such as those from the Stasher brand, can go in the dishwasher. (Check that your bags are dishwasher-safe before putting them through a cycle.) Place them upside down on the top rack with the seal open so that water can get inside.
And though it may sound like a good idea, it’s generally not recommended to turn these products inside out. Doing so can damage the seal on the edges and cause them to rip.
Depending on the type of bags you purchase, drying can be the biggest nuisance when it comes to caring for them. As someone without a dishwasher, I’ve found that placing them over a drinking glass to keep them open works fairly well. Others recommend pot lid organizers. Use whatever works best for you, but wait until they are completely dry before you put them away so they don’t mildew. I sometimes find that I need to give the bags a quick wipe with a kitchen towel before putting them away.
If you do encounter mildew, don’t fret. “Mix a solution of 1 cup of warm water and 1 tablespoon of liquid chlorine bleach or 1 tablespoon of hydrogen peroxide. (NEVER mix the two chemicals.) Pour the solution into the bag and let it sit for at least 15 minutes. Dispose of the bleach solution and wash the bag as recommended,” Mary Marlowe Leverette wrote for the Spruce.
Other issues you might encounter include stains and odors. To prevent stains, store foods in similarly colored bags (i.e. pasta sauce in red bags and blueberries in blue ones). When you come across unwanted discoloration, Stasher recommends setting the bag in direct sunlight for a few hours to naturally bleach out stains. You can also try vinegar and baking soda on more stubborn spots.
To tackle odors, soak the bags in equal parts vinegar and warm water for a few hours. Alternatively, you can lay silicone bags on a baking sheet and place them in a 350-degree oven for eight minutes, according to Stasher’s website.