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How to clean reusable food-storage bags

(Scott Suchman for The Washington Post/food styling by Lisa Cherkasky for The Washington Post)

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.

20 ideas to help you go green in the kitchen

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 making sure you get any crumbs or other debris out of 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 popular Stasher brand, can even go in the dishwasher. (Check that your bags are dishwasher-safe before putting them through a cycle.) Place them upside down 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, as long as 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.

Is soaking dishes worthwhile? Yes. Sometimes.

If you do encounter mildew, don’t fret. “Mix a solution of one cup of warm water and one tablespoon of liquid chlorine bleach or one 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 … well … blue ones). But when you come across unwanted discoloration, Stasher recommends setting the bag in direct sunlight for a few hours to naturally bleach out stains. You could also try vinegar and baking soda for more stubborn stains.

To tackle odors, one solution is soaking 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 it in a 350-degree oven for eight minutes, according to Stasher’s website.

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