Keep Reusable Grocery Totes Clean

— Written By Eleanor Summers and last updated by

Reusable grocery totes are great for the environment by helping reduce waste and pollution and save resources. It’s time to take a look inside your cloth or plastic-lined reusable bags and think about keeping them clean while going green.

Did you ever stop to think about whether your reusable bags were clean? Some food safety experts are concerned that consumers may not be aware of the potential risk of food contamination and illness due to continuous use of unclean reusable grocery totes. Meat, poultry juices, dirt and sand from unwashed produce may cause fabric or materials in reusable grocery totes to become contaminated with Salmonella or E. coli from food or other items.

Guidelines from the Food Safety and Inspection Service ( recommend frequent washing of your reusable tote in the washing machine or by hand with hot, soapy water followed by either drying in the dryer or air-drying. A plastic-lined reusable tote should be scrubbed using hot water and soap and air-dried. Clean any cardboard bottom separately.

Use separate totes for fresh or frozen raw meat, poultry and fish from produce and ready-to-eat foods. Wrap raw meats in a secondary plastic bag to create a barrier and catch any dripping juices.

Store reusable totes in a cool, dry place, such as in your home or in the garage. Avoid leaving totes in the trunk of a vehicle since higher temperatures can cause germs like Salmonella bacteria to grow faster. You must remember to take your clean bags and totes on your next trip to the market.