I’ve gone through an embarrassing amount of plastic bags over the years. For storing washed herbs and greens; brining and marinating meats; keeping leftovers; freezing things like pizza dough, sauces, bread, butter, and balls of ready-to-bake cookie dough, it’s hard to beat the convenience of a well-designed plastic food storage bag.
But these days I’m trying very hard to reduce my single-use plastic consumption. I do use our favorite reusable storage bags when I can. But sometimes disposables are handy too. And unless I’ve stored meat in a bag, I try to wash and reuse it as many times as possible.
This simple task helps me save money and get some more use out of my plastic bags—a box of 28 gallon-size bags lasts for many months this way, not weeks.
But because these bags aren’t marketed as being reusable, is it actually safe to reuse them? Do the bags break down? I called SC Johnson, the manufacturer of our top supermarket choice for food storage bags, the Ziploc Gallon Food Storage Freezer Bags, to find out.
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Can You Reuse Ziploc Bags?
“I'm happy to share Ziploc Food Storage Bags can be handwashed, rinsed and reused,” their representative said. “However, if the bag was used to store raw meat, fish, eggs or other allergy-triggering foods, we do not recommend reusing.”
The best method? The representative from SC Johnson says, “We'd recommend washing with soap and water and letting air dry.” Don’t turn them inside out, or you risk ripping the seams. Just add some warm water and a small squirt of soap, zip the zipper, and slosh them around. Then rinse well. Give them a shake and maybe even a wipe with a clean dish towel, prop them open, and hang to dry. Don’t reuse them until they’re fully dry.
I’ve also tested bag-drying racks. A good sturdy model with long arms can prop open clean bags so that they’ll fully air-dry and take up less space in your kitchen.
Bag Drying RacksThese racks help you dry plastic and reusable bags, but which design works best?
How Many Times Can You Wash Ziploc Bags?
Surprisingly, good bags hold up for a fair amount of reuse without breaking down: “You can wash and reuse them up to 10 times, depending on how they're used,” she said.
I find that if the bags become damaged or cloudy or are difficult to get really clean, I recycle them at my supermarket—most supermarkets do this; check bagandfilmrecycling.org to find a drop-off location near you—and grab a fresh bag out of the box. But that doesn’t typically happen until I’ve reused them several times.