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Do You Need To Wash Your Reusable Shopping Bags?

Remember the days of unlimited free plastic bags when you shop? Grocery stores, department stores, boutiques. All of them just gave us these free plastic bags in all different sizes with cute logos and sayings on them. But we all learned what plastic bags are doing to our planet and now most, if not all, stores not only don't provide any plastic bags but charge you for paper bags if you forget your reusable bags.
We're bombarded with information these days about what to do and not do to help our beautiful planet and it's hard to keep up with all of the details. We try and try to do the right thing (well, many of us do!) but sometimes we fail. And that's ok. Really. We are human and there may be times where you just don't have another option but to use that (gulp!) plastic veggie bag in the produce section. Cut yourself some slack and try to be ready next time. As long as we are conscious about single-use plastic bags we are sure to improve our daily routines to avoid adding to the landfill.
It's no secret that bringing a reusable bag with you when you shop, whether it's to the farmers market, grocery store, or even holiday shopping, you feel good that you're doing the right thing. I try to keep a fabric bag nicely folded inside my handbag so when I go to the pharmacy or find myself in front of a clearance section, I am ready to carry everything to the register with ease, rather than kicking myself for leaving the bags in the car (again!!!).
Did you ever think about what lurks in the bag after you're done using it? The little bits of broccoli crowns that break off and land at the bottom of the bag. Or a teeny tiny leak from the meat packages. If I don't have any reusable produce bags then I will likely just place the produce right in the bag knowing that it'll all get washed before use. Same with fruit, like apples and oranges. Just toss in 4-5 right into the bag, no need for a plastic bag to house them in, right? So then what happens when you're home and everything is neatly put away? Do you return the bags to the trunk of the car for the next visit? 
You would not believe how disgusting the inside of your grocery bags get! Believe it or not, a lot of dirt and bacteria brew in the fabric and could eventually contaminate your food. says that only 15% of Americans wash their grocery totes in a study done by the Home Food Safety Program. The study says that "each year, 48 million Americans are affected by food poisoning caused by foodborne pathogens such as salmonella, listeria and E. coli."
Here's what the experts say to do to stay safe: 
- Frequently wash your grocery tote, either in the washing machine or by hand with hot, soapy water
- Clean all areas where you place your totes (i.e. the kitchen counter)
- Store totes in a clean, dry location
- Avoid leaving empty totes in the trunk of a vehicle (the heat will promote bacteria growth)
Another recommendation is to color-code your bags to keep raw meats and veggies separated safely. Put all the chicken in the yellow bag and broccoli in the green bag and you'll feel better, avoid contamination and be super organized too!
We're getting smarter about how we shop but now we need to make sure our shopping bags stay clean. Toss fabric and nylon reusable bags in the washing machine frequently. Defend against bacteria and mold and other icky stuff that get into the fabric of your reusable totes.
Choose fabric bags that are strong, long-lasting and machine washable instead of options that tear easily or aren't washable. Some inexpensive supermarket reusable bags tend to tear and won't hold up to a washing machine cycle. It's worth spending a little bit more on a fabric bag that will stand the test of time and rugged use.

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