How to Remove Mold from Your Reusable Shopping Bags

How to Remove Mold from Your Reusable Shopping Bags

How to Remove Mold from Your Reusable Shopping Bags

Mold in reusable shopping bags is a common issue that can happen for a variety of reasons. Thankfully, there are several effective methods you can use to remove mold from your reusable bags and make them safe to use again. In this article, I will provide a comprehensive guide on how to thoroughly clean mold from reusable shopping bags.

Why Mold Grows in Reusable Bags

Mold spores are present everywhere in the air we breathe. When exposed to moisture and organic material, these spores can start to grow into mold. Reusable shopping bags provide ideal conditions for mold growth because:

  • Bags contain food residue – Groceries often leak and leave behind particles of food, crumbs, and juices that contain sugars and starches mold feeds on.

  • Bags get wet – Whether from condensation, leakage, or getting caught in the rain, moisture triggers mold growth.

  • Bags are stored in warm, humid places – Mold thrives in warmth and humidity. Storing bags squished together in a pantry or trunk allows mold to spread.

  • Fabric bags trap moisture and allergens – Unlike plastic or leather, porous fabric absorbs and holds moisture mold needs to grow. Mold also burrows into fibers.

Dangers of Mold Exposure

Inhaling or touching mold spores can cause allergic reactions and breathing problems. Mold also produces mycotoxins that can make you sick. Some studies link mold to more serious respiratory diseases like asthma. It’s crucial to remove mold from reusable bags to avoid health issues.

Step-by-Step Guide to Cleaning Moldy Reusable Bags

Follow these methods to thoroughly clean mold from your reusable shopping bags and prevent future growth:

1. Shake Out Any Loose Debris

  • First, empty out the bag completely and give it a good shake or beat it against a hard surface to dislodge any dirt or residue inside.

  • This helps remove mold spores and food particles before washing.

2. Spot Treat Stubborn Mold Stains

  • Make a cleaning paste by mixing 1 tbsp baking soda and just enough water to form a thick paste.

  • Spot treat stained or moldy areas by rubbing paste directly onto spots using an old toothbrush or your fingers.

  • Let paste sit for 15 minutes before rinsing. The abrasion and alkaline baking soda dissolves mold and stains.

3. Wash Bags in Hot Water

  • Machine wash bags on the hottest setting your bags can handle based on material. Hot water kills mold.

  • Use a mold killing detergent containing sodium hypochlorite like Clorox 2 or OxiClean Versatile Stain Remover.

  • Avoid fabric softener – it coats fibers allowing mold to adhere.

  • For delicate bags, hand wash in very hot, soapy water then air dry in the sun.

4. Dry Bags Thoroughly

  • Machine or air dry bags completely in direct sunlight. The UV rays in sunlight kill mold.

  • If machine drying, use high heat. Avoid cramming too many bags in at once so they dry faster.

  • Flip bags inside out to expose inner fibers to maximum heat and sunlight.

5. Disinfect With Vinegar

  • Further disinfect bags by spraying inside and out with undiluted white vinegar.

  • Let the vinegar solution sit for 10 minutes before rinsing clean.

  • Vinegar kills up to 82% of mold species and prevents future growth.

6. Deodorize With Baking Soda

  • Mold leaves behind a musty smell even after cleaning.

  • Sprinkle baking soda generously inside cleaned bags.

  • Let sit overnight before shaking out. Baking soda absorbs odors.

  • For quick odor removal, stuff bags with crumpled newspapers which absorb smells.

7. Keep Bags Completely Dry and Aerated

  • Always let bags fully dry before reusing or storing to prevent moisture buildup.

  • Store bags in open-air conditions rather than crammed together. Good air circulation prevents mold growth.

  • Use the bags often so they don’t sit unused gathering mold.

When To Toss Reusable Bags

If you’ve thoroughly cleaned bags and mold persists or returns quickly, the spores may be embedded in the fibers. Toss bags that are very stained or deteriorated in condition as they likely can’t be fully sanitized.

Prioritize your health and safety. Reusable bags are better for the environment but not at the risk of mold exposure.

Preventing Future Mold Growth

Practice these mold prevention habits with reusable shopping bags:

  • Empty bags promptly after grocery trips. Don’t leave food residue.

  • Check for leaks/stains and wash bags regularly, especially meat and produce bags.

  • Sanitize weekly with diluted bleach or vinegar.

  • Dry thoroughly and allow ventilation between uses.

  • Store in a clean, dry place, not the car trunk or damp garages.

  • Use bag liners as an added moisture barrier.

  • Avoid overfilling to reduce trapped moisture.

  • Replace bags annually as fibers weaken over time.


Mold thrives in the moist, dark confines of reusable shopping bags. But armed with the right cleaning methods and prevention habits, you can keep reusable bags mold-free. Stop mold growth in its tracks by frequently washing bags in hot, sanitizing detergent and drying thoroughly between uses. Implement moisture control and storage tips to create an unfriendly environment for mold. With a little diligence, your reusable bags can safely stay green.