Reusable shopping bags are a great way to reduce waste and be environmentally friendly. However, leaving damp bags balled up can lead to mold growth. Mold may cause allergic reactions or ruin your reusable bags if left untreated. Thankfully, there are several effective methods to safely remove mold from reusable shopping bags.
Why Mold Grows on Reusable Shopping Bags
Mold grows when excess moisture meets organic materials like fabric or paper. Reusable shopping bags often get wet from condensation on refrigerated and frozen goods. If stored before fully drying, damp bags provide the perfect environment for mold.
Some key reasons why mold grows on reusable shopping bags include:
- Moisture – Wet or damp bags allow mold spores to thrive.
- Heat – Warm environments encourage faster mold growth.
- Darkness – Mold prefers dark places like balled up bags.
- Organic materials – Most reusable bags contain natural fibers mold can consume.
By properly caring for and drying your reusable bags, you can prevent mold from forming in the first place.
Dangers of Moldy Reusable Bags
It’s important to promptly remove any mold growing on reusable shopping bags. Prolonged mold growth can lead to:
- Allergic reactions – Mold spores can trigger asthma, runny nose, eye irritation, etc.
- Illness – Toxins from some molds like black mold may cause respiratory issues or infections.
- Bag deterioration – Mold may eventually break down and ruin reusable bag fibers.
- Cross-contamination – Spores could spread to other belongings or surfaces.
Never use visibly moldy reusable bags for food shopping. Always thoroughly clean contaminated bags to protect health and prevent spreading mold.
How to Remove Mold from Reusable Shopping Bags
Several methods can tackle mold removal from reusable shopping bags. The best technique depends on the bag material and extent of the mold growth.
For reusable shopping bags made from cotton, canvas, polyester or other machine washable fabrics, the washing machine provides an easy mold removal solution.
To clean in the washing machine:
- Shake off any dirt or debris from the bag.
- Wash on hot water setting using detergent and 1 cup of white vinegar. The heat and vinegar help kill mold.
- Add 1/2 cup of baking soda if mold stains are present. Baking soda acts as a natural bleaching agent.
- Air dry or tumble dry on low heat after washing. Avoid bunching up until fully dry.
You can hand wash reusable shopping bags in the sink or tub using hot water and detergent. Hand washing allows you to vigorously scrub problem areas to remove stuck on mold.
Follow these hand washing steps:
- Fill sink or tub with hot water and add a small amount of liquid laundry detergent.
- Submerge bag and let soak 10-15 minutes to loosen mold.
- Scrub entire surface with a cleaning brush to agitate mold and stains.
- Drain dirty water and refill with clean hot water to rinse. Vinegar may also be added to the rinse water.
- Press out excess water with towels. Reshape and air dry completely before storing.
For difficult mold stains on white or colorfast reusable bags, bleach can help remove stubborn growths.
To use bleach:
- Fill a bucket or sink with 1 gallon hot water and 1/2 cup bleach.
- Soak the bag for 15 minutes, submerging stained areas.
- Remove and rinse thoroughly in clean water.
- Air dry the bag completely. Bleach can degrade fibers if left damp.
- Note: Never use bleach on colored bags as it may cause discoloration.
Baking Soda Scrub
For delicate materials like silk or hemp, opt for a baking soda scrub to gently lift mold without chemicals.
Make a paste with 3 parts baking soda and 1 part water. Using an old toothbrush, scrub the paste into affected areas. Let sit 5 minutes before rinsing clean. The mild abrasion from baking soda will remove mold without damaging fibers.
Vinegar’s acetic acid makes it a potent anti-mold treatment. For quick spot treatment of minor mold growths, create a vinegar cleaning spray.
Combine in a spray bottle:
- 1 cup white vinegar
- 1 cup warm water
Shake well and spritz directly onto visible mold. Let sit for 10 minutes before wiping clean with a damp cloth. The vinegar solution will help prevent future mold recurrence.
For minor mold spots on durable bags, sunlight provides a natural sanitizing treatment. Simply place the bag in direct outdoor sunlight for 2-3 hours. The UV rays and heat will kill mold and help dry out the fabric. Rotate periodically to expose all sides.
Preventing Mold on Reusable Bags
With proactive care, you can avoid mold growth on reusable shopping bags:
- Dry thoroughly – Don’t store damp bags; hang to fully air dry after use.
- Clean regularly – Wash bags every few months to remove grime mold feeds on.
- Use bag liners – Place food inside a plastic or mesh bag liner for transport.
- Separate foods – Keep meats and produce in different bags to prevent cross-contamination.
- Store properly – Don’t bunch up bags; keep unused bags in a cool, dry place.
- Inspect for damage – Replace bags with small holes or tears that may trap moisture.
- Wash after travel – Bags taken on planes or trains are exposed to mold spores.
With the handy tips in this guide, you can safely remove mold from reusable bags and keep them mold-free going forward. Don’t let a little mold cut down on your eco-friendly efforts. Follow these removal and prevention steps and keep using your reusable shopping bags confidently!