Is It Safe to Wash and Reuse Zip-Top Bags?

Updated: Mar. 20, 2019

We investigate when (and how) to make your zip-top bags reusable.

Between packing lunch for the kids (and maybe yourself) and stashing leftovers, you probably go through a lot of zip-top bags during the average week. I couldn’t help but wonder if those plastic bags really have to be thrown away after every use—or if it’s possible to wash and reuse them.

Yes, You Can Reuse Zip-Top Bags!

The verdict? You can absolutely use zip-top bags more than once as long as you wash them properly. One easy way to do that is by sticking them in the dishwasher. Just make sure they are turned inside out so that the soap and water clean the dirty side. Place them on the top rack and run the dishwasher as normal. (See all our secrets for loading the dishwasher correctly.)

You can also wash your zip-top bags by hand. Again, start by turning them inside out. Then use warm, soapy water to clean. It’s important to stay away from super-hot water because that can impact the plastic and increase the chance that BPA chemicals will spread to your food. And make sure you let the bags dry completely to avoid any mold or mildew.

Another thing to keep in mind is that the quality of the bag will affect whether or not you’re able to reuse it. Freezer bags tend to be thicker and sturdier, which makes them better candidates for multiple uses than a regular bag.

But There’s One Exception

If you have used a zip-top bag for raw meat (like for marinating steak or just storing extra chicken breasts), do not reuse it. You run the risk of cross-contamination which is a big no-no, so toss those bags in the trash. This also applies to greasy food or food that leaves residue that can’t be removed completely.

By learning how to reuse your zip-top bags, you can cut your waste in the kitchen in half (or even more if you’re able to get more than two uses out of a bag) and save money while you save the environment. Just make sure you sanitize first!

Use Your Bags to Pack a Healthy Lunch
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