Sunday, October 14, 2012

The Weird Art of Washing Plastic Bags

I do wash and reuse plastic bags, except for ones with holes or that held raw meat.  I decline plastic bags everywhere I shop, but plastic bags still enter my house in various ways.  It's OK - I still find them handy for certain jobs.  But I try to think of plastic bags as containers to be washed and used again, not just trashed after one use.

The problem is:  how do you wash a bag?  I have been washing bags for years, so I've had lots of time to hone my mad skilz.  Please don't think I'm loony for blogging about this.  The hidden skills of homemaking, you know (hat-tip to The Hidden Art of Homemaking).

Here's how I do it:

1.  Drop the dirty bags in the sink to wait with the other dirty dishes.

2.  Place a dirty bag in the dishwater and fill it at least half-full with dishwater. Look for holes, which will arc water if they are small, and dribble continuously if they are slits (unlike water just running off the outside of the bag which slows to a drip very quickly).  If it has holes, I ditch the bag in the trash (to hopefully decompose after hundreds of years).

3. If not, I swish and rub at the bag a bit in the dishwater and rinse it out by holding it open under a running faucet.

4.  I plop the bags on my handy-dandy bag dryer, a gift from my sister.  Before that, I used a baby-bottle dryer or the spoons in my container by the stove. 

5.  After an hour or few, when I walk through the kitchen again, I turn the flimsiest, biggest bags inside out to finish drying.   I don't bother doing this with stiffer bags like freezer bags or ziplocs. They are usually dry within the hour.

I just discovered the bag-flipping trick this year.  Before that, it could take days for the bags to dry because the wet insides would just stick to themselves and no air could get in.

I'd love to hear your thoughts on this - and any other bag-washing tips you have!


AmyK said...

Yes! I wash my plastic bags too! Except for ones that held raw meat. My college roommate thought I was nuts for washing out baggies.

I tend to hang mine on our knives that are in their wooden stand on a shelf over the baseboard heater. (They're old knives so I don't feel bad hanging wet baggies on them.) I just shake the bags open so the sides aren't touching and they dry pretty quickly. I also tend to hang large bags outside on our wash line.

Where did your sister find that bag dryer??

Christian - Modobject@Home said...

My bag drying solution is not to dry them... pop the wet bags in the freezer. The water droplets will freeze into little beads that are easily flicked off when you pull them out.

Hazel said...

Another plastic bag washer here!
Mine get propped open on whatever is around and I finish them off over our boiler in the utility room. In the summer I sometimes peg them on the line.

Margo said...

Hi AmyK! Click on the link in the post - it's linked to the bag dryer at Lehman's Store, a big Amish store in Ohio (I think they ship, although my sister stopped by the actual store).

Christian, the freezer! So clever!

Marcia said...

Yup, same here! I wash my plastic bags, too. Handwash, hang out to dry, and if there are some stubborn droplets left, wipe them away with a kitchen towel. Those bags that were used for raw meat, I still wash before throwing them away, just to prevent bugs from multiplying. I'm so relieved and pleased to "meet" you lovely ladies!

loves2spin said...

I am old enough to remember when plastic bags first were available. They came with bread in them and my mom would always wash them over and over. You couldn't buy them in a store. So... I've always done that! And like you, if it's had meat in it, it goes in the trash. I have clotheslines inside by our wood stove. I hang them there with clip clothespins. I used to hang them from a metal hanger on the side of a set of shelves in our kitchen. It really does save money.

Zoë said...

I reuse meat bags. Is that gross? I never thought about it! Figured if I washed them in hot, soapy water they were fine.

I fashioned a little washline above my sink and they hang there by clothespins until dry.

Reusing plastic bags is probably my favorite frugal activity. I'd probably throw 4 out a day if I didn't. What a waste!

Sara said...

I turn the bags inside out and stick them over the knife handles in my knife block and the wood spoons next to the stove to dry. My mom also washes and reuses aluminum foil, but I have never had much luck washing it without ripping it.

AmyK said...

Haha! How did I miss that nifty link?? I guess I was too enamored by the bag dryer to see straight. Thanks! :)

Polly said...

I'm the same--I wash any bag that hasn't held raw meat. I flip it inside-out, immerse in water, swish it around and use my washrag to scrub it, and then rinse thoroughly under hot water. I have the EXACT same bag-dryer you have. It is a permanent fixture on the countertop, even though it seems unsightly--I just can't stand to toss those bags.

Margo said...

Zoe, it's not gross. I don't actually love washing the bags, so I think I use it as an excuse not to wash them. But I think you're right: after all, I wash and reuse containers that held raw meat!

Margo said...

Sara, your comment reminded me that my Grandma Weaver washed and re-used tinfoil. Sweet memory.

Anonymous said...

Bag-washer here! I do not reuse ones that have held raw meat, but I do wash them out anyway, as recycling is available for plastic bags, & I don't want them smelling up the kitchen, as I wait to collect enough in my container before they're bundled off to the grocery store. So....the code in our family is, if it's turned inside out that means it's going to be tossed (for whatever reason), & if it's washed & then just hung up, it will be reused. Bags washed after supper are dry in the morning, when I need them again for school lunches. We try to put them away over the weekend. My husband made me a bag dryer that has 14 spindles on a wooden block, & I love it. Not the prettiest thing in my kitchen, but it certainly pulls its it stays!


Meghan said...

We wash and reuse our plastic bags too, even the ones that held raw meat. It's actually my least favorite cleaning job though, so the deal I have with my husband is he always washes the bags and I always scrub the tub, which is his least favorite cleaning job.

Sarah Barry said...

I used to wash bags and then I had two kids.

I re-use them as much as possible.

There are lots of great tips in this post and the comments, so maybe I will get re-inspired.

Yeah for the Hidden Art of Homemaking!


It makes me happy to know I'm not the only one who washes bags for future use and save money at the same time. To dry mine I put a wooden spoon inside it and the spoon rests in a vase on the windowsill. I like your special dryer too.

Anonymous said...

I mostly only wash and re-use Ziploc-type bags; they're the sturdiest; produce bags get used for "wet" kitchen garbage that needs to be sealed before it goes in the trash. "Grocery" plastic bags get used to line the trash can - my husband is fine with cloth bags for bottles and cans, because plastic bags tear, but insists we have to get one or two plastic bags from each weekly grocery trip, so we HAVE trash bags!! I wash bags that held raw meat, too - dish soap, then the hottest water the tap will give me, and rinse out a couple times. But usually I don't have that problem because I also re-use plastic "deli" containers to freeze meat; they're a lot easier to wash and dry! I hang bags to dry from a clothespin on the kitchen curtain, offset slightly so they hang open and dry inside. LOVE the bag-dryer; it's going on my list.

Kristin said...

I wash bags, too. My family snickers at me, but hey! A penny saved is a penny earned.

I have to admit.... I re-use my meat bags. I don't see it as being any different than re-using a glass pan that had meat in it, or anything else. Just wash with hot, soapy water & get into the corners, and you're good! Never had any problems.

Love the re-purposing ideas on your blog!