Clean Reusable Totes, Or Risk Going Green

bacteria go green reusable bags
Your reusable totes may be full of bacteria and can turn you seriously “green”. Time to practice good bag hygiene. 

Researchers at the University of Arizona tested 84 reusable shopping totes and found over half were contaminated with harmful bacteria, including the dangerous E.coli. Contamination occurs when fluids such as fruit juices and meat blood leak from their packaging and deposit miniscule droplets onto the bag material. Fungus and mold can also thrive among the fibers.  Appetizing, eh? We plop these bags onto supermarket check-out belts, car trunks, driveways, and kitchen counters. None of these surfaces are sparkling clean; the bags up their invisible “ick” factor with each movement.

The study also showed that most bags are never washed.

Do a healthcheck of that last stat amongst your recycled-bag-using peers: unless mine are especially piggish, none (myself included) ever toss the totes into a hot wash. I’m guilty of throwing the grungiest bag out and buying another, and I see that’s not much better than if I went for plastic in the first place.

Handbags are another germ magnet

During an annual Christmas dinner, my pal Agnes gifted me a dainty enamel butterfly with what looked like a meat hook coming out of its bum. She explained it was a purse hanger and proceeded to destroy everyone’s appetite describing all the invisible schmuck crawling on my purse’s bottom.

Maybe you’ve seen these things? The pretty butterfly alights atop a table, and the fat hook suspends your bag – germfree – below.

I took her point. My favorite bag is “well-seasoned”; it’s clocked more miles than Richard Branson. I take it everywhere, and plunk it down on the floor without thinking twice. I’ve never washed a handbag. Have you?

Good handbag hygiene suggests a daily wipe-down of the exterior with an anti-bacterial soap. Sheesh, who has the time? We ought to keep an eye on what’s inside the bag too: stow lotions, potions and food products in sealable containers. Tighten the caps.

I do wash my backpack. I know better than to let this workhorse fester from the invisible hitchhikers it picks up at the gym and on hikes and in overhead airplane bins.

Same tips apply to our other household reusables

Fruit bowls are an attractive nuisance. Over-ripened fruit and veg can harbor bugs called pseudomonas which can cause infections and severe gastrointestinal upset. Listeria and salmonella also creep inside the cornucopia.

Recall last summer’s E.coli organic cucumber outbreak that killed 26 and left thousands gravely ill? Always wash your produce. Swab your storage containers weekly.

Remember that “punish good deeds” folder?  Good to get multiple uses from plastic drinks bottles, but refillings will likely contain high levels of bacteria unless bottles are properly cleaned, and refilled with hands that are, in turn, properly cleaned. So, after a week of careful refilling, drop commercial water bottles into recycling. Give your sports-type water bottle a weekly wash in boiling water.

Soft toys are stuffed with dust mites

According to a story in the Daily Mail, researchers at New Zealand’s Otago University found more than half the cuddly toys tested contained high levels of these critters known to aggravate eczema, allergies and asthma.

I learned this fact in the ‘90s. My eldest is mildly asthmatic; his Spartan bedroom was an allergen-free showroom.  Easily dusted Lego and plastic Godzillas were the only tenants on his shelves. But for a dozen years, my daughter slept in a sea of Beanie Babies. This kid could sleep in a sandstorm and not sneeze, but I still took precautions. Every week I tossed her toys in the dryer for an hour’s hot tumble. Not even the mightiest of mites could survive.

Better yet, ban plush toys as bedfellows.  And never, ever put them in your marketing tote or fruit bowl.

Image of E coli bacteria close-up by Shutterstock

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4 thoughts on “Clean Reusable Totes, Or Risk Going Green”

  1. Laurie Balbo says:

    Those girls were born in the 1890’s – but they were city kids and probably they had different cleaning techniques?

    Vinegar and soap sounds good to me.

  2. Lain Campbell says:

    I think your grannies are younger than mine. What did your great granny use? Think of the folks on the farms….

  3. Laurie Balbo says:

    Like I said, you’d never see me shampooing a handbag…but I think the rest is pretty sound guidance. Can’t argue with washing fruit and veg.

    My own grannies cornered the market on bleach – swabbed everything with bleach in their weekly cleanings – it’s a wonder we aren’t all blondes.

  4. Lain Campbell says:

    What absolute rubbish! Our grannies never needed to disinfect anything. They used ordinary house soap and vinegar. We are becoming so bloody paranoid that we are killing off everyting – even the good bacteria that are essential to our existence. The pharmaceutical companies are driving these scare stories.
    Lain

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