Clean And Lunchable

How To Clean Your Child’s Reusable Lunch Bag

There’s danger lurking around the school lunchroom and not where you might be expecting it (cue ominous-looking lunch lady in hairnet). No, this danger comes cutely packaged under the cover of Little Ponies and LOL Dolls, Transformers and Ninja Turtles — it’s your child’s reusable lunch bag, or box if you’re old school. 

According to medical experts, WebMD reports that lunch boxes as well as backpacks can harbor germs that cause colds and flu, as well as other bacterial and viral infections. School in and of itself presents the perfect storm for kids, their backpacks and lunch bags alike to pick of all sorts of germs in all sorts of places, never mind just the classroom.

Can you imagine that pre-lunch pitstop to the bathroom, lunch bag in toe? Or the post-lunch playground pitch when lunch bag gets tossed into the sideline collective. And how about the school bus seat as your little one sneaks a snack for the long ride home. Germs aren’t relegated to the outside only either. Reusable cloth lunch bags and hard insulated lunch boxes alike may contain such known nasties as E. coli and salmonella that are often caused by improper food storage techniques and, let’s face it, a  lack of cleaning. 

Whatever can be done? Well, you can start by making a point of washing that lunch bag out at least once a week (I’ve included some cleaning tips below.) Be sure to also encourage your child to wash his/her hands before lunch, and maybe consider leaving the lunch bag in the locker while doing so! 

On your end at home, you might want to reconsider doing things like laundry while making lunches for the day. You may not think about it at the time, but you could be unwittingly spread germs from dirty laundry to your child’s lunch. So if you did just throw in a load or finish up any other germy household chore, make sure to wash your hands before packing lunches for the day! It’s also best to have your kids unpack their lunch bag as soon as they get home from school that way you can refrigerate any salvageable perishables (string cheese, possibly yogurt shakes), prevent odor build-up and spot-clean spills. 

Love That Lunch Bag — Cleaning Tips To Try: 

For Spot Cleaning:

  • Make it quick and not dirty with antibacterial wipes for a handy way to kill germs on the spot and tidy up your child’s lunch bag on the daily.
  • Have a natural cleaner on hand in a spray bottle. Vinegar is great for both disinfecting and deodorizing. Just mix equal parts  with water in a bottle. The smell disappears when it dries. You can also try hydrogen peroxide and water, which is considered among the safest of all natural sanitizers.

Handwashing Help:

  • Fill sink with warm water.
  • Add a teaspoon of dish detergent, swish through water.
  • Submerge the lunchbox into the water.
  • Use a cloth to wipe over the lunch bag, paying particular attention to corners.
  • Use a toothbrush to clean crumbs from zippers and remove dirt and food from seams. You can also use the toothbrush with some baking soda to scrub dingy or stained areas. 
  • Rinse with clean water.
  • Pat dry with a kitchen towel and allow it to dry in the dish rack or on a clothesline overnight.
  • Sprinkle baking soda into the bag to help eliminate and prevent strong odors. Allow this to also sit overnight and shake it out in the morning, then wipe with a damp cloth. 

Other Options: You can try placing a paper towel dampened with white vinegar inside the box or bag and leave overnight. In the morning toss out the paper towel,wash off and dry the inside. And depending on the quality of your lunch bag (read the label as well) you might just be able to toss it in the washing machine on a gentle cycle to give it a regular weekly clean.

References: (Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta)