The Everyday Home: Cleaning reusables

Sonya McDaniel, extension educator, FCS/CED
Pottawatomie County OSU Extension Center

Using reusable products can be a great way to reduce the need for single-use plastic. Properly cleaning your reusables goes a long way toward helping them last. When my daughter went back to school this fall, we stocked up on water bottles for her to use at school since most water fountains were not in use. Over the year, I have noticed some wear and tear with leaks. I have also discovered that spring-up lids, built in straws, etc. make it harder to keep it clean!

Here are our tips for taking care of water bottles, straws, food containers and bags.

Water Bottles

Bacteria thrives in damp, dark environments – like the inside of a water bottle. Our recommendation is to wash your water bottle either after every use or daily if you refill throughout the day. Fill the water bottle with water and dish soap. Soak the other pieces in a bowl of soapy water. A bottle brush can be helpful for scrubbing the inside of the bottle, as well as the nooks and crannies of the other pieces. Rinse all the pieces and dry. Make sure the bottle is completely dry before reassembling to prevent it from becoming musty.

Metal Straws

Metal straws are like any other utensils and should be washed after each use, even if you’re just drinking water. Hand wash with water and dish soap, using a thin brush to scrub the inside. Let dry completely before storing.

Plastic Food Containers

Start by removing any leftover food from the container. Wipe extra grease off with a cloth or paper towel. If using a dishwasher, place on the top rack to keep the plastic from warping. If washing by hand, use dish soap and water. To get rid of a lingering odor, try a baking soda and water scrub (one teaspoon of baking soda with one cup of water). For stubborn stains, soak the container in a solution of 2 teaspoons of liquid chlorine bleach mixed with one gallon of cold or tepid water. Wash the container in soapy water when done soaking.

Reusable Bags

Wash bags after each use, following the instructions on the fabric care label. If the bags are insulated, you can use a disinfecting wipe. Let the bags dry completely before storing. To prevent bacteria growth, store the bags in a cool, dry environment.

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