Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Works for Me: Washing Baggies

For a frugal zealot like myself, washing and reusing plastic baggies is a no-brainer. It saves money. For a stewardship-oriented, "green" lover like myself, it is also a must. Although not using any plastic at all would be ideal, reusing plastic baggies is a better alternative than tossing them out after a single use. I only trash baggies when they have holes or when they have been used to contain raw meat.

But I have yet to meet the frugalite or greenie whose favorite chore is washing said baggies. It's time consuming and requires effort. When I washed dishes at home I always left the baggies for my mom to do. But when I lived on my own, I set my mind to developing a system to get the chore done with as little trouble - and waste - as possible. Here it is:

1. Sanitize the sink. Sometimes I use bleach - I know, it's a terrible chemical, but it brings both David and I peace of mind after we've been rinsing raw meat, etc., in the sink.
2. Fill one side of sink with hot soapy water and the other with just hot water. By "fill" I mean 1-2 inches - that's really all that's needed.
3. From stack of plastic baggies (I always wait to do this until I have a good stack - seems more efficient that way), take 4 or so bags and dunk and swish in the soapy water. Let some soak while you work on each one individually (I usually use a washcloth to wipe the outside and inside of each bag under the soapy water).
4. Shake excess suds off each cleaned bag (over the soapy water) and place in rinsing water. When the 4 or so bags are all on the rinsing side, dunk and swish them, scooping and pouring out the water until the suds are all gone.
5. Hang bags on your long-handled cooking utensils to drip dry. It's important to make sure the bags are held open so they will dry thoroughly inside.

Voila! Clean bags with minimal effort and minimal water used. Rinsing each bag under a running stream uses so much more water - just an inch of rinsing water in the sink will de-suds 20 or more bags. I often wash our water bottles the same way, in the same water, too!

For more insights into best practices for families, check out the weekly Works-For-Me Wednesday post at Rocks in my Dryer.


petersonclan said...

We puff our bags open a bit, and stick our wet, clean baggies on the side of our fridge. They stick to it, dry neatly and the next day we just pull them down. Voila! Dry baggies without the unsightly mess!

Katherine T. Lauer said...

Oh, you clean your baggies so much better than do I! I've always rinsed baggies to save money. If they contained meat, I just throw the baggie away rather than challenge myself to get them truly sanitized. If they contained something else (usually a dry good), I just rinse them vigorously by hand, let them air dry, and put them dry back into my drawer of bags.