How to keep reusable bags clean to prevent germs and cross-contamination

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In this Feb. 21, 2020 photo, reusable shopping bags are displayed inside an Amazon Go Grocery store set to open soon in Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood. Following the opening of several smaller convenience-type stores using an app and cashier-less technology to tally shoppers’ selections, the store will be the first Amazon Go full-sized cashier-less grocery store. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

ROANOKE, Va. (WFXR) — Starting on Jan. 1, 2022, a plastic bag tax will be put into place across some cities and counties in Virginia, including Roanoke City.

The tax will impose a five-cent tax on each disposable plastic bag given to shoppers at grocery stores, convenience stores, and pharmacies. However, there are some bags that will not be taxed:

  • Durable plastic bags that are intended to be used multiple times and are at least 4 mils thick
  • Plastic bags used to wrap, contain, or packages certain goods to prevent damage or contamination such as ice cream; meat; fish; poultry; produce; unwrapped bulk food items; perishable food items; dry cleaning; prescription drugs; and multiple bags sold in containers to be used as garbage, pet waste or leaf removal bags

If you are planning on using your own reusable bag, they are a good sustainable alternative to plastic bags. According to the American Cleaning Institute’s (ACI) website, these bags need to be cleaned properly to prevent germs and mold from growing, along with cross-contaminating food.

The best method for keeping a reusable bag clean will vary depending on the type of bag:

The ACI also broke down the steps when taking care of reusable bags:


  • Wash each bag according to the care instructions. See the images above for fabric care.
  • Clean insulated bags with sanitizing cloths, especially along the seams.


  • When handling raw meats, seafood, and produce, make sure to use separate bags.
  • Separate non-food items, such as cleaners, books, and sports gear from food items.


  • Make sure the bags are dry before storing.
  • Don’t leave bags in your car trunk. That can promote bacteria growth because the trunk is a dark, warm, and often humid environment.
  • Store reusable bags at home in a cool, dry environment where air can circulate.

You can learn more about how this plastic bag tax affects both citizens and businesses in Roanoke by following this link.

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