How To Clean A Lunch Bag {Instead of Buying a New One!} | From Overwhelmed to Organized: How To Clean A Lunch Bag {Instead of Buying a New One!}

Thursday, September 26, 2013

How To Clean A Lunch Bag {Instead of Buying a New One!}

Have your kids' lunch bags ever become really sticky?  Not just stuff you can easily wipe out.  I'm talking so sticky it's hard to open and close the zipper.

Well did you know you can clean a lunch bag?  I mean REALLY clean a lunch bag.  To de-stick-ify it?  {Yep... I'm making up words.  It fits the situation though!}

I know I don't usually write cleaning posts, but I wanted to share this tip because I'm a big believer in using things until they are no longer usable... to save money and the environment of course... but also to eliminate clutter!  Like how I related that back to something I do write about? :)

Last month when everyone was shopping for back-to-school supplies, I was quite proud of the fact that we did not need to buy much this year.

  • After organizing our desks last winter, I found so many unused or extra supplies that I knew we would not need to buy any of those
  • The kids both had enough clothes for the fall and winter
  • Their backpacks and pencil cases from last year were both still in good condition
  • My son's lunch bag was still fine

The only thing I thought we needed to buy was a new lunch bag for my daughter.  Not bad eh?!

The reason she needed a new lunch bag was that the zipper on her bag from last year was so sticky that towards the end of the year last year she had a really difficult time opening it all the way. This is her lunch bag from last year.  {She LOVES those princesses :) }

She had a leaky bottle earlier in the year and the apple juice made everything a sticky mess.  I was able to wipe down most of the bag but I could never get enough of it off the zipper.  Even after we gave her a new bottle that didn't leak, the zipper got harder and harder to open.  It must have gotten into the zipper mechanism.

I didn't want to splurge on a new bag near the end of the year, knowing there would be better selection and prices during the back-to-school sales.  So she put up with the sticky zipper until the end of June.

So I was planning to take her shopping for a new lunch bag in August.

Until my friend Candice told me she washes her kids' backpacks in the washing machine.  She thought I should be able to wash the apple juice off my daughter's lunch bag if I submersed it and let it soak for awhile.

I don't know why I didn't think I could do that before... I guess I thought it would wreck the zipper somehow.  It was one of those "why didn't I think of this sooner" moments!

I figured I had nothing to lose {but a bit of my time} since I was already planning to buy a new lunch bag anyway!  So I gave it a whirl.  

I unzipped the bag and set it upside down in some soapy water in my sink. I was focused on the zipper so I didn't fill the sink very deep.  

I think it was soaking for about 5 minutes.  Maybe not even that long.

Then I flipped it over because I realized the back of the bag was pretty dirty too.  It soaked for about another 5 minutes on that side.

I'm a little ashamed and embarrassed to show you what the water looked like afterwards.  Please don't judge :)

YUCK!!  Must have been a LOT of apple juice stuck on that zipper and in the outer cover!  So gross.

After I got rid of the evidence drained the dirty water, I rinsed the bag, squeezed out what I could and then set the clean lunch bag on the counter to dry out.

After it was dry I tested it out... and ... the zipper worked beautifully!!  No new lunch bag required :)

Inspired by how this little project turned out, I actually threw the kids' backpacks, pencil cases, and my son's lunch bag in the washing machine to spruce them up a bit too.  {Forgot to take a picture... sorry!}

They came out beautifully.  Not quite like new, but better than the grungy feel they had from being used all last year.  I will likely do this from time to time just to keep everything looking nice.

A lot of people buy new backpacks, etc. every year.  And many of those same people still hang onto the old ones because they're not in good enough shape to donate or give away, but they're also not ready for the garbage yet.  Those items then become clutter. How many backpacks or lunch bags do you really need?

Cleaning your bags can prevent this clutter!  Saves you money too :)  And in the end, I didn't have to buy a single thing for back-to-school!  Not bad for just cleaning and organizing.

{Note: I know some kids are really hard on backpacks and lunch bags... if they really need new ones that's different!  I'm not talking about bags with rips and holes here :) }

Can you tell these are a year old?  They look fine to me!

Did you know you could clean these kinds of school supplies?  Have you ever done that?  Am I the only person who didn't know about this?

Happy organizing!

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