How to Clean a Lunch Box or Lunch Bag – Tips From the Experts

Today we wanted to talk about how to clean a lunchbox or one of those insulated lunch bags. This article is relevant whether you are an adult taking your lunch to work every day (good on you for looking after your health and your budget), and also if we are talking about your kid’s lunch boxes. Let’s face it, over time they can get pretty grotty.

So whilst it doesn’t matter whether we are talking about how to clean a lunchbox for adults or children, most of this article will focus on examples from children as it is their lunchbox that can often be the most problematic. 

Let’s first look at why their lunchbox can end up so disgusting. As much as you “encourage” your children to empty their school bag at the end of the day and bring their lunch box to the kitchen, sometimes this doesn’t happen. If it’s a weekend or the school holidays, the lunchbox can end up a mess of mouldy food. 

Whilst the easy way out may be to buy a new lunchbox you definitely don’t have to. With this article we will share with you tips from the experts on how to clean a lunchbox or lunch bag. 

It doesn’t matter if you have mould or weird odours. We’re confident that if you follow the process outlined below, then you will have a clean lunchbox without having to buy a new one. These tips have not failed us yet. 

We have outlined two separate processes – one for a lunchbox and one for insulated lunch bags.

how to clean a lunchbox

Image source: PBTeen

How to Clean a Lunchbox – a step by step process.

You don’t need to worry. We promise that you will be able to get rid of the smells in your child’s lunchbox. It may take some time but it is a relatively simple process. Check out the options below and the step by step processes a go. We are confident that by following this advice your lunchbox will look as good as new in no time.

Step 1 – Fill the sink with warm, soapy water.

The first thing you want to do is fill your kitchen sink with warm water and a small amount of dishwashing detergent. You will also want a clean cloth that you can moisten in the water. You should submerge your lunchbox in the sink and use the cloth (or a sponge) to wipe the inside and outside of your lunchbox.) As you wipe down your lunchbox, make sure that you pay attention to corners and crevices. Little bits of food can often easily get stuck here and this can cause other issues later on. An old toothbrush can be your friend here as this can get into those hard-to reach crevices.

If you have another clean cloth, you should dampen it with clean water – i.e. submerge it under a tap and then wring it out – and then you should use this damp cloth to wipe down the inside and outside of your lunchbox to give it a rinse.

You should then dry the lunchbox with a towel and leave to air dry on your kitchen bench,. It’s important that you let your lunchbox dry properly to avoid any mould developing.

Lunch Bag in Soapy Water

Step 2 – Proactive management and maintenance of your lunchbox cleaning

There are a couple of things you can do that should allow you to ensure you don’t get into a “mess” where you have to do a major clean of a lunchbox. Firstly, you need to get your children in the habit of grabbing their lunchbox out of their school bag, putting their scraps in the bin and leaving their lunchbox on the bench. 

For safety you may want to give your lunchbox a quick wipe down with an antibacterial wipe as well – just to make sure there are no germs hiding anywhere.

How to clean a lunch bag.

We’ve given you a description of how to clean a lunchbox above but now we want  to talk about lunch bags as well. Those insulated lunch bags are becoming more and more popular so we thought no article on this topic would be complete without a discussion on how to clean a lunch bag as well. 

Option 1 – Wash your lunch bag in the washing machine on the gentle cycle

When we tell people that they might be able to throw their lunch bag in the washing machine, their first reaction is often to look at us in shock. They don’t believe us.

But, if you read the label on your lunch bag you’ll often find it’s true. It may have care instructions that give you some variation of washing your lunch bag on the gentle cycle.

If there is no label on the bag, you’ll have to use your own judgement about whether you think it’s strong enough to withstand the washing machine. There are some lunch bags that won’t last in the washing machine – for example if your lunch bag contains a plastic core – but you will be surprised how many will be fine and how the washing machine will often give a better clean than washing them in the sink. Just make sure you empty out any rubbish or food scraps first.

We generally recommend you wash a lunch bag with your tea towels or a similar load

Option 2 – Wash your lunch bag in the sink by hand.

If your lunch bag won’t survive the washing machine, then you will have to hand-wash your lunch bag. The hand-washing process for a lunch bag is similar to the process outlined for washing a lunchbox mentioned above. You will need to submerge your lunch bag in a sink full of warm, soapy water and wipe it down with a clean cloth.

You may find that sometimes your lunch bag ends with stubborn stains on it. If the washing machine or a hand wash is not helping you to remove these stains here is a process that you may want to follow. 

You can start with a simple paste made from water and baking powder. You should make your paste to a strong and sticky consistency and lather it over the stained area on the lunch bag. Then simply allow the paste to sit for a significant period of time before you wipe it away. If needed, you can repeat this step again to try and remove more stubborn stains. 

Another common problem with lunch bags (if your children don’t look after theirs properly) is that they can sometimes develop strong odours. The best way to deal with these odours is with baking powder. If you sprinkle baking powder in their lunch bag, making sure you get into all the corners and crevices, and leave to sit overnight, you should find that this goes a long way to removing the odour when you wipe down the lunch bag the next morning. 

We’ve said it before and we will say it again. The best way to avoid many of the problems we have outlined above is to get your kids in the habit of emptying their school bag at the end of the day and bringing their lunchbox or lunch bag up to the kitchen. It’s when they are left overnight or over the weekend that you’ll find problems are more likely to occur. 

If you still find there are problems with a lunch bag, then you may want to consider packing your children’s food into tupperware before packing it into a lunch bag. This should leave their lunch bag feeling shiny and fresh for longer. 

Simply Spotless is a full service cleaning company based in Sydney, Australia. If you would like a no obligation quote about how we can help in your home, please get in touch today so that we can have a chat.

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