How to wash lunch bag

How to wash lunch bag to keep it smelly fresh

It is gook know how to wash your lunch bag and also can you wash an insulated lunch bag in the washing machine, or perhaps you insulated lunch bag smells. We have done much over the years to be able help answer those questions. Your lunch bags brave the elements, endure leaky containers, and become battlegrounds for rogue crumbs and weird scents. But fear not, fellow lunch packers! Keeping your lunch bag clean and fresh is an achievable feat.


Insulated lunch bag smells?  Here's your guide to getting rid built-up grime and odors, however it is always helpful to have a second lunch bag on hand so also check out our cute lunch bags for adults.

Large neoprene lunch bag, Delsol

How to Wash your Lunch Bag? First Know Your Bag:

 Before diving into a cleaning frenzy, take a moment to understand your lunch bag. Moreover, most lunch bags will have a care label stitched inside, indicating whether it's machine washable or hand wash only. This is crucial information, as washing a non-washable bag could damage the insulation and shorten its lifespan.  Before you start, understand your lunch bag's material. Most lunch bags are made from canvas, neoprene, or a combination of both. Check the care label (if it has one) for specific washing instructions. Check out our Pinterest board for a great ideas on sanitizing your totes

The Two-Step Clean:

For best results on how to wash your lunch bag we've found that for most lunch bags, a two-step approach is key:

Step 1: Banishing Crumbs and Stains

Empty the bag completely and turn it inside out.
For loose crumbs, use a lint roller or a damp cloth to wipe them away.
For tougher stains, create a paste of baking soda and water. Apply it to the stain, let it sit for 15 minutes, then  also scrub gently with a soft brush (like an old toothbrush) before rinsing.


Step 2: Deep Cleaning

hand wash lunch bag

Handwashing: Fill your sink with warm water and dish soap. Dip a sponge or soft brush, and wipe down the entire bag, inside and also out. Pay close attention to seams and zippers. Also, rinse thoroughly and hang or lay the bag flat to air dry.
Machine Washing (check the care label first!): Some lunch bags can handle a gentle cycle in cold water with mild detergent. I've found that neoprene bags do very well when put in the washing machine. Wash it separately or with similar items like towels. Skip the dryer – air drying is best.


Can you wash an insulated lunch bag in the washing machine?

Do you ever peek inside your lunch bag and wonder... is it time for a clean? I often do a quick sniff test just to see if my kid's lunch bag is at at that point where I'm concerned about contaminating her food. Lunch bags can trap crumbs, spills, and funky smells. Some labels recommend washing in the machine, but I'm not so sure that this is the best option and I'll explain why.

Neoprene lunch bags large, Cornflower



Washing Machine? Maybe!

Most insulated lunch bags can actually be washed in your washing machine, but there's a catch (like that rogue pea rolling around in your bag!).  Here's how to find out if yours is safe:


  • Check the care label: This is usually a small tag sewn inside the bag. It will have symbols that tell you how to wash it. Look for symbols with a washing machine and water - that's a good sign!
  • Feel the fabric: Is it thick and sturdy, or thin and flimsy? Sturdy fabrics like canvas are more likely to handle the washing machine.

Machine Washing Tips:

The few times that I have machine washed our lunch bags, I found that neoprene lunch bags do exceptionally well in the washer.  I've always removed the straps and simply toss the into the washing machine with spectacular results.  Lunch totes with padding and insulation haven't fared as well.  Without a long pre soak in water and disinfectant the offensive scents tend to linger with padded bags that have thick noticeable insulation.  If your care label says it's safe to machine wash, here are the steps I usually take before machine washing any bags.

  • Empty it out: Crumbs and spills are not your washing machine's friend!
  • Gentle cycle, cold water: Hot water or a rough spin cycle can damage the insulation.
  • Mild detergent: Skip the harsh stuff.
  • Air dry: Don't put your lunch bag in the dryer! The heat can mess up the shape and insulation. Just hang it up or lay it flat to dry.

Not sure about machine washing? Hand washing is always a safe option!


  • Fill your sink with warm, soapy water (dish soap is fine).
  • I always like to allow the bag to soak completely submerged in the soapy water for around 3 or 4 hours.  This helps to get rid of bad smells
  • Give the inside and outside a good scrub with a soft brush.
  • Rinse with clean water and hang to dry.

Bonus Tip:  Add a cup of white vinegar to the wash cycle to help kill germs and get rid of bad smell in your insulated lunch bag.

By following these tips, you can keep your lunch bag clean, fresh, and also ready for your next delicious lunch adventure!

 Insulated lunch bag smells

Banishing the Lunch Bag Blues: Saying Goodbye to Smelly Bags!

We've all been there. You open your lunch bag, ready for a delicious midday meal, and... BAM!  A funky smell hits you like a rogue wave.  Fear not, fellow lunch packers! Getting rid of lunch bag odor is easier than you think. 

What's the Cause of the Stink?

Lunch bags trap spills, crumbs, and leftover food particles.  These can get moldy or also grow bacteria, leading to unpleasant smells.  I've experienced this with every lunch bag no matter now careful I was.


Conquering the Smell:

Here's your battle plan to banish the lunch bag blues:

Water and soap are our friends. With a smelly bag I've always gotten my best results by simply completely submerging the bag in a sink filled with clean water and fragrant soap or detergent.  Allow the bag to remain submerged for a few hours. I usually let mine soak for at least three hours. After this time I usually use a soft brush and wash  both inside and out and rinse with clean water


How to wash your lunch bag | Freshen Up Tips:

clean lunch bag

Vinegar Power: For lingering odors, fill a spray bottle with a white vinegar and water solution (equal parts). Lightly spritz the inside of the bag, let it sit for 10 minutes, then rinse and air dry completely.
Baking Soda Magic: Sprinkle baking soda inside the bag and leave it overnight to absorb odors. Vacuum it out thoroughly the next day.
Sunshine Power: Whenever possible, let your bag air out in direct sunlight. The UV rays have natural disinfecting properties.
Bonus Tip: Line your lunch bag with a washable napkin or paper towel. This catches spills and crumbs, making clean-up even easier.


Drying is Key:

 No matter how you decide to wash your  lunch bag you should never store your it away damp!  Moisture can lead to mildew growth. Make sure your bag is completely air-dried before packing it away.


Bonus Tips:

 Leaving an open box of baking soda in your lunch bag between uses can help absorb lingering odors.

  1. Empty your lunch bag every day and wipe out any crumbs or spills immediately. This will prevent them from setting in and becoming a bigger cleaning challenge later.

By following these simple steps on how to wash your lunch bag, you can keep your lunch bag clean, fresh, and ready to tackle your next culinary adventure. Remember, a clean lunch bag is a happy (and healthy) lunch bag!

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