If you’re looking to save money while helping the planet, a simple place to start is by reusing resealable plastic bags. With the average American family using 500 Ziploc bags a year, this can make an important impact. You’d think recycling them would solve the problem, but it turns out that’s not always the case. Most recycling plants struggle to separate resealable baggies from other materials.
As someone who values convenience but also cares deeply about our planet, I’ve always had mixed feelings about single-use plastic bags. On one hand, they offer unmatched convenience, but on the other, they contribute to overflowing landfills, taking centuries to decompose. So, I’ve become a firm believer in the power of reusing zip-top plastic bags. Not only does it help minimize waste, but it also saves money and time. Let’s dive into some simple and practical ways we can give them a second life around our homes.
Store Small Objects
Reusing Ziploc bags to store small objects is a great way to keep the contents of your junk drawer or purse organized, too.
1. Jewelry: Keep your earrings, rings, necklaces, and other small pieces of jewelry organized and tangle-free by storing them in separate resealable bags.
2. Buttons: Sort and store spare buttons for clothing in small reused plastic bags. Label them according to the garments they belong to for easy identification.
3. Art supplies: Store small art materials like paintbrushes, colored pencils, markers, or even small tubes of paint in reused Ziploc bags. This keeps them organized, prevents drying, and allows for easy transport.
4. Office supplies: Keep your desk tidy by storing paperclips, push pins, rubber bands, or other small office supplies in reused baggies. They are transparent, making it easy to see the contents.
5. Spare parts: Whether it’s nuts, bolts, screws, or other small hardware items, resealable bags are perfect for keeping them organized in your toolbox or workshop.
Make Air Travel Easier
When it comes to air travel, a reused Ziploc bag is a convenient way to organize travel essentials while complying with airport security regulations.
6. Liquids and toiletries: Follow the TSA guidelines for carry-on liquids by placing travel-sized toiletries, such as shampoo, conditioner, and toothpaste, in a reused quart-sized resealable bag. This makes it easy to retrieve them during security checks and keeps any leaks contained.
7.Electronics and cables: Keep your electronic gadgets and their corresponding cables organized by reusing zip-top bags to store them. This prevents them from getting tangled and makes them readily available during security checks.
8. Travel documents: Keep your passports, boarding passes, and other important travel documents organized and protected by storing them in a reused gallon-sized Ziploc bag. This keeps them easily accessible and protects them from damage.
Take Them on Road Trips
During road trips, resealable bags can help you stay organized and dry, and keep you prepared for any bumps in the road.
9. Snack packs: Prepare individual snack packs by reusing bags to hold snacks like pretzels, popcorn, or sliced fruits. This allows for easy distribution and avoids any mess in the car.
10. Travel games and activities: Reuse small Ziploc bags to hold game pieces, cards, or puzzle pieces. This ensures that all the components stay together and can be easily retrieved for entertainment during the trip.
Stash Some in Your Car
Reuse clean resealable bags in your car to stay organized and prepared.
12. Wet items: Keep a stash of clean gallon-sized plastic bags in your car to reuse them in wet weather. You can stash wet swimsuits, rain-soaked clothes, and even muddy shoes in a bag to prevent them from dripping or soiling your car’s interior.
13. Trash and litter: Reuse resealable bags as makeshift trash bags in your car. They are great for collecting small wrappers, receipts, or other trash items that can accumulate during your travels. Simply seal the bag when it’s full and dispose of it later.
14. Emergency supplies: Prepare a small emergency kit by storing essential items in clean, reused Ziploc bag. Include items like band-aids, hand sanitizer, tissues, a small flashlight, and any other things you may need in case of an unexpected situation on the road.
15. Protecting documents: Reuse a clean quart-sized resealable bag to hold important documents, such as vehicle registration or insurance papers. The bags will help keep them clean and organized within your glove compartment or center console where they’re also easy to grab if you’re ever pulled over.
Keep Some in Your First Aid Kit
Be sure to keep a few thoroughly cleaned plastic bags in your first aid kit where they can help you in an emergency and provide convenient storage, too.
16. Waterproof storage: Place items that need to stay dry in a reused zip-top bag to protect them from moisture. This includes band-aids, gauze pads, or adhesive tapes. The sealed bag will prevent water or other liquids from reaching the contents, ensuring they remain sterile and ready for use.
17. Ice or cold packs: In case of injuries requiring cold therapy, you can create an improvised ice pack by reusing a resealable bag. Fill the bag with ice cubes, seal it tightly, and wrap it in a thin cloth or towel. This makeshift cold pack can be applied to reduce swelling and provide relief.
18. Storage for medications: Reuse small zip-top bags to hold medications, such as pain relievers or antihistamines. They help keep them dry, organized, and easily accessible in case of emergencies or on-the-go situations.
19. Blister protection: If you wind up with a blister while on a hike, you can reuse a clean resealable bag to protect it. Place a small piece of moleskin or a band-aid over the area then slip your foot into the bag and put on your shoe. The bag and shoe will rub against each other, not your skin.
20. Splint support: In case of fractures or sprains, a pair of reused Ziploc bags can provide temporary support until professional help is available. Fill the bags with soft materials like cloth or clothing and use them as padding around the injured area before securing it with tape to immobilize the area.
21. Disposal of contaminated items: After administering first aid, you may need to dispose of contaminated materials such as used gloves, soiled bandages, or used medical supplies. Reuse a resealable bag to contain these items until you can discard them properly.
Use Them for Pet Care
When it comes to pet care, reusing resealable bags offers convenient ways to store treats, organize pet supplies, and even mange waste.
22. Pet treats: Store your pet’s favorite treats in a clean, dry reused Ziploc bag to keep them fresh and easily accessible. Whether you’re training your dog or rewarding your cat, these bags provide a convenient way to carry treats during walks or outings.
23. Travel food storage: When traveling with pets, reuse individual resealable bags to each day’s dry kibble or treats and ensure they have enough food for the duration of the trip. This keeps their food fresh and makes feeding time hassle-free.
24. Paw protection: During inclement weather, protect your pet’s paws by reusing resealable bags as temporary booties. Simply slide their paws into the bags, and secure them gently with tape or elastic bands. This can prevent ice, salt, or other irritants from getting in contact with their sensitive paw pads.
25. Waste disposal: Reuse resealable bags to pick up dog poop when walking your furry friend. They offer a convenient and hygienic solution. Seal it up and dispose of it in a trash can rather than leaving their business laying around.
Reuse Them for Cooking
Of course, one of the best places to reuse Ziploc bags is right in your kitchen where they can make cooking and storing food a breeze.
26. Marinating meats: Reuse resealable plastic bags to marinate meats and infuse them with flavor. Simply place the meat and marinade ingredients in the bag, seal it tightly, and massage to distribute the flavors evenly. The airtight seal helps the marinade penetrate the meat, resulting in tender and flavorful dishes.
27. Breading and coating: When breading foods like chicken cutlets or fish fillets, place the flour, breadcrumbs, or other coatings in separate reused resealable bags. Add the food item, seal the bag, and shake gently to coat the food evenly. This eliminates the need for multiple bowls and minimizes mess and cleanup.
28. Piping bags: If you don’t have a piping bag, reuse a resealable Ziploc with icing, frosting, or other soft mixtures. Cut a small hole in one corner of the bag and use it as a makeshift piping bag to decorate cakes, cupcakes, or cookies.
29. Keep clean hands while cooking. Need to knead dough? Making meatloaf? Cooking chicken? Reuse zip-top bags by slipping them over your hands to keep them clean.
30. Crush crumbs. Need to make a graham crust or crush some crackers for a topping? Pop them in an old zip bag, seal, and run your rolling pin over it.
31. Use as a funnel. Reuse Ziploc bags as funnels by filling them with rice, flour or whatever you want to pour into a small-mouthed container. Snip off one corner and squeeze the contents out.
Protect Your Electronics
As long as the seal holds tight, a resealable bag makes an ideal way to protect your electronics.
32. Read and relax. There are few things I enjoy more than soaking in a nice, hot bath and reading by candlelight. When I first got my Kindle, I thought I’d have to give that up until I realized that putting it in a plastic Ziploc bag is the perfect way to enjoy my eBook without worrying about water damage.
33. Waterproof phone protection: Going to the beach or pool? Keep your phone safe and dry by placing it in a resealable bag. The transparent material allows you to use the touchscreen while protecting it from water, sand, and other elements.
Use Them for Gardening
Put your used resealable bags to work outdoors in the lawn and garden by reusing them for storage, plant propagation, and more.
34. Keep your knees clean and dry. Whether you’re pulling weeds or planting flowers, you can reuse Ziploc bags as knee protectors. Just cut the bottom of the bag off, and slide it up your legs. Use the zipper to adjust tightness as needed and, boom, your knees stay dry.
35. Seed storage: Reuse clean, dry resealable bags to store and organize seeds. Label each bag with the seed type and date, so they stay dry and protected until you’re ready to plant.
36. Propagation aid: You can reuse Ziploc bags to propagate plants from cuttings. Add some damp sphagnum moss and your cutting to the resealable bag, then zip it up and hang it in a warm spot out of direct light. Mist it every few days and that bag will act as a greenhouse, creating a humid environment that speeds up root development.
37. Storage for bulbs and tubers: When storing bulbs or tubers during the off-season, place them in reused resealable bags to prevent moisture loss and keep them separate from each other. This method helps maintain the freshness and viability of the bulbs or tubers until you’re ready to plant them again. Clean the bags after planting and you can reuse them many times.
Use Them for Pest Control
38. Keep flies away: An old home remedy to keep flies out of the house relies on reusing a resealable plastic bag. Fill the bag with water until it’s about halfway full. Seal the bag tightly and hang it near windows, doors, or outdoor gathering areas where flies tend to congregate. The reflection and refraction of light through the water-filled bag confuses and deters flies, making them less likely to enter your space.
39. Create a bug-deterrent curtain: Another clever way to reuse Ziploc bags is by creating curtains to keep flies out of specific areas. Cut a bunch of the bags into long strips of similar length and width. Tie the strips to a string or a dowel rod, spacing them close together. You can knot or staple together strips as needed to reach the appropriate length. Hang the plastic bag curtain in doorways, windows, or any openings where flies tend to enter. As the breeze blows, the strips move, creating a barrier that discourages flies from entering the space.
40. Apply pest-control powders: Diatomaceous earth, powdered chalk, and talc are all excellent natural ways to control ants. To reach tight spots and cracks, you can repurpose a resealable plastic bag for precise application. Fill the bag halfway with your chosen powder, seal it tightly, and snip a very small piece off one corner. Position the corner near the gap and gently squeeze the bag to puff the powder into the space.
How to Clean Resealable Bags for Reuse
By hand: The most common way to clean Ziploc or other resealable bags is by hand washing them using warm water and dish soap. Fill a basin or sink with soapy water and add 1 cup of white vinegar to cut through grease and odors. Submerge the bags and let them soak for 10-15 minutes then gently scrub them inside and out, rinse, and pat them dry with a towel.
In the dishwasher: Some resealable bags are dishwasher-safe, but it’s important to check the manufacturer’s instructions first. Place the bags on the top rack and ensure they are securely positioned to avoid flipping or folding during the wash cycle. You can wash other things in the dishwasher to make a full load. Use a low-temperature setting to prevent warping or damage and skip the drying cycle. After the wash is complete, remove the bags and allow them to air dry completely.
When Not to Reuse a Resealable Bag
While resealable bags can withstand multiple uses, there are certain situations when it’s best to avoid reusing them. Here are a few instances when you should not reuse a resealable bag:
- Contamination: If the bag has been used to store raw meat, fish, poultry, or other perishable food items that can harbor harmful bacteria, it’s best not to reuse it. Even with thorough cleaning, the risk of cross-contamination from harmful bacteria may pose a health risk.
- Strong odors or stains: Some strong-smelling or heavily dyed substances can leave residue that will affect anything else stored in the bag. If the odor or stain persists even after cleaning, it’s better to discard the bag.
- Damaged or worn-out bags: Over time, resealable bags develop cracks, holes, or weakened seals, making them less reliable for storing items securely. If a bag shows signs of damage, it’s best to discard it. By that time, you can feel good about all the ways you reused the resealable or Ziploc bag around your home.