Whether you're packing lunch for your kid or you bring your lunch to work every day, you probably aren't washing your lunch box often enough. It's easy to just think of it as a vessel — like a purse or backpack that you've probably never, ever washed. But it comes into contact with food and moisture just about every day, which means it's teeming with bacteria.
Instead of ignoring your lunch box and letting it fester away, take these little steps to keep your lunch box clean throughout the week.
1. Start with non-leaky containers.
If you, like me, don't like to throw things away, you probably have a few plastic containers you still use even though the lids are a little cracked or the seal's not as tight as it used to be. Well, it's time to let go. If juice leaks out of your leftovers and into your lunch box, it's probably going to just sit in there until it evaporates into a little crust of grossness. Avoid that altogether and get some containers that do their job properly.
2. Wash your containers right after you eat.
This may not be possible if we're talking about your kid's lunch box, but you should rinse out your Tupperware after you've eaten your lunch. Better yet, clean it all the way, and let it dry in your office kitchen before repacking it. Otherwise any food remnants are going to sit in your lunch box for the rest of the day and funk it up in there.
3. Empty your lunch box as soon as you're home.
As soon as you get home, take your lunch box straight to the kitchen to empty it of any food containers or leftovers you may have. Shake out the crumbs over the sink or the trash can and wash your food containers or put them in the dishwasher.
4. Give it a daily wash.
Clean the interior of your lunch box with soap and water, and give the handle and the outside a swipe, too, if they need it. Scrub any spills and make sure you get into any corners. If you don't have time for a full-out clean, at the very least, give it all a once-over with a wet paper towel or microfiber cloth.
5. Leave it open to dry.
Letting a lunch box air-dry is key, because it spends much of the day closed up — creating a prime spot for moisture to get trapped and mildew and bacteria to grow. Once your lunch box is clean, wipe it down with a dry microfiber cloth or just let it air-dry on the counter until tomorrow.