Photo: Caitlin Bensel

 I’m not giving up my eco-friendly food boxes, but I am totally changing how I clean them.

Kimberly Holland
July 27, 2018

I’ve been an avid fan of ditching plastic food containers for quite some time. I much prefer storing leftovers and freezing meals ahead in glass storage containers. They reheat better—no pink stains from tomato sauce—and they don’t warp with use.

But earlier this summer, I have to tell you, something horrible happened.

There I was, standing in my kitchen waiting for my dinner to heat up. I was flipping the lid back and forth between my hands—I use it as a “coaster” under the container so the heat doesn’t leave a mark in the wood—and I noticed little black specks between the lid and the rubber seal that secures the lid when it’s snapped closed.

I quickly flipped on my kitchen light, and my worst fears were revealed—mold!

Kimberly Holland

It seems while I wasn’t paying attention, food particles, water, and whatever else inhabits my dish liquid were setting up a cozy home in the nooks and crannies of my containers. I pulled out the multitude of lids from my various containers, and sure enough, they all had little spots.

I shouldn’t be surprised. The rubber band isn’t secured to the lid. It’s there to be a stopper, to keep air out and liquids in. It’s a necessary component. I just hadn’t thought about the high likelihood that mold and food particles could slip into the tiny (tiny!) gap.

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I consulted my all-knowing grandmother, and we decided there was a great solution that would allow me to keep my collection of containers but avoid sneaky growths from getting near my food: An occasional bleach bath.

About once a month, I now take my lids out of storage and drop them into a sink filled with 10 parts warm water and 1 part bleach. (Truthfully, you could probably go with a more diluted bath, but while I have the bleach bath going, I make efficient use and wash things like shower liners, steamer mops, shower heads, and more after I clean my lids.)

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The lids soak in the bath about 10 minutes and the water seeps into the crevice between the rim and lid. The mold is killed. I rinse, pop the lids into the dishwasher, and finish filling the machine before giving them another wash, just to be sure all the bleach is gone. The antibacterial effect means I haven’t seen moldy growth as quickly, and I can feel safer using these lids and containers for a long time to come.

Alternatively, you could use a thin towel to dry between the two lid components. However, the rubber seal is very rigid on my lids, and I’ve found lifting it away from the lid to be quite difficult. For fear breaking it, I opt for the bleach bath instead.

Be sure to give any containers you have that use a rubber seal a quick peek behind the rubber. Tumblers, water bottles, and snack bowls frequently use these devices, so be proactive and make sure you don’t have little growths cropping up in your go-to dishes.

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