As a parent, you want to make sure your child is safe and healthy at all times. One area where a cleaning routine is essential is their lunch box, which can harbor germs and bacteria if not properly sanitized. Exposure to these germs can cause illness, including food poisoning, stomach viruses, and other infections. Furthermore, if your child's lunch box comes into contact with other surfaces or utensils that are contaminated with bacteria or allergens, it can lead to cross-contamination and potentially serious health problems for children with food allergies.
But don’t fear; a simple routine can greatly reduce these risks and keep your lunch boxes mold and odor free even after multiple school years. We’ll cover everything from daily cleaning and tips for quick sanitization to how and how often you should do a deep clean of your kids’ lunch boxes.
Everyday Cleaning vs. Sanitizing:
Everyday cleaning involves removing visible dirt and debris from the lunch box, such as wiping away crumbs or food spills. This helps keep the lunch box looking and smelling clean, but it may not necessarily remove all harmful bacteria and germs.
Sanitizing, on the other hand, involves killing or removing harmful bacteria and germs that may be present on the lunch box's surface. This is important because harmful bacteria and germs can cause illness and infection, particularly in children with weaker immune systems.
To make your daily lunch cleaning routine 2 minutes or less, look for lunch boxes with
- A flat, wide-open design. Don’t risk sticking your hand into a deep dark lunch box to find a banana that’s been hanging out all weekend. Trust me…
- A slick, wipeable interior (including in all pockets). If it also has a wide opening, you can run it under the faucet and leave it to air dry overnight. Bing, Bang, Boom.
- A white or light interior that makes it easy to spot sticky stains and crumbs. The longer stains and food stick around, the more likely it is to develop into mold and odors.
How Often Should I Sanitize?
It's a good idea to sanitize your child's lunch box on a regular basis, as it can come into contact with a variety of surfaces and foods that may harbor bacteria. The frequency of cleaning will depend on how often your child uses the lunch box, but a good rule of thumb is to sanitize it at least once a week.
If your child has food allergies, it may be a good idea to sanitize their lunch box more frequently. This is because allergens can linger on surfaces and utensils and may cause an allergic reaction if not properly removed.
Also, if your child or a lunch buddy has been sick or if the lunch box has come into contact with any potentially harmful substances (such as raw meat or moldy food), it's important to sanitize it immediately.
Quick Sanitizing Your Lunch Box - 3 Minutes or Less:
If you prefer to sanitize more often, there are quick and easy ways to rid your child’s lunch box of germs and bacteria on a daily basis. Using antibacterial wipes to clean your child's lunch box is a convenient and effective way to sanitize it, but it's important to use them safely and correctly.
Here are some tips for safely using anti-bacterial wipes on your child’s lunch box:
- Look for food-safe antibacterial wipes. that can be used on kids' lunch boxes or surfaces that will come into direct contact with food. These wipes are designed to kill harmful bacteria and germs without leaving any residue behind that could be harmful if ingested. These wipes are typically made with safe and natural ingredients, such as citric acid, that effectively kill germs without leaving any chemical residue behind.
- When using any anti-bacterial wipes on a lunch box, be sure to follow the manufacturer's instructions for use. Some wipes may need to be rinsed off with water after use, while others may be safe to use without rinsing.
- Finally, if you do choose to use antibacterial wipes on your child's lunch box, avoid excessive use, as this could cause the lunch box's material to break down over time.
Deep Cleaning & Sanitizing Your Kids' Lunch Box - 10 Minutes or Less:
There are several potential risks to a kiddo’s health if lunch boxes are never or rarely sanitized, so we suggest this deep cleaning ritual once a week. Follow this step-by-step guide:
- Wash with soap and water: Use hot water and dish soap to clean the lunch box, making sure to scrub all surfaces (including the lid and any compartments). Rinse thoroughly with hot water.
- Sanitize with a solution: To kill any remaining germs, you can sanitize the lunch box with a solution of water and bleach (1 tablespoon of bleach per 1 gallon of water). Use a clean sponge or cloth to apply the solution to all surfaces of the lunch box, then let it sit for a few minutes before rinsing thoroughly with hot water.
- Air dry: Allow the lunch box to air dry completely before packing it with food.
Harsh Chemical-Free Lunch Box Sanitizing:
There are many compelling reasons to use chemical-free methods when sanitizing lunchtime accessories. Children may be more sensitive to cleaning chemicals than adults, and they may cause irritation when they come in contact with a child’s skin. Harsh cleaning chemicals may also have a negative impact on the environment, all while being more expensive than some simpler, more natural cleaning products.
If you prefer to use non-chemical ways of sanitizing your child's lunch box, there are several options you can try. Here are some suggestions:
- Vinegar solution: Mix equal parts water and white vinegar, and use a clean cloth or sponge to apply the solution to all surfaces of the lunch box. Let it sit for a few minutes before rinsing thoroughly with hot water.
- Hydrogen peroxide solution: Mix equal parts water and 3% hydrogen peroxide, and use a clean cloth or sponge to apply the solution to all surfaces of the lunch box. Let it sit for a few minutes before rinsing thoroughly with hot water.
- Steam cleaning: If you have a handheld steamer, you can use it to sanitize your child's lunch box. Simply hold the steamer over all surfaces of the lunch box for a few seconds.
- UV-C light: Some lunch box sanitizers use UV-C light to kill germs and bacteria. You can place your child's lunch box inside the sanitizer for a few minutes to sanitize it.
SHOP NOW: Portable UVC Cleaner Bag
Regardless of your chosen method, it's important to ensure the lunch box is thoroughly cleaned (with soap and water) before sanitizing it. And always follow the manufacturer's instructions for any cleaning or sanitizing products or devices you use.
Can I Sanitize A Lunch Box in the Dishwasher?
Using a dishwasher to clean a lunch box can be an effective way to sanitize it, depending on the lunch box's material and design. Dishwashers use high temperatures and detergent to clean and sanitize dishes, and this can be an effective way to remove bacteria and germs from a lunch box.
However, it's important to check the manufacturer's instructions for your child's lunch box to determine whether it is dishwasher safe. Some lunch boxes may be made of materials that are not dishwasher safe and may be damaged by the high heat or detergents used in the dishwasher.
If your child's lunch box is dishwasher safe, be sure to remove any removable parts, such as containers or trays, before placing it in the dishwasher. This will help ensure that all parts of the lunch box are thoroughly cleaned and sanitized.
Given the time to be saved and the general convenience, it may be worth checking the care instructions for your bento box or lunch box before purchase. Make sure the one you choose has been tested to avoid warping and melting, and be sure to check if it needs to be placed on a specific rack.
Special Lunch Box Cleaning Concerns - Food Allergies:
If your child has severe food allergies, cleaning and sanitizing their lunch box becomes essential to protecting their health. Here are some additional tips for sanitizing lunch boxes for children with food allergies and avoiding food cross-contamination:
- If your child has food allergies, it's important to pack and use separate utensils (such as a fork, spoon, and knife) for their lunch box. This can help prevent cross-contamination with allergens.
- Consider using a separate, designated lunch box for your child with food allergies to avoid cross-contamination. Look for one that comes with an attached name tag on it to make sure there are no mix-ups.
- Encourage your child to wash their hands frequently throughout the day, especially before and after handling their lunch box.
Today, we are all more aware of the germs and bacteria that lurk on even the most innocuous surfaces. Luckily, a quick and easy cleaning and sanitizing routine can help protect your children. Beyond cleaning, taking a few easy additional steps may prevent sick days and keep kids happy and healthy.
- Encourage your child to wash their hands before and after handling their lunch box.
- Use a separate, insulated lunch bag to keep their lunch from touching other surfaces (such as a classroom desk).
- Consider using a reusable ice pack instead of a gel pack, which can harbor bacteria.
By taking these steps, you can help keep your child's lunch box clean and safe for everyday use.