BPN is now a 501(c)(3) non-profit and we are building a new website!
Read more, and see how you can help:
Cleaning a Smelly Lunch Box
Berkeley Parents Network >
Household Management >
Cleaning a Smelly Lunch Box
Anyone know how to get the ''stink'' out of lunchboxes? No
matter how much I wash it, scrub it, soak it--that ''stink''
still remains which I even remember as a child. Does anyone
have any special secrets to share?
Thanks in advance!
Trying to be the Queen of Clean
I keep a spray bottle of diluted bleach for spraying the inside
of the lunch box every once in a while. I wipe it dry
immediately, and leave it open all night to air out. It really
seems to work well without taking the lunch box out of
commission for laundering.
no more stink
Those soft plasticy Blues Clues lunch bags and other similar
insulated bags look so cute at the store, but it didn't take
long for my daughter's to get gross last year. I tried wiping
with baking soda, turning it inside out and airing it in the
sun, but it always had a smell that would have turned me off if
my lunch sat in it. I've been looking for a fully immersable
lunch box or bag since then, but don't see anything except the
retro metal boxes. How do the rest of you all keep these bags
Back to brown paper sacks?
We had the same problem last year. I purchased a lunch bag from
the Gap. The insulation is thick and durable. Whenever the bag
needs a throguh cleaning I pop into the washer on a gentle cycle
and dry on the line. The bag is still in very good condition
and does not smell.
I throw the bags (used by a 4, 9 and 13yr old) into the washer with a
load of towels, we don't use ours daily, so washing every other week is
our norm. Occassionaly, if I have been neglectful and there is some
mildew, I will wipe it out with bleach, rinse really well then throw into the
I hadn't seen the previous discussion of this as of last week,
when I decided I'd had it with the look and smell of my son's
soft lunch box... so I just threw it in the washing machine.
It came out great - I wondered after why I hadn't tried it
before. I just checked the older responses on the website, and
only one person of many mentioned this - so I thought I'd add
another confirmation that the washing machine seems fine...
happy with the lunch bag
I have seen old-fashioned style hard plastic lunch boxes with a
thremos for sale recently... not just the metal ones. That is
what I am planning on getting when our current bag bites the
dust. I saw a Looney Tunes on at Marine World this summer, but
have also seen them recently at more local stores... I can't
remember where it was, maybe Bed & Bath, or Target... they are
out there, somewhere.
My son has a nice soft lunch box made by California Innovations.
We bought it at Costco. While there is a plastic lining that is
removable, and we wash that lining as well as wiping out the box
each day with non-toxic wipes, we still find that the box smells
just awful. There is insolating foam inside this container,so I
don't think I can stick it in the washing machine.... Perhaps
the problem with this particular model is that there is room on
top for a bottle and that part can be hard to clean, because it
doesn't stay open easily to air out.
Any advice on how to successfully clean these things? Or advice
on the best lunch box to buy?
Grateful for your advice!
We also had problems, especially with milk smells, in soft lunch
boxes, so we switched to metal lunchboxes. We wanted to avoid the
televisi0n character lunch boxes, so we found some interesting
ones in odd places, such as the Animal Farm Pet Food store,
Restoration Hardware, and the Greetings gift store on Solano. Our
girls enjoyed them, although by third grade we ran into two
problems - the boxes were getting dinged up due to rougher
treatment, (and were therefore harder to close), and then
the third grade girl conformism patrol started giving my daughter
a hard time about having ''weird'' lunch boxes. Fortunately, my
daughter didn't cave to peer pressure, and we continued with the
hard ones until they fell apart. Serendipitously, we recently
found a couple of soft ones at Target that had removable linings.
They don't seem as stinky (and we also no longer put milk in their
lunch). We occasionally soak the linings in warm water with a bit
- Natasha B.
This is a pet peeve of mine! I hate soft-sided lunch boxes! Have
you noticed how few hard-sided lunch boxes are out there? My
theory is that this is some sort of conspiracy (well, maybe
that's too strong of a word, but...) by lunch box manufacturers
to sell more lunch boxes because you have to throw them out more
often since they get smelly quickly. I usually clean my
daughter's lunch box with 409 every night, which does seem to
help (it is antibacterial), but it smells badly very quickly. I
think that we will have to buy a new one over the holiday break,
but I have found that they are harder to find this time of year
(vs. the plethora of boxes at the start of the school year). In
any case, I think that you just have to get a new one more
Try Febreze. It worked for us. Febreze is available at
Safeway, Longs, etc.
I sprinkle baking soda into my son's lunchbox on the weekend,
especially trying to get it into the crevices. It seems to help.
After reading the last posts I thought I would chime in about
the lunchboxes we use. I also hate the soft ones because they
don't stay fresh. I went to Michael's Arts and Crafts in
Emeryville and bought a little clear hard plastic box. They
obviously sell it for art supplies but the little ad on the side
pictures it full of food. It is oval shaped and has a hinged lid
and a handle in the lid. Looks just like a traditional lunch box
but in a clear plastic version. I just put them in the top rack
of the dishwasher. They are great and the other kids think they
Regarding soft-sided lunch boxes -- my son has one I got from
Target -- Polar or Arctic or some such brand name. I just put
it in the washer and it seems to have held up fine. My younger
son has a Bob the Builder soft lunchbox, and we'll see what
happens when I subject it to the same treatment!
this page was last updated: Mar 26, 2005
The opinions and statements expressed on this website
are those of parents who subscribe to the
Berkeley Parents Network.
Disclaimer & Usage for
information about using content on this website.
Copyright © 1996-2014 Berkeley Parents Network