How to clean insulated lunch bags & remove odour

If your child’s lunch bag is dirty or smelly, here’s how to clean insulated lunch bags and lunchboxes and remove odour.

How to clean a lunch bag

It’s best practice for the kids to unpack their school bag as soon as they get home from school. However there can be times that this doesn’t happen. Sometimes it’s left overnight, over the weekend, or worse yet, till the last day of school holidays (eew). 

If you are hit with a bad smelling, sticky, dirty lunchbag, here are my tips below on how to clean insulated lunch bags and remove odours.

Tip: Remind the kids to put their rubbish and scraps into the rubbish bin as soon as they’ve eaten it, to help reduce the dirt, stick or smell forming.

A quick daily clean

I love this new, all-natural Cojo Eco Lunch Bag Guard Spray which is specifically designed to clean and sanitise lunch bags as well as keep them smelling fresh. 

You can also use my homemade antibacterial wipes to remove any dirt and food from the lunch bag, then wipe over with a tea towel ready for use.

Clean in the washing machine

Depending on the quality of your lunch bag it is possible that you can put it in the washing machine on a gentle cycle to give it a regular weekly clean. You can do this in the same cycle as your tablecloths and tea towels.  Please check the care label or instructions, if it has any, or just make good judgement if you think the bag can tolerate the agitation of the washing machine.

Handwashing the lunchbag

If you’re not quite sure if your lunchbag can tolerate a run through the washing machine, you can hand wash it. It will only take a few moments.

How to Clean Insulated Lunch Bag

You will need:



Fill sink with warm water.


Add a teaspoon of detergent, swish through water.


Submerge the lunchbox into the water.


Use the cloth to wipe over the lunch bag, paying particular attention to corners.


Use the toothbrush to clean crumbs from zippers and remove dirt and food from seams.


Rinse with clean water.


Pat dry with a tea towel.


Leave it on the dishrack to dry overnight, or better yet place on clothes line to thoroughly dry.

To remove stubborn stains

Make a paste with baking powder and water, allow to sit over stain for as long as you can, then wipe away.

To remove odour

If the lunchbag has a smell, the Cojo Eco Lunch Bag Guard Spray will work beautifully to freshen it, or you can sprinkle baking soda into the bag (into corners and seams) and sit overnight. Shake the baking soda out in the morning and wipe over with a damp cloth.

Tip: Want the kids’ school bag or sports bag to smell fresh too? Cojo Eco also makes a School Bag Scent Shield Spray, designed to clean and freshen school bags, sports bags, dance bags and swim bags.


We offer a huge variety of hand-selected organisation, storage, cleaning, kitchenwares, homewares and more all to help make life easier at home, all delivered to your door.

Cojo Eco Lunch Bag Spray
Cojo Eco School Bag Spray
Sachi Insulated Lunch Bag


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Toni Underwood April 11, 2017 - 9:02 AM

I wash the kids lunchboxes on the top shelf of the dishwasher then place in the sun to dry.

Amanda July 10, 2017 - 5:13 PM

I use the Go Gourmet lunch bags. They are made from wetsuit material and are flat so that they have no corners or crevices for gunk to build up. They are easily washed in the machine.

Nilsa De Leon April 8, 2019 - 8:47 PM

I bought a lunch bag for my son. But the smell of the material it’s made of is just to strong. The lunch bag is insulated but it’s the out side material smells like plastic but too strong.


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