Can Vacuum Sealer Bags be Reused?

by Véronique Raymond
vacuum sealer

If you have a vacuum sealer, it most likely came with a bag roll or maybe some zipper bags. If you’ve used up most of your supply, you’re probably wondering if you can reuse the bags instead of buying new ones. Before reusing any vacuum seal bags, you should consider the economical, food safety, and convenience factors of disposable vs. reusable vacuum storage bags.

 

What Are Vacuum Sealer Bags?

Vacuum sealer bags are any plastic bag that is designed to have the air sucked out of them when storing food. There are dozens of storage methods in all areas of the home that utilize vacuum seal bags, and there are a lot of choices out there when it comes to sizes, brands, and applications. Some are specifically designed for sous vide cooking while others are large enough to store off-season clothes. Some are designed for specific vacuum sealers, such as Foodsaver which has compatible Foodsaver bags and accessories for their vacuum sealers, while others are universal. Vacuum seal bags for food storage are usually BPA free and safe to store and cook food in.

Most vacuum seal bags are made of polyethylene and are FDA approved for food storage. They should not be confused with vacuum sealing bags that are designed for non-food items; vacuum sealer bags are designed for use with a vacuum sealer specifically. Vacuum sealer bags are usually small while vacuum sealing bags are large and designed for things like clothes and bedding. While you can certainly use vacuum sealer bags for non-food items, you should never use non-BPA, non-FDA approved sealing bags for food storage.

vacuum sealer

Types of Vacuum Sealer Bags

There are two options when it comes to food vacuum bags:

Vacuum Sealer Bag Rolls

Vacuum sealers typically come with a roll of storage bags when you first buy the device. They are usually about a foot wide and the rolls are available in multiple sizes, usually between 10 and 50 feet. These bags are ideal for countertop vacuum sealers since you can customize the size of each bag as you go. However, they are usually thinner than other types of bags and can’t be reused since they have to be cut open which ruins the bag.

Vacuum Sealer Zipper Bags

Zipper bags for vacuum sealing are very similar to freezer bags you could buy in most grocery stores, but they have one added feature: there is a valve on the bag that allows air to be suctioned out with a vacuum pump hose. These bags are the easiest to open when you’re ready to eat the stored food since you don’t need to cut them open like you would with bag rolls.

vacuum sealer

Are All Types of Vacuum Sealer Bags Reusable?

Particularly when it comes to Ziplock bags, you may think they are reusable since they re-seal over and over again, but it may not be a good idea since the plastic will degrade faster than bags specifically designed for long-term food storage and sous vide cooking.

If you want to reuse vacuum sealer bags, there are a couple of choices that are ideal over others. The best vacuum sealer bags for reuse are sous vide bags since they are made to be more durable and are easily cleaned. They keep food fresh just as well as any other vacuum seal bag, but they are safer when used multiple times.

Vacuum seal food storage bags from trusted brands like Foodsaver and Anova are also a better option over Ziploc bags since they are more durable and have a longer shelf life without degrading. There are also specific reusable vacuum seal bags designed to be convenient to reuse since you don’t need to cut the bag open when you’re ready to eat your stored food.

You cannot reuse rolled bags or any other vacuum seal bag that has to be cut open to get to the food, and thinner bags should not be reused as they are more likely to tear and cause spoilage of the food you’re attempting to preserve.

 

Benefits of Reusing Vacuum Seal Bags

There are two main benefits to reusing vacuum sealer bags. The first is to save money. Vacuum sealer bags are expensive, especially if you’re using a brand-specific bag for best results with your model of vacuum sealer. Many people choose to reuse their bags to make vacuum sealing and preserving food more affordable. The other reason people reuse vacuum sealer bags is to reduce waste. We throw out enough plastic as it is, so it is a good idea to reuse our plastic products as much as possible.

vacuum sealer

Is It Safe to Reuse Vacuum Seal Bags?

While you can safely reuse vacuum seal bags, there is one circumstance in which it is unsafe to do so. If the bag has stored raw meat, cheese, or fish, you should not reuse the bag. Why? Because washing is not enough to clean the bag safely. You could be infected by Salmonella or E. Coli by reusing these bags.

If reusing a vacuum seal bag that stored vegetables, eggs, grains, or other safe foods, it is still important to wash the bag thoroughly if it is going to be safe to reuse. You don’t want any leftover oils, grease, or other debris to affect the next batch of food you store using that bag.

To make sure that cooking sous vide with a reusable bag is safe, you should also inspect it for any damage like tears or weak spots. If the bag develops a leak the next time you use it, your food can be contaminated and inedible, especially if you use tap water for sous vide cooking.

If storing cooked food like ready meats, vegetables, dry goods, or non-food items, it is perfectly safe to reuse the bag if it’s cleaned properly. If you’re unsure, checking with the FDA guidelines is a good idea. Most of the time when using a vacuum seal bag for food, it is the safest option to use a disposable bag instead if you have any concerns over how clean the reusable bag is after being used and washed.

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