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How to Take Care of Your Hot Bags and When to Replace Them

So recently I read a post on a Doordash forum about their hot bag deteriorating and where to look for a higher quality one, which is completely understandable from a surface level.

If you hot bag isn't any good anymore and cannot be saved the next best thing to do is replace it right? In some cases yes, but in some cases no not at all.

She said she had this bag since she got started with Doordash in mid-2019, which was odd to me because I could swear I have seen people who have walked around which Doordash bags for 5 years and look like they are in more than good enough condition.

After some extensive research and proper testing on this subject, I think it is time we talked about how to take care of your hot bags, when to replace your hot bags, and how to know it is too soon to get rid of your hot bags.

Before we do that though, My name is Joseph Mandracchia, I have been making money using driving apps on a full-time basis since mid-late 2018 and have completed over 7700 deliveries, and have done many tests on these subjects.

It is my hope to impart some of my knowledge to you to help you succeed in the gig economy!

I do want to make one note though, when I say hot bags, I am referring to any bag that maintains the temperature of the food you are transporting to another location.

That can include, though not limited to, pizza bags, catering bags, temperature control shopping bags, etc.

With that said, let's get started!

How to Take Care of Hot Bags

Let's talk about what you have to do on a regular basis to maintain the quality of your hot bags, and yes there is more to be done than the "throw it the back of the car" method I see drivers do ALL THE TIME!

So I want to break this down into two parts, the cleaning and washing of your hot bags, then the storage of your hot bags.

Cleaning your Hot Bags

So the first thing we need to do before any cleaning method we talk about is taking the hot bags out of our car everyday and clean out anything that shouldn't be in there. Whether that's crumbs or dirt or anything else of that nature.

This is going to be important before any wash because you are going to save yourself some time for the actual washing of the bag as well as identify any other spots on your bag that need extra attention.

After that you should decide on which type of washing method you should use, based on the type of bag you are using.

  1. Machine wash

  2. Hand wash with soap and water

  3. Hand wash with a Diluted Bleach Solution

Now your bag should come with instructions on what you can do vs what you cannot do, though I can absolutely imagine getting pre-owned hot bags and not having that at all.

So one rule of thumb I have for you is if the bag has heating panels that cannot be removed from the bag, you are better off just hand washing it than risking it in the washing machine.

I also don't like to machine wash bags with zippers because it can mess with that bag being able to close, but you "can" if you want to save time.

Machine Wash

So before we get too deep into machine washing your hot bag, let me be very clear that a normal washing machine will not cut it which is why some would opt for hand wash especially in a smaller scale such as Doordash Driver.

This is also only feasible if your bag is a soft Velcro model as opposed to the zipper models provided by Doordash.

If you do want to machine wash however, you are going to want to use a commercial-grade washing machine, which you can find one at your local Laundromat.

Now take out any heating panels that are in the bag which some you can find the panels on the back of the bag.

Once you do that pre-treat the heavily soiled areas with a dish detergent, which will loosen any heavily soiled areas making the wash more effective.

After that wash on a normal cycle with HOT water (30 degrees Celsius/86 degrees Fahrenheit) and a standard laundry detergent. If there are any areas on the bag that may have not come out the first time, then wash again.

Dry it in the commercial grade dryer for 20 minutes and if it isn't still damp you should be good to go.

Hand Wash with Soap and Water

So with this method, you are going to have to use a soft wet cloth with soap and water, without the use of any hard chemicals such as bleach, and for the corners of the bags, you can use a clean cloth brush.

Start scrubbing it, but not too hard. You don't want to peel off any artwork or labels on the bag by cleaning it off.

Hand Wash with a Diluted Bleach Solution

So once you do that we need to make a diluted bleach solution, not a concentrated bleach which will mess up the bag for life.

So you then take the diluted bleach solution, and dilute it more by mixing it with water. You want to be sure you go with the right amount of bleach to water ratio so you don't mess up the bag.

The ratio I would go with it for 1 cup of bleach I would put 2 liters of water. Thoroughly mix it and put it in a spray bottle. Now once you do that, gently spray it on the inside and outside of the bag.

With a clean cloth, you wipe it down immediately! Don't let the bleach stay on the bag for more than 30 seconds. After you are done, let the bag ventilate by opening the bag and keeping it by a window or a vent.

Storing your Hot Bags

Now I said it a few times in the article, but you want to store your hot bags in a cool and dry area. While you can argue that your car would fall under that category, it has a lot of fluctuation in temperature over time as opposed to some place in your home.

So with that said, you can store your hot bags in a cool closet on a shelf, so it doesn't collect any dust or dirt but not going through the temperature fluctuations that it would by leaving them in your vehicle.

If you have a ventilation system or window near a closet, that works great for cleaning but just make sure all your hot bags stay out of direct sunlight, or you risk reducing the lifespan of your hot bag.

Using Your Hot Bags

When you are using your hot bags, make sure you are keeping them in your car in such a way that you aren't damaging your belongings.

Make sure to keep a the bag a little open to prevent condensation and odors from building up in the bag in the short period of time you are delivering the food.

You also want to make sure that you keep the food from shifting like crazy in your car, either with the seatbelt or with a box on the floor, or other forms of locking and strapping in the bag.

When Should I Replace the Hot Bag Altogether?

So the average lifespan of hot bags are typically 18-24 months, while this range can vary and some have made them last for over 5 years that doesn't mean you should.

Most likely, you aren't going to see your pizza bag in a health inspection unless you are running a restaurant. However, even as a independent delivery driver (Doordash, UberEats, Grubhub, etc.) you should consider replacing your bags every now and then.

Some of those reasons are when the bag is deteriorating, when the bag is over 2 years old, or when the bag starts to omit any odors that cannot be washed out.

What Kind of Hot Bags Should I be Using?

For independent contractors, I recommend a healthy set of all bags. 2 catering, 2 pizza bag, 2 shopping sized hot bags. Any more is too much, and the restaurant or store would provide an ample number of bags for you anyway.

Restaurants should determine this on their own, based on the customer volume, number of drivers and other important factors that come with delivering food.

Final Remarks

This is not meant to be a one size fits all method of taking care of your hot bags, and I certainly do not intend to say this is the only way of thinking about your hot bags. This is just what I do for my bags.

Now that being said, this can certainly change as well! While this may be how you take care of the bags of today, that doesn't mean that in the future they will not evolve and develop in a way where none of this is viable anymore either.

So keep in mind that before you take this advice you should always read the care instructions of your bag, before you listen to a random article on the subject.

With that said, thank you so much for taking the time to read this article! I hope you found some value and that you can apply and help you succeed in this gig economy!


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