Reusable freezer bags’ longer life means they’re more eco friendly than single-use plastic bags for storing your food but, as our testing found, they can vary in quality and you might not get what you bargained for unless you choose carefully.
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Our testing on premium PEVA and silicone reusable freezer bags found that even the pricier options can be let down by fundamental problems in their design.
See our round-up of the best reusable freezer bags
1. There are two types to choose from
Food-grade silicone is a popular choice for food storage bags because of its impressive durability. A silicone freezer bag should outlive your average resealable plastic food bag by years. You can even put silicone freezer bags in the oven and the microwave.
PEVA (polyethylene vinyl acetate) is a type of non-chlorinated vinyl and is commonly used as a safer substitute for PVC (a mass produced plastic that contains harmful chemicals). You’ll often find shower curtains made from PEVA.
Unlike silicone, PEVA is biodegradable, which means its lifespan is shorter but it’s also easier to recycle.
2. Seal type makes a big difference
The bags we tested to discover the best reusable freezer bags had two types of seal – the zip seal and the press seal.
The zip seal is a plastic bar that runs across the top of the bag seal to ‘zip’ it up.
The press seal requires a simple pressing of your fingers along the seam.
We found the zip seal to be very tricky to use when wet. Often it would stick, causing liquid inside to spill – not ideal when you’re storing soups or sauces.
The press seal on the other hand was simpler, quicker and less hassle to use.
3. Stated capacity isn’t always correct
A number of bags we tested either didn’t meet the stated capacity on the product description or the measurement on the side of the bag. What might be marked as 1,000ml on the side of a bag ended up being closer to 800ml when filled with water.
Frustratingly, we also found that some bags only listed the dimensions and not the capacity. In general, volume is a better indicator of usefulness than dimensions.
4. Some are less fiddly to fill than others
We found PEVA bags more difficult to fill one handed. They lacked the sturdy bottom the other bags had that kept them upright.
Even with one hand on the bag (while the other spoons food in) they’re tricky.
If you can find a second pair of hands to help you fill your bags it’ll make your life a lot easier.
Or, better yet, buy a pack of bags with a bag holder (as one of ours had in testing).
5. Mixed packs can mean mixed quality
Not all bags in a pack are guaranteed to be of the same quality. We tested a number of mixed packs and found several leakers.
To test leakage, we filled each size of bag in a pack to its stated capacity or thereabouts and held them upside down. We then opened and closed each 100 bag times and repeated the holding upside down.
6. Don’t confuse resealable with reusable
When you search for reusable freezer bags your search results will be flooded with cheaper, resealable bags. Supermarkets tend to sell packs of their own brand resealable bags but these are not to be confused with reusable bags.
If you’re unsure about what you’re buying, look at the cleaning instructions, pack size and price. Resealable bags are sold in high quantities at a low price with no cleaning instructions.
The cheaper, plastic bags we tested were ruled out of testing when three of the bags in the pack had leaks in the same places. If you bought these, you certainly wouldn’t be using them for too long.
7. They can withstand higher temperatures than we thought
We were dubious when we saw that one of the reusable freezer bags in our line up claimed to withstand temperatures of up to 500°C. We put it to the test in a 700W microwave for five minutes to see what would happen.
Fortunately for the microwave, there was no melting. In fact, the bag looked exactly the same. There was a slight rubbery smell that lingered but only for a short time.
But the PEVA bags we tested said on the packaging and product description that they can’t be used in hot temperatures (not in microwaves, ovens or dishwashers).
Check the instructions before you buy and use at hot temperatures.
8. Washing reusable freezer bags correctly is key to a longer life
It’s important to read the instructions before you start cleaning your reusable freezer bag.
Damage your bag with heat from the dishwasher by accident and you could render the bag useless.
Not cleaning it thoroughly enough could lead to strong smells and tough stains lingering.
These are our recommendations for cleaning PEVA and silicone bags:
- PEVA bags should be hand washed to avoid the seal warping at hot temperatures
- Silicone can be washed in the dishwasher but zip seals can’t, despite what some of the advertising we came across led us to believe
- It’s best to let reusable freezer bags air dry where possible.
Even after following these instructions we still found that all silicone and PEVA bags, including our favourite, had some residual pasta smell and staining.