So, you want to reduce your packaging waste and live a more earth-friendly lifestyle? Fantastic! Let’s talk about how to choose the best containers for your needs, and clean them so they can be safely reused over and over again. These tips will apply to any container you buy, whether it is a unique or vintage container you found while thrifting, or a standard jar you want to reuse.
Picking a container
The container that will work best depends on what you want to fill it with. Be sure to choose something that easily holds the product, can quickly be filled, and easily taken out.
If the container is brand new, it should not require extensive cleaning—simply wash with warm, soapy water, and dry thoroughly. Kolya carries an array of reusable bottles and containers!
If you’re looking to re-use something you already own, some factors should be considered. Not everything can be safely cleaned and reused.
Jars, glass bottles, plastic containers, resealable bags, non-reactive metal tins, and any other non-reactive, leak-proof container with a sealable lid.
Please do not bring:
Dirty, wet, or otherwise soiled containers. Containers that leak, or do not properly seal, such as cardboard or jars without lids.
Consider The Material
Plastic caps & pumps
In most cases, caps and pumps need to be recycled after their first use. This is because they contain many nooks and crannies that are simply too complicated to thoroughly clean. This runs the risk of harboring bacteria. Kolya stocks replaceable caps and pumps available for many of the bottles we carry.
An exception to the disposal of caps & pumps applies to the re-filling of a bottle with the same ingredient as before (such as hand soap or laundry detergent) so long as the container in question is clean.
Glass containers are most ideal because they are resistant to scratches and do not rust. Always check for chips and cracks before bringing it in for a refill. This applies also to ceramic vessels, but please ensure the container has a well-fitting, secure lid. Also, even though we are as careful as can be, human error happens— please do not bring in any vessels that are significant to you in case something accidentally breaks while in our care. Better to give us a generic bottle to fill, and then you add to your favourite precious vessel at home.
Metal is typically easy to recycle and degrades well in the right environment. We love metal containers for the storage of dry goods! Please ensure that the container is free of rust, dents, and other damage.
Plastic is an extremely durable, long-lasting material. Unfortunately, it is the prime pollutant to our landfills and oceans, so it is only natural that we want to keep re-using it as much as possible. Plastic is extremely prone to damage, especially scratches when washing. Bacteria and microbes can hide in these scratches and potentially contaminate your item. It is vital to ensure all plastic refillable containers are free of such damage and properly recycled once they have reached the end of their lifespan. Then, if you so desire, it can be easily replaced with a vessel that is kinder to the planet, such as metal or glass!
Wood, bamboo, and other natural materials are wonderful because in most cases they degrade easily in the right environment. They tend to be extremely porous, which may not be ideal for repeated use. To re-use a vessel made from anything other than plastic, glass, or metal, use your best judgement. Look carefully for cracks, deep scratches, and signs of wear that can potentially harbour bacteria. If in doubt, feel free to contact us with questions!
Assess for Damage
Before you bring a container in for refilling, it is important to check it for damage. Rust, cracks, chips, scratches, and other signs of wear-and-tear should be noted, as they may signal that the container is reaching the end of its lifespan and should be recycled. Excessive damage to a container runs the risk of contamination and cannot be thoroughly sterilized.
Clean & Disinfect
Cleaning is the removal of unwanted debris.
Disinfecting is removing most organisms on surfaces and keeping them at a safe level.
We want to first clean our reusable container, then we want to disinfect it. Knowing how to clean different types of containers can further help us decide what kind of container we want to re-fill.
How to Clean and Sterilize Glass Containers and Metal Lids
In most cases, plastic cannot be boiled. If your container is plastic or another material that can’t be boiled, simply wash by hand and sterilize.
For glass containers and metal lids, follow these steps:
- Remove any labels.
- Remove any lids, caps, etc.
- Scrub the container inside and out with warm, soapy water.
- Rinse clean.
- Submerge clean containers in a large pot of water. Bring to a boil for approximately 15 minutes.
- Remove from water with clean & sterile tongs and place on a clean dish towel.
- Allow to air-dry completely.
Sterilizing plastic and non-rust proof metal:
Soak in a bleach solution for about 10-15 minutes, rinse, and allow to dry on a clean dish towel. Or spray with an alcohol solution of 70% or more and allow to dry.
Removing Old Labels
If the label on the container you wish to re-use is being stubborn, try soaking it in warm water, or scrubbing with a mild abrasive such as baking soda. You can also try making a paste with baking soda, coconut oil, and sweet orange or lemon essential oil. Apply to the label adhesive, let sit for five minutes, then rub off.
Many containers are dishwasher-safe! Some, such as metal or plastic, are not meant for the dishwasher. Never put wood in the dishwasher, as it can swell and crack. Dishwashers do not heavily disinfect.
Rinse out any leftover contents, add a few drops of your favourite dishwashing soap, and scrub with a clean rag, brush, or sponge with warm water! Allow to air-dry. Handwashing does not disinfect, unless we follow up with disinfecting techniques.
After washing, rinse well, and fill your container with one-quarter plain white vinegar. Fill the rest of the vessel with water, let stand for at least an hour and up to overnight. Then, rinse well with clean water and allow to air dry.
You can disinfect your container with a spray concentration of at least 70% alcohol. Leave to air-dry.
Some may choose to sterilize their containers with bleach. Alberta Health Services recommends Mixing 2 to 5 mls (1/2 teaspoon to 1 teaspoon) household bleach into a litre of water and adding to a spray bottle or bucket that is clearly labeled. Always wear gloves when working with bleach, and never mix bleach with other cleaners.
By considering our options and using the cleaning instructions above, we can safely reuse our containers again and again!
Disclaimer: These are suggestions only, and provided by Kolya Naturals without legal liability. Kolya Naturals assumes no responsibility for the accuracy or completeness of this information. You are responsible for the cleanliness and sterility of your containers.