It’s thrifty and eco-friendly to wash and reuse plastic food-storage bags. At upwards of $0.14 cents apiece, plastic zipper-lock bags are pricey, and while they’re recyclable, they don’t biodegrade in landfills. Even if you use reusable storage and produce bags, you’ll need to wash and dry them. But once you’ve washed the bags, how can you dry them without draping them all over your dish rack and countertops?
Enter bag drying racks, which come in a variety of designs and materials. We chose five that were made of wood, metal, or plastic, priced from about $9.50 to about $24.00, and put them to the test. We washed a variety of plastic bags, including our favorite gallon-size food-storage bags, quart-size sandwich bags, and snack-size bags, plus our winning reusable silicone storage bag and reusable produce bags. We also tried drying an inverted water bottle and a travel mug on them. We rated the racks on their performance, ease of use, and durability.
Before we got to the tests, we learned a few essentials for washing and drying dozens of bags. First, forget about turning plastic and silicone bags inside out before washing them—it’s not only unnecessary, but it also damages their seams and seals. Just add warm, soapy water to the bag; seal it and slosh the water around to clean its inside; rinse it; and give the bag a good shake to remove any excess water before hanging it on a rack to dry. (You can pat the inside with a clean dish towel to speed up drying.) Before reusing a bag, be sure that it is completely dry. And don’t wash or reuse any plastic bags that contained raw meat or spoiled food; discard those for food safety.
Plastic storage bags dry faster if they’re propped open and held aloft so that air can circulate inside, and that is what the drying racks in our lineup were all supposedly designed to do. But the designs of the racks varied widely, and their differences affected our results. The arms of the drying racks we tested ranged in length from 5¼ to 10½ inches. The two models with arms longer than 10 inches were the most successful at keeping the bottoms of the large gallon-size bags from crumpling on the countertop or against the drying rack’s base, which would trap moisture and limit airflow.
We also preferred models with lots of arms, which gave us the most drying options and the biggest capacity. The racks in our lineup had from two to eight arms apiece, and those with the most arms allowed us to spread fewer bags open across several arms to prop them open wider instead of loading only one bag or bottle per arm. The best models had both longer arms and more of them. While one rack had seven arms, they were just 5¼ inches tall and left larger bags drooping and damp. Two other models had 10-inch arms, but they each had only two arms, so they could barely hold a pair of bags (and worked best when drying a single bag).
After testing each rack with single bags and bottles in various sizes and combinations, we loaded them up with six items—one gallon-, one quart-, and one snack-size plastic bag; a reusable silicone quart bag; a mesh produce bag; and a water bottle—to see how much they could hold. Only two of the five models could hold all six pieces at once, and one of those was the stumpy model with 5¼-inch arms. The most successful model, which had eight arms that each measured 10½ inches long, held all six pieces with room to spare.
The three plastic racks in our lineup felt distinctly flimsier than racks made of wood or enameled steel. The racks ranged in weight from a mere 1⅝ ounces to 15⅞ ounces, and the two plastic models made by the same company were the lightest. Both have round plastic bases and pairs of plastic telescoping arms that extend from 7 to 10 inches and are topped with clips to hold bags. (The “professional” model is equipped with a suction-cup base). Sadly, the “original” model, weighing in at just 1⅝ ounces, toppled over when we placed an inverted water bottle on an arm. The suction-cup model fared only slightly better, since we could get the cup to adhere to a few select countertop surfaces. Even with their 10-inch-long arms, these two models worked best with bags that were quart-size or smaller; the bottoms of the larger gallon-size bags bunched up over the raised base area between the arms, limiting air circulation, so the bags took longer to dry. And with just two arms apiece, they had limited capacity, though both are sold in sets of two.
A third plastic model was sturdier since its accordion-style design and low profile prevented tipping. We liked that it came with a small microfiber cloth to place underneath to catch drips, but this was the model with seven short arms, and unless you dry only small bags and bottles, it is of limited use.
Our top two choices were made of wood or steel. Both were exceptionally stable on the counter and felt more solidly constructed overall. They were the two heaviest models; in fact, the steel rack weighs just under a pound and was the sturdiest of the lineup, while the wooden model, although lighter than the steel, was well balanced on its base, with a tall central stem surrounded by angled-out arms. It stayed firmly upright as we used it, unless we inverted a single heavy item such as a water bottle or travel mug on one side of the empty rack without other objects to balance it.
All the racks we tested folded fairly flat for storage and slid neatly into a shallow kitchen drawer. To test their durability, we dropped each rack three times onto the counter from a height of 12 inches and opened and closed each model 20 times in a row; none broke or became damaged during our tests, though the jerky, telescoping arms on the two plastic models were not confidence-inspiring when we considered their long-term use.
We were interested to learn that three of the models in our lineup claimed to be multifunctional, meaning that they can be used to dry bags as well as hold bags open while you fill them. This is handy when you’re planning to freeze soups and sauces, prepping marinades, or collecting peels and scraps as you cook. We tested this capability two ways, setting the models up with both quart- and gallon-size bags before pouring water into the bags. The two lightweight plastic models failed as their clips dropped both sizes of bags, spilling their contents. But the sturdier steel model, with its four long arms topped with grippy silicone pads, performed well. We simply folded the rim of the quart-size bag over the tops of the arms as instructed and poured. Even when we quickly dumped in 2 cups of water, the arms held the dangling quart bag tightly in place. When we tried a gallon-size bag, however, the bigger, wider opening wasn’t stretched across the four arms as snugly as the opening of the smaller quart bag; it was loosely folded over the tops of the arms. So as we poured in a full gallon of water, the heavy water-filled bag slid off the arms until its bottom hit the base of the rack. Still, the bag remained open and upright inside the four arms of the device, so we carefully poured in the last of the water to fill the bag before sealing it and removing it safely from the rack. The process was a bit precarious, but it worked. For containing lighter loads, however, the gallon bag stayed suspended in place with its top folded over the four arms, so we could use it to hold light scraps and up to about half a gallon of liquid without the bag sliding off.
After running a busy plastic-bag laundromat for the better part of a week, we ended up with two favorite models. Both are excellent choices, depending on how you plan to use them. These models were the two heaviest and most stable racks in the lineup, with the longest arms. If you prefer to wash and dry more items at a time, the best choice is the FloWorks Design Plastic Bag and Bottle Dryer. Made of birchwood repurposed from furniture making, the FloWorks model has eight long, sturdy arms that fan out from a tall central stem, giving it the largest capacity of the lineup. It was the best model for lifting bags high above the countertop for efficient drying, but it is not designed to hold bags open for filling. The Yamazaki Home Tower Kitchen Eco Stand is made of enameled steel with nonskid silicone pads on its base and arm tips; weighing just under 1 pound, it was exceptionally sturdy, yet when folded flat for storage, it was just 1¼ inches tall. Its stability was essential when holding bags open for filling, though we had to use caution when pouring liquids into gallon-size bags. Its four long arms kept even large bags aloft for drying, though it could hold only four bags or bottles at a time. Both models neatly corral freshly washed bags and bottles and help them dry quickly so that they’re ready to use again.