How to Clean Reusable Game Bags
By Josh Kirchner
Another fall hunting season is upon us. There’s nothing like it. Up until this point, I’m sure most of you have been putting an indescribable amount of time into preparing for your hunts. Whether that’s boots on the ground scouting, researching your quarry, or working on your marksmanship, it all comes in the name of filling tags and filling bags. Game bags that is. In the realm of reusable game bags in particular, it is very apparent that we put a whole lot of focus on how to make them dirty, not necessarily how to get them clean though. It’s a topic that flies under the radar but one that doesn’t lack in importance. On that note, we’re going to dive into multiple methods of getting those reusable game bags clean again and ready for another adventure.
Why Reusable Game Bags?
For those that haven’t used reusable game bags yet, let me elaborate on some key benefits of them before diving into the "how to" of cleaning them. First and foremost, they are cost effective. Yes, they are much more expensive than those old school cheesecloth bags we’ve all used, but they pay for themselves with time. There’s no having to buy new game bags after each successful hunt. Just clean them and pack them away for the next outing. And doing so won’t be weighing down your pack in the least bit. These are a lightweight breathable option that lacks in bulkiness. Two key advantages for backpack hunting especially. And with that lightweight breathability, the protection of meat is not compromised. Flies and dirt/debris are not getting through these. Lastly, reusable game bags are also a multipurpose item. On top of preserving and protecting game meat, they can also be used to hang food, fashion a backcountry pillow, and even repair a limb driven arrow rest or replace a boot lace with the draw cord. They are becoming the standard for serious hunters.
Hand Washed Method
The first method we’re going to tackle is the hand washed method. This is our preferred cleaning method, because it provides the best longevity to game bags. It requires a little more work than other ways we’ll discuss, but it’s worth it. You’ll need a bucket, hose, dawn soap, and hydrogen peroxide.
First, you’ll want to hose off the bag in order to remove any stray meat or other bits of critter. Do this inside and out until the water coming off the bag runs clear. If you’re having a problem getting any meat, fat, or hair off, simply soak the bag in cold water for a few minutes and it should come off much easier with the hose afterwards.
Next, grab that hydrogen peroxide and begin to spray it on the bag over your bucket. Really take the time to work it into the fabric with your hands making sure it’s spread throughout. This is going to help remove any stains as well as disinfect your bag. After doing so, let the bag sit in the bucket for 5-10 minutes and NO LONGER. Set a timer so you don’t forget. If left too long, the hydrogen peroxide can begin to deteriorate the game bag. If there is still some staining, repeat this process over again to get those bags back to their natural color. Once the timer goes off, thoroughly rinse the bag with cold water to get all of the hydrogen peroxide out. Always use cold water, because warm water will begin to bake the blood proteins into the bag.
A plus to using hydrogen peroxide over something like bleach is it won’t cause any of those annoying bleach stains on your clothes, should you spill any in the process.
After the hydrogen peroxide is all rinsed out of the bag and air dried, your game bag will be ready for field use. Now, if you may have forgotten about your dirty game bags for months, or you shot an animal that was wealthy in fat, it's likely going to take a few additional steps in order to get them squeaky clean.
Grab your bucket and fill it with cold water. Then put a few drops of dawn soap in. Mix it up with your hands and then begin to work it into the fabric of the game bag. Let that sit for 1-2 hours and that will take care of any stubborn remnants.
Once they’ve sat for 1-2 hours, take them out, rinse them in cold water, and set them out to air dry. Do not put them in the dryer, as it will cause reflective logos to come off. Now, they’re ready to get dirty again!
Check Out a Video Version of the Hand Washed Method Below!
Washing Machine Method
The next method is definitely the most convenient of the 3, and is likely the most common. It is perfectly acceptable to put your washing machine to use in the name of cleaning reusable game bags. All you need is a hose, washing machine, and unscented detergent.
This process is going to start off much like the hand washed method. Start by spraying off any meat, fat, or hair bits with a hose. Do this until the water runs clear off of the bag. Like we said above, if there are any stubborn pieces/hair stuck to the bag, simply soak the bag in cold water for a few minutes and you should be able to remove that stuff easier after the fact.
Now, here is where things get different. Time to head to your washing machine. Set your washing machine to cold water, on the delicate setting, and add in some unscented detergent. As stated above, DO NOT use warm water. It will bake the blood proteins into the bag. Hit start and let the machine do the washing. Make sure you have removed any meat chunks or fat before doing this. Your significant other will thank you when that stuff isn't hanging out in the washing machine.
Once done, all you have to do is set them out to air dry. Remember, don’t put them in the dryer, as it will cause reflective logos to come off. That’s about it. Ready for another trip.
This method is no doubt convenient, but won’t always get all of the stains out of the bags. If that is a concern, use the hydrogen peroxide technique mentioned in the Hand Washing Method before putting the bags in the washing machine. That should do the trick.
In the Field Method
And now for the down and dirty. When in the field, sometimes there are multiple tags to be filled. This can mean having to reuse game bags over again before heading home. A totally fine scenario. Keep in mind the bags won’t be disinfected by doing this, but they will get the job done for your hunt. Ready? Just rinse them in a creek, ring them out, and let them air dry. Dunzo and ready for another load of game meat. Once you do get home though, be sure to utilize one of the above methods for proper cleaning.
Ready for Another Adventure
This is it folks. Another fall teeming with opportunity. Inspiration runs high, the air begins to cool, and hunters are overflowing with ambition. Snagging new gear before season is always part of the preparation involved beforehand. If you’ve never tried reusable game bags, we highly encourage you to give them a go this season. You won’t regret it. And once you’ve gotten them dirty, and we know you will, be sure to put one of these cleaning methods to use. Now, go make some memories, and make some meat.