Ask Netfah: Food Safe Fabrics for Reusable Sandwich Bags

Dear Netfah,

I am working on reusable bags for my kids and Xmas gifts, but heard a lot of the nylon, PUL (polyurethane) fabric and other stuff are not food safe. Any sugestions for ‘food safe’ fabrics or alternatives for my project?

Thank You


Dear Leilane,

Your inquiry and concern is one that many parents, DIY crafters, and environmental conservationists are asking; and a question that has several different responses. Some would say if you have no problem using plastic products overall and are just looking for a more conservative way of recycling its use for snacks and sandwiches, then you can simply re-purpose FDA certified ‘food safe’ heavy duty ziplock bags as a lining material. If the contents of the coating in some plastics is the cause for your concern and the debates surrounding their listing as a ‘food safe’ material leave an uncomfortable uncertainty inside you, then there are a list of possible options that may work well for you.

Many crafters have found a quick and easy alternative in nylon with a polyurethane coating (PUL). A PUL coated nylon pack cloth constructed with the coated side (shiny) faced away from food contact will not only protect your food from the possible absorption of harmful heavy metals or toxins that may be in the coating, but external moisture and/or heat as well. Another option that has been met with much success is using an inexpensive and easy to use  ’food safe’ nylon called ripstop . There is also a ’ food safe ‘ laminated cotton designed by Michael Miller for some of your more ‘liquid based’ snacks, and PEVA ( If you are really in a creative mood, try making your own ‘food safe’ oil cloth with linseed or beeswax. Though oil cloth is said to contain levels of phthalates (easily absorbed and unbound chemical mixed into plastics to increase longevity and durability of product), it has no lead (metal known for its risk of toxicity once absorbed or digested by body) and is often used in combination with other natural alternatives by those looking for an eco-friendly material.

Suffice to say, with all the research and articles on the subject of ‘food safe’ vs ‘non-food safe’ fabrics and coatings, the bottom line is that while some are safer than others, most coated materials pose some risk. Best bet, stay away from the definite no-no (vinyl/PVC ) and play it safe with some of the options above.





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