How to Separate Plastic Grocery Bags – Step-By-Step Guide


Sometimes, the little things in life can be the most frustrating. One thing that people find irritating is opening plastic bags at the grocery store. Whether it’s for meat, produce, or even regular grocery bags, it is still challenging to open them. So here’s the step-by-step guide on how to separate plastic grocery bags.

Here’s how to separate plastic grocery bags: Though finger-licking is a common approach to separate plastic grocery bags, it is very unhygienic. Instead, hold the top corners of the bag between your finger and then clap or rub your hands together. 

However, you might also be interested in knowing what other tricks can be used to open a plastic grocery bag in a store. And why do they stick together in the first place?

There’s much more to know about opening plastic bags, and I’ll answer all of these questions and more.

Just keep reading!

How do you open a plastic grocery bag without licking your fingers?

Those little plastic bags can be a real pain to open.

And it seems like the only way to get them open is by using your damp fingertips to do so. If there’s no water nearby, you may be tempted to lick your fingers. Sometimes, it may even be an almost reflexive act because you’ve done it so often you may not even think about it when you do it.

Licking your fingers to open a plastic bag is also a great way to get sick and spread germs, isn’t it? You’ve been touching the grocery cart that hasn’t been cleaned in, for who knows how long. Touching the products that other people have touched repeatedly could be another menace.

Besides, you’ve been touching produce that hasn’t been washed yet. And then you’re going to go around touching other things people will purchase. And now you’ve picked out some beautiful apples, and you need to put them in the produce bag.

So what do you do?

Do not lick your fingers because we are going to introduce you to some feasible and hygienic tricks to open a plastic bag.

If you’re in produce and you see a nearby refrigerated case with a mister system, go for it! The moisture on the case is a lot better than licking your fingers.

But the tricks below will help you open plastic grocery bags. These methods will work for any plastic bag, whether it’s for produce, meat, or your groceries.

Step-by-step guide on how to separate plastic grocery bags

The clap method

With the clap method, there is no finger-licking involved, but it can be a little tricky to master. So, if you don’t mind practicing and looking a little silly at first, this is a good one to try.

  1. Hold the top corner of the bag in between your index finger and your middle finger. It should be a pretty good-sized corner – about 2 or 3 inches.
  2. Shape the palm of your hand into a bowl shape.
  3. Now clap, 2 or 3 times. This will force air into the bag and open up that corner. Just grab the open edge and give it a good shake or blow in it to fully open up the bag.

This is a pretty straightforward method, but as I said, you will look a little silly. You’ll also make a lot of noise, possibly disturbing other shoppers.

The rubbing method

Similar to the clap method, but less noisy, the rubbing method can also be a little tricky to master. But at least you won’t look silly, and you won’t disturb other shoppers.

  1. Again, you’ll hold the top part of the bag between your index finger and middle finger. Pull it tight and hold in place between your ring finger and pinky.
  2. Rub the opening of the bag 2 to 3 times to separate it from itself.
  3. Viola. Open bag. Blow in it or give it a good shake to separate it and open it fully.

Pinch and rub

This method is the easiest, and the one I recommend. The best part is that it can be done with one hand. So you can open the bag without putting down those beautiful apples you picked out.

  1. Hold the top of the bag between your thumb and a finger – I like to use my middle finger.
  2. While pinching your fingers together, rub them together in opposite directions or tight circles. The friction will separate the bag from itself.

Easy peasy. This is my favorite because there’s no noise and it can be done with one hand.

Why do plastic bags stick together?

The answer is pretty simple—static electricity.

Have you ever tried rubbing a balloon against your hair? If you have, you know that it makes your hair stand up. This is due to static electricity. Your hair and the balloon possess opposite charges and are therefore attracted to one another.

Plastic bags stick together because of static electricity. (source) The bags pick up a small electrical charge. This is usually caused by rubbing against some other surface. In the case of plastic bags, it could be the conveyor belt or any other surface at the manufacturing plant. When they pick up opposite charges, they’ll attract.

More specifically, and most likely, it’s Van der Waals force causing the bags to stick together.

Van der Waals force is a type of static electrical energy that can cause neutral objects to stick together. Primarily, the plastic molecules are attracted to one another at close distances. Because of the large surface area in contact, the bags are most sticky when they are perfectly flattened or rolled together from the manufacturer.

What’s the trick to opening produce bags?

You can use any one method I talked about in the above section. Make a bowl shape with your palms and clap your hands together while holding on to the corner of the produce bag.

You can also hold the bag taught at the open end, and rub your hands together.

Both of these methods may get you some unwanted attention at the grocery store. So among all the ways how to separate plastic grocery bags: a step-by-step guide, I would recommend the pinch and rub method unless you don’t mind getting some side-eye from other shoppers.

The easiest way to open produce bags is to use the pinch and rub method. Pinch the top of the bag, and rub your fingers together in opposing directions. You can opt to rub in circles if that’s your thing. This rubbing motion will create the friction necessary to separate the layers of the produce bag from itself.

While you are hanging out in the produce department, working on getting that bag open, consider how many departments are in a grocery store. You’d be surprised at all of the different departments!

Of course, there’s produce, but there’s also meat and seafood departments, the health and beauty department, and the bakery. Many grocery stores even have hot food with dine-in seating.

I wrote this recent article that gives details about all of the different departments. The produce department isn’t the only place with those pesky little bags. Many meat departments have them, too!

Just click on the link to read it on my website!

Because who likes meat juice on their produce? No one, right? Just click the link to read it on my site.

How do you open grocery bags quickly?

You can use any one method I talked about in the above section.

Also, you can clap your hands together while holding on to the corner of the produce bag. Besides, you can also hold the bag taught at the open end, and rub your hands together.

Both of these methods may get you some unwanted attention at the grocery store. So I would recommend the pinch and rub method unless you don’t mind getting some side-eye from other shoppers.

Just like with the produce bags, the easiest way is also the quickest way. That is the pinch and rub method.  Pinch the top of the bag, and rub your fingers together in opposing directions. You can opt to rub in circles if that’s your thing.

Blow in it or give it a good shake to open it completely.

Did I answer everything you wanted to know about how to separate plastic grocery bags?

Plastic grocery bags, whether they are produce bags, meat bags, or the bags you bring your groceries home in, can be little devils. In this article, I talked about why they stick together. I also explained how to separate plastic grocery bags: a step-by-step guide using simple methods.

How do you prefer to open grocery bags?

Do you like to let everyone in the store know you are opening them by clapping? Or do you prefer being more discrete and use the pinch and rub method? Do not forget to blow in it to open it completely.

Ever wondered what makes a grocery store different from a supermarket? I wrote this recent article to answer this question. Just click the link to read it on my site.

Jeff Campbell

Hi! I'm Jeff Campbell. I was a leader for Whole Foods Market for over 2 decades. I worked in 9 stores in 4 states, not counting the hundred-plus stores I've assisted in other ways. I was a Global All-Star, a Gold Pen Winner, and won Top-10 Store (company-wide) 3 times in addition to Best New Store (company-wide).

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