Classes and instructional videos can quickly teach you how to create attractive borders and decorations on your cake, but -- oddly -- few go on to explain in detail how to clean your piping bag afterwards. Inadequately cleaned bags are unsanitary and potentially hazardous, so learning to clean them properly is an essential skill.
Things You'll Need
Stiff brush (optional)
Pot or heatproof mixing bowl (optional)
Clean Your Piping Bags
Step 1: Empty the Bag
Squeeze any remaining contents from your bag, saving them for later if appropriate. Uncouple the tip from your reusable piping bag and set it aside, then turn your bag completely inside out. Remove your coupler's inner ring and set that aside with the tip.
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Step 2: Rinse With Hot Water
Run the bag under the hottest water your tap can manage short of scalding your hands, to dissolve and rinse away fat-based icings, whipped cream or fatty mousses. For choux paste or other flour-based batters, rinse under cold water instead.
Step 3: Freeze the Bag Instead
Put the bag in the freezer for 15 to 20 minutes instead of rinsing under hot water. This hardens the icing or batter, which cracks and falls off readily if you then beat the bag against the sides of your sink. With the bulk of the icing removed, you can proceed to hand-wash your bag.
Step 4: Wash the Bag
Wash the bag thoroughly with hot, clean water and conventional dish soap. If your bag is the heavy-duty canvas type, scrub the canvas thoroughly with a stiff brush, both inside and out. Canvas bags are permeable, and fat will lodge in crevices of the fabric's mesh.
Step 5: Run Through the Dishwasher
Clip the piping bag to the upper rack of your dishwasher, using a clothespin, and run it through a high-temperature wash cycle with your next load of dishes. The high-temperature cycle is hot enough to effectively sterilize the bag. If you don't have a dishwasher, put the bag in a clean pot or heatproof mixing bowl, and cover it with boiling water for at least 30 seconds before draining.
Step 6: Sanitize the Bag
Spray the bag with sanitizing solution. If you have access to a food-grade sanitizer through your workplace, or can wheedle it periodically from a restaurant or bakery in your area, you can use sanitizer rather than running them through your dishwasher or soaking them in boiling water. This prolongs the life of nylon and plastic-lined fabric bags.
Step 7: Hang to Air-Dry
Hang the bag to air-dry thoroughly. Some have a loop at the wide end for this purpose, or you can attach a clothespin or stationery clip to the lip of the bag and hang it from a hook. Alternatively, stand the bag upright in your dish drainer overnight to dry.
Step 8: Wash the Tips
Wash your tips and couplers by hand, using a brush to extract any food debris from the coupler's threads. A conical brush can be useful for scouring the inside of your piping tips. Hand-dry the tips with a clean paper towel, then let them air-dry for an hour or two so any residual moisture can evaporate. Otherwise, your tips could become rusty on the inside once they're put away in storage.
Step 9: Put the Bag Away
Put the bag away when fully dry. Heavy canvas bags take the longest to dry, up to a full 24 hours depending on your climate. Plastic-lined and nylon bags may require as little as an hour or two. Never put a bag away until it's thoroughly dry, or it could be susceptible to mold.
Consider Alternative Methods
Minimize cleanup by using plastic wrap to contain your icing and other piped foods. Lay out a sheet of plastic film wrap on your work surface and scoop your icing onto the middle of it. Fold the plastic tightly over your icing and roll it up like a sausage, twisting the ends of the plastic wrap to squeeze your icing into a tight cylinder. Place a coupler in your piping bag, then drop in the plastic-wrapped icing. Pull the twisted end of the plastic wrap through the open end of the bag and snip it off, so the icing can pass, and then attach a tip to your coupler. When you've finished piping, simply uncouple the tip and then shake out the plastic wrap and any remaining icing. There should be little or no icing adhering to the lip of the bag, so changing colors is as simple as popping in another roll of icing and coupling a fresh tip.
If you frequently use a piping bag for mousses containing meat or seafoods, keep a separate, marked bag for that purpose. This minimizes the risk of introducing bacteria or allergens from those foods into your icing or whipped cream.
Discard any rusted piping tips, or any bags that show signs of mold.