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Pottery Barn Kids Lunch Bags: Cute, but Annoying

When my daughter transitioned to "big kid school" this fall, I bought her a personalized lunch bag from Pottery Barn Kids. This was our first time having to send lunch to school, so I wanted her to enjoy carrying the bag and also have it be practical. She's just turning 4, so it was important that she be able to open the bag herself and carry it from the car to the lunch cart without assistance.

Pottery Barn Kids offers a slew of fabric patterns and four bag styles. Penny picked the MacKenzie Chocolate Zebra classic lunch bag, which is a fairly standard size and shape lunch box. We paid $7 to have her name embroidered on the bag, which I figured was worth the price to ensure her box isn't mixed up with another kid's lunch. I let Penny pick the font and thread color and ordered online.

pottery barn kids classic lunch bag
Pottery Barn Kids Classic Lunch Bag
Our classic lunch bag has now been used every weekday for nearly three months, but it looks more like a year old. It's still functional in that Penny can carry it in to school, open and close it herself, and feels confident and happy that she picked the style and design of her personalized bag. However there are some aspects to the bag I wish I'd have known before ordering.

If your child spills something, it's a pain to clean up, especially by the time the bag gets home from school and the food and guck has been sitting there, staining and mucking up the "prettiness"of the bag. Below, you can see near the bottom of the bag and on the side where something spilled, perhaps soup, and I haven't been able to get the stain out.

There are a lot of nooks and crannies for food to hide. If your kid is a bit messy or very young, you'll be cleaning out all sorts of little spaces, finding crumbs, liquids, and stuck on stuff that again, by the end of a school day, is practically glued in there. This is much more cleanable than the fabric outer shell since it's a plastic-like material, but it still has to be done regularly or you'll have a stinky lunch bag. 

You can see below how fabric interior trim is now stained. I can't get that out either.

A better look at that stained trim area:

I do like how the shiny grey area is fast to clean up. I can wipe that with a sponge, no problem. But this bag is not really suitable for little ones who are still learning to serve themselves and make lots of messes. Honestly, I don't mind the messes themselves, because really kids should be messy sometimes, but I don't like that I can't easily clean those messes and that the lunch bag looks WAY older than it actually is.

If you do choose this lunch bag, you'll be happy to know that the size and shape is standard enough that you don't have to order Pottery Barn Kids lunch inserts. I picked up some LunchBlox Kids Flat Lunch Box Food Containers from Toys R Us and they work super well (at least until my daughter forgets to close the lids after she's done eating). I run them through the dishwasher every night and they've held their shape and the lids still fit perfectly.

If you send lunch to school with your preschool or pre-k child, consider buying a really inexpensive bag (or two) that can be washed easily. Don't worry about pretty or fancy custom styles. It's not worth the cleanup hassle.

I do suggest this lunch bag for older children and teens. They're cute and fun and for kids who aren't spilling Spaghettios everywhere, they are a great personalizable choice.

2015 UPDATE: I've since caved and tossed this bag in the wash a couple times. So far, it's held up and does look a lot better after a good cleaning. Food continues to get stuck in the crevices, but we're going on more than a year and it still works.


  1. I just came across this post and wanted to say, I've used these lunch boxes for both kids the last few years and they have held up great! You can wash them in the washing machine on gentle and let them air dry!

  2. I had no idea they were machine washable! That's something I'll try. We've switched my daughter to use my old JuJuBe lunch sack because it's a bit easier to wash and she finds it easier to carry.

  3. Wash on gentle cycle and let air dry. The lunch bag looks brand new. We have been using the same classic lunch box for 3 years! The secret is making sure your containers have very good seals and opt for ones that are truly 'leak free - i.e. Thermos Funtainers, etc.

  4. Wash on gentle and air dry. The lunch box looks new. We have been using the same lunch box since pre-k to kindergarten. The only obvious signs of wear is that the pocket has just started to fray at the edges. The key is to make sure that the containers are 'leak proof'. If using regular plastic containers with lids, you will no doubt get leakage. Consider getting containers that come with a 'sleeve'. It's a pain but it beast buying lunch boxes every year! Hope this helps.

  5. With our daughter, the containers leaking isn't so much the issue as her tossing them back in the bag half closed is. When she's a bit older, it won't as much an issue. We also get any trash back so if she goes with a yogurt squeezee, that's just a big mess coming home. I'm not so sure about washing it in the machine since I don't think that inside bottom is meant to be soaked and tossed around our front loading machine, but I use the dryer with it on a rack on the steam setting and that helps a lot.

    We started using my JuJuBe lunch sack sometimes and it's been way easier. That one is super fast to clean and dry and doesn't have all the crevices for nasty stuff to build up. I just hate that it isn't as good for Bento-style lunches.

  6. My issue with the classic lunchbox is : "where does the juice box go"?????? I have the bento system which is great...but there is no room for a juice box!! I use the mesh side for a tall skinny thermos. If I use the mesh side for a juice container, then I can't send a thermos. I guess my point is that there is not enough room.

    I should have gotten the retro one or perhaps the dual one.

  7. We have the dual and use the bottom for drinks, with ice packs. Works great!

  8. Do you have to use Bento Boxes with pottery barn lunch bags? Can you pack food in ziploc bags instead or regular tupperware?

    1. I use Tupperware (and other brands) boxes to avoid generating the trash of using bags. My daughter's school is focused on the environment. However, you can use this like any other lunch box. If you prefer ziplocs, that should be ok. It's a pretty standard size lunch box. The inserts I used this summer for camp are some I got on clearance at Target. There's even enough headspace to put a thin square icepack inside.


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