The Best Chip Clips
If you want a chip clip that will keep your chips (and cereal, coffee, salad greens and so on…) fresh for a long time, our favorite clip for most people is the Gripstic, which costs $4 for a pack of three. It doesn’t look like a normal bag clip, but it’s easy to use and store, and it’s sturdy and wide enough to create a tight seal that prevents food from going stale.
Picking a device to keep your chips (UK readers: read “crisps”) fresh might seem trivial, but in truth it was far from simple to find the best clip. After nearly 14 hours of research, and after testing more than 20 of the highest-rated models, we found the Gripstic to be the most effective bag sealer. We like it when simplicity trumps needless innovation, but it turns out that chips are a tricky beast to handle, meaning a little bit of forethought and design goes a long way.
Who needs this?
When we tweeted an early peek into our chip clip testing a while back, people responded with their favorite devices: binder clips, clothespins, magnets. Everyone’s got a solution because everyone eats at least something that’ll go bad or stale, whether that’s actual chips, bagged salad, frozen fruit, or whatever. In a pinch, or if you just don’t care that much about keeping your chips super fresh, any DIY solution will do just fine. Using something to keep your bags closed is certainly better than nothing, our testing confirmed.
But if you eat a lot of chips and cereal or like to buy in bulk, a good chip clip with a tight seal goes the extra distance, making sure the food in your cupboard stays fresh and the food in your freezer doesn’t fall victim to freezerburn. Nothing’s worse than a value pack gone valueless after half the chips turn into dry, gross sawdust.
Coffee drinkers, too, should invest in a good set of clips to keep their bags closed and the air out. Oxygen and moisture are the mortal enemies of coffee beans, and properly closing your bags with an airtight, waterproof seal can mean the difference between a supply lasting a few days or a few weeks. Most bags are either resealable or come with built-in clips, but those are weak and ineffective compared to a good add-on solution.
Why do chips go stale?
Potato chips have high amounts of lipid fats, which, when undergoing oxidation, “produce hydroxy acids, keto acids, aldehydes, short-chain fatty acids, and other compounds which are responsible for the characteristic off-flavors and off-odors in stale foods.” With enough time, potato chips can even go toxic (although they’ll taste too disgusting to consume long, long before then). Add to that potato chips’ neutral taste, which make any unwanted flavors particularly apparent, and they’re ripe for a quick descent into not-so-tasty staleness once they’re exposed to oxygen and moisture.
Luckily, a good chip clip, sealed tightly with as much air as possible pushed out of the bag, offers a stout defense on all fronts.
So what’s a chip clip?
A chip clip can be anything from super-simple to ultra-complex. For our testing, we considered many different varieties. First, we looked at your standard hinged clip, a plasticized version of a clothespin. It relies on two separate pieces connected by a metal hinge that functions to keep the pin tightly closed. These clips are generally quite thin, often featuring a magnet for the fridge. Whether that’s for easy access in a rush or for displaying children’s art is anyone’s guess. Magnets can be useful for organization, but they’re not vital to a great chip clip. You can do without them.
Second, there are smaller, round or oval-shaped clips specifically designed for bread but also usable on smaller bags. These are intended to replace the standard plastic bread clip and use a tightly-wound spring to seal an opening. Bag clips function on a continuum of sorts: you can substitute standard chip clips for bread clips, but you cannot substitute a bread clip for a chip clip. Bread clips are designed to be used with very thin plastic, which is then twisted into a tight rope that fits into a very small clasp. The thicker and heavier plastic common in chip, cereal and coffee bags is very difficult to twist tightly enough for the bread clip to seal effectively. Unfortunately, the one downfall of the Gripstic compared to other chip clips is that it isn’t a good solution to maintain bread freshness. The bags are too thin for it to get a good grip. If you eat a lot of bread that’s either homemade or fresh from the bakery, we have a good bread clip suggestion for you down below.
And then there was the third type, which the Gripstic falls into—and which I found to be the best at most efficiently sealing bags and effectively maintaining freshness—a long, skinny clip I’ll call a “lock and seal.” These aren’t literally clips, but for simplicity’s sake, I’ll still refer to them as such. They have two parts, one on each side of the bag, which then interlock to create an airtight seal. Most of the direct competitors to the Gripstic have one or two major downfalls: Either the two parts are separate, creating double the kitchen clutter and double the chances for something to go missing, or they’re large, bulky and hard to store.
Very few people—and by that, I really mean no one—have really examined what makes a good chip clip. That means we’re starting from scratch. There are no reliable round-ups at our usual sources—America’s Test Kitchen, Cook’s Illustrated, Consumer Reports and so on. In testing those 20+ chip clips, I figured out a few things that turn great into good (and a few things that make bad clips much worse). A good chip clip is easy to use and hard to break. If it relies on a metal hinge for grippiness, that hinge should be well-secured inside the clip so it doesn’t slip out of place and poke you in the hand, like a few of the clothespins I tried for comparison’s sake did. It should be wide enough to create a complete seal over the top of the bag, making sure there aren’t any places where moisture or air can slip in. A lot of clips are too squat like the Kikkerland Monsters Bag Clips. Without enough space between the hinge and the opening, there’s no grip. It’ll only bite down on maybe a centimeter of the bag, meaning only the smallest bags made of the thinnest materials will stay sealed. On the opposite end of the scale are huge and bulky clips, which are are a pain to store, making you less likely to even use them. What good is a chip clip unused?
How we tested
Since there’s really no good information out there on the subject, we relied heavily on our own experiences and testing. I rated each chip clip in four areas: ease of use, staleness prevention, durability and storage, with most of the weight going towards staleness prevention.
To determine which clips kept chips freshest, I pinned each clip to a bag of chips folded once, and then stored the bags for two weeks. At the end of two weeks, I held a blind taste test against two control bags, one left open for the duration of the two weeks (gross), and one newly-opened (delicious). I pushed each clip to its limits by stacking sheets of cardboard in its mouth, to see how much it could hold. I also integrated the clips into my daily routine, using them to close my own chips, cookies, cereals, coffee and even other foods that don’t begin with “c.”
The clothespin-style clips were all poor performers. In the taste test, some came out worse than the bag that had been opened for two weeks. Even the strongest clips were too thin to effectively seal off the bag (although if you’re looking for a clip for putting papers on the fridge, they wouldn’t be a bad choice). The best performers were wide clips that sealed off the entire length of the opening.
To use the Gripstic, you fold the bag in half and insert the yellow guiding plastic bit into the fold. Reviewers note it’s more effective to pull, not push, the clip on. It’s a little tricky at first, but easy to get a hang of—and it’s easier (and cheaper) to use than the SealStix, by all accounts its blood brother. The two look so similar that at first we assumed they were carbon copies. But I’m glad I decided to get both: While the two are indeed very, very similar, the Gripstic has the edge by virtue of being just ever-so-slightly larger. That means bags made of thicker material, like paper, which are harder to slide through the SealStix, are much easier to seal with the Gripstic.
So no, it’s not the simplest model to use. But it’s not hard, either; once you get the hang of it, it’s no trouble at all. I sent a pack to my mom to see if she had any trouble using them. She reported back, “Gripstic works great!” (Exclamation mark hers.) And it’s cheaper than its closest competitor, the SealStix, costing around $2-$4 for a pack of three—about $0.75-$1.50 per piece. That’s a lot less than most chip clips, in fact; the GripStic was one of the cheapest options we tested. But they don’t feel cheap. I tugged and pulled at the interior plastic and it stayed strong, and I bent it and it didn’t break. The Gripstic and the SealStix both did an excellent job of keeping chips fresh, and after leaving the bags alone for two weeks, the food inside still tasted almost as fresh as the day I bought it.
The Daily Grommet has featured them at least twice, and say “For a firm, airtight seal that won’t come undone until you want it to, the best device we’ve tested is the Gripstic.” At Amazon, they’ve earned 4.7 stars over 22 reviews. K.S. Poznikoff says “I doubt I will use chip-clips-type clips again,” and reviewer Cecilia notes that in warmer climates they’re particularly effective at keeping out moisture. Anecdotally, they’re available at lots of grocery stores. There are a lot of casual blog reviews praising the Gripstic on the internet, but many of them read like advertorials.
I found a few other small annoyances: I spent a long time trying to slide the Gripstic onto a bag of Xochitl tortilla chips (which come in a thick, recyclable paper bag) before giving up. The Gripstic can’t handle extremely thick materials well, and struggles to keep a good grip on the super-thin plastic of a bread bag. For everything in between, you’re golden.
Also great, but a bit too big
But their width and strength means they’ll put a better seal on most bags than your standard, skinny clothespin-like bag clip. Remember—the wider a clip is, the more sealing power it’s got. The other main benefit of the size: you can clip bags made of heavier material that just won’t work with the Gripstic. I sealed that Xochitl bag I gave up on earlier with the OXO clips; the clip stayed secure and the chips stayed fresh. If you’ve got lots of bulk cat or dog food, which comes in plasticized cardboard and where prime freshness isn’t the #1 priority, these are a great, sturdy alternative.
Just for bread bags
*At the time of publishing, the price was $9.
The best-performing clips we aren’t featuring as a must-buy are the Linden Sweden Twixit Clip Bag Sealers. You might recognize these from IKEA: I compared the set I purchased on Amazon to my old IKEA set and they’re virtually identical (I literally couldn’t tell a difference). These were one of the highest-performing models in our taste testing, doing a great job of keeping the chips stale. Unfortunately, they’re just not wide enough for most bags. You can still use them, and they’ll maintain an effective seal thanks to their clip, but you’ll have to fold and scrunch the bag to get them on. They’re just not as good at keeping out air as the Gripstic. They’ll do the job, but they’re not the best in their category.
Here’s a quick rundown of the clips we dismissed:
Chef’n Small Bag Clips: These have a strong magnet and a strong grip, but they’re not suitable for keeping air out. They’d work great as a way to display art, but they won’t keep your chips fresh.
Clip-n-Seal Bag Clips: The Clip-n-Seal operates similarly to our chosen Gripstic, but it’s much bigger and bulkier, with two separate parts for each clip, making them hard to store.
DCI Bird Clips: Maybe the design is cute, but these feel flimsy and crappy. Not to mention they won’t hold your bag closed tightly enough to keep them fresh.
Amco Everything Clips: Too skinny, too insubstantial. Might be good on an actual clothesline, but for bags? No way.
Honey-Can-Do Wood Clothespins: These may be the original bag clip, but the metal wire that keeps them closed has the tendency to slip off. And while they might have a wide mouth, they’ll only keep a sliver of the opening sealed off from air.
InterDesign Forma Ultra Magnetic Clips: The InterDesign clips scored well, if not amazingly, in our tests, thanks to their sturdy construction and hardy magnet. But they’re still not a winner, because they’re just not wide enough.
Kikkerland Monsters Bag Clips: Cute novelty, but for children, not grown-ups, and certainly not durable or stable enough to keep adults’ food bags closed. There’s too short of a distance between the opening and the hinge, making it impossible to keep a good grip on the bags.
Natural Life CHCL002: These are natural and woodsy, but for $12 for a four-pack, they’re way too pricey to be in the running minus some amazing innovation. They don’t have one, so don’t bother.
Norpro 166 Grip-EZ Handy Clips: Another set that would be great for hanging art, not so great for clipping chips. They have a strong magnet and a tight grip but just aren’t wide enough to seal off the bad things from outside.
Norpro 168 & 169 Stainless Steel Bag Clips: These are similar in design to the InterDesign clips but aren’t nearly as sturdy and lack a magnet. The 169 is wider and does a better job at creating a durable seal, but it’s not even 5” wide, still less than the OXO.
Progressive International Mini Magnetic Bag Clips: These are made of cheap, gimmicky plastic. They’ve got a stronger grip than some of their immediate competitors, but the magnet—the only thing that really sets them apart—is too weak to even hold itself up on the fridge.
Zyliss Clipeez Linking Bag Clips: Despite the good reviews on Amazon, there wasn’t much about these clips that stood out. Even the medium size is pretty small, at about two inches wide.
OXO Bag Cinch: Like the Bread and Bagel clips, these work best with bread bags, but their grip isn’t quite as tight, and they won’t fit as much material in their mouths.
OXO Magnetic All-purpose Clips: These are probably the worst of OXO’s lineup. The magnets are very weak, and the clips themselves, like most of the other clothespin-style selections, do a poor job of proper sealing.
Cuisinart CTG-00-4CC Chip Clips: These have the benefit of being a little wider than normal, but there’s nothing else remarkable about them: They’re pricey (at $11 for four) and the grip strength isn’t quite up to snuff.
MSC International Jo!e Bag Clip Flip: While they operate similarly to the Gripstic, Amazon reviewers complain that they’re difficult to open.
Banana Seal: These are just like the Clip-n-Seal bags dismissed above, but in a yellow color. Too many pieces, too easy to lose track of, too bulky to store.
Better Sealer: Another Clip-n-Seal quasi-clone, still not convenient enough for everyday use.
Farberware Color Magnetic Bag Clips: These come in nice colors to keep your stuff easily separated, but reviewers complain they’re cheap and break quickly.
For a reasonable price, the Gripstic is capable of sealing up almost any bag you find in your kitchen. It does an excellent job of keeping out the oxygen and moisture that makes chips, coffee and whatever go stale without being bulky, cumbersome or difficult to use.
Originally published: October 10, 2013