How to Wash a Backpack

A backpack is an important investment in your everyday life, and it requires care. Over time, dirt begins to form either in or on your backpack from your sweat or oil from your skin seeping into the shoulder straps on the bag. All of these could attract dirt over time, impairing the pack’s surface. 

There are enough reasons to keep your backpack clean; washing your bag once or twice a week keeps it clean and fresh and extends its lifespan. 

Can You Wash A Backpack?

Yes, almost all backpacks can be washed; however, you must verify care instructions before cleaning. Ensure you read every care label on the backpack. 

If the label says it can’t be submerged in water, you should clean it with a wet cloth. And if the label does not say anything, try cleaning an inconspicuous part of the bag to see if the whole thing can be submerged in water or not. 

But if the label says the pack can be completely submerged in water, let’s get on with its cleaning! 

How To Wash Your Backpack

Backpacks can be washed either by hand or in the washing machine with light cleaning or deep cleaning. Washing a backpack is a whole lot easier than you think. Here is a list of what you’ll need to clean your backpack. 

For hand washing

• Mild (additive-free and fragrance) detergent or soap.

• Sponge or a washcloth

• Soft bristled cleaning brush or a toothbrush

• Old towels

For Machine-washing

• Laundry bag or a pillowcase 

• Gentle non-bleach disinfecting detergent

• Non-bleach stain remover 

How To Hand Wash A Backpack

Hand washing is the safest way to clean your backpack. Some kinds of bags, particularly hiking packs, have protective coatings that could get damaged in a washing machine; if your bag is leather, you will want to stick with hand washing. Here is a step-by-step guide for washing your backpack by hand:

Step 1: Empty the backpack

empty backpack before washing

Empty the backpack and brush off every visible dirt. Open all pockets and compartments, and get rid of small items or any kind of dirt that may be housed, leaving all pockets unzipped.

Turn the backpack over and shake it to remove dirt buildup on the outside. Also, if your backpack has any metal frame or detachable straps or belt, remove it.

Step 2: Carefully read the care label instructions

check backpack care label for cleaning guide

Care labels/tags are usually fixed inside the backpack. Ensure that you follow the instructions for cleaning. If there is no label in the bag, examine the fabric in a hidden spot with a quarter of a teaspoon of detergent to look for fading or damage.

Step 3: Spot treat

Mix a teaspoon of detergent in lukewarm water and gently clean every visible stain with a soft-bristled brush or sponge.

Step 4: Wash the backpack 

Fill a basin, sink, or bathtub with lukewarm water and add some mild detergent. Be sure not to use hot water; it can cause the backpack’s color to run. Also, do not use fabric softeners.

If the backpack can be immersed completely in water (care label), dip it in the water. 

Now gently scrub the inside and outside of the bag with a brush, washcloth, or sponge. You can use a toothbrush to brush the zippers to eliminate any buildup. 

Step 5: Rinse

After you’ve washed the backpack, drain the soapy water, renew with clean, cool water, and rinse thoroughly.

If you use only a sponge or a cloth to clean without submerging, rinse the sponge or cloth, soak it with water and go over the pack to remove detergent. Then, use a towel to soak up extra moisture.

Step 6: Dry

Once you are done, air dries the backpack. Never place a backpack in the dryer, as the fabric and its accessories can be damaged by the heat created in the dryer.

Machine Washing  A Backpack

use washing machine to wash backpack

School backpacks and bookbags made of canvas or nylon are safe to wash in a washing machine, but ensure that you check the care tag before washing. Here is a step-by-step guide for washing your backpack with a machine: 

Step 1: Empty your backpack

Remove every item from the bag, ensuring you check every compartment leaving no item behind. Next, brush off every visible dirt or use a vacuum to clear out crumbs and dust. When you’re done, leave the zippers unzipped. 

Before moving to the next step, remove any detachable attachments, pockets, or straps. They are to be washed separately.

Step 2: Read the care label instructions

Care labels/tags are usually fixed inside the backpack. Ensure that you follow the instructions for cleaning. If there is no label in the bag, examine the fabric in a hidden spot with a quarter of a teaspoon of detergent to look for fading or damage.

Step 3: Spot treat

Apply some stain remover using a brush OR detergent mixed in lukewarm water, then let it sit for half an hour. Before washing the backpack in the washer, this should be done to break down heavy stains.

Step 4: Packing

pack backpack in pillowcase before machine washing

Turn the backpack inside out and place it in your laundry bag or pillowcase. This is done to prevent the pack’s zipper and straps from getting caught or tangled in the washing machine. Also, confirm that your backpack can fit into the washing machine and has plenty of room to I’ve around when you turn it on. If it doesn’t fit in, hand washing is advised. 

Step 5: Machine washing

First, run the machine through an empty wash to remove detergent residue from the previous wash.

Add a small amount of detergent (do not use your regular detergent or a fabric softener) and run on a gentle cycle with a cold water setting. 

Step 6: Air dry

After washing, use a towel to soak up excess moisture and hang out to air dry, leaving its zippers unzipped. 

How To Clean A Backpack Without Washing

If you need to use your backpack and don’t have enough time to hand wash or machine wash, here’s how to clean it without getting it wet.

Cleaning The Outer Part

Use a homemade cleaner to remove any dirt, smell, or stain outside your backpack. Here is a step-by-step guide for cleaning the outer part of the backpack:

Step 1: mix white vinegar, dish soap, or a mild detergent with lukewarm water in a spray bottle.

Step 2: Spray the liquid solution on the backpack and scrub with a clean rag or cloth. Scrub stubborn stains with a stain remover. 

Cleaning The Inner Part

Safely eliminate all backpack smells without damaging the fabric. Here is a step-by-step guide for cleaning the inner part of the backpack:

Step 1: remove every item from inside the backpack. Shake thoroughly to get food crumbs or dirt out. 

Step 2: spritz an odor removal spray of your choice along the lining to remove all smells from sweat-filled workout clothes, shoes, or additional odor sources.

Step 3: leave the backpack outside for at least an hour to air dry before packing up for use.

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