How to Wash a Backpack In 7 Easy Steps

Backpacks. They can carry our lives on our backs like we are some sort of shelled animal. However, this does mean that our backpacks will get gross super quickly, and most of us have know idea how to wash a backpack the right way.

Everything from mud and sand to hand sanitizer and old bananas gets smashed all over our backpacks. Whether we are strapping on our favorite North Face backpack and heading out on week long hikes or sending our children off to school with them, there will always be a backpack to clean.

You may well be wondering how on earth you get this much and grime and downright grossness out of a backpack. Surely the best option is just to buy a new one? Especially when your kid has spilled milk all over it on a warm summer’s day….

Well, luckily for you that does not need to happen! There are plenty of methods you can use to clean your backpack. Keep on reading to find out some of our top tips about how to wash a backpack.

how to wash a backpack the smart way

Daily Upkeep

Perhaps the best way of keeping your backpack clean is to keep up with any muck and mess every single day. You can make sure that you always take out any damp clothes such as swimwear and stinky gym shoes when you get home.

You should also take out all of your lunch and any garbage such as wrappers and bottles. If you notice stains and marks from food, water, sweat, and mud throughout the day, ensure to clean it at the end of the day with a damp cloth or mild detergent if needed. Dish soap works really well for this.

Ensure the bag is wiped down daily, even if it looks clean. As well as this, you should never underestimate the power of a little fabric refresher! Use some air freshener or odor eater spray on your backpack to keep it smelling as fresh as it looks.

How To Wash A Backpack In The Washing Machine

Obviously, this will likely be the easiest method of washing your backpack. That being said it is also important to note that you should not just throw the backpack in with your regular laundry and hope for the best!

There are ways to go about it to ensure you get the best results possible whilst still keeping the backpack intact and in good condition.

First and foremost, you should always ensure that you check the washing care instructions on your backpack carefully.

Some backpacks may not actually be suitable for machine washing, and so you need to establish this first. You will also need to look at the recommended temperatures and washing machine settings for your backpack.

It may indeed depend on the fabric of your backpack. For example, leather should not be machine washed, whereas canvas or nylon is fine. You should also keep in mind that generally low temperatures are best (for backpacks and the environment)!

If you decide to go ahead with machine washing for your backpack, you should bear in mind that there are some steps to be followed. Check them out here:

  1. Ensure your bag is totally empty of all your belongings. Check all of the side pockets to ensure there are no wrappers, notes, receipts, and important items such as keys and USB sticks.
  2. Shake out any crumbs and bits from the backpack. You could even vacuum it if you have a small enough nozzle on your cleaner.
  3. Unzip the bag so that the inside can be cleaned as well as the outside, ensuring nothing is caught in the zip. Remove any keyrings from the zips too, especially if they have a USB attached to them.
  4. Try to get out any stains before washing them, for example, if there are ink or food stains you could use some stain remover on them first to make sure they budge fully. Make sure to do a patch test first to make sure it is suitable for the backpack.
  5. Now it’s time to put the backpack in your machine! Our top tip is to palace your whole backpack inside a laundry bag. If you don’t have a laundry bag you can place it inside a pillowcase. This will ensure the zips and attachments do not damage your washing machine and that it does not get stuck on the drum.
  6. Set the machine onto a gentle cycle, based on what the label tells you. Turn the temperature to the recommended figure and use a small amount of mild detergent. Forgo any softeners and other additions.
  7. When it is done, leave the backpack to air dry, perhaps on an outdoor washing line. Do not tumble dry the backpack! When it has dried fully it is ready to be used again. Reattach any keyrings and removable straps you may have taken off.

Hand Washing

Another option for washing your backpack is to go for some good ol’ fashioned hand washing! Hand washing is a great option if the backpack specifies that it cannot be put into a washing machine.

Before you start, make sure you have all of the following equipment:

  • an old, soft toothbrush (ensure it is clean)
  • Stain remover
  • Detergent (ensure it is mild and free of chemicals)
  • A washcloth or a sponge
  • A dry, clean towel
  1. Empty your bag in the same way as we described in the machine washing section, ensuring to remove all crumbs, all personal items, debris, and garbage.
  2. Apply stain remover on all areas that are tarnished or marked. Rub it in with your soft toothbrush and let it sit for around half an hour before hand washing it.
  3. Now it’s time to hand wash! Fill a bowl or sink, or even your bathtub with lukewarm water. Around six inches in depth should suffice.
  4. Add your detergent, ensuring only to add a small amount.
  5. Put the bag in the water and scrub with your toothbrush, sponge, or cloth on dirty areas first, then the whole bag.
  6. You may need to put in some elbow grease to remove stubborn stains. Wash the inside too.
  7. When it’s done, you can air dry it and use it when it is dried through.