How to wash a backpack: 15 steps (with pictures)

How to wash a backpack: 15 steps (with pictures)
How to wash a backpack: 15 steps (with pictures)

Backpacks are an essential item for children, students and travelers who want to take their belongings everywhere. Over time, food, humidity, and everyday wear and tear can make the backpack dirty and smelly. Fortunately, most backpacks are made to withstand the wear and tear of everyday life and it is not difficult to clean them. The vast majority of backpacks can be machine washed in laundry detergent, but others need to be hand washed depending on the material they are made of. With light cleaning products and a little bit of elbow grease, you can clean your backpack and keep it longer.


Method 1 of 2: Hand wash your backpack

Wash a Backpack Step 1

Step 1. Empty the backpack

You don't want to ruin things that you leave in the backpack while you wash it. Turn the backpack upside down or use a small vacuum cleaner to reach inside corners of your backpack that might contain small particles of dirt. Once you are done emptying your backpack, do not close the pockets.

  • Put all the things that were in your backpack in a plastic bag so that you can put them back in once the bag is clean. This way you won't lose any important item.
  • If you notice that your things are dirty, clean them now while you wash your backpack. You should not put dirty things back in your clean backpack.
Wash a Backpack Step 2

Step 2. Prepare your backpack for washing

Use your hands to remove dirt and exterior dust. Then use a damp cloth to lightly wipe the outside of the bag. This will remove the build-up of dirt and keep the cleaning water as clean as possible.

  • If your backpack has a frame, remember to remove it before trying to wash the bag.
  • Remove the detachable pockets and shoulder straps from the backpack body and clean them separately. This will make sure that every part of the backpack is cleaned thoroughly.
  • Cut off any protruding threads near the zippers. This allows you to make sure that in addition to your own backpack, you will also get a backpack with no wires that block the zippers.
Wash a Backpack Step 3

Step 3. Check the backpack label

You should always follow the backpack cleaning instructions (if any) to make sure you do not wash your backpack in a way that could damage it. Labels with cleaning instructions are most often found on the inside along a seam, usually near the main zipper. Backpack care labels most often contain information on how to properly wash and dry the bag and make sure it lasts longer.

  • Certain chemicals or cleaning techniques can damage the backpack (for example its ability to resist water), so you should follow the instructions provided with the bag.
  • If the backpack doesn't have a label on how to care for the bag or how to wash it, test a small area of ​​the fabric to see how it reacts to the products you want to use.
Wash a Backpack Step 4

Step 4. Pretreat stains

Use any stain remover as a pretreatment on dirty spots, but do not bleach. Use a soft brush (such as an old toothbrush) to scrub away stain residue and leave the treatment on for 30 minutes. Most of the stains should disappear when you wash the backpack.

If you don't have a pre-treatment cleaner, you can use an old toothbrush soaked in a solution of one part water and one part liquid detergent

Wash a Backpack Step 5

Step 5. Fill a large sink or tub with lukewarm water

You can also do this in a large basin. Make sure you have plenty of room to wash all the pockets and compartments of your backpack.

  • Avoid water that is too hot, as it could cause the colors to bleed.
  • If the backpack label tells you not to completely submerge the bag in water, try moistening the parts you want to clean with a damp cloth.
Wash a Backpack Step 6

Step 6. Add a mild detergent to the water

The detergent you use should be a mild cleaning product without dyes, perfumes, and chemicals. Strong chemicals could damage the fabric of the backpack (reducing the effectiveness of the bag's sealed layers), perfumes and dyes could irritate your skin.

Wash a Backpack Step 7

Step 7. Scrub the backpack with a soft brush or kitchen towel

You can completely submerge the backpack in water or use a brush or a cloth dipped in water. The brush will help you clean particularly dirty areas while the dish towel is more suitable for general cleaning of the bag.

  • You can use a toothbrush to remove tough stains from the backpack fabric and to reach more difficult areas.
  • If your bag is made of a delicate fabric, for example a mesh fabric, you should use a sponge instead of the brush to avoid damaging the fabric.
Wash a Backpack Step 8

Step 8. Rinse the backpack well

Rinse off the soap or laundry with lukewarm water, avoiding leaving any soap residue on the backpack fabric.

  • Wring out the backpack as best you can. You can try laying the backpack on a large towel and rolling the towel with the backpack inside until you get it like a tube. This will help you absorb larger amounts of water.
  • Pay particular attention to zippers, straps and foam-filled parts when wringing the bag to avoid damaging them.
Wash a Backpack Step 9

Step 9. Dry the backpack

Let the backpack air dry instead of drying it in the dryer. If possible, hang the bag upside down, leaving the pockets open until dry.

  • You can also try drying the backpack in the sun. This will also help eliminate odors.
  • Before using the backpack or storing it somewhere, make sure it is completely dry. By leaving moisture in it while you use it or put it somewhere, you increase the risk of mold growing on it.

Method 2 of 2: Machine wash the backpack

Wash a Backpack Step 10

Step 1. Empty the backpack

Empty your backpack of all the items it contains that could be damaged by water while you wash it. To help remove dirt and crumbs that remain at the bottom of the backpack, try turning it upside down and using a vacuum cleaner to clean out the nooks and crannies. Open the pockets of the backpack and leave them open after you have finished vacuuming the bag so that you can clean all parts of it.

  • To help you avoid losing your things, try putting them in a small plastic bag so you can keep them all in one safe place.
  • If some of the things in your bag are dirty, now is a good time to wash them. After all, it wouldn't make sense to put dirty stuff back into your clean backpack.
Wash a Backpack Step 11

Step 2. Prepare your backpack before washing it

Wipe off any dirt and dust that is on the outside of the bag. Once the surface dirt has been removed, use a clean damp cloth to wipe the bag again to remove even more dirt and dust that may remain on the surface of the bag. This will help you not to have too large pieces of dirt that will mix with the wash water.

  • Remove the metal frames from the inside of the backpack before washing it.
  • Any pockets or detachable straps should be removed and washed separately. Since they are smaller, they could get caught in the machine drum and cause damage.
  • Cut any protruding threads near the zippers. The threads tend to stick out at the zippers and get caught in them.
Wash a Backpack Step 12

Step 3. Check the backpack cleaning instruction label

Almost all backpacks have a label that tells you how to wash them. This label most often indicates how to wash and clean the bag, that is why you will be able to wash it in the best possible way while taking care of the characteristics of the bag, for example its waterproofness. You will find this tag inside the backpack, normally in the larger pocket along a seam.

  • Strong cleaning products and harsh cleaning practices can damage your backpack and its waterproofing, so you should follow the instructions given to you. If in doubt, use mild cleaning products and set the washing machine to its quietest cycle or gently hand wash the backpack.
  • Most backpacks are made of canvas or nylon so you can machine wash them.
Wash a Backpack Step 13

Step 4. Pre-treat stains

Apply any stain remover of your choice as a pretreatment to dirty areas of the backpack, but avoid using bleach. Scrub the stain residue with a soft brush (such as an old toothbrush) and let the treatment work on the stain for about 30 minutes. The stain should disappear when you machine wash the bag.

If you don't have a pretreatment product at home, you can also make a pretreatment solution by mixing one part lye with one part water. Simply dip the toothbrush into the solution and rub over the stains

Wash a Backpack Step 14

Step 5. Wash the backpack

Put the backpack in an old pillowcase or washing machine bag and put both in the washing machine. Add a small amount of detergent when the washing machine fills with water. Clean the backpack in lukewarm or cold water, setting the washing machine on a gentle cycle. Once the cycle is finished, take the backpack out of the bag or pillowcase and wipe the inside and outside of the bag compartments.

  • The pillowcase will help you prevent straps and zippers from getting stuck in the machine drum, which could damage both the bag and the washing machine. Alternatively, you can also try turning the bag inside out.
  • The backpack may curl into a ball several times during the wash cycle. Make sure you take it out and flatten it properly to avoid creating an imbalance in the washing machine which will then become wobbly. Once the bag is flat, restart the wash cycle.
Wash a Backpack Step 15

Step 6. Dry the bag

Air dry the bag by hanging it outside rather than tumble dry. Leave the pockets open so that the bag can dry evenly.

Make sure the bag is completely dry before using or storing it. If you left the bag wet, you would increase the risk of mold growth


  • Do not wash the bag with other objects the first time you wash it, as its colors may bleed.
  • If your backpack is very expensive or has a very strong sentimental value, you should have it washed by a professional. Consult a dry cleaner to dry clean it.


  • These instructions do not apply to backpacks made of leather, suede or vinyl.
  • These instructions do not apply to camping backpacks that contain internal or external metal frames.
  • If your backpack has been treated with a product that makes it airtight or that seals the seams (this is often the case with nylon backpacks), you could dissolve this product by cleaning it with soap and water. water, which will make the nylon look less shiny and more worn. You can buy a spray that seals the fabric and apply it after washing your backpack.

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