Think about all the places where you (or members of your household) put your backpacks and other bags when you’re on the go. Over the course of a day, they could come into contact with floors in bathrooms, buses, or cars, as well as shopping carts, counters, and other people. In other words, they can get quite rude.

Here’s how to clean backpacks, tote bags and other tote bags without damaging them.

How to wash a backpack

Before washing a backpack or other bag, check the label for the manufacturer’s instructions. Generally speaking, most polyester and nylon bags can be machine washed (although outdoor retailers REI advises against it). But although hand washing is the safest, not everyone has time for it.

Luckily, there are steps you can take to machine wash your backpack without damaging it. These to understand:

  • Unzip and empty all compartments
  • Using an enzymatic stain remover to treat particularly dirty parts of the backpack
  • Put it in a protective wash bag
  • Wash in cold water on the delicate or gentle wash cycle
  • Air dry

How to wash canvas and cotton bags

Canvas and cotton bags – like the ones that are probably tucked away in a closet or the trunk of your car right now – can be machine washed using the same technique described above for backpacks – including air-drying them. It is quite normal for the bags to be quite wrinkled once they have dried. If that bothers you, ironing them will take care of that.

How to clean leather bags

Backpacks, shopping bags and other leather bags are not machine washable, but quite easy to clean. Start by emptying all pockets and using a brush or small vacuum to get rid of any dirt, crumbs or other debris inside.

Then wipe the outside of the bag with a clean, dry microfiber cloth. Then, clean the outside of the bag with a special leather cleaner or a little warm soapy water. If you opt for soapy water, be sure to immediately dry the bag with a towel.


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