How to wash a backpack: the most complete guide


Want to clean your backpack but don’t know where to start? In this guide, we will show you how to quickly clean your backpack so that it looks like new!

When was the last time you washed your backpack? Perhaps never. In this case, your backpack is most likely heavily soiled with dust, dirt, sweat and grease.

And this is very bad, because a good backpack can be very expensive, and it needs to be carefully looked after in order to prolong its life.

So why don’t we wash our backpacks regularly? Most of us may not even know how to properly wash a backpack and think that it is a very complicated process. But in fact, there is nothing complicated at all in washing a backpack!

Just follow our backpack washing instructions and your backpack will look like new. The backpack can be washed in two different ways: in the washing machine or by hand. We will explain both methods to you.

Can the backpack be washed in the washing machine?

In most cases, this information is found on the care label inside the backpack. If there is no such label, we do not recommend machine washing backpacks that have:

  • Fixed frames
  • Protective covering
  • Rhinestone jewelry
  • iron parts
  • Decals or patches
  • (Non-removable) leather parts or decorations

When choosing how to wash a backpack, you should also take into account the material from which it is made. Always refer to the care label. But if there is no such label, then here is a short list of general instructions regarding the washing of backpacks made of various materials.

How to wash a nylon backpack

Washing machine: yes. Most nylon backpacks can be washed safely in the washing machine — although hot water can stretch the fabric, making it less durable. Therefore, it is recommended to wash nylon in warm water at around 40°C.

Hand wash: yes.

Washing with other fabrics: no. Washing nylon and other fabrics together can cause the nylon to lose color and turn gray.

Dryer: No. Intense heat can damage the fabric as well as zippers, belts, etc.

Bleach: no. Bleach can damage or yellow the fabric.

Hot water: no. Nylon can be damaged or wrinkled when washed in hot water.

Detergent: yes. When washing and removing stains from nylon, it is best to use a mild detergent. A stronger detergent may damage the color and impair the water resistance of the backpack.

How to wash a polyester backpack

Washing machine: yes. Polyester is generally machine washable. However, too hot temperatures should be avoided. Warm water around 40°C is best.

Hand wash: yes.

Washing with other fabrics: yes. Polyester is not dyed with paint from other fabrics.

Dryer: No. Intense heat can damage the fabric as well as zippers, belts, etc. The polyester dries quickly, so you can simply hang up the backpack to dry.

Bleach: no. Bleach can damage the fabric or discolor it.

Hot water: no. Too much heat can cause the fabric to tear or discolor. Warm water, on the other hand, will not harm polyester in any way, but cold water will cope with pollution better.

Detergent: yes. Mild or medium detergent will not damage fabrics in any way. Strong detergents should be avoided.

How to wash a canvas backpack

Washing machine: yes. Canvas fabrics can be machine washed, but this should be done in cold water, otherwise the fabric may shrink.

Hand wash: yes.

Washing with other fabrics: no. When washed with other fabrics, canvas may lose color.

Dryer: No.

Bleach: no. Bleach can damage or yellow the fabric.

Hot water: no. Hot water should not be used as it can shrink the fabric.

Detergent: yes. A mild detergent, soap, or baby shampoo works well.

Now that we’ve figured out how to wash backpacks made from different materials, let’s get down to the laundry itself!

Method 1. How to wash a backpack by hand.

What you will need:

  • Bathtub, sink or bucket of water
  • Soap or detergent (not bleach, baby shampoo is fine)
  • Sponge (best with soft and hard sides) or toothbrush
  • A vacuum cleaner
  • Dry towel or rag

STEP 1. Remove everything from the backpack

  • Make sure you take everything out of your backpack that you don’t want to wash with it.
  • Detach detachable pockets and straps that can be washed separately.

STEP 2. Shake out the backpack before washing

  • To make washing more useful, first remove dirt and sand from the backpack. To do this, shake out the backpack, holding it upside down, or use a vacuum cleaner.

STEP 3: Read the Manufacturer’s Label

  • No one knows better than the manufacturer of a backpack how best to wash it. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions to make sure your backpack is not damaged by washing.

STEP 4. Pretreat the stains

  • If your backpack has stains, apply a stain remover to those stains. Then rub the stains with a sponge or toothbrush (without pressure) and wait 30 minutes for the stain remover to work.
  • However, do not apply too much stain remover. It is enough that it just covers the spots. Do not use bleach!

STEP 5. Wash your backpack

  • Fill a tub, sink, or bucket with warm water. Make sure your water container is at least twice the size of your backpack. Then you will have enough space to wash all the details of the backpack without any problems.
  • Add a mild detergent, soap, or baby shampoo (whichever is available) to the water. A mild detergent or soap will not damage the fabric and will give it a more natural scent.
  • Gently wipe the inside and outside of the backpack with a sponge or cloth. Pay special attention to soiled areas and those parts of the backpack that come into contact with your body when wearing it.
  • Any detachable compartments and straps can be washed separately as described above.

STEP 6. Rinse and dry your backpack

  • Rinse your backpack until all the soap or detergent is gone. A shower is best for this, but you can also rinse under the tap.
  • Dry the bag dry with a towel or cloth.
  • Hang your backpack to dry upside down, preferably somewhere in the shade, in a place with strong air circulation. So you protect it from the negative effects of solar ultraviolet radiation. We do not recommend drying your backpack in a tumble dryer.

Method 2. How to wash a backpack in a washing machine

What you will need:

  • Washing machine
  • Detergent (not bleach)
  • Sponge or toothbrush
  • Laundry bag or pillowcase
  • Dry towel or rag

STEP 1. Remove everything from the backpack

  • Make sure you take everything out of your backpack that you don’t want to wash with it.
  • Disconnect any removable compartments, straps, or metal structures that could damage the washing machine.

STEP 2. Shake out the backpack before washing

  • As with hand washing, remove soil and sand from the backpack. First get rid of the earth and sand on the backpack. Either dust off the backpack by holding it upside down, or use a vacuum cleaner.
  • Unzip all compartments to clean every corner of the backpack.

STEP 3: Read the Manufacturer’s Label

  • Again, no one knows better than the manufacturer of a backpack how best to wash it. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions to make sure your backpack is not damaged by washing.
  • Most backpacks are machine washable, but recommended temperatures may vary. Always double check the backpack care label.

STEP 4. Pretreat the stains

  • If your backpack has stains, apply a stain remover to those stains. Then rub the stains with a sponge or toothbrush (without pressure) and wait 30 minutes for the stain remover to work.
  • However, do not apply too much stain remover — more is not always better. It is enough that it just covers the spots. And don’t use bleach!

STEP 5. Wash your backpack

  • Place the backpack in a laundry bag or pillowcase so that the pockets and fasteners of the backpack do not damage the washing machine or the backpack itself.
  • Add a mild detergent that won’t damage the fabric and give it a more natural scent. Do not use bleach or fabric softener.
  • Wash in cold or hot water on the softest wash program.
  • Any detachable compartments and straps can be washed separately as described above.

STEP 6: Dry Your Backpack

  • When the machine stops washing, dry the backpack with a towel or rag.
  • Hang the backpack (upside down) to dry somewhere in the shade, in a place with strong air circulation. So you protect it from the negative effects of sunlight. We do not recommend drying your backpack in a tumble dryer.

That’s all! Now you know how to wash your backpack and you’ll never have to worry about dirt on your favorite backpack again.

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