Backpacks are useful tools for students and adults alike. From hiking supplies to school books to sports equipment, backpacks can store just about anything. As veritable workhorses, they’re bound to get dirty and can benefit from periodic cleaning.
While it may be tempting to simply throw a backpack into the washing machine, it is important to check the care instructions first. Some canvas, nylon and fabric backpacks can go in the wash, but those made of leather or those with intricate details should not. Backpack manufacturers also advise against putting backpacks in a dryer.
Here are steps to cleaning a backpack.
To get started, begin by removing any items from the backpack, including all of the pockets. If necessary, use a vacuum to get crumbs out of the backpack.
Check the care label to see if there are washing instructions. This will determine if you should wash it by hand or if it can be put in the machine.
If the bag can be machine-washed, turn it inside out first or place it in a pillowcase so that the straps and zippers will not be caught. Then wash it on a gentle setting with a mild detergent and lukewarm water. If the bag should be hand-washed, use lukewarm water and a soft sponge or a gentle bristle brush. The outdoor retailer REI says you do not want to harm any protective coatings on the pack.
Zippers need occasional cleaning to remove dirt, sand or crumbs. Many zippers have water-resistant coatings so do not scrub them. Use a lubricant made for zippers to help them slide smoothly.
Hang the bag to air dry upside down. It likely will dry more quickly outdoors, but avoid direct sunlight, which can compromise the integrity of the fabric or discolor the backpack.
Do not store or use the backpack until it is completely dry.
Sometimes a backpack may need to be disinfected to prevent the growth of fungus or bacteria. Athlete’s foot fungus can easily transfer from socks and shoes to the backpack if gym clothes are left in the bag. The Spruce says to skip chlorine bleach and use a pine oil or phenolic disinfectant or a disinfectant wipe, such as Pine Sol or Spic-n-Span. Lysol brand disinfectant also can be used and is available in liquid formula or spray.
If a backpack is waterproof, only wash it once or twice per year; otherwise, you may reduce the pack’s ability to repel water. Use cleansing wipes to spot clean when necessary.