How to wash a backpack

With all the wear and tear it gets, a backpack will inevitably get dirty. If you want to keep it from getting smelly and germy as well, you want to wash it at least once a year. It's easy to do, depending on the material and the quality of the bag.

Asses the fabric of the bag. Usually, backpacks are nylon or canvas. If yours is not, check inside the bag for a tag that gives care directions. If the bag has a metal frame, ask someone at a sporting goods store about proper care before attempting to wash it yourself.

Spot treat places on the bag where there is visible gunk (e.g. gum that got mashed into the weave or mud caked on the bottom). Start by gently scrubbing those areas with a toothbrush and water.

Check the straps. Often backpacks have foam in the straps. Sometimes you can remove the straps. If that is possible, do so and wash the straps separately by hand.

Place it in a pillow case or a garment bag and throw it in the washing machine with a gentle laundry detergent. Wash it all by itself the first time you wash it, as the color may bleed onto other laundry. Wash it on the "warm" setting and on the gentlest cycle.

If you choose to hand-wash the bag, get a tub, fill it with warm water, and scrub gently, allowing the bag to soak for a good amount of time before doing a final rinse and hanging it to dry.

Let the backpack hang dry, as all the straps, material coatings, plastic parts and metal pieces may be a problem in a dryer. There is often a coating on the inside of the backpack to make it water-repellent that can melt in the dryer. If you don't have a place to let it air dry, put it in the dryer on the "air dry" setting. This will remove excess moisture without using heat, so when you take it out, it will still be damp, but not melted. You can then throw it on a hanger and hang it in your closet until it fully dries.

Treat the backpack manually with water-repellent spray, as washing the backpack may deteriorate the water-repellent sealant.


  • Depending on size and fabric, the backpack may take quite some time to dry. If it is the only thing in the washing machine, keep an eye out that it doesn't unbalance the machine.
  • <br>Try to use a fragrance-free detergent and no dryer sheets.
  • <br>Once the inside of the backpack starts to fall apart, it's time to get a new bag.

About the Author

Jennifer Vance graduated from Georgetown with an English degree, with advanced business and music degrees. She has written for National Geographic EXPLORER, high-end resorts and hotels, major ad agencies, and public relations specialists. Additionally, she writes grants and proofreads. She has also worked professionally in wedding/event planning and photography.