How to Wash a Backpack with Hand or Machine?

Though mainly used by students and kids going to school, the use of backpacks has been on the rise in recent years. Smell proof backpack is now common among many people who use it to carry many things including gym clothes, foodstuff, and outdoor items.

backpack is useful

Dirt, as well as wear and tear, would be the common things that follow after a bag has been used for a long time. This would make cleaning necessary to avoid odors.

Cleaning would also increase the durability of the bag.

You can either wash by hand or wash with a machine. This article focuses on how to wash a backpack with hand or machine.

Preparation Before Washing

Whether you will wash your backpack with your hand or machine, you will have to prepare your bag for washing. The preparations done will remain the same for both.

What are some of the preparations? Let’s look at them below.

Unpack Your Backpack

The first step before washing your backpack will be unpacking it. You will definitely not want to wash contents in your bag that would be damaged by water.

When unpacking, remember to wash the inside parts using a vacuum cleaner. You can turn the bag inside out as those parts would be difficult to reach during normal washing. You should also not zip up the bag’s pocket.

While doing this, take note of the following.

  • Put all the unpacked items in a bag or rack, so that you can return them once the bag is cleaned and dried.
  • If any of the unpacked items are dirty, wash them to avoid dirtying the bag once you put them back inside.

Read Care Labels

Most fabrics, including backpacks, come with a set of cleaning instructions. The pack will include a seam that contains recommendations on how you should do the cleaning and drying of your bag.

Reading the care label is important as some packs are sensitive to certain chemicals. These chemicals may be present in the detergents used for cleaning and could cause damage to the bag. Some washing practices, like the use of a brush, may also destroy the bag.

If the bag does not have a care label, consider testing a small portion with your detergent. This will help you know how the nag will react with the detergent before using it.

Prepare for Washing

After unpacking the contents in your bag, you will have to prepare it for washing. Before putting your bag inside the water, try to remove any visible dirt with a brush. Doing this will help keep the water used as clean as possible.

The following tips would help in preparing your bag.

  • If any frame is attached to your pack, remove it first before washing.
  • If it has any removable pockets, remove them and wash them separately.
  • Check your bags’ zipper for any loose threads and remove them to avoid any problems with the bag after washing.

Treat Visible Stains

If there are any visible dirty spots on your pack, you should treat them first before washing the bag. You can use any available stain remover as long as it does not bleach your bag. Scrub the residue using a soft brush and allow the stain remover at least 30 minutes before washing it away.

The stain need not necessarily come out instantly. During the actual cleaning of the bag, they will be removed.

If you don’t have any stain remover, scrub the spot with detergent and a soft brush.

Cleaning Your Backpack

items for cleaning backpackAfter finishing the above preparations, you can now go ahead and start cleaning. There are two ways to do this; you can clean it with your hand, or clean it with the help of a washing machine.

Below is a detailed process on how to proceed with both.

Cleaning with Hand

The following steps are involved.

Fill a Basin with Water and Add Detergents

Fill the basin with water. Remember to choose a location with a bigger space, possibly the laundry room. You should also use lukewarm water. While cold water may not be effective in removing all the dirt from your bag, hot water may cause damage to your bag by causing the colors to come out and stain the bag.

Add some detergents to the water. A good recommendation is to use detergents with gentle ingredients.

You should avoid using detergents that contain chemicals, fragrances, or dyes. This is because the bag’s fabric might have been waterproofed and, therefore, prone to be destroyed by harsh chemicals contained in the detergents. Dyes and fragrances, on the other hand, might lead to skin irritation on the person using the pack.

The care labels may recommend for the bag not to be submerged in water. In this case, try to wet the bag as you clean it. Alternatively, you can use a wet rag to clean it.

Scrub the Bag

Depending on the care recommendations and your preferred method of cleaning, you can submerge the whole bag inside the water or clean it using a rag soaked in water and detergent. Either way, you will need to scrub your backpack with a rag to remove stubborn stains.

Some parts of the bag might be difficult to reach using a rag. Use a toothbrush to reach such places and clean them.

Some bags are made with delicate materials. An example is a mesh. For such bags, using a brush to wash them might cause more harm to the bag’s fabric. It would be better to use a sponge instead.


The detergents used in cleaning the bag should be removed before drying the bag. Failure to do this will leave a soapy residue on the bag’s fabric after it has dried. Use lukewarm water to do this.

For thorough rinsing, place a towel on a table then put the bag on top of the towel. With the bag inside, roll the towel in such a way as to make it appear like a tube. This will allow for maximum water to be absorbed by the towel.

When rinsing the bag, be extra careful with the zippers and foams to avoid destroying them especially when rinsing using a towel.

Cleaning with Machine

washing machineAs opposed to hand washing that involves the use of brushes; this option does not include scrubbing as the machine will do all the work.

The first thing you will need to do in this case is to place the bag inside a pillowcase or a laundry sack. You will then proceed to put the pillowcase with the bag inside the washing machine.

As water continues to fill the machine’s washer, you should add a bit of your preferred detergent. Be cautious not to add so much detergent.

Choose the delicate or gentle cycle and ensure the water used is lukewarm. After the cycle is complete, take the pillowcase out and remove the bag. Use a clean rag to wipe the bag both on the outside as well as on the inside.

When washing your pack using a machine, you should note the following.

  • The use of the pillowcase or laundry sack is crucial. It serves to protect your bag’s zippers from any damage, as well as protecting the machine from any damage caused by the zippers. In any case, you can choose to turn your bag inside out instead of using the pillowcase.
  • When the cycle is going on, the bag might stick together making the washing machine unbalanced. Always check to ensure this does not happen. When it happens, remove the bag, straighten it, then put it back on the machine and restart the cycle.

Drying Your Backpack

What follows after cleaning is drying the bag. In as much as possible, avoid using a drying machine to dry the bag. The best way is to allow time for it to dry naturally.

The following tips would help in drying the bag.

  • When drying, hang the bag inside out in the hanging line. To allow it to dry evenly and thoroughly, leave all the zips open.
  • Consider putting the bag out in the sun for it to dry. The use of sunlight for drying will ensure all odors are removed from the bag.
  • Make sure the bag is totally dry before using it or storing it. This is important in preventing the growth of mold inside the bag.


As you have seen from this article, cleaning your bag is not difficult. Having looked in-depth on how to wash your backpack with a hand or machine, you now know the best ways to ensure proper cleaning of your pack.

An important thing to note is that while all bags can be used by hand, not all can be washed with a machine. This is because these bags should not be fully submerged in water.

For better cleaning practices, you should always follow the care recommendations given. You should also avoid using harsh detergents as they may cause damage to your bag.

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