How to Wash a Backpack | Step by Step Guideline with Picture

Last Updated on November 17, 2020

how to wash backpackBackpacks allow us to carry far more things than we can with our hands.

We can travel free, knowing that everything we need is within our reach.

From water, food, to sweaty shirts and even gym sneakers, there is no limit to what we can stuff into these rucksacks!

So, backpacks naturally become extremely dirty and get smelly.

Pretty soon, you and everybody else around you will be grossed out by the filthy thing on your back.

Fortunately, these bags are often built to be durable and easily cleanable.

With our  step by step guideline you should be able to pass your backpack to get it squeaky clean again correctly!

Methods of Washing a Backpack

You know your backpack is due for a good washing when it’s all covered in dirt and oozing out putrid smells. It’s a great idea to make a habit of regularly washing your containers. This will keep them clean and increase the lifespan.

So, are you thinking of giving your old backpack an excellent scrubbing to make it look new again? Don’t jump into action already because there are two ways of washing these rucksacks that you must know.

Machine Washing

Most backpacks are ready to be washed in a washing machine. It’s the easiest and more convenient method because the machine will do most of the cleaning job for you. You just have to ensure that your particular model is okay to be thrown in a machine for washing.

Whether your bag is machine-washable or not depends mostly on the materials that have been used to build them. The easiest way to find that out is by checking the backpack care label, which contains all the safety information.


Some backpacks aren’t safe for machine-washing. The care label will tell you whether you should give them a machine-wash or not. So, for washing these backpacks, you’d have to provide them with the good old hand treatment.

Sometimes, you’d still have to get your hands dirty to clean spots that are harder to reach, and your machine fails to deal with them.

Now, we’ll present you a step by step guideline for both of these methods.

How to Wash a Backpack in a Washing Machine?

Just as we’ve mentioned before, not all backpacks are safe for machine washing. Therefore, you must check the care label to determine whether you can wash your backpack in a washing machine or not, along with other special instructions.

Step-1: Emptying the Backpack

Before you get to the washing part, reach into your backpack and pull out everything in it.

Emptying the Backpack

Clear it out entirely and leave nothing inside. When you’re done taking out the usual stuff, turn it inside-out to get rid of all the small dirt and crumbs. You can use a handheld vacuum as well.

Step-2: Preparing the Backpack for Wash

Now, check if the backpack is small enough to fit into the washing machine. There must be enough room so that it can move around in the washer. Then proceed to wipe off the outer layer of the backpack using a wet cloth. This is to make sure no loose dirt or debris is left on it.

Do not leave any metal frames or detachable objects on the backpack that you’re planning to wash. If there is any loose thread, get rid of that too.

Step-3: Removing the Stains

If there are visible stains on the backpack, you must clean them out before washing. So, go ahead and apply any stain remover on them using a toothbrush. Be sure not to use bleach, though. Do it carefully and gently so that the substance does not spread out too far.

Afterward, let the stain remover sit for about 30 minutes before continuing.

Step-4: Washing the Backpack

You’re finally at the step where you let the machine do the washing part. But before throwing your backpack into the machine, be sure to put it inside a laundry back or turn it inside-out. This is to prevent the zippers and straps from damaging the washer.

As the washing machine is filling with water, apply a small amount of gentle detergent in it. About 1 to 2 tbsp will do. It’s best to wash the pack in lukewarm or cold water. You should use either the gentle or the delicate cycle of the washer.

At this stage, you might see your bag bunch up. When that happens, turn the machine off. Then reach into it and spread the backpack out. This will prevent the washer from getting lopsided or unbalanced.

When the cycle is over, take the backpack out gently and uncover it. Then wipe the entire thing to using a clean and dry cloth.

Step-5: Drying the Backpack

This is the easy part where you have to dry out the backpack naturally. Simply bring it and expose it to the sun. Hang it outside and allow the sun to suck out all the moisture. Drying naturally is better than using a dryer. Once the backpack’s all dry, it will be ready to be used again!

How to Hand-Wash Your Backpack?

If your backpack doesn’t fit the washing machine or if it’s not safe for machine-wash, you can always rely on the good old-fashioned hand wash. Make sure to read the care label to see if you can freely submerge the unit entirely into water. It will provide additional information that you must follow.

Step-1: Emptying the Backpack

Start by emptying the backpack. You don’t want anything inside it when you’re washing. Get rid of the smaller objects as well. Do not leave the dirt and debris either. Using a handheld vacuum after turning it inside-out will help you get rid of everything quickly.

You can store your things in a small separate bag so that they don’t get lost when you’re washing the backpack.

Step-2: Preparing the Backpack for Washing

Time to get your hands dirty! With your hands, brush off any dirt and debris that you find on the outer layer of the backpack. Then grab a wet cloth and wipe off any leftover dirt.handwash backpack

Unzip the entire thing and take off any detachable object. Take off the metal frames as well if you’ve got any. If you see any loose thread or fiber, cut them off clean.

Step-3: Removing the Stains

Grab a soft brush and a stain remover of your choice besides bleach. Then apply it gently onto the stains and let it sit for about 30 minutes or so. Make sure you get all the stains. A toothbrush will help you reach the nooks and crannies easily.

Step-4: Getting the Water Ready

Depending on the size of your backpack, fill up your sink or bathtub with cold or lukewarm water. It’s essential to make sure that the sink or bathtub has enough space for the backpack.

You should be able to move it around freely. About six inches of water should be more than enough.

Please do not use hot water as it can damage the building materials of your backpack.

Step-5: Adding the Gentle Detergent

Now pick up your favorite gentle detergent and pour a small amount of it into the water. It’s crucial to use mild detergents that don’t have dyes, fragrances, or strong chemicals. These things can easily damage the fabric material of your backpack and make it feel uncomfortable on your skin.

Step-6: Scrubbing the Backpack

If your backpack is safe for submerging into the water, go ahead and do that. Then grab a soft toothbrush or cleaning brush. You can wear clean cloth too. Afterward, start scrubbing the entire rucksack, going from the top to the bottom. Turn it inside-out and do the same. Do not leave any place untouched.

Make sure to concentrate on the spots that are extremely dirty and have tough stains. Your brush will help you reach the hard-to-reach crevices. If your backpack is built with soft and delicate materials, consider using a sponge instead of a brush.

If submerging isn’t an option, then dip the brush into the water then scrub the spots clean.

Step-7: Rinsing the Backpack

You’re almost there! Drain your bathtub or sink to get rid of the dirty, detergent water and fill it up again with clean lukewarm water. Then start rinsing the bag thoroughly then wring it out as much as you can. Soon enough, your backpack will be free from all the soapy water.

Folding it into a thick and large towel, then rolling it around will soak up a lot of water.

If it’s unsafe for submerging, then you can use a dry cloth instead of rinsing.

Step-8: Drying the Backpack

That’s about it! Give your washing and cleaning a finishing touch by hanging it upside down with all the zippers unlocked outside or on your roof where there is direct sunlight. Leave it there for some time until all the moisture is gone so that the backpack is completely dry. This will help you get rid of the odor as well!

Tips for Taking Care of Your Backpack

Now that you know how to wash your backpack correctly, why not dive a little deeper and equip yourself with the tips of taking care of your backpack? Here are the best ways of making sure your rucksack doesn’t wear out too fast!

  • Keep the Backpack Away from Moisture

While water is something we cannot live without, the same cannot be said for your backpack. Water can damage it slowly but inevitably.

It creates the perfect condition for mold to build up that can wear your bag out. So, whenever your container comes in contact with water, quickly dry it out.

You can use backpack covers to prevent water from touching it during the rain.

  • Make a Habit of Packing and Using the Backpack Sensibly

Instead of stuffing your backpack with just about anything, spare a little time to think about whether the item can damage it or not. Things with sharp edges or tips should be avoided or covered. Limiting their movements can prevent damages as well. You don’t want the insides to be pierced, do you?

Also, make sure to avoid jamming more stuff than your backpack can handle!

Just because you take pride in the durability of your high-quality and expensive backpack doesn’t mean you can drag it across rough grounds carelessly! It still needs to be treated well. Don’t let anything poke at it or allow it to get cuts. If you’re careful enough, it’s likely to last a long time.

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. Is it safe to dry your backpack in the dryer?

Sure, you can use a dryer, but there is always a risk of it overheating to damage the elements of your backpack. The metallic parts can damage the dryer as well. So, air-drying is a much safer and more convenient option.

  1. How long does air-dry take to dry out the backpack completely?

This depends mostly on the availability of the sunlight as well as the building materials of the backpack. On average, it shouldn’t take longer than a day or two before all the moisture is gone from your pack.

  1. How often should I wash my backpack?

Backpacks don’t require frequent washing. It takes a long time for them to be soiled if you maintain it properly. In general, washing it once or twice a year should be more than enough.

  1. Can I clean the backpack myself?

Of course, you can. It’s not a tough job, so that anyone can do it. However, if your backpack is super expensive and has sentimental value, you can go to the professionals to get it cleaned.

Final Words

It’s unhygienic to continue using a filthy backpack, not to mention the negative effect on the durability. By following these guide , washing your backpack won’t feel like a tough job anymore. You will always sport a clean bag on your back that doesn’t smell bad!

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