How to Wash a Backpack- The Different Approaches to Take

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Summer is ending and that means that school has started back up again. All the kids are excited about their new backpacks and love putting all of their belongings in it. That also means their backpacks are going to get really dirty. It’ll be smelly from old gym clothes they forgot about, or from lunch that they forgot to take out. It will probably have spilled glue and pencil marks on it too. It’s also the time where you have stopped going on backpacking trips, or aren’t going on as many. Chances are you’ve realized how dirty your backpack has become from countless adventures. There’s dirt in the pockets, tree sap stuck to the side, and melted chapstick embedded in the fabric. Backpacks need to be washed. There’s no doubt about it. Here’s how to wash a backpack.

How to Wash a Backpack 

Hand Wash

Hand washing is a good way to go because it’s really gentle and won’t cause any damage to an expensive backpack you might be worried about. It’s easier than you think and doesn’t take long. It might require a little elbow grease especially if there’s something really stuck on there.

Step 1- Empty the Backpack

Make sure you go through every single pocket in your backpack. Do this carefully because you wouldn’t want something damaged from the water. A lot of backpacks have secret or hidden pockets, make sure you check those too. Empty out the entire backpack so that all your belongings are safe and the backpack can be more thoroughly washed. Put all of your belongings in a designated bag so that you won’t lose anything that belongs in your backpack. This way, everything will be in one place.

Step 2- Get Ready to Wash

Give your backpack a good shake before you stick it in some water. A backpack that has tons of dirt at the bottom of it will only get your washing water muddy. Unzip all the pockets and empty out as much dirt as you can. Then take out any metal framing in your backpack so that the fabric can be washed better and the frame won’t be damaged. Take off any detachable pouches or straps and wash those separately. This just helps the main part of your backpack get a really good cleaning. Unzip all the pockets so that you’ll be able to wash inside them.

Step 3- Wash

It’s important to note that you should take a look at the care label on your backpack. This is really important when you’re thinking of how to wash a backpack. The care label will tell you if anything is going to damage your backpack. For example, if your backpack is water resistant and you dunk it in a bucket of water that could damage your backpack. Instead try washing a water resistant backpack with a soapy rag. Treat any stains on your backpack 30 minutes before you wash it. This is typically enough time for stains to be removed. Then fill a bathtub or a sink with warm soapy water. Hot water can make colors bleed. Add some gentle detergent to the water to clean your backpack. Scrub your backpack thoroughly with a rag or brush, making sure to clean all of the pockets. An toothbrush works really well for small spaces.

Step 4- Rinse

Run clean water over your entire backpack so that all the detergent is rinsed off. Then wring out your backpack is much as you can. A towel will do a good job at absorbing most of the water. Be careful not to damage any parts of the backpack made of foam when you wring the backpack out.

Step 5- Dry

Hang your backpack upside down to dry. This helps all the water to drain out of the backpack instead of pool up inside of it. Air drying is the best for backpacks. Putting your backpack in the dryer is not recommended. A dryer can melt backpack materials and tangle up or tear straps. Leaving your backpack in the sun will also help to deodorize and sanitize your backpack as well. 

how to wash a backpack

Image Source: Hiking Mastery

Machine Wash

It is possible to machine wash your backpack. Although, there is a higher chance that your backpack will be damaged. Your backpack should be safe if you take precautions. Here’s how to wash a backpack with a washing machine.

Step 1- Empty the Backpack

You’ll need to empty the backpack just like when you hand wash a backpack. Make sure that all of the pockets are empty and that you won’t lose any valuable possessions. Put all of your things into a designated bag so that they’ll all be in the same place.

Step 2- Get Ready to Wash

This is also similar to hand washing. Shake out as much dirt as you can and spot clean the backpack. Take out any metal framing and leave the pockets unzipped so that the insides can be washed out. Remove any detachable straps or pouches.

Step 3- Wash

Read the care label before you get to this step! The care label will tell you if the backpack is machine washable at all. If the care label says hand wash only, continue with the steps listed above. A backpack that can be machine washed will tell you which temperature and type of cycle to put the machine on. Treat stains on your backpack before you put it in the washing machine. Then put your backpack into a pillowcase or laundry bag. This helps keep the straps and zippers of your backpack safe. Sometimes straps and zippers can get tangled up in the machine causing damage to both the backpack and the machine. Or you can turn the backpack inside out if you don’t want to put it in a pillowcase. Add your detergent of choice and put the machine on delicate or gentle cycle. 

Step 4- Dry

Although you machine washed your backpack, it’s still a good idea to hang dry it instead of using the dryer. Drying with a dryer can be done but it can cause damage to your backpack so it’s safer just to hang or air dry. Hang your backpack upside down with the pockets unzipped so that it can air out more effectively. This will prevent any mold from growing in your backpack. 

Summing Up

You don’t have to live with a dirty backpack. How to wash a backpack is simple. The entire process should only take about 15 minutes. Then when you’re all done, you’ll have a squeaky clean backpack that’s ready for new adventures. Follow these guidelines on how to wash your backpack and you’ll love the results.

Image Source: Teton Sports

Related Article: Best Hiking Backpack – Find the Best One for You

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