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8 Best Facts On “How to wash a backpack?” The Right Way!

How to wash a backpack? / Image by Pexels from Pixabay
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How to wash a backpack? – Dust, dirt, or stains – backpacks can get dirty quickly. Here you can find out what you have to consider when you want to wash your backpack.

One backpack often accompanies us always and everywhere; whether shopping, hiking, city trip, or beach trip. Logically, this backpack has to go through a lot and needs a wash now and then.

We explain to you how you can best clean your backpack!


A related video about “How to Clean a Backpack?” here to watch.

Video Credit: Bo Ismono


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Washing A Backpack – What you need to consider!

Washing A Backpack
How to wash a backpack? – Washing A Backpack / Image by Henning Sørby from Pixabay


Washing your backpack in the washing machine in summary – That’s what you need to consider!

If your backpack is suitable, you can wash it in the washing machine.

  • First, check how and at what temperatures your backpack may be getting washed in the washing machine. You will usually find a corresponding note inside your bag.
  • If machine washing is possible, you should check whether there are any items left inside the backpack. Clean everything out and turn it upside down once with the compartments open. Then knock it out.
  • Put the backpack with open compartments into an old pillowcase and knot the ends. Then put the bag in the machine and wash it at low temperatures around 30 to 40 degrees. Follow the instructions on the tag and use a mild detergent.
  • Let the backpack air-dry afterward. Never put it in the dryer!

Tip: When the backpack is dry, you can also apply an impregnation spray. It gives your pack better protection against rain and dirt.


Washing your backpack by hand in summary – Pay attention to this!

If you cannot machine wash your backpack or are unsure, it is best to wash it by hand. That’s the way to do it:

  • Place the backpack in the bathtub and fill it with lukewarm water.
  • Add a little mild detergent or PH-neutral shampoo and leave it to work for about two hours. Rub the detergent into the fabric of the backpack to remove particularly stubborn dirt.
  • Then rinse the backpack with clean water and make sure you remove all the detergent or shampoo.
  • After washing, it is best to dry the backpack in the fresh air.


Correct washing of the backpack


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1. Can the backpack be washed in the washing machine?

Can the backpack be washed in the washing machine
How to wash a backpack? – Can the backpack be washed in the washing machine? / Image by RachelBostwick from Pixabay

To answer a frequently asked question regarding dirty backpacks in advance, a hiking backpack or trekking backpack never belongs in the washing machine. Not even with 30°C laundry, not even with cold laundry and mild detergent. 

We explained above how to wash it with a washing machine for those who resist doing so. It seems that there are always specialists who spread such tips in outdoor forums, but we strongly advise against it. In the best case, only the coating or parts of the backpack will break. In the worst case, the washing machine gives up the ghost. The same applies to dry bags in the dryer; they are also taboo.


2. Complete hand washing of backpacks

Complete hand washing of backpacks
How to wash a backpack? – Complete hand washing of backpacks / Image by HomeMaker from Pixabay

In case of heavy slush contamination while cycling or after a long trekking tour, thorough washing can hardly be avoided. After the backpack has dried, the coarse dirt is first getting removed with a broad brush. 

Dried earth can be removed well to a large extent. If this is not enough, the brush can also be getting moistened a little to loosen the dirt. 

The normally soiled interior is first getting cleaned with the opening facing down and shaken out or vacuumed out with a vacuum cleaner. More stubborn dirt can then be getting wiped off with a damp sponge cloth.

If brushing doesn’t bring the desired cleanliness or the backpack has not been getting cleaned at all for too long, the use of special textile detergents will be getting used. 

Conventional household detergents are usually too aggressive for cleaning the backpack and can attack the material. The unique textile detergent can be getting used in two different ways:

  • To clean particular areas – mix the detergent with lukewarm water according to the dosage instructions and clean the affected areas with a sponge or brush.
  • Soak the backpack thoroughly in a washing tub or bathtub and clean the heavily soiled area by hand with a brush. If the bag has a removable carrying frame, this should be getting removed before washing.

In case of leaking water bottles, react as quickly as possible and absorb and clean the liquid as best as possible with a sponge or cloth. 

Depending on the drink, unsightly stains may remain on the backpack. Therefore, you should soak and clean the bag as soon as possible with textile detergent, as described above. 

If the thermos bottle contents with tea or coffee have dried up properly, cleaning can be complicated. The same applies to juices and other sticky soft drinks.


3. Complete or partial cleaning backpack?

Complete or partial cleaning backpack
How to wash a backpack? – Complete or partial cleaning backpack? / Image by StockSnap from Pixabay

Many hikers never wash their backpacks; others wash them once a year, and others clean them when it needs to do it. Depending on the use and intensity, hikers may often have soiled shoulder straps, hip fins, and back areas. 

The areas soiled by sweat and sunscreen are often stained and start to smell unpleasant. It helps clean the shoulder straps and the back with a mild detergent at regular intervals and rinse them well.

Trekking backpacks or bicycle backpacks are additionally getting soiled by dust and swirled up dirt. Regular brushing from the outside helps best. At least once a year, a full bath and intensive cleaning is highly getting recommended. 

For seasonal use, proper storage is also essential. The backpack should be completely dry and stored in a dry and well-ventilated place. Otherwise, storage in musty cellars may result in mold stains, mildew, and a musty odor.

The leaked soup and most other liquids should be wiped up the roughest part on the spot and dry the backpack provisionally with hankies or an additional T-shirt. 

For a day trip, the backpack should be soaked and cleaned the same evening. For tours lasting several days, you can improvise with mild soap and water. Thorough washing will be getting done after the tour is finished.


4. Drying backpacks after hand washing

Drying backpacks after hand washing
How to wash a backpack? – Drying backpacks after hand washing / Image by analogicus from Pixabay

After soaking and brushing, the backpack must first be rinsed thoroughly. It’s best getting done in the bathtub or shower with a hand shower and lukewarm water. 

Any dirt and soap residues must be rinsed out very thoroughly in any case, and especially the foam parts should be squeezed out several times so that no detergent residues remain in the foam.

Then hang the backpack upside down to dry. It is best to keep all pockets and zippers open so that the water can run off and drip off everywhere. The backpack should be hung up for optimal drying if possible in the shade in the fresh air. 

This way, it will smell incredibly fresh and will not be damaged by UV radiation during drying. It is best to dry the backpack in warm and windy air.

Depending on the backpack and the outside temperature, the drying process can take some time. If small bags or other hard-to-reach places do not want to dry at all, you can help yourself with absorbent clothes or newspapers. These places are stuffed for a few hours and absorb most of the liquid. 

It is not advisable to consider using a hairdryer for drying, nor is it advisable to put your backpack on the turned-up heater. Both can damage the material because it renders the bag to unusable.


5. How to care after washing the backpack?

How to care after washing the backpack
How to wash a backpack? – How to care after washing the backpack? / Image by Pexels from Pixabay

Depending on how intensive the backpack cleaning is, it helps to lubricate the zippers with silicone spray and make them more common. 

Besides, the backpack should be impregnated from time to time from the outside so that water drops or dirt particles roll off the surface, and you don’t always have to put the rain cover on right away. 

This way, the material does not get soaked with water, and the backpack does not get more massive.

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Also, the backpack lasts longer, and the dirt does not stick to the bag, which means that the pack needs to be getting washed less often. Since it has already been getting pointed out that washing machines and dryers are taboo for cleaning backpack. 

Another critical hint; please do not iron the bag after washing it because this is also supposed to happen. The material does not tolerate this at all.

When checking the zippers and refreshing the impregnation, you should also check the backpack for small damage to the seams and material. 

The earlier you can detect small damage on a seam, the faster and easier it can be getting repaired. On a long tour, it is usually a little more complicated.


6. Care of backpack zippers, velcro tapes, and Co.

Care of backpack zippers, velcro tapes, and Co.
How to wash a backpack? – Care of backpack zippers, velcro tapes, and Co. / Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

All fasteners, lashing straps, and adjustment options in a backpack are getting exposed to constant mechanical stress. For this reason, it’s vital to give these parts a little fresh cell treatment in due course.

Over time, external contamination and material abrasion can cause zippers to run poorly or even jam. This issue can be getting solved relatively easily with standard silicone spray. 

It can easily be getting applied to the zipper or its slide. Opening and closing the backpack several times will spread evenly and make sure that the zipper runs smoothly again. 

Here it is to be noted that not too much is getting applied. It is also advisable to clean the zipper with a clean cloth after a short exposure time and remove excess material.

The Velcro fasteners also accumulate over time with all kinds of dust and fluff. The worse the dirt is, the worse the closure will ultimately hold. But even here, remedies can be found easily, quickly, and effectively. 

A small brush like a toothbrush has proven very useful; all particles can be combed out of the Velcro again.

Lashing straps and adjusting devices also become sluggish over time and can get stuck after many use. A more extended bath can remedy this in lukewarm water. In this way, deep-seated impurities can be getting loosened, and the straps made supple again.


7. Renew impregnation of the backpack

Renew impregnation of the backpack
How to wash a backpack? – Renew impregnation of the backpack / Image by rottonara from Pixabay

Backpacks are rarely really waterproof, so it is advisable in bad weather to protect the contents with a rain cover. Nevertheless, many bags are slightly getting impregnated to make them impervious to splash water and dust. 

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But even this protection gradually decreases due to external influences. The protective layer can quickly be getting restored with a commercially available spray impregnation. 

However, it should only be applied to areas outside of the storage system, as otherwise, people with sensitive skin may become irritated.


8. How to store the right way of the backpack?

How to store the right way of the backpack
How to wash a backpack? – How to store the right way of the backpack? / Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

The first step to longevity is the correct storage and keeping of the backpack. Never squeeze or bend the bag unnecessarily. Ideally, the gear should be stored empty in a dark and well-ventilated room. 

Strong temperature fluctuations, such as those found in a car or an uninsulated attic, can damage the material and cause premature aging. 

If a backpack with other equipment is carelessly getting stacked on a shelf or cupboard, excessive transverse loading can cause undesirable deformation of the carrying system.



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We expressly do not recommend cleaning in a washing machine! Mechanical abrasion can harm the material, and aggressive detergents can damage the water-repellent coating of the material.

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