How To Clean A Backpack Based On Material

How To Clean A Backpack Based On Material: 7 Tips

Your backpack goes just about everywhere you go. Whether it’s your everyday school bag, the bag you take with you to the office, or the one you use to tote around your gym clothes, it’s fair to say that it gets more than its fair share of use. And that probably means it can get pretty dirty from time to time.

If your backpack is looking a little dusty, it’s probably time to clean it. But how do you wash a backpack?

The process isn’t complicated, but there are a few things you should know before treating your convertible backpacks to a deep clean, like whether you should toss them in the washing machine or tackle them with a dollop of soap and a rag. Ready to get your hands dirty?

#1 Check the Care Instructions

In most cases, you can find the answer to the question “how to clean a backpack” on the care label. With our backpacks and tote bags, including the East to West Tote and Expandable Backpack, it’s always important to follow these washing instructions. Otherwise, you risk damaging your bag and shortening its lifespan.

Most backpacks and totes are suitable for one of three wash styles. Those styles are:

  • Machine wash –If your backpack’s washing instructions state that the bag is machine washable, go for it. Tucking your backpack inside a laundry bag or pillowcase can help protect it during the wash cycle. Bags constructed out of recycled polyester are considered machine washable. Remember to wash it using the gentle cycle and don’t wash it with other laundry items.1 Additionally, you’ll want to skip the tumble dry. Hang the backpack up to air dry instead.
  • Hand wash only –Some backpacks that aren’t built for machine washing can still be washed by hand. If that’s the case, warm water, a small amount of dish soap, and a sponge will usually get the job done. Our Sling Backpack, for example, is made from durable polyester that would make it hand washable.
  • Spot clean only –If you see these words on a care label, it means you should avoid the sort of deep clean you get from machine washing and hand washing.2 Like our Rucksack bag for example, you should limit your cleaning to individual stains and sporadic surface cleaning.

  • Our next two tips on how to clean backpacks go deep into how to safely and effectively clean your backpack, whether you’re targeting specific spots or giving it an occasional deeper clean.

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    #2 Hand Wash

    For bags that can handle it, a deep hand wash every now and then can give them the boost they need to keep them looking sharp.

    Aside from occasional spot cleaning, your backpack doesn’t need to be cleaned terribly often. That said, there are benefits to cleaning your backpack a couple of times a year, like preserving its condition, keeping it looking nice, and making sure the various parts work properly.

    Follow these steps for how to clean a backpack by hand:3

  • Step 1 –In a small bowl, mix a cup or two of warm water with a few drops of dish soap. Depending on the material, you can also use mild fabric soap.
  • Step 2 – Submerge a soft cloth or sponge in the cleaning solution and use it to wipe down the backpack, beginning with the interior and working your way to the exterior. On the outside, be sure to get those problem areas that come into contact with your skin or your body.
  • Step 3 –Use a clean, slightly damp cloth to wipe away any leftover water or soap from the inside and outside of the bag.
  • Step 4 –Hang the bag in a cool, moderately warm place to air dry. Try and find a place where every side of the bag is exposed to the air.
  • #3 Spot Clean

    Even if your backpack’s care instructions say you can put it in the washing machine or wash it by hand, that doesn’t mean you need to.

    When accidental spills or stains happen, which may happen more often than not on say your diaper bag backpack, knowing how to spot clean them without washing the entire backpack can save you time. It can also save your backpack from the effects of over-washing, which may damage its material.

    Spot cleaning is quick, simple, and effective. Just follow these four steps:1

  • Step 1 –It doesn’t take much to clean most stains out of backpacks, especially if you get to them right away. Simply mix a tiny bit of dish soap in a bowl of warm water.
  • Step 2 –Dip a sponge or soft cloth into the soap-water mixture and gently blot at the stain. If the stain is persistent, you can use a soft brush or toothbrush for a slightly deeper clean.
  • Step 3 –Grab a clean, dry, or slightly damp cloth to wipe away any remaining soap or water residue.
  • Step 4 – Finally, let the backpack air dry. Make sure that the spot you cleaned is exposed to the air.
  • #4 Clean Straps Separately

    When you’re using your backpack, the straps are in constant contact with your shoulders and upper back. That means they can get extra dirty from residues like sweat, grease, and your natural body oils.

    Fortunately, many backpacks have shoulder straps that detach from the rest of the bag. If this is the case with your bag, you’re in luck—cleaning just got a whole lot easier.

    To clean your shoulder straps, remove them from the backpack and lay them out flat. Then, follow the same steps for hand washing the rest of the bag, using soap, water, and a sponge.1 If there are stubborn stains, don’t be afraid to tackle them with a toothbrush.

    Beige Backpack that is opened with books inside

    #5 Flip Pockets and Pouches Inside-Out

    Need a hack for how to clean backpack pockets, pouches, and other compartments? Here’s one: flip them inside-out.3

    Once you have learned how to pack a backpack properly, it is important that you frequently clean it out before you pack it up again. The first step is to remove any items you have stored inside as well as big pieces of debris like gum wrappers or crumpled receipts. Then you can turn them inside-out. And voila! Just like that, you have easy access to previously inaccessible nooks, crannies, and corners, and the crumbs, dirt, and dust hiding therein.

    Need another hack for spic-and-span pockets and pouches? You can use a handheld vacuum or small vacuum attachment to suck stubborn debris from your pockets and pouches as well as the inside compartments of your bag.3

    #6 Clean the Hardware

    The hardware on your backpack is a small thing that gives it a little extra style. Some are decorative, like metal studs and tassels, while others are functional, like zippers. Whatever their purpose, keeping them clean helps keep them looking nice and working properly.

    To that end, here’s a quick tutorial on how to clean backpack hardware:

  • Zippers – For most zippers, dish soap and warm water is the best cleaning solution.5 Use a cloth to clean the flat bands of fabric that attach to the zipper and a toothbrush to clean the zipper teeth. Then, wipe away excess water and soap.
  • Metal parts –Treat your metal embellishments with care.4 Stir a small amount of dish soap into a bowl of warm water until it becomes sudsy. Then, use a toothbrush to skim away some of the suds, using them to gently scrub the metal parts. Afterward, rinse the parts with a sponge, cloth dry, and polish.
  • Tassels – If your backpack has tassels or other fringey embellishments, you want to clean those as well. First, wipe them with a damp cloth to remove excess dirt and dust.6 Then, dip the cloth in a water-soap solution and wipe the tassels again. Wipe them one more time with a dry cloth to speed up the drying process and ensure that no moisture gets trapped between the individual tassels.

  • #7 Disinfect Post-Clean

    Keeping your backpack clean is one thing. Keeping it free from germs, bacteria, and other harmful agents is quite another. These days, mere cleaning isn’t always enough. You may also want to disinfect your bag.

    As with cleaning, it’s crucial to check the care instructions before treating your backpack with any chemical, including disinfectants. In almost all cases, you’ll want to avoid using super strong disinfectants like chlorine or bleach.

    That said, in many cases, you can safely disinfect your backpack with:

    • Pine oil cleansers and warm water
    • Disinfectant liquids and warm water
    • Disinfectant wipes

    No matter which disinfectant you use, moderation is key. Using too much can leave behind moisture deposits that can damage your backpack, so apply disinfectants sparingly.

    BÉIS—Backpacks That Go Everywhere So You Can Go Anywhere

    Giving your old backpack a deep clean could restore some of its original vitality. On the other hand, if your backpack’s best days are well in the past, it might be time to trade it in for a new one.

    That’s where BÉIS comes in. Our backpacks are thoughtfully designed and expertly crafted so that every detail delivers on your day-to-day goals

    From foldable packable backpacks that carry your things and save space to hanging backpacks with built-in packing systems, our bags make getting yourself and your stuff from here to there a breeze.

    If you’ve got places to go, take BÉIS with you. Shop rom our BÉISics Collection today to find a staple backpack perfect for you.


    1.  Redmille, Lynn. "How to Wash a Backpack in Just a Few Easy Steps." Good Housekeeping. 19 January, 2021.
    2. "What does a spot cleaning mean." Classic Cleaners.
    3. Marlow Leverette, Mary. "How to Clean and Care for a Backpack." 25 July, 2022.
    4. "How to Wash a Backpack." How To Clean Stuff
    5. "How to properly clean and maintain a zipper." FixnZip
    6. "How to Wash Fringes and Tassels." Eazihome.

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