How To Wash a Backpack

How To Wash a Backpack

Whether you’re heading to school, work, the gym, or your next trip, a backpack keeps your belongings organized and your essentials within arm’s reach.

Although your backpack is built to withstand everyday use, it can wear down if not cleaned regularly. It’s important to note the manufacturer’s guidelines for proper care of your backpack, but if not available, follow these tips for washing, cleaning, and extending the life of your bag.

How To Spot Clean a Backpack

Before cleaning, you’ll want to assess the condition of your backpack. Regular spot cleaning with the right supplies can eliminate light messes and prevent deep stains. Knowing how to clean a backpack without washing it is an effective way to keep it looking its best.


  • Warm water (avoid hot water, as it can solidify stains)
  • Mild soap or laundry detergent
  • Washcloth or sponge

Spot Cleaning Steps

  1. Check that the area you’re cleaning is free of debris.
  2. Wipe the dirty area using a damp sponge or washcloth (with just water, at first).
  3. Add a small amount of mild soap or laundry detergent to the damp sponge or washcloth, and gently scrub any stains or spots. We recommend testing this on a part of the backpack that isn’t visible first to ensure that the scrubbing won’t damage the fabric.
  4. Use clean water to rinse the area of the soapy mixture.
  5. Lay your backpack flat to air dry, away from direct sun that can cause fabric to fade.

backpack cleaning

How To Hand Wash a Backpack

Some backpacks require a little more effort than spot cleaning. For a deeper hand wash, follow our instructions below.


  • Warm water (avoid hot water, as it can solidify stains)
  • Mild soap or laundry detergent
  • Washcloth or sponge
  • Soft bristle brush or toothbrush
  • Sink or tub
  • Towel

Hand Washing Steps

  1. Remove everything from your bag – checking pockets and hidden compartments. If your bag has any hardware, remove that as well. If possible, vacuum the interior to remove any loose debris before cleaning.
  2. Fill a sink, bathtub, or large container with at least six inches of water. Then add a tablespoon of mild soap or laundry detergent and mix it into the water.
  3. Submerge your backpack and gently scrub the inside and outside of it using a washcloth or sponge. Use a soft bristle brush or toothbrush for more stubborn areas and to loosen dirt on hardware, zippers and hard to reach areas. Test these methods on a less visible part of your backpack first to check that they won’t damage the fabric.
  4. Drain the sink or tub, and rinse the backpack with clean water.
  5. Use a towel to pat excess moisture dry, then hang in a shaded, and preferably ventilated, place to finish drying. Depending on the fabric and ventilation, it can take up to a day for a freshly washed backpack to dry completely.

FAQ: Can you wash a backpack in the washing machine?

Hand washing is recommended to maintain a backpack's structure, integrity, and lifespan, but depending on the backpack’s material, washing machines can be a safe and effective cleaning option.

Avoid machine washing if your bag is made of leather or has metal hardware that could tarnish during the washing process. Read the manufacturer’s care label and follow the instructions below to wash a backpack in the washing machine.


can you put backpack in dryer

How To Wash a Backpack in the Washing Machine

To wash a backpack in the washing machine, start by emptying your bag and shaking out any loose debris. Ensure any zippers and compartments are closed and detach any straps, hardware or accessories from the backpack.

If you have a mesh laundry bag (a pillowcase also works), place the backpack inside for an extra layer of fabric protection. Use a small amount of laundry detergent and machine wash on the shortest and gentlest cycle.

Once the cycle is done, remove the backpack from the washer and pat it dry with a towel. Hang dry in a ventilated area or line dry outside away from direct sunlight. Depending on the temperature and humidity in your area, the backpack will take about a day to dry completely.

Resist the urge to speed up the drying process by putting the backpack in the dryer – the high heat may damage or shrink the fabric and could warp the structure of the bag.

How To Clean the Inside of a Backpack

how to wash inside of backpack

If you only need to clean the inside of your backpack, start by emptying all the compartments and shaking out your backpack to get rid of any loose debris. For an extra-thorough clean, use a vacuum and focus on corners and other hard-to-reach areas.

Wet a washcloth or sponge with water and mild soap or detergent to wipe down the interior of your bag. Keep the bag open and hang to air dry (even better if you can easily flip your backpack inside out).

FAQ: Can I put a backpack in the dryer?

Although placing a backpack in the dryer may seem like the most efficient way to speed up the process, it’s not recommended. The high heat of a dryer can quickly damage materials and compromise the fabric.

The best way to dry a backpack is to hang it to dry in a well-ventilated area. Keep your pack out of direct sunlight to prevent fading.

can you put backpack in washer

Material Special Care

Backpacks come in all shapes, sizes, and materials – some of which require special care to wash properly. Read on to learn how to care for polyester, canvas and leather.

Polyester and Nylon Backpacks

how to wash nylon backpack

Polyester and nylon backpacks are easy to clean, either by hand or in the washing machine (see above for instructions). Use a gentle soap to wash and air dry to maintain the quality of the fabric.

Canvas and Cotton Backpacks

how to wash cotton backpack

Canvas and cotton backpacks can be washing machine-friendly but often feature leather or suede accents. In this case, it’s safer to regularly spot treat or hand wash, avoiding the leather or suede areas.

Leather Backpacks

For genuine leather backpacks, we recommend regular brushing to remove dirt or dust. For a deeper clean, apply leather cleaner to a brush and gently work it into the bag in circular motions. Once the cleaner is dry, apply leather conditioner to a cloth and work it into the bag. Let the backpack dry completely before use.

Follow our simple steps to maximize the use of your bag. With regular care and cleaning, you can keep your backpack looking its best and functioning for years to come.