If you wear a backpack all the time, it’s likely exposed to situations that will make it super dirty. It could be a hike through a muddy forest or an epic food fight in your school cafeteria. Either way, you can’t expect your bag to stay squeaky clean forever.
The good news is it’s not too difficult to wash your backpack. Follow this guide to make it happen. You’ll have a bag that looks and smells fresh and clean before you know it!
Can You Put a Backpack in the Washer?
Some backpacks can go directly into the washer, while others are not safe for the machine. It really depends on the material and how the bag is made. Be sure to check the care tag, or ask the manufacturer for more information.
If you can throw your backpack in the washing machine, congrats! This is the easiest way to get it nice and clean. Keep these tips in mind while washing:
Empty your backpack
You obviously don’t want any pens, notebooks, or spare change clunking around in the machine. Take everything out before putting your backpack in the washer.
Remove detachable accessories
Before you start washing, remove any detachable pockets, straps, wire frames, or mesh. This helps ensure that everything gets clean without any damage.
Cut loose threads
Another way to prep your backpack for the washer is by snipping away loose threads. You don’t want them to get snagged in the machine or stuck in the zippers.
Place it in a laundry bag
The straps, zippers, and buckles can get tangled in the machine. Avoid this issue by placing your backpack into a mesh laundry bag or an old pillowcase.
Use gentle detergent & cold water
Now’s not the time to bust out the bleach! Stick with a mild detergent and fabric softener and rinse with cool water. Hot water may cause shrinkage!
Set to delicate or gentle
Most washers have a “gentle” or “delicate” cycle. Use this setting when washing your backpack in the machine.
*Disclaimer: Quality Logo Products® is not responsible for any damage caused by washing your backpack. If you’re at all unsure, reach out directly to the bag’s manufacturer for more information.
Leather backpacks should never be machine washed. Always clean these bags by hand!
Empty the Backpack
It goes without saying that you shouldn’t have anything inside of your backpack while you’re cleaning it. Be sure to remove everything, including items that are in the zippered pockets.
Brush With Mild Detergent
Dip your cleaning brush into a bowl of mild detergent and gently scrub away the dirt. Don’t forget to also get the straps!
Allow the Solution to Sit
Wait for 30 minutes so the detergent can really seep into the stained areas. This is a good time to grab a cup of coffee, read a book, or catch up on the latest episode of your favorite TV show!
Rinse all the suds away using cool water and a clean washcloth. Your kitchen sink or bathtub is a good place to do this so you don’t make a mess. Be sure not to totally submerge your bag in the water as it could take a longer time to dry!
Let Air Dry
Your backpack is clean and ready to go! Repeat the steps if necessary. Once everything looks good, hang your bag on a hook or hanger and let it air dry.
How Long Does it Take to Dry a Backpack?
Backpacks, like any items made from fabric, take up to 48 hours to completely dry. You can cut down on this time by using only a little water while washing your bag. It also doesn’t hurt to avoid wearing yours out in a rainstorm!
How Can I Make My Backpack Dry Faster?
If your backpack gets wet, you can dry it faster by hanging it in the fresh air on an overcast day. Is it cold outside? Plug in a fan and have it blow directly onto your backpack instead. Air circulation is key to making your backpack dry quickly!
How to Waterproof a Backpack
Are you using a backpack outdoors for hiking? It’s not a bad idea to waterproof it before your next big adventure! Here’s how:
#1: Buy a Rain Cover
Many hiking backpacks come with a rain cover, but if yours is MIA you can buy a replacement. A disposable poncho also works in a pinch!
#2: Line the Inside With Plastic
Stuff the inside of your backpack with plastic grocery bags or garbage bags. This will cut down on the mess if you put dirty boots or a wet jacket into the bag after your hike.
#3: Use Ziploc Bags for Electronics
You’re likely going to bring your phone and maybe a camera with you on your expedition. Keep your tech gadgets safe by storing them in Ziploc bags.
#4: Try a Water-Repellant Spray
Look for a water-repellant spray and spray the outside of your backpack. You can find this cleaning solution at most outdoor supply stores, or buy giant bottles online through Amazon.
#5: Store Your Backpack in a Dry Bag
Are you kayaking or white water rafting? It’s not a bad idea to purchase a dry bag for your backpack. These bags float in water and will protect the gear inside from getting wet or damaged.
By being proactive and waterproofing your backpack, you can worry less about having to dry it later. These tips also work well if you’re bringing your backpack out on a rainy or snowy day.
How Do You Get Dirt Stains Out of Backpacks?
If the stains on your backpack are stubborn, try spaying them with white vinegar. The acidity will help break down any nasty buildup. You can mask the vinegary scent by mixing in a few drops of lemon.
Do you have ink stains on your backpack? Remove them by first using hair spray and then following up with rubbing alcohol. Blot the area with a dry towel until the ink is gone.
How Do You Clean the Inside of a Backpack?
Is the inside of your backpack a nightmare? You don’t have to go through the entire process of washing it! Simply turn it inside out and use a handheld vacuum cleaner to remove any crumbs, debris, or dust that have accumulated inside.
You can then go a step further and wipe down the inside of your bag with antibacterial wipes. This is a quick way to get rid of any gunk that may be hiding in the shadows.
Empty the Backpack
Start by removing everything from the inside of your backpack. After all, you don’t want to ruin your journals, textbooks, or other supplies.
Sprinkle in Baking Soda
Pour only about a 1⁄4 cup of baking soda into the bottom of the backpack. If you want a pleasing aroma, add a couple of drops of your favorite essential oil to the baking soda.
Leave the Bag Open
Leave your backpack open for at least 12 hours. It’s better to do this on an overcast day since the sun can damage or discolor certain materials. If it’s too cold outside, you can keep your bag open in a safe area.
Vacuum Up the Baking Soda
Suck up any grains that still remain at the bottom of your backpack. This is why it’s important not to pour too much baking soda during Step Two.
Dip Newspaper in Vanilla
As an extra precaution against odors, dip newspaper in vanilla extract, wad it up, and put it into the backpack. Leave it in there for a few days.
Replace Newspaper With Dryer Sheets
Take the newspaper out of the backpack. Avoid any funky smells in the future by keeping a few dryer sheets tucked into the bottom. You should notice that the gross smells are gone!
Are you deodorizing your kid’s backpack? Do this project on a Friday when they get home from school. This gives you plenty of time to let the baking soda and newspaper work their magic!
Remove mold from a backpack by mixing 1 qt. of water and 2 tbsp. of bleach or lemon juice. Wipe down the bag with the solution, scrubbing vigorously until it’s gone.
How Often Should I Wash My Backpack?
It’s not necessary to wash your backpack all the time, but aim to give it a good cleaning every 6 to 12 months. If you travel often or go on hikes, you may want to wash it more frequently.
How Can I Make My Backpack Look New?
Now that your backpack is clean, it’s time to give it a makeover! Try any of the following ideas to make it look brand new:
Pins & Keychains
A little bit of sparkle can go a long way! Cover your backpack with Mod Podge and then sprinkle on glitter in your favorite color. Be sure to add a sealant to the top so the glitter doesn’t end up all over the place!
Are you an artist? Draw a picture on your backpack, or doodle a few designs in key areas like by the front pocket. This is a cheap, easy way to bring some personality to your bag!
Craft stores are your best bet for unique duct tape! You can find a ton of bright colors and unique patterns. Grab a few rolls and get busy sprucing up your backpack!
Make your backpack look edgy by sticking on rhinestones. You just need a hot glue gun and a little bit of time to do this project!
Bring a personal touch to your backpack with a monogrammed initial. Fabric letters or stickers are available at most craft stores!
Ribbon makes your backpack look like a present that’s just waiting to be opened! Tie a little bow to the grab handle or straps. You can even sew a bow smack dab in the middle.
Remember, you don’t have to run out and buy a new backpack when yours is looking worn out. Try any of these DIY ideas to breathe new life into your bag!
What to Do With Old Backpacks
Sometimes backpacks are beyond cleaning or DIY projects. You can donate old bags to a ton of great organizations such as:
This company repurposes old backpacks into new eco-friendly gear like bike tubes, wetsuits, billboard materials, and even more updated backpacks. It’s upcycling at its finest!
Birdwatching is a hobby that’s enjoyed by millions of people. Keep this activity alive by donating your old backpack to the American Birding Association. You can also donate other gear like jackets, rain ponchos, and binoculars!
Based in Portland, this non-profit donates backpacks to kids, impoverished people, and at-risk women. You can also send them gently used clothing, blankets, books, pens, and notebooks.
Operation Backpack helps kids get the school supplies they need in 11 states across the country. Donate your child’s gently used backpack to this non-profit organization.
Do you have a ton of clutter from old school supplies? Bundle up your crayons, rulers, facial tissues, and backpacks and then donate it all to Kids in Need Foundation. Visit their website to get the full list of products they need!
According to the 2019 U.S. Census, 10.5% of people are living in poverty in the United States. Share the Warmth helps give them what they need, which includes essential school supplies like backpacks, crayons, and notebooks.
The name says it all! This non-profit donates backpacks to kids in the Greater Boston area. Your old bag could be just what these students need to be successful in the classroom!
Thousands of students in Africa don’t have the supplies they need for their education. Develop Africa accepts gently used backpacks, folders, markers, and other gear.
Last year, School on Wheels sent over 7,000 backpacks filled with school supplies to kids in need. Donate your bags to their virtual backpack drive, or start your own in your local community!
Do you have a backpack that’s just not usable? Purchase a “Waste Box” from TerraCycle and send in your used backpacks. This non-profit will then take care of the recycling for you.
You should never throw away old backpacks. Clean them, give them a makeover, or donate them to a worthwhile cause!
The Bottom Line
Just because your backpack is dirty, that doesn’t mean it’s time to replace it with something else. A deep cleaning, and maybe a little bit of glitter, can go a long way in making your bag look brand new. So roll up your sleeves and get to work!
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