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How to Clean a Travel Backpack: Useful Recommendations from an Expert

Home » How to Clean a Travel Backpack: Useful Recommendations from an Expert


Once you return from an exciting adventure, you probably feel like you carried some woods with you in your backpack. Or, perhaps, the hiking trip you have been planning for the longest time is fast approaching. In all of these cases, you need to clean your bag for further trips. If you have been wondering how to clean a hiking backpack, this guide has you covered.

Many tourists invest heavily in backpacks. Thus, such an item needs a lot of care. Regardless of the type of pack you carry, it will attract dirt over time from your sweat and oil from your skin. Moreover, if you don’t wash a travel backpack regularly, it can quickly degrade its fabric.

What you need to know about cleaning backpack?
Being a tourist myself, I have had a personal experience with cleaning backpacks. Starting, I ruined several of mine through the wrong cleaning techniques. Even so, I now know the dos and don’ts when it comes to cleaning such things. In this quick guide, I will provide you with important tips on how to prolong the durability of your backpack through effortless cleaning.

Two Ways to Clean Your Backpack


You can clean your backpack in two main ways, namely light and heavy cleaning. In this section, I will discuss how to go about each of them.

Light Cleaning

Light cleaning of your backpack is a standard maintenance procedure. It is what you usually do after an overnight trip or any short hike. Remember that you always pack necessities, like foods and drinks, in your backpack. Such items can easily spill into the bag, and that’s why you always need to clean your pack lightly before storing it until the next trip.

Subjecting your backpack to this kind of cleaning after every adventure will protect it from destruction by bugs and ants that get attracted to food particles. Besides, it will ensure the durability of its zippers by preventing them from failing.

Here are the items you will need for this kind of cleaning:

  • A clean washcloth. A sponge will do, too;
  • A supple brush or even an old toothbrush;
  • Mild soap. Make sure that it contains no additives or fragrances.

The first step to a clean backpack is emptying its contents. Most bags have several pockets that you can use to store different items. Ensure that you check each of them so that you won’t soak any valuables in the water.

Secondly, you should turn the bag upside down and shake it with all the pockets open. This way, you will get rid of large dirt particles, as well as dust.

Take your washcloth and put some water onto it to make it damp. Use it to clean your bag’s interior. For this step, you do not need to use any soap. For the exterior, use your soft brush and some soap to get rid of stains and other types of dirt if there are any. Rinse your backpack well, using water and your sponge or washcloth. Remember not to submerge the bag in water.

Hang your pack and let it dry out completely before storing it. I don’t recommend storing your backpack wet, as it could encourage the growth of molds. You may put your essential items back into the bag before storing it.

Heavy Cleaning

If you are a hiker who takes your backpack for multiday trips, you may find that it needs a more thorough cleaning. This kind of cleaning should be done sporadically as a way of ensuring the bag’s longevity. If you have been wondering how to clean a hiking backpack thoroughly, keep in mind that it can be done by hand or by a machine.

However, it is important to note that not all bags are suitable for machine-washing. Thus, if you want to be able to clean your pack using a machine, you must purchase the one with the corresponding specifications.

  • Hand-washing your backpack

If your backpack’s manufacturer does not recommend machine-washing, then you must clean it by hand. Before hand-washing, be sure to follow the recommendations for cleaning and drying the bag. The reliance on specific practices and the addition of some detergents could destroy its impermeable features.

First, you should remove any essential items from your bag and keep them away safely. Secondly, unzip your pack and remove the detachable parts it may have. Wash these parts separately using a washcloth or sponge and some soap and then rinse them thoroughly.

Next, shake your bag to get rid of any dirt particles. When you finish, fill a sink with lukewarm water and put the bag in it. Remember to use mild soap as opposed to your regular detergent. Besides, avoid the use of a fabric softener as it could damage a waterproof bag.

Gently scrub the interior of the pack using a sponge. Brush its exterior to get rid of spots and reach the corners. Be gentle when cleaning mesh pockets to ensure that they do not tear from too much scrubbing. Use the brush to clean the zippers as opposed to scrubbing them. It will help keep their water-resistant coatings in place. You may use silicone spray if you have it to grease the zippers and prevent them from rusting once you finish cleaning.

man carring a backpack

Drain the soapy water and use clean water to rinse your bag. You may rinse it twice to ensure that all the soap has been drained. If you have a hosepipe, you could use it as well to rinse out the soap. A hosepipe will also be handy if the bag’s manufacturer discourages submerging the item into water.

The final step is leaving the pack to dry. I recommend hanging it in a dark, cool, and well-aerated place. Hang the bag upside down and do not store it before it has completely dried. Besides, do not use a dryer for this purpose. A fan, however, can be used to fasten the drying process.

  • Machine-cleaning your backpack

If you figured out that your pack’s manufacturer allows machine-washing, start by unzipping the pockets to empty them. Next, remove the attachable parts and metal frame if the pack has any.

In case of any stain spots, pre-treat them before tossing the pack into the machine. You may use a mild cleansing agent, toothbrush, and water to scrub the stains. The next step involves turning your backpack inside out. It will ensure that the zippers and straps do not interfere with the machine’s functioning.

Before putting your bag into the machine, run an empty wash cycle. It will clear any cleanser dregs from previous washing sessions. Remember that backpacks should only be washed using gentle detergents that are appropriate for them.

Put the bag into the machine and add a suitable detergent. Start the cleaning session using cold water and ensure that it is a gentle cycle. Remove the bag after washing and dry it in a well-ventilated and cool place away from direct sunlight.

How Can You Wash a Backpack and Get Rid of Tough Stains?

Tough stains stand for molds, grease, or oil stains. Below is a guide on how to get rid of them and have a clean backpack again.

Dealing with Molds on Backpacks

During the hiking or camping off-seasons, backpacks may get tossed in a closet or some other space. When a pack is left in a humid environment, mold can grow on it. If you find mold in your bag, it does not necessarily mean that you must dispose of it and purchase a new one. If you are unsure about how to remove mold from backpack, here are the steps to follow:

  • To remove mold from backpack, start by shaking it outside. Remember that molds are living organisms that can easily spread. Thus, do not shake the bag inside your home to avoid their dissemination. Besides, remember to cover yourself with a face mask to prevent inhalation.
  • While still outside, use a brush with thick bristles to brush down the bag.
  • Create a solution with which you will wipe your backpack to keep away the molds. This solution can be made by mixing a quarter of a cup of water with two tablespoons of either lemon juice or bleach. Before you settle on bleach, double-check to ascertain whether the bag’s fabric is colorfast.
  • Use the solution to wipe down the backpack thoroughly. Opt for a rough sponge for this. Be sure to scrub the spots stained by mold vigorously.
  • Rinse the bag carefully and lay it out to dry under the sun. Keep turning it so that the sun eliminates any mold spores that could remain.

Cleaning Grime

hiking man

Grime and sweat are examples of other tough stains that could trouble you into wondering how to wash a backpack from them. Grime is dirt that can cause the surface of your pack to blacken. If your main concern is how to clean grime from a backpack, these tips will come in handy in handling this type of dirt.

The first tip is to concentrate on the spot with grime. You can do it by spot-cleaning using a soft used toothbrush and mild soap. To clean grime from a backpack, you should ensure that the stained spot is wet before applying soap onto it. Use your soft brush to brush off the grime from the bag gently.

If you are dealing with several grime spots, you should spot-clean each of them and then consider submerging the bag into water to clean it thoroughly. To do this, follow the steps discussed for the heavy cleaning of your backpack. Always store only the dried up pack.

How to Clean Sweat from a Backpack and Eliminate the Bad Odor

When engaging in outdoor activities, it is normal for your body to sweat. Most of the sweat is soaked up in your backpack’s shoulder straps. Therefore, to keep off from offending yourself and others the next time you grab your bag for an adventure, you should get rid of the absorbed sweat.

To clean sweat from a backpack, you must first detach the parts that can be separated from the bag. Usually, shoulder straps get most affected by sweat. You should clean them separately using a gentle detergent and a sponge.

Besides, there are a few items you can use to get rid of sweat odor from your backpack. You can go for a specific spray that protects against the build-up of bacteria that cause stenches. Alternatively, you can spray vinegar on the straps to keep off a sweaty smell. However, remember to rinse the straps in lukewarm soapy water to eliminate the vinegar smell, in case it irritates you.

How to Clean an Oil Stain From a Backpack Leaving it Sparkling Clean

Oils are some of the things that hikers and tourists pack in their backpacks. If you have had oil spilled inside your bag, you may not want to carry it again. However, it is possible to get rid of oil marks quickly and effortlessly.

To clean an oil stain from a backpack, you will need an oil removing detergent and some warm water. If you do not have such a cleanser, you can apply fine powder like flour or cornstarch on the oil stain before cleaning it. Leave the solution for an hour, and it will absorb the oil.

Next, you should brush off any excess powder from the backpack and then start the washing process. Ensure that you stick to the recommended washing method. Apply detergent to the stained spot until it becomes clear.

If the oil has left some smell in your bag even after washing it, you could get some baking soda and leave it in your backpack for a few days after it has dried. Baking soda works by absorbing the unwanted smell.

How to Remove a Greasy Stain from a Backpack with Ease?

shepherd dog in the desert with a backpack

As soon as you have noticed the mark, remove a greasy stain from a backpack by first applying baby powder onto it. Leave it for about fifteen minutes and brush of the excess powder to check whether the stain is still visible. If you do not have baby powder, alternatives like chalk or cornstarch will also work.

If the stain is still visible after these actions, you should put the bag into water and use soap and a soft brush to get rid of the mark. Scrub gently using the brush in circular motions until the stain is cleaned. Hang your bag and wait for it to dry before storing or using it again.

How to Clean a Travel Backpack from your Favorite Sports Brand?

Most backpack manufacturers provide specific instructions on how to clean backpack while maintaining features like water-resistance. If you are uncertain about cleaning a pack from a particular brand, this helpful guide will clear your doubts.

How to Wash Patagonia Backpack and Maintain Its Durability?

The Patagonia manufacturer advises against the use of hot water and toxic laundry soaps for cleaning its backpacks. Besides, the company does not recommend machine-washing. Instead, you should clean a Patagonia bag using a sponge to spot-clean.

If your bag is stained by grease, you should dampen it first and then rub the pack with dishwashing detergent. You should then wash it in warm water using mild laundry soap. If the stain persists, the manufacturer advises using safe cleaning fluid, like Carbona or mineral spirits, to scrub the mark off using a sponge. When drying a Patagonia backpack, you should hang in on a line having turned it inside out first.

A Short Guide on How to Wash Osprey Backpack

If you own an Osprey backpack, you should always detach the hip belt from the pack before cleaning it. Further, you should never wash your bag in a machine or using harsh detergents.

An Osprey travel pack with the High Road Wheeled Chassis should also not be immersed in water. Instead, you need to wipe its exterior using a washcloth, a gentle detergent, and warm water.

Drying an Osprey backpack also requires keeping it away from direct sunlight. The place where you hang your bag must be well-aerated to keep the pack from staying damp for too long.

Hints on How to Wash Deuter Backpack

Proper cleaning of a Deuter backpack involves hand-washing it as opposed to using a machine. It is because abrasion causes damage to the bag’s material over time. Also, if you own a Deuter travel pack, don’t use detergents that contain additives when cleaning it.

Such a bag will easily retain detergent residues that could later cause irritation to the users with sensitive skin. Thus, you must always use pH-neutral soap to clean this backpack. After it dries out, store the pack in an appropriate place with good air circulation.

How to Wash Nomatic Backpack without Ruining It

The Nomatic backpack is delicate since it is made of leather. The manufacturer recommends gentle cleaning of the bag only once a month.

To clean this bag, you should only use a soft damp cloth to wipe its interior and exterior. Besides, you should avoid machine-washing your pack, as it could damage the leather material. When storing your bag, put it in a breathable cotton dust bag and place it in a dry and cool space.

Tips on How to Clean a Jansport BackpackJansport Backpack

A Jansport backpack is a delicate bag, too. Thus, the manufacturer highly discourages the use of any detergent when cleaning it.

Besides, the Jansport company advises against the use of washing machines for cleaning their backpacks. Instead, the manufacturer recommends cleaning by hand as a way of maintaining the shape and fabric of the product.

When washing a Jansport bag, you should use cool water and a soft wet cloth to wipe the inside and outside your pack. Besides, avoid submerging Jansport bags that have leather parts, into water. To maintain the look of your item for longer, you should consider getting into a monthly cleaning routine and lightly brush or wipe the pack down to get rid of dirt and stains.

Clean a Northface Backpack by Following These Steps

northface backpack

According to the manufacturers of the Northface backpacks, the best way to wash one is to spot-clean. The company does not recommend the submersion of their packs in water.

However, if spot-cleaning does not remove the dirt on your bag, you can brush it off using a toothbrush. You can also wipe the pack using little water and no soap. It is because detergents can damage the material.

Should you need to soak the bag to eliminate the toughest of stains, I recommended doing so in lukewarm water only. The Northface manufacturer also cautions against using a dryer on the backpack as it could cause its parts to melt.

Guidelines on How to Clean a Camelbak Backpack Properly

If your Camelbak backpack gets a little dusty, I recommend you to use a damp cloth to wipe it down. However, if you feel that it is filthy and requires deeper cleaning, you should soak it in cool or warm water and add some gentle soap.

In case of any stains, you can gently brush them off after soaking and before rinsing the bag. Ensure that you thoroughly rinse the pack to get rid of any suds. The Camelbak backpack can withstand almost all cleaning approaches, except a washing machine. It may damage its weatherproof coating.

Time to Clean Your Backpack Like an Expert

For avid hikers and other tourists who carry backpacks, periodic cleaning is a must and precise way for maintaining the bags over a long time. If you have been uncertain how to clean a travel backpack, there are different ways to do it. They depend on how dirty your pack is and how thoroughly it requires cleaning.

Before cleaning any backpack, you need to read what its manufacturer recommends carefully. Some warn against the use of any detergent, gentle or not, in the cleaning of the bags. For others, you should avoid machine-washing at all costs. Some companies also recommend the maximum number of times that a pack should be cleaned over a specific duration.

A crucial pointer is to always unload your bag before cleaning it. Besides, you should separately wash any parts that can be detached.


How to clean a white backpack without washing it?

If your backpack is made of a material that can be dry cleaned, then take it to the dry cleaner. Otherwise, you can try using a lint roller or a vacuum with a upholstery attachment to remove dirt and debris.

How to clean a backpack by hand?

To clean a backpack by hand, start by removing any dirt or debris with a brush. If there are any stubborn stains, treat them with a stain remover before laundering the backpack in cold water. Allow the backpack to air dry completely before using it again.

How to clean a backpack without washing machine?

If your backpack is not machine-washable, you can spot-clean it with a damp cloth and mild soap. To remove tough stains, you may need to use a small brush.

How to clean a backpack with mold?

If your backpack has mold on it, you will need to clean it as soon as possible. Mold can cause serious health problems, so you do not want to wait to clean it. You will need to use a mild detergent and a soft brush to remove the mold.

How to clean a backpack in a washing machine?

Backpacks can be cleaned in a washing machine using a gentle cycle and mild detergent. Backpacks made of delicate materials, such as leather or suede, should not be put in the washing machine.

I hope that you found this guide helpful in keeping your backpack in great shape. How do you usually clean your pack? Is there something special you use to remove tough stains? Share your tips with me in the comments section below.

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