How to Wash a Backpack (It’s Easier Than You Think)

What are the three words that kids hate to hear but parents love? Back to school. Prepping for getting kids back in class usually requires purchasing a laundry list of school supplies, the costs of which can quickly add up, especially if you’re buying a new backpack every year. Backpacks tend to take a beating from students. They are dropped on dirty floors, spilled on at lunch and have who-knows-what shoved into their pockets. It makes sense that many parents would rather toss the old and buy new each year. But that doesn’t have to be the case. You can save some money, and reduce environmental waste, by washing a backpack. 

It’s amazing the number of parents who don’t know how to wash a backpack or simply think it takes way too long to clean it properly. That’s not the case. According to Whirlpool, there are two ways to wash a backpack: in the washing machine or by hand.

Washing a Backpack in the Washing Machine

Can you wash a backpack in the washing machine? Yes! Most backpacks made of nylon or canvas can be cleaned in a washing machine. Before you start, it’s important to read the bag’s care label just to make sure your bag can be put in the washing machine.

  1. Empty the backpack and brush off visible dirt. Leave the pockets unzipped and either shake out crumbs or vacuum them up with an attachment. Remove any metal frames and detachable straps and belts.
  2. Follow the label’s instructions. Most care labels will advise you on the correct water temperature and preferred cycle. If there is no label, perform a spot test on the fabric using a couple of drops of mild detergent to make sure no fading or damage occurs.
  3. Spot treat stains. Mix a teaspoon of mild detergent with lukewarm water and apply to the stain, working the mixture in with a soft-bristled brush or sponge.
  4. Machine wash on delicate. Place the backpack in a pillowcase or laundry bag and wash on delicate. Only use the minimum amount of mild detergent, usually the first link in the cap or one detergent pod. 
  5. Air dry. Either lay the backpack flat on an old towel or hang it on a clothesline or rack. Drying the backpack in the dryer can damage the fabric and zippers.

Washing a Backpack by Hand

Washing a backpack by hand takes a little more time but it is still easy to do. Bags made of leather, have leather-trim, feature embroidery or have a protective coating that repels rain, should all be washed by hand. Or if you don’t know the backpack’s material, hand washing is the safest way to go.

Steps 1 through 3 are the same as used for washing the backpack in a washing machine. For step 4 in the handwashing process, fill your sink with lukewarm water and add a tablespoon of mild detergent. Scrub the backpack both inside and out with a washcloth. Use a toothbrush to remove any gunk from the zippers. 

Rinse and air dry just like the washing machine process. You may have to pat the backpack with a towel to get rid of excess moisture. Avoid twisting or ringing the backpack. With all the stress of getting kids ready to go back to school, many parents don’t have time to clean. That’s where we can help. The Maids’ crews can take over your home cleaning responsibilities while you handle buying school supplies, making lunches and coordinating drop-offs. We can save the day once or come on a schedule. Contact us for a free estimate.


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