How To Clean A Backpack


Besides your boots and your tent, the backpack is the third essential part of the equipment you’ll need for hiking. Over time it will become your „best friend“, as it will store all of your most important stuff and gear and keep it within hand reach. They also can be quite expensive, so it is good to know how to properly take care of your backpack.

So, the question is how to wash a backpack without affecting its abilities, while managing to remove all salts and oils that came out with your sweat, along with other dirt, dust, and grease that has settled in and on it during your hiking trips. This article will lead you through the process and show you how to clean a backpack so it will last as long as possible.

Follow The Instructions

The most important thing when it comes to washing it is reading the instructions on how to clean a backpack. It won’t show you all the steps, tips, and tricks, of course, but the instruction will provide you with information like:

  • Can you wash it in a washing machine, or you have to do it by hand
  • What kind of solution do you need to wash it?
  • How (not) to dry it

One of the biggest questions every backpack owner has about this topic is – should you wash it in a washing machine? The answer lays in the instructions. If it says no, then don’t risk it or you’ll end up spending money on a new one sooner rather than later. If it says yes, it means it is a possibility, but be careful, because not all detergents are good for your backpack!

How To Clean A Backpack By Hand

There are several different techniques on how to properly clean your backpack. It is not complicated, but it does require the proper procedure.

Before You Start

You probably wouldn’t like to find some money, earphones, or basically, anything else soaking wet while you’re taking your backpack outside to dry. That’s why it is important to remove anything from your backpack before you start the cleaning process. Turn your backpack inside out and with the help of a small vacuum cleaner reach the interior corners where the dust, dirt, or other unwanted things could gather. Then, go through all the zippers to remove any dirt from there.

It is good to place all the stuff you keep in your backpack in some plastic bag or container, so you could easily return it once the backpack is clean and dry. Also, if you see some of the things you’ve taken out of your backpack are dirty, clean them before you return them into your freshly washed backpack. Make sure all the pockets are empty and leave them unzipped.

Light Cleaning Time

Sometimes simple light cleaning will do the work, and if anything, it will ease the deep cleaning process much easier when the time for it comes.

Get a clean sponge and soak in in the water, then lightly clean the interior of your backpack turned inside out. When done, turn it again and look for stains or dirt on the exterior. Once you spot it, gently rub it using your sponge and a little soap. Once you’ve removed the stain, use the cool – not completely cold – water to rinse the soap off.

Deep Cleaning Time

It is possible that sometimes the light cleaning process isn’t enough, and then is when the deep cleaning process comes into play.

What Do You Need

First, go and get the mild soap, and make sure it doesn’t have additives like fragrances. You could also use castile soap, or wash it with a wash product made for technical packs and clothing. Then, you’ll need a clean sponge or washcloth, and a soft brush or used toothbrush. It is good to get the nylon-bristled one. If it is stiff, avoid it and get another.

As we’ve already stated, it is important to follow the instructions and recommendations provided by the manufacturer, so if it says you should sink your backpack in a bathtub, do it. Some manufacturers say you shouldn’t do it, so – don’t.

Whatever the case is, you’ll need the water, so be careful not to use hot, because it could damage the materials and affect the waterproofing.

Before you dip your backpack, remove the hip belt, shoulder straps, and any part of the backpack that could be removed. Wash them individually using the sponge and a little soap, and then rinse them thoroughly under cool, clean running water. Remove the metal frame, if your backpack has one.

Fill the bathtub or a sink with about 6 inches of warm water. Add mild soap. Then dip your backpack into the water and start to swish it energetically, while sponging off the interiors and brushing exterior spots along the way. Especially pay attention to those places where the backpack touches your skin. When cleaning the mesh pockets, be gentle.

Rinsing The Backpack

The proper way of rinsing the backpack is as equally important as the cleaning process itself. When done with washing your backpack, it is time to remove the soap. Start by draining the water used for washing, then refill it with another 6 inches of cool water. Rinse once, then drain the water, look for the soap leftovers on your backpack and repeat the rinsing once again, if necessary of if you’re not sure you’ve got it all out.

Maintenance Tips And Tricks

The backpack is your best friend when it comes to safety, comfort, and the ability to fully enjoy hikes or camping trips, so it is good to pay it back by maintaining it properly. Every time you get back from the trip, no matter how short or long it was, take all of your stuff out of your backpack. Leave the zips open, turn them inside out and shake off the dirt, mud, or anything similar from the inside. Then, using a soft brush, remove any leftovers.

You could also vacuum it before the backpacking season starts and after it passes, while you’re putting away your spring stuff to wait for another opportunity. This way it will be clean when you store it, so it won’t be too hard to remove any possible dust that has formed while it was on a shelf.

What Not To Do


Most of the backpacks are great at waterproofing so you won’t have to worry about your stuff getting wet if the rain catches you on the track, and the last thing you could do is to try and keep it that way. Don’t use any kind of bleach, as it could ruin the fabrics. Do not tumble dry it, because it could rip the fabrics. Do not take it on a dry clean, and do not under any circumstances iron your backpack, because there are some materials similar to plastics which could melt under high temperature, and if that happens, all you can do is throw it away and buy another backpack.

Machine Washing Your Backpack

Although it is not recommended, washing your backpack in the washing machine is permitted, as long as the instructions say you could do it. Although, washing your backpack is way safer if done by hand, but if you don’t have a choice or simply want to try it this way, make sure you follow these steps:

Start by reading the label. Some are not machine washable, and if your label says you shouldn’t wash it using the machine, don’t push your luck or you could end up having to buy a new one way sooner than necessary.

On the other hand, if it says you can wash it in a washing machine, empty all the pockets and leave them unzipped. Carefully inspect all the corners and remove any possible dirt or stuff you’ve found there. If there is a metal frame, remove it, along with all other removable objects. Place all the stuff in a plastic bag, so you know where they are, and easily place it back once your backpack is washed.

Before you program your washing machine, make sure your backpack fits and it has enough space to move around while in it. Then, place it in a laundry bag, or if you don’t have one, use an old pillowcase. This will stop the straps from getting caught inside your machine and causing damage to your machine or your backpack. If you don’t have a pillowcase then simply turn your backpack inside out.

Turn on your washing machine and run it through an empty wash to remove any possible detergent leftovers from the previous usage. Once it has finished an empty wash, put your backpack in, and add gentle detergent, suitable for backpacks. You can always check the recommendations online and to find the best one for your specific type of backpack. Don’t use a regular one or fabric softener, because that way you could seriously damage the material.

Wash it on a gentle cycle in cold water. When done, remove it from the bag and let it dry.

Drying The Backpack

Proper drying is essential for keeping your backpack in a good shape for a longer period of time. Do not use any drying machines for this. Even if it is way faster, if you place it in a dryer you could damage the fabrics or even rip it apart.

Also, don’t use a blow dryer. We’ve already stated that some fabrics have a low tolerance to high temperatures and this way it could meltdown. Don’t place it near the radiator, either.

This time you’ll have to be patient and let nature and the air do their job. Hang it somewhere away from the direct sunlight, with the zips open and hanged upside down. Before you store it, make sure that it is completely dry.

Storing A Backpack

Now when your backpack has been thoroughly washed, cleaned, and dried out, it is time to store it. The worst thing you can do is to place it somewhere wet. If the air humidity is high, there could be mold formations on your backpack, which is not something you would like to see or have to deal with. It is unhealthy for you, and it can cause serious damage to your backpack, so make sure the place is dry. Don’t leave it in a cellar or up in the attic.

If there is room in your closet, place your backpack in it. If you have an option to hang it, do it. The other one is to leave it somewhere lying flat. Whatever you do, don’t place it upstanding, because it could damage the back support.

Prevent It From Getting (Too) Wet

That old saying says that it is better to prevent than to heal. Lots of time dust and other unwanted stuff get into our backpacks via rain and stays there until we decide to perform a deep wash. To minimize the chance of this happening, you could do two things.

The first one is to spray the inner part of your backpack with a waterproof spray. It will keep a good portion of water away and stop it from entering your backpack.

The second one comes in form of a backpack cover. They serve as the outside protector and physically prevent the water from getting inside. They are quite cheap most of the time, so this is probably one of the things you should get as soon as possible.

Globo Surf Overview

No matter how hard you try to avoid it, your backpack will sooner or later need to be washed. This article should serve you as a guide on how to clean and how to wash a backpack, without causing any damage to it. Be careful, treat your backpack with respect, and take good care of it. It will pay you back by being your loyal companion on every trip you make and every hike you take, so one day, when you see a photo of yourself with your backpack on, you can remember all those great stories you’ve been through with it on your back. Not to mention the fact that it will help you stay safe along the way.

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Globo Surf
My name is David Hamburg. I am an avid water sports fan who enjoys paddle boarding, surfing, scuba diving, and kite surfing. Anything with a board or chance I can get in the water I love! I am such a big fan I decided to start this website to review all my favorite products and some others. Hope you enjoy!