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How to Clean Your Gross Backpacks, Canvas Bags, and Totes Without Ruining Them

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Image for article titled How to Clean Your Gross Backpacks, Canvas Bags, and Totes Without Ruining Them

Photo: Arturs Budkevics (Shutterstock)

Think about all the places you (or members of your household) set down backpacks and other bags when you’re out and about. Over the course of a day, they could come in contact with the floors of bathrooms, buses, or cars, as well as shopping carts, counters, and other people. In other words, they can get pretty gross.

Here’s how to clean backpacks, canvas bags, and other totes without ruining them.

How to wash a backpack

Before washing a backpack or any other bag, check the label for instructions from the manufacturer. Generally speaking, most polyester and nylon bags can be machine-washed (although outdoor retailer REI advises against it). But while hand-washing may be safest, not everyone has time for that.

Fortunately, there are steps you can take that allow you to machine-wash your backpack without ruining it. These include:

  • Unzipping and emptying all the compartments
  • Using an enzymatic stain remover to spot-treat especially dirty parts of the backpack
  • Putting it in a protective washing bag
  • Washing it using cold water on the delicate or gentle wash cycle
  • Air drying it

How to wash canvas and cotton totes

Canvas and cotton totes—like the ones that are probably stuffed in a closet or the trunk of your car right now—can be machine-washed using the same technique described above for backpacks—including air drying them. It’s totally normal for the bags to be pretty wrinkled once they’ve dried. If that bothers you, ironing them will take care of it.

How to clean leather bags

Backpacks, totes, and other bags made of leather are not machine-washable, but still pretty simple to clean. Start by emptying any pockets and using either a brush or small vacuum attachment to get rid of any dirt, crumbs, or other debris inside.

Then wipe down the outside of the bag with a clean, dry, microfiber cloth. Next, clean the outside of the bag with either a leather-specific cleaner, or a little warm, soapy water. If you opt for soapy water, be sure to towel-dry the bag right away.

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