Backpacks are essential for kids, students, and travelers carrying homework and supplies on the go. Over time, food, moisture, and everyday wear and tear can make a backpack filthy and smelly. Luckily, most backpacks are built to endure everyday wear and tear, and they aren't that difficult to clean. Most backpacks can be washed in a regular washing machine using detergent, but others need to be hand-washed depending on the material they are made from. With some light cleaning products and a little bit of elbow grease, you can keep your bag clean, and hopefully extend its lifespan.
How to Clean a Backpack:
The number one question we were asked is of course, how to clean a backpack. I get this, I used to cram everything into my school bag, with little regard for its clean and orderly carriage. Needless to say, there were always interesting things lurking in and in my school bag, which is why cleaning it would have been a great idea. So for all of you, years after school has ended for me, I’ll explain the right way to do it.
Firstly, all bags are not created equal. Usually, they are made with similar materials, but you still need to check the fabric care label to determine the proper way to clean the bag. Materials have different care requirements, so be sure to pay attention to the label to avoid damaging the bag.
Pre-treat any stains ahead of time with your stain remover of choice, just don’t use anything that can bleach. I used my homemade version found here, but you can use anyone that you like. For stains and goopy globs, soak the bag for an hour or two in OxiClean before washing.
Most care tags should say machine washable, in which case you machine wash in cold water on a gentle cycle, using gentle detergent. If there are jewels or decals on the bag, they may come out in the wash, so you might want to consider hand washing if that is the case. Further, if there are a bunch of straps dangling off the bag, you can either remove them and wash by hand, or place the backpack in a laundry bag or pillowcase to keep the straps at bay.
If you can’t machine wash the schoolbag, you can hand wash it by using warm water and dish liquid or laundry detergent and clean gently with a scrub brush, which will help clean the tough material and get stains out. This can be done in a basin sink or bathtub. If the material is delicate, consider using a sponge instead.
Once washed, hang the backpack to dry. Avoid placing in the dryer, only because dryer heat can ruin certain fabrics. On that note, if you can hang the bag to dry in the sun, bonus points for extra deodorizing!
How to Disinfect a Backpack:
Once in a while, a backpack needs some serious cleaning. This is especially important if gym clothes are left in the pack for several days. Athlete's foot fungus can easily transfer from socks to other surfaces.
To disinfect a backpack or gym bag, skip the chlorine bleach which can damage fabric and choose instead a pine oil or phenolic disinfectant.
Pine oil disinfectants are effective in warm water. Brand names include Pine Sol, Spic-n-Span Pine, and Lysol Pine Action. To be effective, the product must contain at least 80 percent pine oil.
Phenolic disinfectants are also effective in warm water and will not harm fabrics. Lysol brand disinfectant is available in most areas.
To disinfect the inside of the backpack, mix a one-to-one solution of the disinfectant and warm water.
Use a clean sponge or rag to carefully wipe down the inside surfaces. Allow airing dry.
You can also add the disinfectant to wash water (follow label directions for the correct amount) when hand washing or machine washing.