How to Wash a Backpack (in the Washing Machine)

Once your backpack becomes dirty it might seem like throwing it in the washing machine would be the quickest and easiest option available. Not all backpacks are safe to run through a washing cycle, so it’s important to identify this first.

The rest of this article will go over a step-by-step guide to washing regular backpacks and will explain which backpacks are not machine safe!

Machine Washing Backpack

Can You Wash a Backpack in the Washing Machine

Although certain backpacks are fine for washer use, the recommended cleaning process is to handwash the pack. If you do use a washing machine, it’s important to use the gentle cycle and stay away from harsh detergents.

When Should The Washer Be Avoided

Some backpacks are not suitable for the washing machine and should always be hand washed instead. Any package that says hand wash only on the tag, for example, should not be placed in the machine.

As a general guide if your bag is made of any of the following materials you should never use the washing machine to clean it.

  • Protective coatings
  • Leather
  • Trimmed with leather
  • Any embroidery or patches

Many hiking backpacks and waterproof backpacks are only suitable for hand washing since they come with protective coverings.

If you ever doubt whether you should hand or machine wash your backpack, opt for handwashing. Even though it may take extra time during cleaning, it will keep your backpack safe during the washing process.

What Backpacks Can Go In The Washer

The only scenario when a washing machine should be used to clean your backpack is when it’s indicated on the cleaning label. For many brands and products, you can check their website to find the cleaning instructions.

As a general guide the following materials are usually safe for machine washing:

  • Nylon
  • Canvas

If either the tag or manufacturer’s instructions say it’s safe for a washer, there’s no reason not to use it since it’s quicker and easier. It’s also more likely to get a better clean and will help your backpack look clean and new again!

How to Wash a Backpack in the Washing Machine

Inspect the Care Label

Before you begin washing your backpack, check the care label on the inside of the backpack. Most backpacks are machine washable because they are made from canvas or nylon. If your backpack is not safe to wash in the machine, you’ll need to follow the care instructions instead.

Remove all Items From the Backpack

Before putting the backpack inside the washing machine, you must empty it and double-check that nothing is left. If your backpack is particularly dirty, you might want to use a handheld vacuum to vacuum up all of the small debris and crumbs inside.

Put Aside any Removable Parts

Some backpacks come with removable parts or metal frames that should be removed before washing. See if your backpack comes with any removable parts that need to be removed beforehand.

Pretreat Stains on the Backpack

If your backpack has a lot of stains on it, use a pretreatment stain remover. Don’t use bleach because this will change the color of your backpack.

You should be able to scrub away the stain using the stain remover and a soft toothbrush. Follow instructions on the remover container for how long to let it sit.

Place the Backpack Inside a Pillowcase

Now, it is about time to put the backpack into your washing machine. Before doing this, put the backpack inside an old pillowcase or some sort of laundry sack.

This case ensures that straps and zippers don’t get caught inside the machine. If you don’t have an old pillowcase, you could simply turn the backpack inside out instead.

Wash on a Gentle Cycle

Assuming that your backpack is machine washable, put it inside your washing machine and put it on the gentle cycle. You will want to use cold or lukewarm water.

Make sure to add color-safe detergent as well. During the spin cycle, check on the backpack to make sure it isn’t all scrunched up.

Leave it to Air Dry

Once the gentle cycle is done, the last step for cleaning is to air dry the backpack. Keep all of the pockets and compartments unzipped so that they dry completely.

Make sure that the backpack is completely dry before using or storing it. Do not ever put a backpack in the dryer since the high heat can melt or damage the synthetic parts of the backpack.

Handwashing Your Backpack Instead

If you cannot machine wash your backpack, you will need to handwash it instead. Firstly, make sure to carefully read the label cleaning instructions to ensure you clean the backpack correctly.

Follow steps 1 through 4 above. Once it is time for washing, fill up a sink or bathtub with lukewarm water. Add a gentle detergent to the water and use a toothbrush or soft rag to scrub the backpack.

Make sure not to scrub too roughly for that can damage the backpack. Allow the backpack to be completely rinsed out after and aired dried as described in step 7 above.

Final Thoughts

In conclusion, most backpacks today are machine washable since they are made from canvas and nylon. Before throwing any backpack in the washer, make sure to read the care label first. This label will tell you exactly how you can clean the backpack.

For machine-washable backpacks, just make sure that the bag is cleaned out before washing and wash it on the gentle cycle. After that, always let the backpack air dry – never dry it in the machine. If in doubt, just hand wash it instead!