How to Clean a Dirty Backpack

Hey there backpack lovers and welcome to my post where we will run through the steps requited clean a dirty backpack this year. Backpacks are undoubtedly one of the most useful inventions in the world of bags and whether you are a student, traveler or commuter, they can make your life easier by providing a convenient way to carry your belongings.

They are spacious, sturdy and can last for years, making them a popular choice for many people. However, despite their many benefits, backpacks can become dirty and smelly due to repeated use, especially if you carry items such as gym clothes, snacks or other items that can leave odors.

How to Clean a Dirty Backpack

So for those of you looking to give your favorite backpack a bit of a tub, let’s check out some of the steps needed to get them clean and odor free below…

1. Empty the backpack

Emptying the backpack is a crucial first step in cleaning a dirty or smelly backpack. It may seem obvious, but it’s important to ensure that the backpack is completely empty before cleaning it. This step helps to prevent any further damage to the backpack and ensures that you clean all areas of the backpack thoroughly.

And this does indeed mean take everything out, including any loose papers, food crumbs or any other items that may have accumulated inside the backpack. Once everything is out, give the backpack a good shake to dislodge any dirt, dust, or debris that may be trapped inside. For smaller particles that are harder to remove, use a vacuum cleaner to suck them out.

This initial step also allows you to inspect the backpack for any visible stains, spills or damage and to identify any need to spot-clean it before washing it. of the backpack, making it difficult to clean or even causing damage to the backpack.

Check out these: 3 Best Backpacks for Hiking

2. Use baking soda

My third step is highly effective in cleaning backpacks. It is a natural and inexpensive cleaning solution that helps to eliminate odors and stains without damaging the material of the backpack and is also very effective in removing smells caused by sweat, food spills and other sources that may be trapped in the material.

To use baking soda, start by sprinkling a generous amount over the entire interior of the backpack. Use your hands to rub the baking soda into the material, making sure to get into all the corners and crevices. If there are any visible stains, you can mix baking soda with a small amount of water to create a paste, apply it to the stain, and let it sit for a few minutes before rubbing it with a damp cloth.

After applying the baking soda, let it sit for several hours or overnight. The longer you leave it, the better it will work. During this time, the baking soda will absorb any odors and moisture that may be trapped inside the backpack. Once the baking soda has done its job, use a vacuum cleaner to remove it from the interior of the backpack. You can also wipe it down with a damp cloth to remove any remaining residue.

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Clean a Dirty Backpack - school backpacks

3. Spot-clean the stains

This step is important because if you don’t remove the stains beforehand, they can result in odors lingering, even after washing. When spot-cleaning the stains, you should start by identifying the type of stain and the material of the backpack.

Different types of stains require different cleaning solutions, and using the wrong solution can damage the material or make the stain worse. For example, a grease stain on a fabric backpack will require a different cleaning solution than a mud stain on a leather backpack.

Once you have identified the type of stain and material of the backpack, you can choose the appropriate cleaning solution. For most stains, a mixture of mild detergent and cold water should do the trick. However, for tougher stains like ink or grease, you may need to use a specific stain remover or consult a professional cleaner.

It’s important to note that spot-cleaning should be done with care and attention to detail. If you use too much cleaning solution or rub too hard, you could damage the material or discolor the backpack. It’s also important to let the backpack dry completely before washing it, to avoid any damage or discoloration during the wash.

Check out these: 3 Best Backpacks for the Gym

4. Wash the backpack

Prior to washing the backpack, it’s important to read the care label on the backpack to determine the appropriate washing method. Different materials require different washing methods, and using the wrong method can damage the material or cause discoloration. For example, a leather backpack should not be washed in a washing machine, while a nylon or polyester backpack can be washed in a washing machine on a gentle cycle.

Once you have determined the appropriate washing method, start by removing any loose dirt or debris from the backpack (as per step 1 above). Use a soft-bristled brush or a damp cloth to wipe away any visible dirt or stains. If there are any stubborn stains, you can use a mild detergent and a soft-bristled brush to scrub the stained area gently (Step 3 above).

Next, place the backpack into the washing machine, making sure to separate it from any other clothes or items. Use a mild detergent and set the machine to the appropriate cycle, following the care label instructions. If the backpack is particularly smelly, you can add a cup of white vinegar to the wash cycle to help neutralize the odors.

After the wash cycle is complete, remove the backpack from the washing machine and let it air dry. Do not use a dryer.

Clean a Dirty Backpack - Backpack in washing machine

5. Hang-dry the backpack

Hang drying the backpack is a critical step in cleaning stinky backpacks as this ensures that it dries completely without causing any damage to the material or causing shrinkage. If the backpack is not dried properly, it can develop mold and mildew, leading to more unpleasant odors.

After washing the backpack, gently wring out any excess water and hang the backpack up in a well-ventilated area. Avoid hanging the backpack in direct sunlight as this can cause the color of the material to fade or cause the material to become brittle. Instead, choose a shady area with good airflow to hang the backpack.

When hanging the backpack, make sure that it is properly supported and that the weight is evenly distributed. Avoid hanging the backpack by the straps, as this can cause them to stretch or become misshapen. Instead, use a hanger or a clothesline to support the backpack and hang it by the bottom of the backpack.

It’s important to allow the backpack to air dry completely before using it again. Depending on the material of the backpack and the level of humidity in the air, this process can take several hours or even a day or two. Check the backpack periodically to make sure that it is drying evenly and that there are no signs of mold or mildew.

Check out these: 3 Best Backpacks for Cycling

6. Use a refresher spray

Even after thoroughly washing and drying the backpack, some lingering odors may remain. A fabric refresher spray helps to neutralize these odors and leave the backpack smelling fresh and clean.

There are many different types of fabric refresher sprays available on the market. Some contain essential oils, while others contain chemicals that help to neutralize odors. When choosing a fabric refresher spray, it’s important to select one that is safe for the material of the backpack and does not cause any discoloration or damage.

To use a fabric refresher spray, simply hold the spray bottle about six inches away from the backpack and spray a light mist over the entire surface. Be sure to focus on areas that are prone to odors, such as the straps, bottom, and pockets. Allow the spray to dry completely before using the backpack again.

In addition to using a fabric refresher spray, you can also use a sachet of lavender or other scented herbs to keep your backpack smelling fresh. Simply place the sachet inside the backpack and leave it there between uses. The scent will gradually fade over time, so be sure to replace the sachet periodically to maintain a fresh scent.


Can I hand wash my backpack?

Absolutely, you can hand wash your backpack. In fact, handwashing is one of the most effective ways to clean a backpack thoroughly. It is a simple and cost-effective method that requires only a few basic supplies, such as water, laundry detergent, and a soft-bristled brush or a sponge.

Can I wash my backpack in the washing machine?

It depends on the material of the backpack. Most backpacks made of nylon, polyester, or canvas can be safely washed in the washing machine. However, backpacks made of leather, suede, or other delicate materials may require special care. Always check the care label or manufacturer’s instructions before washing your backpack.

How often should I clean my backpack?

It’s a good idea to clean your backpack at least once every few months, or more often if it gets dirty or develops a bad odor. Regular cleaning and deodorizing can help prolong the life of your backpack and prevent unpleasant smells and germs.


There you have it, my tips to help you clean dirty and smelly backpacks. I would be pleased to know how this article helped you, and as usual,  let me know of your experiences with them.

Also, please do not hesitate to comment below if you have any questions, concerns, or corrections or would like me to check anything else out for you.

Until next time.

Have fun


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