adidas / June 2023

How to Wash a Backpack: A Step-by-Step Guide

Keep your backpack fresh in every season. Get your hands dirty with adidas and learn how to wash your backpack, step-by-step.

Your right-hand friend, your backpack accompanies you on every adventure. Whether you're preparing to trek up a majestic mountaintop, heading into the gym for a much needed sweat sesh, or taking a spontaneous road trip with friends, your backpack is with you every step of the way. From all this adventure, your bag can get dirty fast—that's why learning how to wash a backpack is essential.
The process of washing your backpack can be broken down into 5 easy steps:
  1. Gathering supplies
  2. Prepping backpack + checking the care label
  3. Spot treating stains
  4. Hand washing or machine washing bag
  5. Air drying bag

How Do You Wash A Backpack Without Ruining It?

Read the care instructions when learning how to wash a backpack. The care instructions are typically on a tag inside of the bag and describe how you should clean it to keep it looking good and smelling fresh.

Can I Wash A Backpack In A Washing Machine?

Using cold water, you can wash canvas, polyester, and nylon backpacks in the washing machine on a gentle cycle. Backpacks made of leather or that have delicate embellishments should be hand washed.

Is It Safe To Put A Backpack In The Dryer?

Avoid putting a backpack in the dryer because the heat can damage the fabric. Always air dry a backpack after you wash it.

How To Clean A Backpack

There are two ways you can clean a backpack. You can either use a washing machine or hand wash it. The method you choose depends on the material the backpack is made of. Always read the care label no matter the fabric of the backpack to be sure you are increasing the longevity of the bag and not diminishing it by improperly cleaning it.
Whether you opt for hand washing or machine washing, the initial cleaning preparation remains the same.

This Way Or That Way: Pick Your Cleaning Method

When learning how to clean a backpack, it’s crucial you have all the essentials. The specific tools you'll need may vary depending on whether you choose to machine wash or hand wash the backpack. Below are the essentials needed for both methods:
Machine Washing Essentials: Sponge or cloth, bristled brush, handheld vacuum, stain remover, mesh laundry bag, mild non-bleach detergent.
Hand Washing Essentials: Sponge or cloth, bristled brush, toothbrush, handheld vacuum, mild non-bleach detergent, stain remover, sink or large container, towel.

Prepping Your Backpack

After you gather your essentials, it’s time to prepare the bag for cleaning.
  • You’ll want to empty the backpack, and remove any detachable straps or pockets, as these can be washed separately.
  • To remove dust and debris from the inside of the backpack, shake the backpack out over a wastebasket. You can also use a handheld vacuum or a hose attachment on a standard vacuum cleaner to clean the inside of your backpack.
  • Use your bristled brush to knock off any dirt or debris that is on the outside of the bag.

Spot-Treating stains

You’ll want to treat any harsh stains on the backpack prior to fully washing the entire bag.
  • Apply your stain remover or a mild soap to a cloth or sponge.
  • Using your sponge or cloth, apply solution to any stains on the backpack.
  • Allow solution to set on backpack for 30 minutes, then scrub gently. If you’re using a strong stain remover, follow the product’s instructions for how long it should sit, so you don’t damage the bag.

Machine Washing Your Backpack

You can put polyester, nylon, and canvas backpacks in the washing machine.  

Let's Get Clean

  • Unzip all the zippers on the backpack, turn it inside out, and put it in a mesh laundry bag or pillowcase.
  • Put the bag in the washing machine.
  • Add a mild non-bleach detergent and begin washing on a gentle cycle in cold water.

Hand Washing Your Backpack

You’ll want to handwash backpacks that are made of leather or have delicate embellishments. Please note that if the backpack’s care label advises against putting it in the washing machine, you’ll need to hand wash it.

Let's Get Clean

  • Fill your sink or a large container with lukewarm water and add a small amount of a mild non-bleach detergent to the water.
  • Place the backpack in the mixture.
  • If the care label instructions on the backpack recommend spot-cleaning only, lay the bag on a towel instead of submerging it in water.
  • Begin scrubbing the exterior of the bag with a soft brush or cloth, focusing particularly on especially dirty areas or spot stains. Use a sponge on mesh areas.
  • Feel free to use a toothbrush for ground-in stains and hard-to-reach crevices.
  • Turn the bag inside out and wash the interior as well.

Rinse It Off

  • Pour the dirty water out of your container or sink and refill it with clean water.
  • If you submerged the bag in the mixture, make sure to rinse it thoroughly and wring it out.
  • If you placed the bag on a towel, dip a sponge or cloth into the fresh water and use it to rinse off the soap from the backpack.
  • Grab your towel and press it into the bag to absorb excess water.

All Air

No matter the method you choose to clean a backpack the last step in the cleaning process is the same, let it air dry!
  • If you machine washed the backpack, remove it from the washer and turn it right-side-out.
  • If you hand washed the backpack, be sure you have pressed any excess water out and turn it right-side-out.
  • Leave all the pockets open and hang it up to dry in a place with plenty of air circulation, preferably outside. Sun and fresh air will help dry the backpack faster. It typically takes 24-36 hours for a backpack to completely dry.

So Fresh And So Clean

And that’s how you clean a backpack! Now you’re all set for your next thrilling journey with your carry-all buddy.
No matter the method you choose, be sure you are tending to and washing your backpack with care and attention so that you can keep it as long as possible and continue to embark on adventures together.
adidas / June 2023