How to wash your backpack: hand or machine?

How to wash your backpack: hand or machine?

Your backpack gets lugged around everywhere with you – subjected to rain and dust, dumped on the grass, shoved into the bus, etc. So it's no wonder it could do with a bit of TLC. There are a few things to be aware of when washing your backpack. Read on to find out more...

Your backpack is always there for you. It carries your sports kit, your picnics when you go hiking, and even your laptop when you commute to work by bike. But you're never really sure how to clean it without damaging it. Can it go in the washing machine? Should you wash it by hand? And what soap or detergent should you use? We explain all!

Washing your backpack: can you use a washing machine?

We'll save you the suspense by saying right here and now that putting your backpack in the washing machine is a really bad idea. Firstly, because it would need to fit in the drum, and that's not always possible. But above all, because this is the best way to damage the coatings and foam parts, and shorten your backpack's lifespan. So even though it may seem like a quick fix, you should never put your backpack through the washing machine. Fair enough, you say, but what should you actually do?

How to clean your hiking backpack, sports bag or eastpak backpack by hand

To get rid of dust, dirt and marks, or to simply freshen up your backpack or sports bag, there's only one thing for it: hand washing. This is a gentle method that won't damage the components and that will protect the colours of the fabrics. But before you roll up your sleeves ready to clean your bag, check the care label to see whether there's anything to avoid.

To wash your backpack or sports bag by hand, you will need:
- a hoover
- a washing-up bowl, or your shower tray if your backpack is too big for a washing-up bowl
- a stiff-bristled brush or a sponge if it's a small backpack
- some Marseille soap or another gentle soap (shower gel, baby shampoo, etc.)
- a microfibre towel.

Let's get started!

● Take everything out of your bag. And just to be sure there's nothing left lurking inside, turn it upside down with the pockets open.
● Take out any foam padding or plates if you can and if you're sure that you'll be able to put them back again in afterwards.
● Hoover the inside and outside of your back to remove dust and dirt. Try to really get into the zips and the corners of the bag.
● Fill your washing-up bowl with cold or lukewarm water, add some soap, and submerge your backpack in it.
● Use a brush or sponge to rub any marks on the fabric on both the inside and the outside.
● Once you've finished, rinse your backpack or sports back in fresh water (cold or lukewarm).
● Take your microfibre towel and wipe your bag down, making sure the zips are nice and dry. If your bag has foam handles and straps, squeeze them to get as much water out as possible.

Even if your backpack isn't particularly dirty, you might find that the sweat soaked up by the straps still causes unpleasant odours. To make your bag smell fresh without having to wash the entire thing and without getting the straps wet, use a deodoriser that will neutralise the odours rather than just masking them.

How to wash your backpack: hand or machine?

How to wash your insulated backpack

It's exactly the same process for an insulated bag: wash it by hand to avoid damaging it. Use a sponge, rather than a stiff-bristled brush, as it will be better at cleaning the inside of your bag. Again, you absolutely mustn't put it through the washing machine!

How to wash your leather backpack

Here, too, you can forget about the washing machine, and instead roll up your sleeves. Leather is a particularly delicate material and needs to be treated differently to others. Never submerge a leather backpack in water like you would for a classic backpack.

If it's dirty but not stained, simply rub it with a soft, dry cloth to remove the dirt. If your leather bag is stained, soak a clean cloth in some cold or lukewarm water and mild soap (Marseille soap or something else with a neutral PH) and dab the stain gently without rubbing. Don't put any chemical products or shoe polish on it as this could damage the leather and change its colour.

Remember to rewaterproof your leather bag every now and then to protect it from new stains and keep it looking swish for longer!

How to dry your backpack

Now that you've washed it, it's time to dry it. Never use a machine (tumble dryer, hair dryer, etc.) to dry your bag. Instead, leave it in a dry place to air dry naturally. Keep your bag out of direct sunlight, because UV light makes fabrics age faster. If possible, hang it up inside out on a washing line.

Once it's dry, if you want to give it a bit of water repellency, spray it with a specialist product.

How to wash your backpack: hand or machine?

How to store your backpack

Not planning on using your hiking backpack or sports bag again straight away? Follow our storage tips to protect your backpack when you're not using it!

1. Make sure your bag is nice and clean before you put it away. If it isn't, follow our tips on cleaning it and removing any stains. 
2. Do up all of the straps so that they aren't dangling and won't pick up dust in your cupboard or storage space.
3. Do up all of the zips and close the pockets if they're open, for the same reasons as mentioned above.
4. Store your bag in a dark, dry place so that the sunlight won't make the fabric age faster. If you're going to be keeping it in a damp place (such as a cellar), make sure it isn't in contact with the walls and put it on a shelf so that it won't go mouldy. This will protect it from damp and save you any unpleasant surprises the next time you want to use it.

PROTECTION TIP: To stop the rain leaving marks on your bag or discolouring it, you might want to use a rain cover! As well as protecting your things and stopping rain getting into your bag, the cover will also protect it from dirt and stains. When you're not using it, you can simply fold it up and keep it inside your bag!

There you have it: everything you need to know about washing, drying and storing your backpack. So there's no excuse not to keep it spick and span for even longer! If you have any questions or if you'd like the help of a professional service to take care of your sports bag or equipment, head down to your local Decathlon store's workshop.

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