How to Take Care of Your Backpack


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A backpack is a loyal companion for trips, hiking adventures, long hauls, student years, even for the ladies who prefer them over a purse. Being with us so often it’s essential to take proper care of them.

Good quality backpacks sometimes come at a hefty price and by cleaning them regularly we can prolong their life by many years. No matter what type you use I’ll show you how to care for your backpack in 4 simple steps and provide you with tips and tricks on how to care for it during day-to-day use.

How to clean a backpack

Make sure you get every item from every pocket. Go over it once or twice. A forgotten nose tissue will be really hard to get out of it once wet. When every object is out, you’ll probably notice crumbs, sand, and lint on the bottom.

You can get rid of most of it by shaking it upside down outside, over a trashcan, or simply vacuuming it out.

Most of us have the habit to put our backpacks on the ground so the bottom of it can get filthy. Read the manufacturer label because some backpacks can only be cleaned on the surface, depending on the material they’re made out of. If that’s the case, you can remove stains and built-up dirt with a damp washcloth and mild detergent. For stubborn stains try using a stain remover by allowing it to dissolve it and then gently wash it off with a sponge and warm water.

How to wash a backpack

Depending on the label instructions most sturdy travel backpacks can be washed in the washing machine, but some need to be washed manually. Because of the previous surface cleaning, the washing machine should finish the job of deep cleaning the backpack without leaving much behind. If it has detachable parts, make sure you remove them and put them in with the backpack, or clean them manually if that’s not advised. Every metal frame should stay out of the washing machine. 

Open all the zippers and pockets to allow the water and detergent to penetrate the backpack completely. If you’ve had spills inside you can turn it inside out. Place the backpack in a pillowcase so the zippers and straps don’t get caught in the draining holes.

Check the label for instructions on water temperature and detergent, but to be on the safe side you should use a mild detergent and the low heat setting on the washing machine, for a 30-40 minute washing cycle.

If you have to wash it by hand instead of putting it in the washing machine, use the same basic rules when it comes to heat and detergent. You can safely wash it in the tub if you don’t have a large basin and you can even let it soak for 30 minutes before scrubbing it. Use a brush to scrub the outside and the inside of the backpack, insisting on the areas that come in close contact with your body. If it has any detachable parts, wash them separately in the same way.

How to dry a wet backpack

It’s best to hang your backpack outside and let it dry in natural light, rather than putting it in the drier. Direct heat can damage it. If you need it to dry out faster, take a clean absorbent microfiber cloth, like the ones used for cleaning, and wipe the inside of the backpack and the pockets. You should always make sure that the backpack is completely dry in order to avoid mold growing in it. 

How to fix a zipper on a backpack

We tend to forget that the zippers on our backpack might be the most delicate part, and they need care after being abused every day, or they will end up having to be replaced.  Clean them regularly with an old toothbrush if they tend to get a build-up. This can be done before washing the backpack or as needed. 

One important thing to keep in mind if you care about your zippers is to not fill the backpack to the point of not being able to close it. The zipper teeth can break and the whole mechanism can burst and will probably need to be replaced.

If the backpack zipper keeps getting stuck, it might be because of dirt buildup or loose threads. Check the inside of the zipper and gently cut any fabric that could cause it to get stuck. A backpack used for traveling will need to be cleaned a lot more often, including the zippers, as its teeth tend to get quite grimy.

You can extend its life by gently scrubbing it regularly with a toothbrush and lubricating it. There are products available for zipper care, but if you’re in urgent need for zipper lubricant you can simply use a bit of petroleum jelly.

How to get a small out of a backpack

Of course, regular washes will help with smells, but your backpack can get stinky fast. A sandwich forgotten in the bottom of the backpack or in a pocket that you always forget about can leave a lingering smell. The shoulder straps and the portion that comes in contact with your body can absorb sweat and not smell the greatest. If you are unable to wash your backpack while traveling you can use an odor-removing spray. It’s not a bad idea to have a travel size with you for this type of situation.

Putting a couple of drier sheets on the bottom of your backpack will help absorb smells and keep it fresh for a while. Mold or mildew is also a problem that not many think about and sometimes it can be hard to notice it, as it looks like a stain if there’s not a lot of it. This is one reason why you should always allow your backpack to dry outside in natural sunlight. The fresh air will do wonders for the smell. 

If you have problems with lingering smell even after washing, one trick is to add vinegar in the bleach compartment of your washing machine, or if you have to wash it by hand, add half a cup of vinegar in the water.

Give your backpack all the love and care for being a trusted companion. If you follow these easy steps to maintain it, it should extend its life by years to come.

Check out other important travel resources that are useful to know each time you are getting ready for a trip!