Can You Wash Backpack With Clothes?

Whether you hike, camp, or make daily commute to your workplace with backpacks, the fact remains that just like clothes, backpacks will eventually get dirty and need washing at some point in time.

When you’re frugal with your life and want everything accomplished with minimal resources, or the impatient type of guy that wants everything thing done and done very promptly, the idea of tossing your adidas backpack into the washer to clean with other clothes might have cropped up into your head.

Unfortunately, pairing backpacks with clothes could turn out to be a very dreadful affair. Elements like zipper pulls could attach to delicate clothing and tear them, and the rigorous condition of washing a backpack, especially the really dirty ones, might simply not be a perfect fit for your everyday garments. 

For the rest of the article, we’ll discuss in details, the reasons why you should never pair backpacks with cloths in the washer, how you can actually wash a dirty backpack, how you can get rid of stains from your backpacks and how to properly dry backpacks so they last for a very long time.

Why you can’t wash backpacks with clothes

#Reason 1: Check the label, it might be a bad idea to wash the backpack in the first place. Leather for example, hates water, so if you have a leather bag, the instructions on the inner label will almost certainly print out something like this: “avoid the washer”, and sometimes, it’s because the waterproofing will begin to damage. So if you have leather bags and any other delicate backpack that have a warning ditched out clearly, cleaning in the washer might be an option already ruled out in the first place.

#Reason 2: This concern the degree of stain you have. Stains on bag packs aren’t very easy to get rid of as opposed to normal clothing, so you might need much stronger washing practice. For example, you might need more heat, longer wash period, and a faster spin. Assuming your backpack isn’t waterproof, and can go into the washer, there’s a chance the other clothes in there might not be too compatible with the washing practices above. Pairing them up consistently could lead to stress on the cloths, which leads to faster breakdown of the fibers.

#Reason 3: Your backpack needs enough space to properly get suds to every corner. That’s the only way you can ensure every facet of the bag is being cleaned. Having loads of other items in there with it can really impede the efficiency of cleaning you get.

#Reason 4: This concerns the clothes you’re pairing the backpacks with: Let’s say you toss a really dirty backpack into the machine, and by virtue of it’s dirty nature, you opt for a warm temperature cleansing and more time in the machine, but then on the other hand, you’re stuffing nylon cloth together with the backpack inside the washer, and nylon, we know, doesn’t really fare well under warm water settings.

You can already see where this is leading to. So it’s best not to risk it all by washing your clothes and backpacks together. It’s either you wash the backpacks separately or hand wash them using clean towels and gentle detergents or stain remover.

So you’ve chosen not to be too frugal with your laundry and decided to wash your bag pack separately with your washing machine, what’s the best way to go about this?

Before you begin, you’re going to need a stain remover, a mesh bag, and of course a gentle detergent. Please take chlorine bleach far away from your bag pack.

How to wash a backpack

  1. Remove any detachable component on your backpack i.e. extra pockets. You can wash them separately by hand.
  2. Next is to empty your backpack. This might seem like common knowledge, but it’ll surprise you to know how many people genuinely expect their washing machines to do magic and just make every debris disappear. Take everything out; paper, eraser, everything. Turn the bag upside down and shake everything off. Run a small hand held vacuum cleaner along the seams of your bag and tight areas if you have one.
  3. Check the labelling; some bag packs can be washed in the machine (although they may have different laundry specifications), while others can’t. For example, leather bags should never be tossed into the washing machine. However, canvas backpacks can be washed in the machine, as well as nylon and polyester. If your backpack label reads “machine washable”, you can move on to the 4th step otherwise you’ll have to consider spot cleaning or washing by hand.
  4. Place the bag pack into a washing bag or pillow case if you don’t have one or you can simply turn it inside out. Placing the backpack in a wash bag, a pillow or within the confinements of a porous material will help prevent the bags from scratching in the washer due to rough agitation.
  5. Unless your backpack has serious stains or is just really dirty, it’s advisable to wash with short cycles using your regular laundry detergent because long washing tends to disfigure the shape of some type of bags. If you want to disinfect, which you should always do for heavily soiled bags or those subjected to heavy-duty usage, use a phenolic disinfectant or any other effective disinfectant in the wash water in proportions outlined on the packaging.
  6. Rinse properly. Take out the bag and take off the laundry bag or pillow case. Drain as much water as you can as make sure you don’t wring in the process.
  7. Take the bag to a well aerated environment to dry i.e. outside but away from direct sunlight. Do not take it to the dryer. Also, leave every pockets wide open to speed up drying.


  • If your back pack has detachable straps, consider washing them separately in warm water and using heavy duty detergents. Soak them in it for a while and scrub using a soft sponge.  Rinse in room temperature water and air dry.

How to spot clean backpacks (and wash by hand)

For this, your bag has to be only lightly soiled otherwise, it’s best to just give it a proper cleaning in the washer. It’d be much easier and would require very little effort.

  1. The obvious thing to do first is to unzip everywhere and take out any form of attachment or compartment, like straps for separate cleaning.
  2. Apply detergent or stain remover to the affected spots and let sit for a while.
  3. Use a soft brush, a sponge, or clean cloth to gently scrub the area.
  4. Now for the proper hand cleaning, fill up a bowl or sink with water and add some heavy duty detergent to it. Consider adding disinfectant too in a 1:1 ratio with the water.  Soak the bag for 30 minutes in the solution and use a clean soft sponge (wet and wringed inside the solution) to scrub off any dirt or soil from the inside before you come outside.
  5. Rinse the bag in clean water and ensure you get all the soap out. Don’t wring.
  6. Hang it upside down outside to air/sun dry

How to clean leather backpacks and other type of backpacks that can’t be washed

  1. First and foremost, empty everything inside it.
  2. You’re not going to submerge leather into water because water damages leather, especially the ones that aren’t treated, so you’ll just have to make do with a leather cleaner, or a saddle soap. Dip a damp cloth in them and keep rubbing the bag while paying more attention to the sides with tougher stains. For other type of backpacks, a laundry detergent would do just fine.
  3. I said damp cloth, I never said any type of brush. This is because if you get the type of brush with hard bristles, you’ll be scratching your leather instead of cleaning it.
  4. Air dry and once the bag is dry, you could add leather conditioner or any other type of leather product that gives a good finishing.

How to remove some popular kind of stains from your bag

  • Lipstick/make-up: This one usually happens to the interior of the bag pack. All you have to do is wipe off the stain with a dry cloth in a manner that wouldn’t spread it. Once you’ve gotten out some of the stain, dip a soft cloth into a bowl of water mixed with detergent and then continue scrubbing the affected area. If your bag is leather, refrain from using alcohol on the stain as it could damage the quality of the leather.
  • Ink stain: For ink stains, put a few drops of alcohol into a large spoonful of water, soak up some cotton balls and then scrub the affected area in a circular motion.
  • Food stains: If the food stains leave grease on your bag, wipe it off with a clean, dry cloth, and if the oily greasy stains persist, a little baby powder and corn starch should do the trick.


Can I put my backpack in the dryer?

No, don’t put your bag in the dryer, all bag packs should be sun/air dried. Putting backpacks in the dryer can cause it shrink and damage.


So it’s not advisable to wash your bag with other clothes or other clothing items like towels, and neither should you tumble-dry or machine-dry your bags, especially leather.

Just use the few methods outlined here, keep your bag away from bleach, and it would definitely last very long.