Can You Wash Backpacks in the Washing Machine?



Can You Wash Backpacks in the Washing Machine

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Yes, most backpacks made of nylon or canvas can be washed in a washing machine.

Backpacks are versatile companions that accompany us through our daily adventures, from school and work to outdoor excursions and travel. Over time, they accumulate dirt, stains, and odors that may make you wonder if it’s possible to give them a good cleaning. The good news is that, in most cases, you can wash backpacks in the washing machine to rejuvenate their appearance and freshness.

However, this process isn’t as straightforward as tossing your clothes into the washer. There are important dos and don’ts to consider to ensure your backpack emerges from the machine unscathed and ready for more adventures.

Dos and Don’ts of Wash Backpacks in the Washing Machine


  • Check the Care Label: Before you toss your backpack into the washing machine, take a moment to inspect the care label. Manufacturers often provide specific cleaning instructions, and it’s crucial to follow them. If the label indicates that the backpack is machine washable, you’re in the clear.
  • Empty Pockets and Vacuum: Empty all of the backpack’s pockets and compartments. This will prevent any small items from getting lost or damaged during the wash. Additionally, use a vacuum cleaner to remove loose dirt and debris from the interior.
  • Spot Treat Stains: If your backpack has noticeable stains, it’s a good idea to spot treat them before washing. Use a gentle detergent or a stain remover suitable for the backpack’s material. Be sure to follow the product’s instructions and test it on a hidden area first to avoid discoloration or damage.
  • Use a Protective Bag: To protect your backpack and prevent straps from getting tangled or damaged in the washing machine, place it inside a protective bag. A mesh laundry bag or a pillowcase works well for this purpose. Zip it closed or tie the pillowcase securely.
  • Choose the Right Detergent: Opt for a mild, fragrance-free detergent. Harsh chemicals and strong fragrances can be harsh on your backpack’s fabric and may cause allergic reactions or irritation when you use it later.
  • Gentle Cycle and Cold Water: Set your washing machine to a gentle or delicate cycle with cold water. High heat can damage the backpack’s material, so cold water is the safer option.
  • Air Dry Thoroughly: After the wash cycle is complete, resist the urge to use a dryer. Instead, hang your backpack to air dry completely. Avoid direct sunlight and heat sources, as they can also cause damage. It may take a day or more for the backpack to dry completely, so be patient.


  • Avoid Leather and Suede: If your backpack features leather or suede materials, it’s a strict no-no for machine washing. Leather and suede can be extremely sensitive to moisture and may warp or discolor when exposed to water. Instead, consider spot cleaning or professional leather cleaning services.
  • Skip Emptying Pockets: Neglecting to empty the pockets before washing can result in damaged zippers, tangled straps, or even forgotten items that get damaged in the wash.
  • Overdo Detergent: Using too much detergent can leave a soapy residue on your backpack, which can be challenging to rinse out completely. Stick to the recommended amount.
  • Hot Water and Aggressive Cycles: Avoid hot water and aggressive wash cycles, as they can cause shrinkage, fading, or damage to the fabric and zippers.
  • Dryer Usage: Never use a dryer to speed up the drying process. The high heat can cause irreversible damage to your backpack’s material and shape.

Steps to Wash Backpacks in the Washing Machine:

Step 1

Check the Care Label: Ensure your backpack is machine washable by reviewing the care label.

Step 2

Empty and Vacuum: Empty all pockets and vacuum the interior to remove loose dirt.

Step 3

Spot Treat Stains: Address stains with a gentle detergent or stain remover as needed.

Step 4

Use a Protective Bag: Place your backpack inside a mesh bag or a pillowcase and secure it.

Step 5

Choose the Right Detergent: Select a mild, fragrance-free detergent.

Step 6

Set the Washing Machine: Choose a gentle or delicate cycle with cold water.

Step 7

Air Dry Thoroughly: After washing, hang your backpack to air dry completely.

Alternative Washing Methods for Backpacks:

While machine washing is the most convenient method for cleaning your backpack, some situations may require alternative approaches:

  • Hand Washing: If your backpack’s care label prohibits machine washing, you can hand wash it in a bathtub or large basin using cold water and a mild detergent. Gently agitate the water and rinse thoroughly.
  • Spot Cleaning: For minor stains or dirt, spot cleaning with a damp cloth or a mixture of mild soap and water can be effective.
  • Professional Cleaning: When dealing with delicate materials like leather or suede, it’s best to consult a professional cleaner who specializes in handling such materials.
  • Deodorizing: To eliminate odors, you can sprinkle the interior with baking soda and leave it overnight. Shake out the excess baking soda the next day.


Can I wash a backpack with a plastic frame in the washing machine?

Answer: It’s generally not advisable to wash backpacks with plastic frames in a washing machine. The plastic components can become brittle or warped when exposed to moisture and agitation. Instead, consider spot cleaning or hand washing.

Can I use bleach to remove stains from my backpack?

Answer: Avoid using bleach on your backpack, as it can damage the fabric and cause discoloration. Stick to mild detergents or stain removers designed for the material of your backpack.

Can You Wash Leather Bag in Washing Machine?

Answer: No, you should not wash a leather bag in a washing machine. Washing leather in a machine can cause irreparable damage to the material. Leather is a natural material that can easily be ruined by exposure to water and harsh detergents.

How often should I wash my backpack?

Answer: The frequency of washing depends on how frequently you use your backpack and the level of dirt and stains it accumulates. In general, washing it once or twice a year should be sufficient for regular use.

Can I put my backpack in the dryer on a low heat setting?

Answer: It’s not recommended to use a dryer, even on a low heat setting, for drying your backpack. Air drying is the safest way to maintain the backpack’s integrity and shape.

Final Words:

Washing your backpack in a washing machine is a convenient way to keep it clean and ready for your next adventure. By following the dos and don’ts outlined in this guide, you can ensure that your backpack emerges from the wash looking as good as new. Remember to always check the care label, use the right detergent, and air dry it thoroughly. With proper care, your trusty backpack will continue to serve you well on your journeys for years to come.

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