How To Clean Your Backpack By Hand (With Pics and Gifs)

Just because you’re celebrating your 200th flight with your bag doesn’t mean your gear has to look like it. Here’s how to clean your backpack by hand.

Backpack Cleaning Toolkit

  • Soft (clean) brush or burly towel
  • Clean sponge
  • Detergent-free soap like Nikwax TechWash or Dr. Bronners
  • An old toothbrush or microfiber towel

how To Prep Your Backpack for cleaning

To get started cleaning your backpack, remove all of your gear and empty all of the pockets. Simple, but important.

How to Clean Your Backpack By Hand – Featured Image
Make sure your backpack is empty and your accessories are detached before you get started.

Next, detach any accessories that you can. In the case of your Minaal gear, that means your Shirt Protector, Shoulder Sling, Modular Hip Pads and detachable rain fly.

Brush Down, Shake Out

Start by shaking out your bag to get rid of loose dust, dirt and crumbs.

If you have a large, clean, soft bristle brush – like those used to clean suede shoes – gently brush the outside of your bag to knock off dust and dirt. If you don’t have a brush, dust it off with a towel. Don’t have a towel? Uh… trust in the wind?

How to clean your backpack with a brush
Dust? Busted.

Open your bag and pockets fully (this is much easier if your backpack opens flat 😃). If it doesn’t, you can try turning your bag inside out.

Run an old toothbrush along the seams and use it to get into the corners of the pockets to remove any loose debris. If you don’t have a spare soft-bristle toothbrush on hand, a towel wrapped around your finger will do the job. But probably not quite as effectively. I mean, imagine brushing your teeth with a towel.

You can use a vacuum instead but by time you find the right attachment and get it plugged in, it’s possible you’d already have your toothbrush back in its quiver.

how to clean the Zippers On Your Backpack

Run your trusty toothbrush along the zippers to dislodge grit, and sand. The zippers on Minaal backpacks are concealed, or ‘reversed’, to protect the zipper coils from abrasion and the elements. This will help keep them smooth for their maximum lifespan.

How to Clean Your Backpack's Zippers
To clean, brush your backpack’s zippers in the direction of the coils.

We don’t recommend soaping zippers or using hot water on them, as this can damage the waterproofing many manufacturers use on the surrounding fabric.

Now that all the brushing is done, give your backpack a good shake. Brush and shake, repeat as needed.

How to Clean Your Backpack – Shake it out
Shake your backpack over the sink to keep the crumbs contained.

Done and Dusted

A regular brush down and shake out goes a long way. If your backpack already looks refreshed, you may be able to skip the hassle of washing and drying.

SHAKE Dogs, Carli Davidson
Shake your backpack out from end to end. – Original video by Carli Davidson.

If you’ve noticed a lingering, shall we say, ‘aroma’ on the parts of your bag that come in contact with your body, like the back panel and shoulder straps, soldier on. Freshening up your bag will be appreciated by all.

How to clean Your Backpack

Still here? OK, then. It’s time to roll up your sleeves for Phase II – Washing Your Backpack.

How to clean your backpack rolled sleeves
Both exhibits = rolled.

The idea here is to spot clean the areas of your bag that need it most, rather than washing your backpack by soaking, dowsing, drowning or otherwise submerging it.

Most bags have protective coatings that warm or hot water can damage and many designs rely on materials that should never become waterlogged. That means, you never want to put your backpack in the washing machine. We recommend that you don’t submerge your Minaal Carry-on 2.0 or Minaal Daily in water.

Work from the Inside Out

Instead, dampen a sponge in cool-to-lukewarm water. Then squeeze it out thoroughly. If any dust is still clinging to the crevices of the pockets, the sponge should pick it up.

Move from pocket to pocket and compartment to compartment starting with the hardest to reach spots. Work your way from the inside out using the lightly dampened sponge to wipe away grime and touch up any stains in the interior.

How to wash a backpack with a sponge
Get rid of stubborn gunk clinging to the creases of your backpack with a damp sponge.

How to Spot Clean Your Backpack’s Exterior

Once the inside of your backpack is sparkling clean, turn your attention to the outside of your bag. Spot clean any dirty areas you find with your sponge. If you notice a particularly persistent spot, you can add a drop of detergent-free soap to the water you dip your sponge in. Never pour soap on the bag itself.

Wash your backpack in a circular motion
Use a circular motion to gently scrub stubborn stains… but try not to get seasick.

Don’t let soap dry on your backpack. Instead, blot the area dry with a towel. Then, using a thoroughly rinsed sponge, moistened in fresh clean water, dab the area to rinse.

Never use abrasive chemicals or rub too vigorously. If a stain seems likely to stick around through one cleaning, don’t worry. Time is on your side. Repeat the process and let it dry. A few gentle spot cleanings usually take care of even the worst stains.

For areas that absorb sweat like the shoulder straps, hip pads and back panel, use a little drop of detergent-free soap in your water and follow the same process found above to rinse.

How to Dry Your Backpack

Hang your bag to air dry indoors or in a shady place. Keep in mind that sun is a nuclear fireball!(!!) Even colorfast materials will fade over time. Leaving your bag outside to bake for hours under its harmful rays isn’t a great idea.

How to dry your backpack
Unzip all of the pockets and hang your backpack to dry.

Giving your backpack time to air out and dry should take care of any odors. Nonetheless, some seasoned road veterans swear by keeping a dryer sheet in with their dirty laundry as an ever-present funk fighter.

Use a dryer sheet to keep your dirty clothes odor free
A fresh dryer sheet can be used as an odor trap in your Packing Cubes.

Never use heat or tumble dry your bag. Coatings, clips, buckles and other materials don’t like that, and neither does your dryer.

How to Clean your Accessories

Last, but not least, repeat the process to hand wash your accessories. Once everything is thoroughly dry, you’re ready for the road. Put your gear back together and get out there!

Just try extra hard to avoid dumping a lunchbox full of chili crab in your device compartment this time.

Chili crab stank
So delicious… yet so NOT something you want festering in your backpack’s device compartment.

For more tips and tricks on how to pack, see the related posts below. If you’re ready to hit the road, smash this button:

Grab Your Gear

Related:

How to pack a suit in a carry-on bag


How To Keep Your Travel Gear Safe
Carry-on 2.0 – Video Walkthrough
Minaal Daily – Video Walkthrough

 

Matt Gelgota