HOW TO WASH A BACKPACK?

After hiking, the 14er Tactical backpack is ready to be cleaned.
A 14er Tactical backpack that has been used for hiking.

Backpack owners of planet Earth. I’m talking to all of you. Once that stench starts to build, you know it’s time. That’s right, wash day! I know it can be daunting, but I’m here to answer all the burning questions, like “Can I wash a backpack in the washer?” or “Please just tell me how to dry a backpack.” I’m sure this all must keep you up at night. Whether your bag is a bug out bag, everyday carry, or range bag, I’ve got you covered. I’ll even help you for the dirtiest of them all: how to wash a hiking backpack.

All need to start is a cloth or soft-bristle brush and a gentle soap.

SPOT CLEANING?

It is a good idea to regularly wipe down your backpack, no soap needed. But for those heavier stains, use a cloth or soft bristle brush with gentle soap to remove visible traces of dirt from the backpack. Rinse the spot with fresh water.

HOW TO CLEAN A BACKPACK?

To clean a backpack by hand, first double check that it can be submerged in water without damage. If it cannot be submerged, spot clean the backpack. If it can be submerged, follow the steps below.

Not every disaster needs a full soap cleaning. Dirt comes in all shapes and sizes, and I will first tell you how to clean a backpack dirtied with salt, mud, or sand. This will come especially in handy for a hiking backpack.

SALT: If your backpack has been ravaged by salt, beware! Nothing will kill your pack faster. Salt is extremely corrosive, and whether it comes from saltwater or sweat, I recommend cleaning it off immediately. Empty your backpack before rinsing it in fresh water and hanging it to dry. Clean every item inside your backpack individually, and if applicable, remove, wipe, and leave batteries to dry as well. Once the backpack is dry, remove the dry salt off of it with a soft-bristle brush.

MUD: Empty your backpack before rinsing it in fresh water and hanging it to dry. Once the backpack is dry, use a brush to remove the dirt.

SAND: While out in the sand, clean your backpack off everyday with a soft-bristle brush, and remove everything from your pack to let it air out at the end of the day. Wipe the inner contents down, and try the best you can to remove the sand (you definitely won’t get it all). Rinse your backpack and let it dry as soon as you can

A 14er Tactical Backpack is laid on the street, well-cleaned and maintained.

SAND: While out in the sand, clean your backpack off everyday with a soft-bristle brush, and remove everything from your pack to let it air out at the end of the day. Wipe the inner contents down, and try the best you can to remove the sand (you definitely won’t get it all). Rinse your backpack and let it dry as soon as you can.

A man uses his clean 14er Tactical backpack for everyday carry.

Follow these steps on how to clean a backpack by hand with soap:

  1. Remove all items from the backpack, leaving any zippers open.
  2. Clean the items you have removed so that your soon-to-be clean backpack stays clean longer.
  3. Detach any straps, pockets, etc, including your IFAK, and wash separately by hand.
  4. If applicable, remove the metal frame.
  5. Spot clean large chunks of dirt that may be on the backpack. As best you can, remove the gunk lying in the crevices of your backpack. A soft-bristle brush could help with this step.
  6. Fill a tub with lukewarm water; water that is too hot may cause the colors to bleed. Add a mild soap, as regular detergent and fabric softener may damage the backpack.
  7. Use a soft bristle brush to scrub the backpack. A toothbrush can help remove the tougher stains.
  8. Rinse the backpack with a tub of fresh water.
  9. Wring out as much excess water as your can.
  10. Hang your backpack upside down in an open space to air dry.

CAN I WASH A BACKPACK IN THE WASHER?

I see you, late at night, Googling “Can I wash a backpack in the washer?” It’s just so much easier. The answer? Usually. Make sure to check the label on your backpack to ensure that the washer won’t ruin your bag. Nylon and canvas bags are typically safe to put in the washer.

Once you’ve checked that the bag is ready to take the plunge, follow these steps:

  1. Remove all items from the backpack, leaving any zippers open.
  2. Clean the items you have removed so that your soon-to-be clean backpack stays clean longer.
  3. Detach any straps, pockets, etc, including your IFAK, and wash separately by hand.
  4. If applicable, remove the metal frame.
  5. Spot clean large chunks of dirt that may be on the backpack. As best you can, remove the gunk lying in the crevices of your backpack. A soft-bristle brush could help with this step.
  6. Place your backpack inside a laundry bag, or an empty pillow case, to prevent damage from occurring, either to the bag or to the washer. Check that the bag can fit comfortably inside the washer with space to spare.
  7. Rinse any laundry detergent residue from the washer by running it on an empty cycle.
  8. Insert the backpack into the washer and begin a gentle cycle with cold water. Add a gentle detergent that won’t harm your backpack and avoid fabric softener.
  9. Take your backpack out of the laundry bag, and hang it upside down in an open space to air dry.
A 14er Tactical backpack is well-cleaned and maintained.

HOW TO DRY A BACKPACK?

Just as essential as washing a backpack is knowing how to dry a backpack. Take the time to air dry your bag in open space. Hanging your backpack upside down will allow the crevices of the bag to dry faster. Give your bag the time to hang until it is completely dry to avoid mold forming.

Never put your backpack in the dryer because the dryer can ruin the padding or rip the fabric.

MAINTENANCE TIPS?

  • Spot clean the backpack regularly.
  • Do not leave your backpack wet or mold will begin to form; allow the backpack to air dry. If your backpack is water resistant, like 14er Tactical Backpack, maintain it with a waterproofing spray.
  • Your backpack is, unfortunately, not invincible. Take care to keep your bag as clean as possible and avoid unnecessary wear and tear.
  • Remove old food, wet gym clothes, and other smelly items, as soon as possible.
  • Burn loose threads to stop your gear from slowly untethering.

PROPER STORAGE?

  • It is best not to keep your backpack in a moist environment for fear that mold will begin to form.
  • To avoid an awful stench, store your backpack somewhere with air flow.
  • Do not leave unnecessary tension on the bag: if not in use, hang it up, empty, for later use.

Now get cleaning!

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