How to Clean a Backpack Used by Your Child so It's Good as New

Published by 
Jess Miller
Last updated: 
April 21, 2024
boy wearing red and white striped sweater sitting on rock

Knowing how to clean a backpack is an invaluable skill you’ll be happy you have. Children’s backpacks have a pretty hard life and can get pretty grimy.

The thought of the time that backpack spends on the floor of the bus, the classroom, the lunchroom, and more is motivation enough for a good scrub. What’s more, a study found that backpacks actually carry more germs than a public toilet seat.

The good news is that most of the best backpacks for children are easy to clean. So, before you throw in the towel, learn how to throw that backpack into the washer for a deep clean that’s desperately needed.

What to Do Before Washing

Though you may be tempted to toss that dirty backpack right into the washer without another thought, there are a few things you’ll want to do first. These pre-washing steps are a lifesaver when it comes to how to clean a backpack.

Otherwise, you may end up with some unpleasant surprises in your washer.

Check it before you wreck it

You definitely want to check through the numerous pockets of the backpack to remove all the little treasures that build up in there over time. Nothing is worse than running a tube of lip balm or an old crayon through your washer and dryer.

Pull out all the odds and ends you may discover in those interior and exterior pockets to be sure everything is out.

For the especially messy backpack, you may want to give it a good shake upside down. This frees all the crumbs, paper scraps, loose change, and pencil lead that have become lodged in all the nooks and crannies.

Be warned that this is a job best done over the trashcan, or even outside in the driveway. Otherwise, you’ll need to add vacuuming to your list of chores for the day. In fact, you may even want to use a handheld vacuum to clean any hard to reach spots in the backpack before washing.

Photo Of Kids Walking On Dirt Road 2138049
Image source: pexels

Stain treatments

If this backpack sees regular use from your child, it’s most likely got a stain or two. Most stains will come out through the use of a pre-treatment stain remover and some scrubbing with an old toothbrush.

However, there may be some tougher stains that require special attention.

To remove crayon stains, first, scrape the excess crayon free using a kitchen knife. Then, place the stained part of the backpack between two paper towels. Use an iron to melt away any remaining crayon from the backpack onto the paper towels.

To remove oil stains, try rubbing a little dishwashing soap into the spot. Dishwashing soap is known to fight grease, and it works just as well on fabric as it does on dishes. Then, apply pre-treatment stain remover as an added layer of defense.

You may also need to fight some ink stains. Use a dry-cleaning solvent to blot the stain, then allow it to dry. Follow this with rubbing alcohol, saturating the spot, then allowing it to air dry.

Try all these home remedies to fight common stains and keep that backpack looking new. Keep in mind that you’ll want to check that the stain was thoroughly removed after washing. Otherwise, it may set permanently while drying.

Disinfect it

Your final step before washing is to thoroughly disinfect the backpack. When it comes to how to clean a backpack, there’s no such thing as too much disinfecting. Especially if gym clothes or other bacteria-growing items lay forgotten at the bottom of the bag.

Pine-Sol All Purpose Cleaner

Lysol Disinfectant Spray, Crisp Linen

Avoid using chlorine bleach, which will stain the backpack’s fabric. Instead, try a pine oil cleaner or a disinfectant spray. Both of these are extremely effective yet will not damage the backpack’s fabric.

Simply mix a solution of disinfectant and warm water. Then, using a sponge or cloth, wipe down the surface of the backpack. If you would rather, you can mix the disinfectant right into the washer.

However, in our recommendations for how to clean a backpack, we suggest wiping down the bag thoroughly. This removes an extra layer of grime before running it through the washing machine.

How to Clean a Backpack in Your Washing Machine

Toodler Riding Bicycle with backpack
Image source: pexels

While most of the best backpacks for children are machine washable, it is important to check the care label before washing. This way, you can determine if it’s safe to throw the backpack in the washing machine.

For instance, if your child’s backpack has a metal frame that makes it a rolling backpack, you should remove that prior to machine washing. Remove any keychains and other removable items from the backpack, as well.

All Liquid Laundry Detergent

For machine-washable backpacks, use a delicate cycle and a just a little laundry detergent. Choose a detergent that is free from dyes and perfumes. Any harsh chemicals could damage the backpack and its waterproofing. On the other hand, dyes and perfumes can irritate your little one’s skin.

A warm water cycle is optimal. If the water is too hot, it can harm the backpack, yet cold water will not get the backpack as clean.

Leave the pockets to the backpack unzipped for a more thorough wash. It’s best to place the backpack in an old pillowcase or mesh laundry bag, so the zippers and pockets don’t snag during the spin cycle.

After washing, it is best to air dry the backpack. Using the dryer can unnecessarily shrink or damage the fabric. Hang the backpack upside down in a cool, dry location for optimal drying conditions.

How to Clean a Backpack by Hand

Although machine washing is a convenient method, sometimes handwashing is the best choice. Backpacks with delicate fabrics, plastic parts, or metal frames that cannot be removed may benefit from handwashing.

You can mimic the methods of a traditional washing machine without the damage in a few easy steps. First, fill a tub or sink with warm water and detergent. Then, fully submerge the backpack in the water.

Using a combination of brush, sponge, and rag scrub the backpack vigorously, getting into every nook and cranny. A toothbrush is a great tool to use for the small, hard to reach spots. Use a sponge for any mesh pockets in the bag to avoid snagging them on a brush.

Rinse out the backpack thoroughly to cleanse any remnants of laundry detergent. Then, wring any excess water from the backpack. You may also want to pat down the bag with a dry towel to remove even more water before hanging to dry.

Keeping That Backpack Clean

Red Backpack
Image source: pexels

The good news is that with a little pre-treating and disinfecting, the process is quick and easy, but the benefits are many.

Whether you choose to wash the bag in your washing machine or take a handwashing approach, you’ll be glad you did. Our children’s backpacks see a lot of wear and tear throughout the week. And the last thing you want is to bring more germs and grime into your home.

Continue this maintenance routine every few weeks to ensure a cleaner backpack, and most likely, a healthier home!

Have you ever tried to wash your child’s backpack? Do you have any additional tips we should know? Share with us in the comments below!

Featured image source: pexels

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