Can You Wash a Backpack in a Washer? This is How it’s Done

By John Cruz

Can you wash a backpack in a washer?

That’s a very common question to anyone who wants to clean their everyday carry or they have a really good backpack that they don’t want to ruin.

Whatever the case, we want to know if, in fact, backpacks can be thrown in a washer without damaging your precious carry.

Backpacks will wear and tear over time and they will start to look a little grungy and, well, old.

You’ll start to window shop for another backpack, thinking you need a new one, but then you realize that there’s this thing called a washer.

That sparks the question, “Can backpacks go in the washer?”.

Well, here’s some good news for you – many backpacks can indeed go for a spin in the washing machine!

But wait, don’t just toss it in there without a second thought.

There are certain factors that need consideration before giving your bag the deep clean it needs.

To ensure you’re not causing any damage to your trusty backpack or your washer (because neither is cheap), it’s important to understand the material of the bag and check out its care instructions beforehand.

Not all materials are created equal and some require more careful attention than others when being washed.

Can You Wash a Backpack in a Washer?


Before we jump into whether or not backpacks can go in the washer, it’s beyond importants to understand what material it’s made of.

Every backpack is different, and its fabric plays a significant role in determining its washability.

Many backpacks today are made from synthetic materials like nylon and polyester.

These materials are praised for being lightweight and resistant to water – qualities that make them ideal for outdoor adventures.

Yet, when it comes to washing, they could be a bit tricky.

While they’re durable enough to withstand most elements, harsh detergents and high-temperature cycles may do some serious damage.

I’ve experienced this and I don’t want you to make the same mistake.

On the other hand, there’s canvas – an old-school favorite.

Known for its durability and rugged charm, canvas backpacks can often handle more rigorous cleaning methods than their synthetic counterparts.

But be wary of shrinking or color bleeding if you decide to toss these into the washer!

Don’t forget about leather backpacks!

They provide an elegant touch but require careful handling when cleaning.

A spin in the washer is definitely out of the question as water can stain and warp this delicate material.

You would clean a leather backpack very much the same way you would clean a leather wallet.

Lastly, we can’t overlook packs made from unique or blended materials such as hemp or eco-friendly alternatives – each with its own set of cleaning guidelines.

In short:

  • Nylon & Polyester Backpacks: Durable but sensitive to harsh detergents
  • Canvas Backpacks: Can handle vigorous cleaning but beware of shrinkage
  • Leather Backpacks: Requires careful handling; not suitable for machine washing
  • Unique/Blended Materials: Follow specific manufacturer’s instructions

Understanding your backpack’s material isn’t just key to keeping it clean—it also helps prolong its lifespan while keeping it looking fresh and able to perform the things that it does.

Carry your stuff.

What Kind of Dirt Are We Talking Here?


Before you toss your backpack into the washer, look at it and see how dirty it really is. Look for obvious stains, grime, or loose dirt that could potentially damage your washing machine or further soil other clothes. Here are a few tips:

  • Start by emptying out all pockets and compartments. You’d be surprised at what can accumulate there – coins, pens, sticky candy wrappers – you name it.
  • Next up is a thorough visual inspection. Focus on heavily used areas like the bottom of the bag or pockets where spills often occur.
  • For lighter stains and dirt patches, spot cleaning might just do the trick! A simple mixture of warm water and mild detergent applied with a soft cloth can work wonders.

However, if your backpack is exceptionally grungy or has stubborn stains that won’t budge despite spot-cleaning efforts—it might be time for full-on washing machine intervention!

Remember though—backpacks aren’t created equal.

Some may have unique elements like leather trims or metallic accents that don’t fare well in washers.

So always check care labels before proceeding.

While assessing dirt levels might seem trivial—it’s a must to ensure your backpack gets clean without causing any undue harm to either the bag itself or your washing machine.

Can All Types of Backpacks Go in a Washer?

Definite no.

Well, as mentioned earlier, not all backpacks are created equal, and therefore, not all backpacks can be washed in a washer.

To remind the forgetful:

  • Nylon & Canvas Backpacks: Most likely safe for machine wash
  • Leather Backpacks: Do not machine wash
  • Synthetic Material Packs (Polyester/Vinyl): Could possibly go through the gentle cycle
  • Specialty Packs (Hiking/Photography Gear Bags): Best cleaned by hand

So there you have it!

As much as we’d love an easy solution for cleaning our trusty EDC, different types require different levels of TLC when it comes to cleaning them up.

Guidelines For Washing Backpacks in a Washer

Yes, you can wash most backpacks in a washer.

But before you wash any backpack in a washer, let’s talk about how to do it right.

I’ll give you tips and steps on washing your backpack in a washer without damaging any of them.

First things first, always check the care label on your backpack.

Some materials aren’t meant for machine wash and could get ruined.

If there’s no label or if it says “hand wash only,” then don’t risk it.

I’ve done it and paid the price.


However, if the tag gives you the green light, proceed with caution.

I repeat, proceed with caution.

Before throwing your backpack into the washer, make sure to empty all pockets – we wouldn’t want any surprises now, would we?

Also, remove any detachable parts like straps or covers as these might need to be washed separately or not at all.

The last thing you’d want is a strap caught in the spin cycle causing damage!

It happens and I guess that’s just a part of life and its comforts.

After checking and prepping comes choosing the right settings on your washing machine.

Proper Setting Selection for Washing Backpacks


I’m sure you’re wondering what setting you should use to wash your backpack.

It’s not as tricky as it seems – just follow my advice and you’ll be good to go.

First off, always opt for a gentle or delicate cycle.

This softer approach reduces the risk of damaging your backpack’s material or any attached zippers and straps.

If your machine has settings for load size, it’s best to select “small” or “medium,” depending on the size of your backpack.

Temperature plays an important role too.

Cold water is usually the safest bet when washing most backpacks.

Hot water may cause colors to bleed or materials to shrink, which we definitely don’t want.

The spin cycle can be a bit problematic for some backpacks.

If possible, I’d suggest skipping it altogether; excessive spinning could potentially harm your bag.

However, if that option isn’t available on your washer, go ahead with the spin but bear in mind – immediately remove your backpack once the cycle finishes.

Here are some quick reminders:

  • Choose gentle/delicate wash setting
  • Select small/medium load size (based on backpack size)
  • Use cold water
  • Avoid the spin cycle if possible

Post-Washing Care: Drying and Shaping Your Backpack


I’ve just pulled my backpack out of the washer, you say.

What’s next? Well, we’re onto the drying and shaping phase.

And trust me, it’s as important as washing itself.

Firstly, never ever throw your backpack in a dryer; doing so can cause irreparable damage to its fabric or structure.

Instead, always opt for air-drying it in a well-ventilated space away from direct sunlight.

Sunlight could lead to discoloration and more money coming out of your wallet.

Now that we’ve established how to dry it, let’s focus on keeping its shape intact while drying.

Begin by opening all pockets and compartments – this will facilitate airflow inside the bag ensuring an even dryness throughout.

Next up is preserving the shape of the bag during drying:

  • Stuff crumpled newspaper or towels inside larger compartments.
  • Use smaller pieces or rolled cloths for tinier pockets.
  • Ensure you don’t overstuff; maintain a natural bulge mimicking when it’s being used.

Remember that dampness might persist in hidden corners and crevices even after the outside feels fully dry.

So check thoroughly before packing things back in there!

In conclusion, properly caring for your backpack post-washing isn’t complex but requires attention to detail.

With correct drying methods and careful reshaping efforts, you’ll extend not only its lifespan but also maintain its aesthetic appeal.

Hand Wash vs. Machine Wash: The Debate Continues

Some folks swear by the efficacy of a good, old-fashioned hand wash.

When you hand wash your backpack, you’re able to concentrate on those stubborn dirt spots and give ’em a good scrubbing.

Plus, it gives you control over how hard or soft you handle your bag.

You don’t have to worry about straps getting caught or zippers being damaged which are common concerns when tossing your pack into a washing machine.

It’s labor-intensive sure, but I’m sure you can see that it’s worth it.

On the flip side, others champion the convenience of machine washing.

With our busy lives nowadays, who has time for manual labor?

Popping your backpack into the washer can be as easy as pie – just ensure all pockets are empty and zipped up tight before throwing it in there.

There’s also something satisfying about hearing that final buzz signaling that your dirty work is done.

But then again, not all machines are created equal; some might be too harsh for certain materials while others may not get hot enough to effectively clean out all the grime.

My current washing machine isn’t the best, so I would prefer washing my next backpack by hand.

Confused yet? Don’t worry – so am I.

It seems like there isn’t one definitive answer to this quandary – what works best really depends on various factors such as personal preferences, bag material, type of dirt/stain involved, etc.

But hey – at least we’re all learning together, right?

Potential Risks with Machine Washing a Backpack

Now, let’s talk about the potential risks of tossing your backpack into the washing machine.

It may seem like an easy solution to a grimy problem, but it’s not always the best route to take.

Here are some reasons why.

Firstly, there’s the issue of damaging your washer itself.

Backpacks can be heavy and bulky items, especially if they contain metal frames or tough materials.

They can throw off the balance in your machine during spin cycles or even cause wear and tear over time.

Secondly, we’ve got to consider what happens to the backpack during its underwater adventure.

The harsh environment inside a washing machine isn’t kind to all types of materials or design features.

And then there’s what happens after you pull that damp backpack out of the machine.

Drying is another hurdle altogether.

While air drying is generally recommended, it can sometimes lead to the development of mildew if not done properly — yuck!

Lastly, remember not all dirt needs a full-on wash cycle for removal.

Sometimes spot cleaning will do just as good a job without any risk at all.

So before you decide on tossing that dirty backpack into your washer willy-nilly, weigh these considerations carefully.

There might very well be better ways to freshen up your faithful travel companion without resorting to drastic measures.

Conclusion: Some Backpacks Can Be Washed in a Washer

So, we’ve come quite a way in our backpack cleaning journey. Are you still wondering if it’s okay to wash a backpack in the washer?

After all that we’ve uncovered, I’m sure you’ll agree there’s no direct answer.

When deciding whether or not to wash your backpack in a washer, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all answer.

It depends on the specific make-up of your pack.

If you’re unsure about throwing it into the washer, don’t risk it.

There are many alternative methods for cleaning that we’ve discussed earlier in this article: spot cleaning with mild soap and warm water is often enough to keep things fresh.

At the end of the day – use your best judgement.

When it comes to prolonging the life of your beloved pack, erring on the side of caution is always wise!

Remember – when treated right, a good backpack will stay by your side (or back) for years!

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