How to Clean a Hiking Backpack | The Ultimate Backpack Cleaning Guide


You will have likely encountered the problem of how to clean a backpack that you are using for hiking. While socks and t-shirts are easy to clean with a simple machine cycle, backpacks require special attention. We will describe to you how to clean a hiking backpack, provide tips and tricks on how to maintain your backpack’s cleanliness, and give you some insider secrets to making sure your backpack is spotless when washed in the washer.

How to clean hiking backpack

Nowadays backpacks use universally, as there is one for almost every purpose on the market. If you’re like me and have owned many rucksacks used frequently, you will eventually need to wash your backpack. It will get dirty and smelly. Here are some ways to clean a hiking backpack and some tips to protect your investment.

Read more: How to choose a hiking backpack

Standard maintenance

Before storing a backpack safely, your backpack must be clean after each hike. You should clean it from any food, drink, or other spillages. Warm water, mild soap (non-detergent), a soft brush, and a soft cloth are all you need to clean it. This will help prevent dirt and stains build up. This will protect your bag from getting eaten by ants and bugs.

Cleansing zippers will prevent them from bursting. Empty the contents of your bag. You should check every pocket for items. Turn the bag upside-down and shake it to get rid of food particles, dirt, and other particles. Use a mild detergent solution, a soft toothbrush, and warm water to target stain spots. If you have one, you can also use a stain removal product.

Dry for a while, then use a clean cloth to gently wipe it off. Make sure to thoroughly rinse the area with water and a clean cloth. Do not submerge the bag into the water. To clean the interior of your backpack, use a damp cloth. There is no need to use soap. Make sure the bag is dry, especially if the bag is wet. You can then return the bag to the store with all your essentials ready for your next hike. Wet bags encourage the growth of molds.

After every hike, remove all dirt

To remove dirt, open all zips. Completely empty your bag. Finish the cleaning with a gentle brush to remove any dirt or mud. When getting your bag ready to be clean with soap and water, use a vacuum to remove dirt. Use a gentle soap to wash your backpack by hand. Your backpack needs a thorough clean after a long season of hiking and sweating. We recommend that you don’t machine wash, tumble dry, or dry clean your backpack. This will ensure that fabrics will not damage by water. Hand washing your backpack is the best way to clean it. Warm, soapy water with a brush is the best way to clean your backpack. Spend more time on your backpack’s straps, stomach and back straps, and any other parts that are in direct contact. Use warm water to rinse thoroughly.

After every hike, dry naturally 

After washing your feet, dry them. However, this is a step you must take to build into your routine when you return from walking. Your sweat could be in the bag or in the shower. The process is the same in both cases. Open the bag to reveal the zippers. Hang it upside down if possible. You should avoid placing your bag near a heat source such as a radiator to prevent damage.

Keep your backpack’s interior clean

A backpack for hiking requires cleaning because liquids can cause damage. You will find these liquids in the backpack itself or outside. Drink bottle leakage is a problem that is common on the inside. Before you place them in your backpack, make sure they close securely. It is a good idea to wrap any liquid bottles in a plastic bag so that if they leak, the liquid will not spill all over the backpack. You can also prevent liquid containers from leaking by packing your backpack carefully and adequately. Avoid putting sharp or heavy objects on the bottles as they can cause damage or even rupture the container. You can buy backpack liners or place your items in dry bags and put them inside your backpack. In the event of an emergency, protect your primary materials in case of spillage.

Keep your backpack’s exterior clean 

Mold can form on the backpack’s exterior if it has been wet or not properly cleaned. You should dry your backpack immediately it gets wet. Also, don’t leave it on the grass for too long. When we say let it air dry, it means that dry your backpack naturally. It is best to dry it outside. Spraying your backpack with waterproof spray is a great way to prevent it from getting wet. The waterproof spray will repel water and prevent your backpack from becoming damp. Some liners protect the interior of the backpack. But there’s a cheaper solution for preserving the exterior. These are backpack covers, which, as the name suggests, fit over the backpack. Protect the backpack from any liquid or moisture.

Check the backpack label 

It is essential to know the material of your backpack. If you don’t, check the sales page or the inside of the bag to find the washing instructions label. You will find out what materials use to make the backpack and how to safely wash it. Treat your backpack in the same way as your clothes. While your backpack might look and feel identical, many materials go into making these products. What may be appropriate for one backpack could cause problems for another.

Handwashing your backpack 

You will have to handwash your backpack if the instructions or washing label say that you can’t put it in the washer. First, make sure you have removed everything from the backpack, including the small pockets. Add warm water to a basin or sink. Hot water can cause any color to run, so don’t use it. Make a lather with mild soap and avoid detergents or fabric softener. These can cause damage to the fabrics. You can use a soft brush to remove some stubborn marks and stains, but don’t rub too hard. After you have finished cleaning the backpack, allow it to dry naturally.

Machine washing

Unless a designed backpack is specifically for machine washing, the bag may get ruined by the process. If the manufacturer suggests it, the only machine washes your backpack. To find out what products are allowed to be used for cleaning the bag, and the drying instructions, check the label of the load. Take out all items from the pack and store them safely.

Make sure that the bag is completely empty by unzipping its pockets. Turn the backpack upside down and vacuum the interior. Take out any detachable pieces, such as pockets or the frame. Pre-treat any stains by pre-treating them before machine washing, but don’t bleach. To remove the stain, use a mild detergent solution and water. Use the recommended cleaning agent as directed by the manufacturer to clean the backpack. You can also use gentle cleaners if you’re not sure. Separately wash the detachable parts.

Place the bag in the washer by turning it inside out. To prevent zippers and straps from getting caught in the washer, turn the bag inside-out. To clean the backpack, use the gentle cycle of the washer with lukewarm. The manufacturer recommends drying the load according to the instructions. Dry the backpack upside down in a cool, well-ventilated area. To prevent mold growth, ensure that it is dry completely.

Keep it dry 

To avoid mold growth, keep your backpack dry. Avoid storing your gear in a cellar. Instead, store it in a cabinet. It can be hung or laid flat rather than standing.

Paramount tips to clean a hiking backpack 

These are some ways to keep your backpack clean and prolong its life expectancy.

  1. To avoid damage or remove the waterproofing coating, it is crucial that you strictly follow the manufacturer’s cleaning instructions.
  2. How can you prevent mildew? After you return from your hikes, take any wet items out of the rucksack.
  3. After cleaning the backpack, spray silicone spray on the zippers to lubricate and keep them running smoothly. This will prevent them from becoming stuck.
  4. You should make sure that your bag is cleaned after every outing.
  5. Before you use the bag again, always let it dry completely.
  6. Your backpack should be washed at least once a year.

Check out: Daypack vs Backpack

How to clean a hiking backpack


Clean your backpack eventually. However, you can reduce the cleaning time by waterproofing your gear and protecting it from spillages. Before you wash your bag, make sure to read the instructions.

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