Can I Wash my Backpack in the Washing Machine?

Backpacks are one of the most essential products in our daily lives, especially when we are moving out. It acts like our companion and savior at difficult times. In this article, we will be answering an important question related to backpack cleaning, i.e. whether you can wash your backpack in the washing machine or not.


Can I wash my Backpack in a Washing MachineYes, you can wash your backpack in the washing machine, provided it is machine-washable. However, not all backpacks are machine washable, so you need to check the label before washing it. A non-washable backpack into the washer will either damage the backpack or the machine itself.


Backpacks are important and we need it to carry our on-the-go essentials. It is also necessary for kids who use it to their school to carry their book, notebooks, lunchbox, etc, to office going people who use it to carry their laptops, notebook, files, and so forth. 


To photographers who need it to keep their photography gears, tripod, clothes, etc. If you are a traveler then a backpack not only motivates you along the way but also reminds you to keep moving. Backpacks not only make our life easy but also solve many logistic problems.


During the course of its usage, a lot of dirt, dust, moisture, or even food particles can accumulate on and inside the backpack and make it dirty and smelly. Like many other household items, it also needs to be cleaned at least once in a week, month or so. 


As impossible as it may seem, backpacks are designed to withstand daily wear and are not so difficult to clean. In this article, we will discuss how we should wash our backpacks using a washing machine.

Table of Contents

Types of Backpack that Can Be Washed In The Washing Machine?

As we all know that not all the backpacks are machine washable, so the very first thing we should do is to check the label given on the backpack and see whether the bag is machine washable or not.


Camping Backpacks with external or internal frames are generally not machine washable but if the frame is detachable then you can remove the frame and put it in the washing machine. If the frame is not detachable then you should not wash it in a washing machine, otherwise, the frame could bend or become damaged in the washing, or can tear the fabric or it can also damage the drum of your washer.

Types of Backpack that Can Be Washed In The Washing Machine

Backpacks made with leather, suede, vinyl are not at all washable in washing machines and if you try to wash these backpacks in the washing machine then the machine will damage the backpack.

If your backpack is made up with a cloth and/or nylon or polyester synthetic materials, then it can be washed in the washing machine but before doing so, you must check zippers, straps, and buckles because these parts can easily get caught in moving parts of the washing machine and can easily become the cause of damage to the washing machine. The straps can also get tangled around the spinning agitator.

Nylon backpacks are entirely trouble-free to clean into the washing machine, provided it doesn’t come with fabric sealer.

Waterproof Backpacks or Backpack with fabric sealer (common on many nylon backpacks) should be washed only once or twice every year because too much washing with detergent can lessen the pack’s ability to repel water. I will also cause the nylon to look less shiny and new. You should buy a water repellent or use  waterproofing sprays to treat the fabric and replenish lost coating. But before spraying be sure that the backpack is clean and completely dry. Many believe in the “20/80” Rule and that backpacks with waterproof coating may need to be washed by hand only. The waterproof coating can be easily identified by touching the fabric surface on both sides. If one side is smooth and the other side is not so smooth then there may be a layer of waterproof coating on it.

This rule applies to waterproof-breathable gear, but if your backpack has polyurethane-coating for complete waterproofing then it is not applicable because the material is even tougher.


Remember, all backpack makers do extensive in-house testing to ensure that their backpacks can withstand the rigors of washing. Keeping your backpack clean will not only increase its life but also reduce the risk of mildew. Just washing your backpack does not destroy the waterproof coating but harsh cleaning methods can. 


So, it is always advisable to check the label first for opting for the best cleaning method. If the label says hand washing then, these backpacks should not be placed in washing machines and should be washed by hand only. 

What to Do If My Backpack Is Not Machine Washable

If the label says that your backpack is not Machine Washable then you shouldn’t wash your backpack in the washing machine. If you do so then the material, accessories, and coatings of the backpack may get damage or it may wreck the washing machine spinner if it has an iron frame. It can also compromise the structural integrity of your backpack. If your backpack is not washable at all, then spot clean it.

Instead of machine washing, you can give the backpack a good old-fashioned hand washing.

Follow these simple steps to wash a backpack by hand

Leather Bag after washing in washing machine
Leather Bag after Washing in Washing Machine

What Detergent Should I Use to Wash My Backpack?

If your backpack is machine washable then the next question arises is that what detergent should you use to wash the backpack. The type of detergent you use is dependent upon the type of washing machine you are using.

Tide High efficiency Detergent

Tide Turbo Clean Liquid Detergent

If you are using the front load washing machine then use a soft and gentle front load detergent. If you are using a top load washing machine then you can use a soft and gentle top load detergent. Never use top load detergent in your front load washing machine. You can use the front load washing detergent is your top load washing machine but the efficiency of your top loader will reduce drastically.

In general, you should use a soft and gentle detergent that is best suitable for your backpacks, never use a regular detergent powder in your washing machine as these will not only damage the material and color of the backpack but can also harm your washer.

In some cases, you can also use the heavy-duty laundry detergent for washing your backpacks.

Detergents that are easily available on the Amazon for both front and top-loading washing machines for your backpack are listed below. 

Top-loading Detergents (Powder and Liquid) 

 Front-loading Detergents (Powder and Liquid) 

Detergents for Both Types of Washing Machine (HE Detergents)

Which Wash Cycle and Temperature Should I Use?

Before selecting any wash cycle for washing your backpack, do check the label first. The temperature and the wash cycle to choose should be given. If nothing is said on the label then we recommend you wash your backpack on a gentle, delicate, or hand wash cycle in warm water. 


Wash Cycle setting for Backpack

The gentle/delicate/hand-wash cycle will prevent damage to the backpack. You can also wash few backpacks on a normal gentle cycle in cold water if it’s made up of cloth material. The cold water setting will prevent the backpack from color bleeding. 

Which Type of Washing Machine Is Best Suited for Washing a Backpack

Almost all types of washing machines are suitable for washing a backpack, provided the backpack is machine washable. However, we recommend you use a top-load automatic washing machine without agitator


The top load washing machine is gentle on the material of the backpack but if your top loader has agitator then use a pillowcase or laundry bag to ensure the straps don’t get tangled on the agitation bar. We advise you not to use the dryer of your top-loader because the heat may damage the material of your backpack. So, only use the wash cycle of your top load washing machine.


The tumble action of the front load washer is not so gentle on backpacks, but if the material of the backpack is cloth, cotton, hemp, or denim, then the front load washing machine is preferred for both washing and drying of your backpack.

Senator Aqua sx
Front-Load Washing Machine
Top Load washing machine
Top-Load Washing Machine
Semi Automatic washing machine
Semi-Automatic Washer

Can I Wash my Backpack in a Semi-Automatic Washing Machine?

Yes, you can use a semi-automatic washing machine for washing your backpack only if your machine comes with a gentle or delicate setting. If it doesn’t have a gentle setting then use the lowest setting possible.


Mostly semi-automatic washing machine comes with agitator, so don’t forget to use laundry bag or oversized pillowcase if your washer has one. If you want to take a closer look at laundry bags and their pricing, you can find it on Amazon here


Can I Put My Backpack or Rucksack in The Dryer?

It entirely depends upon the material of your backpack. If your backpack can withstand the heat of the drier then you can choose to put it in the dryer. Normally, the heat will cause damage to your backpack and will shrink it, but if your backpack is made up of plastic or nylon, the situation can go a little further, and sometimes your backpack may even cause a fire.

If the backpack is made up of cotton cloth, you can use dryer for drying it because the cotton cloth can withstand heat and can be dried using the dryer. If your backpack is made of other material, then you should not use a dryer, instead, you can dry it naturally by hanging it upside down.

It will drain all the water if left sitting in the pockets or corners of the bag. You should always make sure that the backpack is completely dry before using it.

How to wash a Backpack in a Washing Machine (step-wise)

How to Wash a Backpack in the Washing Machine

Empty Your Backpack

First of all, you have to remove all the objects from your backpack or it may get damaged from water while washing. Stuff like your carefully stored memory cards or your new external battery. You’ll be surprised at what you find in your pack.

To avoid losing anything important, use a plastic bag or tote bag to keep all your belongings present in it. You can very easily put it all back after cleaning your backpack. This will also help in identifying the dirty items and you can also clean them.

Empty your backpack

After that, remove debris and small crumbs from the bottom of the backpack by turning it upside-down and using a handheld vacuum to clean the slots and hard-to-reach corners. The vacuum will easily clean up the debris from your backpack.

Doing so will prevent clogging your machine pipes and keep your washing machine happy for a long time. You also need to leave the pockets open so that all areas can be cleaned during washing.

Prepare Your Backpack for Washing In the Machine

Secondly, remove dirt or dust on the outside of the backpack.  After the dirt on the surface is gone, use a damp cloth to rub it again and clean the dirt or dust that remains.  This way you will be sure that no large solid waste is mixed with clean soapy water that you are going to use for washing your backpack in your washing machine.

After removing dirt and dust from the backpack, unzip all the zippers on the backpack, as they could get damaged in the wash if zipped. After that, secure all the straps present on the backpack and fasten all buckles.

Prepare Your Backpack for Washing in the MachineNext, remove any metal frame (or stand) that the backpack has before washing it. Any pocket or removable handle should be removed and cleaned separately. This is because these parts are smaller, and as a result, they could get caught in the washer and wreak the agitator.

Inspect your backpack and check for any tears, or fraying fabric. If you find any rugged or fraying spots, we recommend you hand wash the backpack, as machine washing will cause the fabric to worn out further.

Cut any loose thread that is close to the zipping areas. In this area, threads tend to come off, which causes the fabric of the backpack to catch or tear while spinning in the washing machine.

You should also remove any detachable pockets, straps, or smaller bags and either hand-wash them separately or use another small mesh bag while washing in the washing machine.

Read the Backpack Care Label

Thirdly, you should check the backpack care label. Almost all backpack has a label that contains important instructions for washing the backpack. It usually has information about what is recommended about washing and drying, so that you can clean your backpack in a way that does not damage the material and joints, and maintain its durability functions, such as maintaining permeability.

We can find this label inside the backpack, usually in a side seam of the main closure compartment.

Strong cleaning agents and too strong cleaning methods can damage the backpack, as well as its ability and effectiveness to resist water, so we should follow the cleaning instructions that come with our backpack care label.

backpack care label
Manufacturer Care Label

Remove Bacteria and Fungus from the Backpack

Fourthly, you should pay special attention to your backpack and clean it completely especially if you are an athlete or like to hit the gym once in a while. If you have left your gym clothes in your backpack then there is a high chance that your backpack may have been exposed to Athlete’s foot fungus or other bacteria.

It is necessary to get rid of Athlete’s foot fungus because it can even survive in the washing machine and there is a high chance of infection or reinfection if not treated properly.

Pine Oil
Click the Image to Check the Price on Amazon
Check the Price on Amazon

So, for cleaning fungus or bacteria from your backpack you can use bleach in your washing machine but if your manufacturer label restricts it, you shouldn’t use chlorine bleach at all, as it can damage the material of your backpack.

Instead use pine oil or phenolic disinfectant or a disinfectant wipe to disinfect your backpack and effectively wipe all your backpack inside with warm water, as pine oil won’t affect your backpack material and you can use it without any worry.

Ensure that the product you are using must contain at least 80% pine oil. You can also use disinfectant in a spray form. Give it a look from Amazon here

Remove Stain Completely Before Washing It

Before putting the backpack into your washing machine you should also apply a pre-wash treatment or pre-treat any exterior or interior stains to remove it from the affected area of the backpacks.

Remove any stain residue by gently rubbing some stain remover with a soft brush (an old toothbrush may work) and let the treatment settle for about 30 minutes. After pre-treating the spot, you will notice that the stain will come out immediately when you wash the backpack.  

If you don’t have any stain remover at home, a solution of half liquid detergent and half water can also work as a pre-treatment to remove stains. Simply soak a small toothbrush in the solution and rub until the stains are removed.

It is necessary to pre-treat the stain otherwise it can get worse in the washing machine.

Granger's Gear Cleaner
Clean, Remove Odors and Maintain Water Repellency

Put The Backpack in Washing Machine

To protect the color and external feature of your backpack, turn it inside-out and place it in a laundry bag or an old oversized pillowcase you don’t care about very much. If you are using a pillowcase then you need to tie a knot at the top before putting it into the washing machine.

This will not only protect your backpack but also your washing machine. There may be circumstances when you forget to get everything out of your backpack like pens, coins, paper, etc, in those situations the laundry bag or pillowcase will keep those from going where they shouldn’t.How to put your backpack in washing machine

Next, add a small amount (1 or 2 tablespoons) of mild detergent and wash it with either cold or warm water (whichever is applicable), in a gentle, delicate, or hand wash cycle. Don’t use fabric softener or regular detergent as these may damage the material.

Useful Information
Spot Clean
Spot Clean
Spot Clean
Water Type
Drying Method
*Check the Backpack care label and follow the instructions accordingly.

Dry Your Backpack

This is the final step. In this step, you just need to take out the backpack from the washing machine and remove the laundry bag or pillowcase.

Take the help of an old towel to wipe down unzipped pockets and inside of the backpack. You also need to leave all the zippers and pockets open and allow the backpack to air dry naturally in a warm, well-ventilated area by hanging it upside-down on the outside away from direct sunlight.

Remember, not to place your Backpack in a hot dryer, as it could damage the fabric of some packs. Drying it outdoors will help any leftover odors drift away.

Let the pockets remain open so that it dries completely and evenly. Make sure the backpack is completely dry before using it again or storing anything in it. Leaving it wet can increase the chances of fungus growth. 

Dry your Backpack Naturally hanging it upside-down

Post-Wash Treatment of Backpack/Rucksack

Remove any fresh stains with a wet cloth and mild soap as and when you notice it. If you find any detergent residue, remove it with a damp cloth.

After that, we highly recommend you to add some waterproofing sprays to replenish lost coating or to make your pack waterproof. It’s advisable because the coating not only helps in repelling water but also soils and stains.

Next, you need to treat the zippers with silicon spray. The spray will lubricate them, prevent them from getting stuck, help zippers in working smoothly, and will certainly increase the lifespan of your backpack or rucksack.

Waterproofing Spray
Waterproofing Spray
Silicon Spray
Silicon Spray

How long will it take for the Backpack to Air Dry

Depending on the geographical location and time of the year, it may take about a day or two at the most to completely dry. But if you leave your backpack outside to dry, it will only need to stay for half a day or so depending on the material of your backpack.

You can speed up the process by taking the help of a towel and absorbing some of the excess moisture.

Important Points to Remember while Washing any Backpack

    • If your backpack is very expensive, huge, and beautiful or has great sentimental value then it may be better for a professional to wash it. You can ask your local laundry and learn more about it.
    • If you are washing your backpack for the first time, then do not wash the backpack with other items because it could fade.
    • If you have leather bags, suede or vinyl backpacks and camping backpacks with an internal and external frame, then the above instructions do not apply.
    • If your backpack has a water repellent coating or a fabric sealant (mostly common in nylon bags) then soap and water melt these items from which the quality of cloth will appear dull and hackneyed. To protect your backpacks, you can buy a water repellent spray from Amazon and after cleaning your pack, treat and reapply it on the fabric.
    • Don’t dry your colorful or bright color backpack directly in the sun because the color may fade.
    • Use hairspray on ink stains to surface them.

If you have successfully carried out all the instructions then most likely now you have a clean, washed bag. Once your backpack is clean and dry, you may need to treat the zippers by lubricating them so they don’t rust. This is as easy as passing a crayon or a paraffin candle along the zipper or treating it with silicon spray.

If your backpack is cleaned, you will feel better carrying it around as it won’t smell bad or it won’t look dirty. Additionally, your clean-looking backpack will give positive vibes to you. If you follow all the above suggestions while cleaning your backpack, then you will be able to wash your backpack perfectly.

That’s it, now you have successfully cleaned, washed your backpack using a washing machine without damaging the backpack or the washing machine.

Check our other articles where we answered questions like “Can you Use Top Load Detergent in a Front Load Washing Machine?” and its complementary question “Front-load detergent in a top load Washing machine? “.

You can also go through our list of the 11 best washing machines available in the market. If you are thinking to buy a new washing machine and not able to decide which one to buy, you can check our complete buyer’s guide here in our “How to Choose a Washing Machine – A Complete Guide” section.

However, if you need any other help or have suggestions for us, please do comment below and we will get back to you with the best possible information and details. Your advice, comments, or suggestions would be greatly appreciated and welcomed.

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