Do you have an expensive Hiking backpack? If you have one then you should be more concerned that it must be cleaned. You have invested a great amount of money from your pocket for buying an expensive hiking backpack so it will stay with for a long time but keeping it clean, is another difficult job to handle. 

I have seen many people are not aware that how to clean a hiking backpack. They should know the tricks to clean a hiking backpack in a good manner. 

Sometimes after a hike, you feel like you are taking woods with you at home. You are tired and don’t want to handle any mess and store your backpack without cleaning it. You may have to buy a new one soon because it’s not going to last long.

The Backpacks can carry every type of item. So you have to be very careful because the bags or straps can easily be exposed to sweat or rain. 

The rain exposure can be covered because of its just simple water but not in the case of sweat because it contains the minerals and excretions of your body which may react with the material of your backpack and may affect the durability and color of your backpack. 

How to clean a hiking backpack?

How to clean a hiking backpack

Backpack, therefore, get smelly and dirty due to moisture, food, sweat, and dust. So before you store your backpack after a hike, you have to clean it inside out.

When it comes to cleaning a backpack, many people ask if they can wash backpacks or not, if so, then how to wash them and clean properly.

Some even think that, can I put my backpack in a washing machine? So I think before jumping deep into cleaning methods, I will give you short answers about following common queries that most of you have in your minds and we will also discuss in detail that how to clean a hiking backpack.

Can you wash a backpack?

Well, of course, you can, there are many different ways to wash your backpack. Sometimes it needs light cleaning if it’s less dirty, rusty, and sometimes deep cleaning if the dirt and rust have changed its look.

Most people wash it in an old-fashioned way, which is challenging but useful. I have described in detail about manual methods in this article below.

Can you wash a hiking backpack?

Hiking backpack needs more attention than the casual one. It’s obvious that a hiking backpack will become dirty after a hike.

For this reason, you should clean your hiking backpack, right after you come from a hike. No matter how tired you are because that little effort will save your backpacks’ life.

Hiking backpack can also be cleaned by giving it a hand wash or by using a washing machine.

It depends on the quality of the bag that which method should be followed. Good Quality hiking backpacks never compromise the quality so easily in the regular cleaning process. 

Can I put my backpack in washing machine?

After clearing our minds about washing the backpack regularly, another confusion comes on washing methods because there are many methods for cleaning a backpack.

In most cases, you can use a washing machine, but it also depends on the label of the backpack. People are still confused about cleaning their bags that they should use a washer or do it manually.

There are some kinds of fabric that you can’t put directly in a washing machine because of its high chances of getting ripped.

So you have no other option left except to wash it by your hands for cleaning.

Let’s move forward and talk about other points that play an essential role in keeping the backpacks clean.

Prevention and Care

Make sure to understand that this is the first step we all need to follow. In my opinion, prevention and care are more important than washing a backpack, because proper care of bags can prevent you from performing a deep cleaning.

More care means less dirty, which is easier to remove and clean a backpack than the dirtier backpack. You may also have heard a quote that is Prevention is better than a cure.”  Someone said true!

This saying is applicable to all other subjects of life, but in our case, it is compulsory for Hiking Backpacks.

Preventing your backpack from dirt prolongs its life span, and you will feel more comfortable to handle it in future hikes or traveling scenarios.

To keep your Hiking Backpacks clean, you have to take care of its interior and exterior because both have different impacts on your hike.

How to keep interior of backpack clean?

The most common factor which makes your backpack interior look dirty is liquid because spilling of liquids inside your backpacks more often requires you to clean your backpack. 

Inside the liquid category, the most common problem is the leakage of drinking bottles. We put bottles in a backpack without tightening their lid.

Sometimes being in a hurry, we put items in the bag roughly that crashes inside and makes your backpack dirty.

But I repeated many times that prevention is important. So before putting bottles, put them inside a plastic bag so liquid can stay inside the plastic bag if spilled.

Sharp and heavy objects should be underneath because if they are on top, their weight can burst out the bottles.

How to keep exterior of backpack clean?

How to clean a hiking backpack

For the exterior of your backpack, the primary problem is to get the exposure of water. It can happen due to rain or placing it on wet grass for an extended period. If your bag is wet, let it dry naturally before using it again.

Keep in mind, do not use a dryer for drying it quickly. It can damage your backpack. There are high chances for it to get ripped or may spoil the fabric. It could be smelly as well by using a dryer, and can potentially ruin your dryer too.

To handle this problem, you can have a water-resistant backpack, or you can make your backpack waterproof. You may think of, how to waterproof a backpack? Well, it’s another debate which I’ve discussed in another article. Buying a waterproof backpack will pull you out from this trouble.

How to clean a backpack?

So, our primary focus in this article is about cleaning the backpack. I have already described some reasons before, but now the time is for different methods that are going to clarify other queries like how to clean a hiking backpack?

There are many methods that people use to wash and clean their backpacks, but as I told you before, prevention and care are very important.

If we talk about cleaning methods of the backpack, then first we should know that bags are made of a different material.

You may love to read: How to pack a hiking backpack – Step by Step Guide

Basic Cleaning

In most cases, the backpack gets less dirt when used daily basis. In the case of a hiking backpack, it is not often used until you make the next plan for a hiking trip.

In that case, you need to go for the deep cleaning of your hiking backpack.

How to clean a hiking backpack


1. Empty all the pockets.
2. Take your backpack outside and shake it well by holding upside down to remove the remaining particles of sand, if any.
3. After your backpack is empty, take a wet cloth and clean the interior.
4. You have to repeat this step for exterior as well, but you might need some soap to scrub off the stain from where it needs.
5. Once all the steps are completed, let your backpack dry, and there you go!

Deep Cleaning

If you are doing necessary cleaning regularly, there are fewer chances you need to go for deep cleaning until you stay outside for a long period.

Hikers used to set long, and they know they have to make their backpack clean before storing back it inside the cupboard.

After the hike, if you ever feel like your backpack needs to wash thoroughly, you can go washing it properly by using a washer or hand wash.

Again to clean your backpack you need to perform some steps like,

  • Be sure to empty all the pockets of your backpack.
  • Shake your backpack well by holding upside down.
  • If your backpack has a metal surface or any straps, make sure to remove them before washing.
  • You can either wash your backpack by hand or put it in a washing machine.

How to hand wash a backpack?

How to clean a hiking backpack

Things that you will need for giving hand wash to your backpack are,

1.   A soft washing brush or  any toothbrush
2.  Washing Cloth or Sponge
3.  Dry Towel
4.  Stain Remover
5.  Any detergent (free from chemicals that can’t damage the fabric)


First, of all, empty your backpack. Make sure to check every pocket and remove the items altogether. If you see any dirt that remains at the bottom even after shaking well, then use a handheld vacuum to remove it.

If your backpack has any metal frame at the bottom, you have to remove it. Leave all the pockets unzipped and remove the threads near zipper if you see any.

If straps or any pockets are detachable, then remove it too. Wash them separately to clean thoroughly.


You can see the stains inside and outside the backpack.

Apply some stain remover on both sides and rub it gently with a brush for 5 minutes. Leave the foam for about 30 minutes so it can sit well.


Fill out the basin with warm water. Make sure it is not too hot because it can be fade out the color of your backpack’s fabric. Add a small amount of detergent in the water.

Apply some foam on the backpack and scrub it gently with any cloth or brush. Put some pressure where the bag has some rigid stains.

Remove all the stains by scrubbing them well. Turn the backpack inside-out and repeat the whole process.


After cleaning it well, drain the dirty water and fill the basin again with clean water.

Rinse the backpack thoroughly and wring it out as the best as you can. Fold it into the thick towel to absorb any leftover water.


Don’t close the zip, leave them unzipped. Hang the backpack upside down and let it dry naturally. Don’t use a dryer to dry it quickly.

If you can hang it somewhere outside, it will help to drive away any leftover odors. You have to make sure it is completely dried before the next use.

How to wash a backpack in the washing machine?

Can you put a backpack in the washer? Well, the short answer is, yes, you can. But it depends on the material of the backpack.

Most of the backpacks are made of canvas or nylon, which is safe to put in the washing machine. (If your backpack is made of Leather, do not put in the washer).

Many people ask the most common question about drying that, can you put a backpack in the dryer?  I will discuss it right after the washing methods.


Perform step 1, as it was mentioned above in the hand-wash section. Firstly empty your backpack. Make sure to check every pocket and remove the items completely.

If you see any dirt remaining at the bottom even after shaking well, then use a handheld vacuum to remove it. If your backpack has any metal frame at the bottom, you have to remove it.

Leave all the pockets unzipped and remove the threads near zipper if you see any. If straps or any pockets are detachable, then remove them too. Wash them separately to clean thoroughly.


Again perform the same step 2 also as already shown in the hand-wash section. You can see the stains inside the backpack and outside as well.

Apply some stain remover on the exterior and interior and rub it gently with a brush for 5 minutes. Leave the foam for about 30 minutes so it can sit well.


Turn your backpack inside down or place it inside the pillowcase to avoid straps and zippers getting stuck in the machine. It will also prevent damaging the inside wall of the washing machine.


After putting the backpack in the machine, put a small amount of detergent in it and start the cycle of the washing machine. Spin it 2-3 times.


Take out the backpack and wring it out as best as you can. Use a towel to absorb any excess water. Hang the backpack outside to let dry completely. Make sure it should be dry completely before using it.

These were the methods that you have to follow to wash your backpack. I recommend you to see the backpack’s label before start washing.

It will tell you whether the backpack is machine washable or not. If not, you should go manually washing your backpack.

Can you put a backpack in the dryer?

A big NO. You might find yourself considering whether it is safe to put your backpack in the dryer or not. So you should never put your backpack in the dryer because it may damage your backpack badly.

How to clean a hiking backpack

Instead, you should dry your backpack naturally. It takes time, but it’s the best possible way for your backpack to get dry. It will also help to drift out leftover odors.

Keep it away from the direct source of heat. At last, make sure your backpack is completely dried before using or storing it.

How to remove smell from a backpack ?

Sometimes when you take out a backpack after a long time from the cupboard; it may have a bad smell that stinks you badly.

You want to get rid of the smell instead of washing your bag thoroughly.

How to clean a hiking backpack

The method I am going to tell you can be more useful on a bright sunny day. 

  • You can use a disposable cloth or old brush. Take it and remove any mildew from the backpack. Don’t push hard with the brush as it can damage the surface of the backpack too.
  • Take alcohol and rub the area of the backpack that has affected.
  • Next, take a washing cloth and sponge, gently rub the affected area of the backpack with it.
  • After finishing it, let the backpack dry in the sun. Hang it outdoor because it will help to remove any leftover smell.

Quick Tips about “How to Clean a Hiking Backpack”

Here are some quick tips to remember if you want to extend the lifespan of your backpack.

  1. Always read the manufacturer’s instructions about backpack in which material and other important information are clearly mentioned. It will help you to decide whether you should wash your backpack in the washing machine or go for hand-wash.
  2. Don’t put any wet items in the backpack as it can cause a bad smell. Try to put wet things in a plastic bag first then in the backpack.
  3. After washing your backpack, apply some lubricant on the zipper, so that it will not be stuck and move smoothly.
  4. It is good to do the necessary cleaning of the backpack after any outdoor activity because it will not only remove the dirt but also prevent it from getting damaged.
  5.  Always make sure to completely dry your backpack before the next use.
  6. You should wash your backpack thoroughly twice a year.


If you are a backpack lover like me and want your backpack to stay with you for the next couple of years, giving them regular washing is necessary. I see my backpack as an investment and love to keep it with me for as long as possible.

Washing your backpack is a great way to ensure its long life.

Like anything else, Hiking backpacks are more expensive than casual ones, and they need proper care and maintenance to keep them in good shape.

If you are a real hiker, take care of your backpack like your beloved things. With the little effort, you can have your backpack in a well filthy shape, and with a long-lasting life.

Backpacks do a lot for you, and after all, they need your love and care. I am curious to know how often you wash your backpack? Let me know in the comments.