How To Wash A Laptop Backpack

Do you need to wash your laptop backpack? If you take your laptop backpack with you everywhere - like we do - then chances are, it’ll get a little dirty after a while. From spills on the outside to gunk in the zipper, sometimes backpacks need a little freshening-up. 

how to wash your backpack

Most laptop backpacks don’t need to get cleaned very often, especially if they have stain-resistant fabric, like Knack Packs do. And you shouldn’t wash them very often, as scrubbing, rubbing, and the use of cleaning products can potentially remove important coatings, break down fibers, and remove dye from the backpack. 

In this article, we’re going to cover how to safely wash the outside and inside of your backpack so that you don’t wear down or damage any fabrics, linings, hardware, or other backpack materials. 

Check out this post on how to clean your Knack Pack.

Hand-washing vs. machine washing

Since this article details how to hand wash a high-end laptop backpack like a Knack Pack - as opposed to a simple, formless sack like a child’s book bag - we don’t recommend machine washing at all. Laptop backpacks are made out of a variety of different materials, and it’s difficult to know how the rough nature of a machine wash will impact them. Even if a manufacturer’s care label says that machine washing is safe, a machine could damage the hardware and tangle up backpack straps. 

Caring for backpack fabric

Before you wash your backpack, you should always check your backpack’s care instructions and product specifications to make sure that you’re not about to use any cleaning product that could damage the fabric or fabric lining. For your convenience, here’s a quick guide to some of the common backpack fabrics and how to care for them:

How to care for nylon

When cleaning nylon fabric, stick with a very gentle dish soap, and only wipe the fabric with a soft, clean cloth. Nylon can never be dry cleaned, because dry cleaning solvents will actually melt the fabric. Bleach can also melt nylon, so make sure that there’s no bleach in any cleaning products. That said, untreated nylon repels water and stains better than polyester, so you shouldn’t need to do too much scrubbing in the first place. 

How to care for polyester

You should clean polyester in the same way that you clean nylon fabric: with a gentle dish soap and a soft, clean cloth. Even though polyester can be dry cleaned, we don’t recommend it. At Knack, we carefully treat polyester fabric with several coatings that improve water and stain repellent properties while still maintaining a soft feel. 

How to care for leather

You should clean any leather with a damp cloth and specialty leather cleaner. We like to use dubbin, which is a wax product that can soften, condition, and waterproof leather. That said, Knack Packs use napa leather, which is naturally stain and water resistant, so you shouldn’t need any products beyond a damp cloth for cleaning. 

You can see what material each Knack Pack is made of by clicking on their product page.  

How to wash your laptop backpack

What you’ll need

  • A very mild soap (like Dawn or Palmolive)
  • A small, clean, very soft-bristle brush (like a toothbrush)
  • A handful of clean washcloths
  • Water

what you need to wash a backpack

Steps to wash a laptop backpack

  1. Unzip all the pockets. Turn your backpack upside-down and shake out crumbs over a trash can. Brush the interior of every pocket with your hands to make sure you get everything. 
    Tip: Use packing cubes and shoe bags to keep your backpack dirt-free. 

  2. Remove surface dirt. If the outside of your backpack is dusty, brush the outside with a dry washcloth. Optionally, vacuum the exterior with a fabric attachment. Then, wipe the exterior with a water-dampened cloth to pick up any extra dirt. 
    hand wash your backpack with a clean cloth
  3. Clean the friction areas. The shoulder straps and back panel of your backpack have more exposure to sweat. Make sure to wipe these areas with your damp cloth. 

  4. Spot-treat. Do you have some stains or sticky areas that need extra attention? Dilute some mild soap in water (about one teaspoon of soap per one cup of water). Dampen a washcloth and then apply to the problem area. Rub gently until the stain or stickiness is gone. Then, wipe up the soapy area with a purely water-dampened cloth. 

  5. Clean the zippers and hardware. If your zippers are gunky, use the clean brush to gently scrub the problem area. You can dip the brush in the soapy water for any really stubborn areas. 
    how to clean backpack zippers
  6. Clean the inside of the bag. Use a damp cloth to wipe down the inside fabric. Avoid using soapy water, as the soap can be difficult to remove later. Since Knack Packs have an anti-microbial and stain-resistant interior lining, they’ll never smell or stain. 

  7. Air dry. It’s always best to let your backpack air dry. Hang it up somewhere with good airflow. If you’re in a hurry, you can use a hair dryer on very low - or no - heat to expedite the drying process. Better yet, put your backpack in front of a fan at room temperature. Do not put your backpack in the dryer. 

What not to do when washing a backpack

Don’t use bleach. Bleach can destroy color and, like we said before, can melt nylon. Just stay away from it. And if you planned to use bleach for sanitizing your backpack, keep reading. We’re going to cover a safer way below. 

Don’t use high heat. Heat can make nylon wrinkle, and can destroy helpful fabric coatings. Aim to only use cool water and cool or room-temperature air for drying. 

Don’t leave soap on the backpack. Soap is great for those extra-dirty areas, but again, it can break down fabric and fabric coatings. Whenever you wipe your backpack with soapy water, make sure that you're re-wipe with a soap-free, dampened cloth. 

How to clean mold out of a backpack

If your backpack looks or smells moldy, make a solution of one teaspoon white distilled vinegar in one cup of water. Dampen a cloth with the solution, then take your backpack outside (so you can avoid breathing in any mold) and wipe it down. Vinegar is great for killing mold, and the vinegar smell will go away once it dries. 

How to disinfect a backpack

You can disinfect the surfaces of your backpack by spraying it with 70% isopropyl alcohol. Fill a spray bottle and make sure that the nozzle is in spray mode, not stream. Spray until it’s damp for 30 seconds. Once it’s dry, you’re good to go. 

How to clean serious stains

Red wine and oil stains can be pretty stubborn. These stains are nearly non-existent on Knack Packs, as we’ve thoroughly designed Knack Packs with stain-resistant materials. But if your backpack does encounter such a blemish, you may want to use a fabric spot cleaner like a Tide stick. Follow the fabric spot cleaner instructions, and be sure to try and remove all of the residue afterwards. Alternatively, apply a small amount of laundry detergent and rub gently. Remove all of the laundry detergent with a damp cloth afterwards. 

Do you need any help or advice about how to wash your backpack? Let us know in the comments. 

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