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Tips for Cleaning Backpacks and Lunchboxes

It’s hard to believe summer vacation is almost over already, but before you know it both students and teachers will be headed back to school. That means it’s time to clean up any backpacks or lunchboxes that you plan to use again this year. Additionally, if you’ve purchased new items or use your backpack or lunchbox regularly for work, you need to know how to keep them in good shape. 

Many bookbags and lunch totes aren’t cheap, but they can last a long time if you care for them properly. Learn how to clean a backpack and soft, insulated lunchboxes with the following tips. 

Look Before You Launder

Tempted to toss your insulated lunchbox or backpack in the washer and dryer? Before you do, check the care instructions tag. The insulating material, leather features or straps could be damaged if they’re machine washed, so make sure you know the cleaning steps the manufacturer recommends. 

How to Wash a Bookbag in the Washing Machine

The washing machine is the easiest way to go when cleaning a backpack. 

You’ll need: 
  • Gentle laundry detergent
  • A pillowcase or mesh laundry bag
  • Stain remover (optional)
  • An old toothbrush (optional)
  1. Empty the contents of the backpack. Toss out any trash and set items you’ll keep in a plastic bin or laundry basket.
  2. Apply the stain remover to any areas that are discolored or heavily soiled. Use the toothbrush to gently work the remover into the fabric.
  3. Make sure all the zippers are open, turn the bag inside out and place it inside of the pillowcase or laundry bag.
  4. Tie the pillowcase closed or fasten the mesh laundry bag.
  5. Wash your backpack in cold water on the gentle cycle.
  6. Hang your backpack upside down to drip dry, outdoors if possible.
  7. Wait until the bag is completely dry before replacing the contents.

How to Clean a Backpack by Hand

Bookbags with strips of leather or other delicate materials will probably need to be washed by hand. 

You’ll need: 
  • ½ cup of baking soda
  • Water
  • A bowl
  • A soft bristle cleaning brush
  • A pitcher
  • microfiber towel
  1. Make sure the bag is completely empty. Throw away any trash and set the remaining contents in a plastic bin.
  2. Turn the bag inside out.
  3. In the bowl, mix the baking soda with enough water to form a paste.
  4. Use the brush to gently work the baking soda solution over the bookbag. Take care to avoid leatherwork or similar areas.
  5. Fill the pitcher with water.
  6. Stand over your laundry room sink, kitchen sink or tub and carefully pour the water over the backpack to rinse the baking soda away. Again, be mindful of leather or other details.
  7. Repeat this until the water running through the fabric is clear and all traces of the baking soda have been removed.
  8. Blot the backpack dry with a towel to help prevent the moisture from spreading to details that shouldn’t get wet.
  9. Hang the bookbag to air dry.

How to Clean a Lunchbox

If you’re trying to clean an insulated lunchbox or bag, handwashing is the way to go, as your washing machine can damage the insulated core. 

You’ll need: 
  1. Turn the bag inside out to reveal the insulated lining.
  2. Mix the dishwashing liquid and warm water together in the bowl.
  3. Dip the sponge in the soapy water until it’s moist but not saturated.
  4. Wipe the inside of the bag clean.
  5. Let the lining dry completely before turning it right-side out.
  6. Use the sponge and soapy water again on the outside, but this time you’ll want to blot gently instead of wiping.
  7. Allow the outside of the bag to dry before putting the lunchbox back into rotation.

How to Remove Stains — and Stinks — from the Inside of a Lunchbox

One unlucky bump in the car or jostle in the corridor could result in spilled spaghetti sauce or tuna juice, resulting in discoloration to your lunchbox lining or — worse — unpleasant odors. 

You’ll need: 
  • Baking soda
  • Water
  • Microfiber cloths
  • A small bowl
  1. Turn the bag inside out so that the insulated lining is showing.
  2. Mix the baking soda and water together to form a paste.
  3. Use a microfiber cloth to gently work the paste into stained areas of the lining.
  4. Let this sit for about 15 minutes.
  5. Dampen a clean microfiber cloth and blot the baking soda paste away.
  6. Repeat until the stain is lifted.
  7. To get rid of odors, turn the bag inside out and let the lining sit in the sun for several hours. Alternatively, you can pour ¼ cup of baking soda in the bag, seal it and let it sit overnight. In the morning, shake out the baking soda and use a damp cloth to wipe away any residue.

Does the back-to-school grind or workweek hustle have you too busy to keep your home tidy? That’s what we’re here for! Contact your local Merry Maids and we’ll be happy to lend a hand whether you need regular cleaning services or a one-time specialty clean to get your daily housekeeping routine back on track.