How to Clean a Canvas Backpack – 2023 How to Guide

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We’ve all been there.  The random forgotten pear or the gross moldly growth from the pack staying in the closet too long. So, how to clean a canvas backpack?

The last thing we want to do is ruin the material’s breathability or take off a zipper on an expensive canvas backpack or cute canvas tote bag. 

These backpacks are designed for durability and sustainability, with a focus on reducing waste and minimizing the impact of fast fashion.

Yes!!! The aim of this article is to show you the safest and easiest ways to do it without ruining or damaging it.

➡️ Read until the end to discover the safest cleaning detergent solution for removing tough stains and dirt while preserving the breathability and waterproofing layer of your gear.

So, How to Clean a Canvas Backpack?

Yes, but in general try not to wash your expensive backpacks regularly.  It degrades the weather protection and canvas material, but sometimes you’ve just got to do some maintenance so here’s the summary on how to wash your backpack:

Can You Wash a Canvas Backpack?

You can absolutely wash your Canvas backpack, but with care.  You'll want to avoid washing it if possible as the pack is covered with a protective weather sealant that will degrade with washing.  

The biggest problem will likely be mold from food left in the bag or if you let it sit overwinter in a closed closet. 

From least to most damaging ways to wash:

  • 1. Avoid placing on exterior walls or closets where mold will occur

  • 2. Hand spot clean with cloth, old toothbrush

  • 3. Hand wash with soapy water

  • 4. Soak in tub with soapy water

  • 5. Machine wash on gentle cycle


Never place it in the dryer.

Get it outside in the sun to dry completely.

Quick Links: Can You Wash a Canvas Backpack or Canvas Bag?

🔥🥾 Related Reading: Hiking Advice from a Physical Therapist Hiking Addict:

Cleaning Tips for Your Canvas Backpack

Try to keep your backpack or military canvas backpacks in a well ventilated storage area and avoid the back of the closet or along an outer house wall.  

Also, try wiping down your pack the day of use with a simple wet cloth to avoid accumulation of dirt that will require it to be washed in future. 

TL;DR: How to Clean a Canvas Backpack

You can wash a canvas backpack if needed. Start with spot cleaning it with a wet cloth. If that doesn’t work you can soak it in cold water in the bathtub and scrub it with a toothbrush. 

For really stubborn stains, you can finally try to add some mild detergent to the water.  For mold utilize a vinegar solution and exposure to natural sunlight.

Finally, if it’s really bad, use a delicate cold cycle in the washing machine at your own risk. Hang dry. 

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Different Methods to Wash Canvas Backpack

Step by Step Instructions for Hand Washing Your Backpack

Start with Spot Cleaning

  1. Completely empty your backpack and shake out any debris
  2. Use a warm wet sponge to get all the bits of dirt and debris out of any pockets or corners
  3. Use a toothbrush to remove dirt from zippers
  4. Rinse area with warm sponge
  5. Hang dry until completely dry indoors or in shade

Not enough?  Soak and Scrub

  1. All of the above steps plus add a drop of detergent like Nikwax on the sponge if needed.

Still not enough?

  1. Fill a bathtub with warm water and submerge the backpack.
  2. Use a wet towel or sponge to scrub areas of dirt or stain
  3. Completely rinse and hang dry indoors or in shade
how to clean a canvas backpack

Machine Washing Your Canvas Backpack

The manufacturer warns against using a washing machine to keep the integrity of the backpack.  However if you feel it is necessary, use the gentle cycle with cool water only and a slow spin cycle.  

Do not use the dryer, only hang dry your backpack.  You can also put it inside a mesh bag to protect it further from the machine wash.

Cleaning a Moldy Backpack

Plain white vinegar can help you get rid of mold on your canvas backpack.  

This is likely the biggest reason to actually wash a backpack as a little bit of dirt is a badge of honor on a good backpack.

But when left in a closet or near a damp wall the packs can start to grow mold and mildew and you might have to take action.

Vinegar has antifungal and antibacterial properties, and it can be a cheap and effective treatment for many types of mold.

Put full strength vinegar into a spray bottle and soak the area of infestation.  Let it sit for 1 hour minimum and then wipe away the mold with a damp cloth. Hang dry outdoors in full sunlight if possible. 

Can I Put My Canvas Backpack in The Dryer?

Absolutely not. Do NOT put your bag in the dryer. If parts of your backpack, bag or tote refuse to get dry after a wash, try using a hairdryer on the low cool setting to get the small corners dry. 

Recommended Resources

NikWax Tech Wash is trusted by backpackers and people interested in keeping their packs for decades.  It refreshes the backpack material’s water resistance capacity and breathability to keep you dry and comfortable. 

Are you curious about hiking with your Canvas backpack?

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How to Clean Your Backpack [by Brand]

Detailed Guides on How to Clean According to the Manufacturer

The North Face How to Clean a Northface Backpack
Fjällräven KankenHow to Clean a Kanken Backpack
OspreyHow To Clean an Osprey Backpack
DeuterHow to Clean a Deuter Backpack
HerschelHow to Clean a Herschel Backpack
NikeHow to Clean a Nike Backpack
CanvasHow to Clean a Canvas Backpack
Vera BradleyHow to Clean a Vera Bradley Backpack
Jack WolfskinHow to Clean a Jack Wolfskin Backpack
JansportHow to Clean a Jansport Backpack

Author profile: Morgan Fielder is a Doctor of Physical Therapy and passionate hiker who believes in exploring the world on foot with good food. Follow her journey as she shares science-based hiking tips and advocates for sustainable tourism.