how do you clean a tool bag

How Do You Clean a Tool Bag?

Keeping your tool bag clean is not just about maintaining a professional image—it’s also about extending the lifespan of the bag and the tools it carries. A clean bag can help prevent rust and damage to your tools.

Cleaning a tool bag involves emptying it, identifying its material, and applying appropriate cleaning methods such as hand washing for fabric, using leather cleaner for leather, or gentle scrubbing for canvas. Make sure to let the bag dry fully before returning your tools to avoid potential damage.

In this article, we’re taking a close look at the three main types of tool bag – fabric, leather, and canvas. Each type has two methods of cleaning to choose from.

Cleaning a Fabric Tool Bag

Method 1 – Mild Detergent

Fabric tool bags are popular for their lightweight, durability, and the ease with which they can be cleaned. Here is a step-by-step guide on how to clean a fabric tool bag:

  1. Empty the bag: Remove all tools and inspect the interior for stubborn dirt or stains.
  2. Pre-treat stains: If the bags have any stains, pre-treat them with a stain remover. Follow the instructions on the label and let it sit.
  3. Hand wash: Fill a basin with warm water and add a mild detergent. Submerge the bag in the solution and scrub gently with a soft brush.
  4. Rinse: Rinse the bag thoroughly under running water until all soap is removed.
  5. Dry: Allow the bag to air dry completely before you put your tools back in.

Method 2 – Machine Washing

Another approach to cleaning a fabric tool bag involves using your washing machine. This method can be effective, especially for heavy soiling. However, you should always check the care label of your tool bag first to ensure it is safe for machine washing.

Here’s how to do it:

  1. Empty the bag: As always, start by emptying your tool bag. This includes checking all pockets for stray screws, nails or drill bits.
  2. Pre-treat stains: Apply a stain remover to any stains or particularly dirty spots on your tool bag. Follow the directions on the stain remover.
  3. Secure loose parts: If your tool bag has any removable parts, such as a metal frame or plastic inserts, remove them. Secure any loose straps or flaps by buckling them or tying them together.
  4. Place in a laundry bag: To protect both your tool bag and your washing machine, place the tool bag in a large laundry bag or pillowcase and secure the top.
  5. Wash: Set your washing machine to a gentle cycle with cold water. Use a mild detergent, and avoid using any bleach or fabric softener.
  6. Dry: Once the wash cycle is complete, remove the tool bag from the laundry bag and let it air dry. Do not put it in the dryer, as the high heat could damage the material.

Remember, it’s important to let the bag dry completely before returning your tools to avoid any potential rust or damage.

Cleaning a Leather Tool Bag

Method 1 – Leather Cleaner

Leather tool bags offer a high degree of durability and a sophisticated look. However, they require a special cleaning process to maintain their condition:

  1. Empty the bag: As before, start by emptying the bag and examining it for dirt or stains.
  2. Dust it off: Use a soft, dry cloth to wipe off any dust or loose dirt.
  3. Use a leather cleaner: Apply a quality leather cleaner to a soft cloth and gently rub it over the surface of the bag. Avoid using too much product or getting the leather too wet.
  4. Dry and condition: After cleaning, let the bag dry naturally. Once it’s dry, use a leather conditioner to keep the material soft and prevent it from cracking.
  5. Polish (optional): If you want your leather tool bag to shine, use a leather polish as a final step.

Method 2 – Cleaning with Saddle Soap

An alternative method for cleaning a leather tool bag utilizes saddle soap, a product traditionally used to clean, condition, and protect leather goods. Saddle soap is especially beneficial for leather because it not only cleans but also helps maintain the flexibility and durability of the material.

Here’s how to clean a leather tool bag using saddle soap:

  1. Empty the bag: Begin by emptying your tool bag completely.
  2. Dust it off: Use a soft brush or cloth to remove any loose dust or debris from the bag.
  3. Prepare the saddle soap: Dampen a soft cloth with warm water, then rub it onto the saddle soap to create a lather.
  4. Apply the saddle soap: Gently rub the lathered cloth onto the leather in a circular motion. Make sure to cover all areas, focusing on any spots that are particularly dirty.
  5. Wipe off excess soap: After cleaning, use a clean, damp cloth to wipe off any excess soap from the bag.
  6. Dry: Let the bag air dry in a well-ventilated area, away from direct sunlight or heat sources which can cause the leather to crack.
  7. Condition: Once the bag is dry, apply a leather conditioner to help maintain its softness and durability. This step also helps to restore any natural oils that may have been stripped away during the cleaning process.

As always, before using any new cleaning product, you should do a spot test on an inconspicuous area of your tool bag to ensure it doesn’t discolor or damage the leather.

Cleaning a Canvas Tool Bag

Method 1 – Mild Detergent

Canvas tool bags are known for their durability and are relatively straightforward to clean:

  1. Empty the bag: Start by removing all tools from the bag.
  2. Dust it off: Brush off any loose dirt or dust using a soft brush.
  3. Hand wash: Just like with fabric bags, fill a basin with warm water and add mild detergent. Submerge the bag and scrub gently.
  4. Rinse and dry: Rinse thoroughly under running water and let the bag air dry completely.

Method 2 – Washing Machine

For a different approach to cleaning a canvas tool bag, consider machine washing. Canvas is a sturdy material that often holds up well in the washing machine, making it a great time-saving option. However, always check the care label first to ensure machine washing is safe for your specific bag.

Here’s how to clean a canvas tool bag in the washing machine:

  1. Empty the bag: Before cleaning, make sure to remove all tools and items from the bag.
  2. Pre-treat stains: Apply a fabric stain remover to any noticeable stains on the bag. Follow the instructions on the stain remover product.
  3. Secure loose parts: If your tool bag has any removable parts or long straps, make sure to secure them to prevent damage during the wash.
  4. Wash: Put your tool bag into the washing machine. Select a gentle cycle with cold water to prevent shrinking or color bleeding. Use a mild detergent.
  5. Dry: After washing, remove the tool bag and allow it to air dry. Do not use a tumble dryer as the high heat can shrink the canvas.
  6. Optional: Re-waterproof: If your canvas tool bag was previously waterproofed, the washing process might have stripped some of the wax or oil used to waterproof the canvas. If this is the case, you may want to reapply a canvas wax or oil to restore its water-resistant properties.

Remember, the bag must be completely dry before you put your tools back inside. This prevents moisture from accumulating, which could lead to rust or other damage to your tools.


What materials are tool bags made of?

Most tool bags are made from fabric, leather, or canvas. Some tool bags may also be made from nylon or other synthetic materials for added durability.

How do I identify the material of my tool bag?

You can usually identify the material of your tool bag by checking the product tag or label, which should indicate the materials used. If there is no tag, you may be able to make an educated guess based on the feel and appearance of the material.

How do I maintain the zippers on my tool bag?

Maintaining the zippers on your tool bag involves keeping them clean and lubricated. Use a soft brush to remove any dirt or debris, and then apply a zipper lubricant to ensure smooth operation.

How do I store my tool bag to prolong its life?

Storing your tool bag in a cool, dry place out of direct sunlight will help prolong its life. Avoid overloading the bag, as this can strain the seams and zippers.

How often should you clean your tool bag?

How often you clean your tool bag depends on how often you use the bag, and the conditions in which it’s typically used. As a general rule of thumb, you should aim to clean your tool bag every few months.


In summary, maintaining a clean tool bag is a crucial aspect of preserving your tools and ensuring their longevity. By cleaning your bag, whether it’s made from fabric, leather, or canvas, you’ll keep your tools in optimal condition, save time looking for them, and project a professional image.

With the above methods, cleaning your tool bag becomes a straightforward task that will pay off in the long run.