how do you wash a duffel bag

How Do You Wash a Duffel Bag?

Duffel bags are versatile and widely used for various purposes, from weekend getaways to gym visits. Over time, these bags can accumulate dirt, stains, and odors, making it essential to clean them to maintain their appearance and ensure they’re safe for use. While the material and design of duffel bags can differ, there are general cleaning methods that can be applied to most.

For best cleaning results opt for hand washing, machine washing, or spot cleaning, depending on the bag’s material and the nature of the dirt. Always use mild detergents, avoid harsh chemicals, and ensure the bag is thoroughly dried before storage or use.

Here are those methods in detail to get your duffel bag looking and smelling fresh.

Hand Washing a Duffel Bag

Hand washing remains a favored approach for cleaning most duffel bags. It’s gentle on the fabric and gives you control over the cleaning process, ensuring every inch gets the attention it deserves


  1. Empty the Bag: Before starting, ensure all pockets and compartments are empty.
  2. Shake Out Dust: Give the bag a good shake to remove any loose dirt or debris.
  3. Prepare a Cleaning Solution: Mix a mild detergent in a basin or sink filled with cold water.
  4. Submerge the Bag: Immerse the duffel bag in the cleaning solution, ensuring it’s fully soaked.
  5. Scrub Gently: Using a soft brush or cloth, scrub away dirt, focusing on areas with visible stains.
  6. Agitate the Water: Move the bag around in the water to dislodge any trapped dirt.
  7. Rinse Thoroughly: After scrubbing, rinse the bag with cold water, ensuring all soap residues are washed away.
  8. Press Out Excess Water: Gently press the bag, but avoid wringing it, to remove excess water.
  9. Air Dry: Hang the bag in a well-ventilated area. Ensure it’s fully open to allow proper air circulation inside and out.
  10. Check for Residual Stains: Once dry, inspect the duffel bag for any remaining spots and address them with spot cleaning if necessary.

Machine Washing a Duffel Bag

Machine washing offers a quick and efficient way to clean duffel bags that are made of sturdy materials. While it might seem daunting to some, with the right precautions, your duffel bag can emerge from the machine looking almost new.


  1. Empty and Inspect the Bag: Remove all items and check for any loose threads or damages.
  2. Turn Inside Out: If possible, invert the bag to expose the interior for a more thorough clean.
  3. Place in a Protective Cover: Use a pillowcase or mesh laundry bag to shield the duffel bag during the wash.
  4. Select the Right Settings: Opt for a gentle cycle and cold water to prevent potential damage or shrinkage.
  5. Add Mild Detergent: Pour in a mild detergent, avoiding any with bleach or harsh chemicals.
  6. Avoid Overloading: Ensure the machine isn’t too packed, allowing the duffel bag to move freely.
  7. Start the Wash: Begin the washing cycle and allow it to run its course.
  8. Remove and Inspect: Once the cycle is complete, take out the duffel bag and inspect for any remaining dirt or stains.
  9. Air Dry: Place the bag in a shaded, well-ventilated spot. It’s vital to avoid direct sunlight which can cause colors to fade.
  10. Revert to Original Shape: Once the duffel bag is dry, turn it right side out and reshape it to retain its form.

Spot Cleaning a Duffel Bag

Spot cleaning is the go-to approach when addressing specific marks or blemishes without the need to clean the entire bag. It’s precise, effective, and often the preferred choice for minor clean-ups.


  1. Locate the Stain: Before beginning, pinpoint the exact location of the stain or dirt spot.
  2. Choose the Right Cleaner: Depending on the nature of the stain, you might need a mild detergent, stain remover, or even plain water.
  3. Test a Small Area: Apply a tiny amount of your chosen cleaner to an inconspicuous part of the duffel bag to ensure it doesn’t cause discoloration.
  4. Apply the Cleaner: Using a soft cloth, gently dab the stain with the cleaning solution.
  5. Work from the Outside In: Start at the outer edge of the stain and work your way inward to prevent spreading.
  6. Blot, Don’t Rub: Press the cloth against the stain, absorbing the dirt without rubbing it deeper into the fabric.
  7. Rinse if Necessary: If you used a cleaning solution, dampen a separate cloth with water and pat the cleaned spot to remove any residue.
  8. Let it Dry: Allow the cleaned area to dry naturally, avoiding direct heat or sunlight.
  9. Brush Up the Fabric: Once dry, if the duffel bag’s material is conducive, use a soft-bristled brush to restore the fabric’s natural texture.
  10. Inspect and Repeat: Check the spot to see if the stain has been completely removed. If remnants remain, repeat the process until satisfied.


How often should I wash my duffel bag?

Regular cleaning of your duffel bag depends on its usage. If it’s frequently exposed to dirt or used for sports activities, it might require more frequent cleaning, possibly after every use. On the other hand, occasional users can opt for cleaning every few months or when the bag appears dirty. Always keep an eye on any unpleasant odors, as they can be a sign that it’s time for a wash.

How do I clean the interior of my duffel bag?

Cleaning the inside of your duffel bag is as vital as the exterior. Begin by shaking out any debris. For a deeper clean, dampen a cloth with a mixture of water and mild detergent and wipe down the interior surfaces. This will help remove any stains or residues. After cleaning, it’s essential to let the interior air out to prevent mold or mildew from forming. Keeping small sachets of silica gel inside can also help in absorbing moisture and maintaining freshness.

Can I use bleach to clean my duffel bag?

Using bleach on your duffel bag can be risky. It might weaken the fabric, leading to tears, or cause uneven patches of discoloration. Instead, opt for gentle cleaning agents or those specifically designed for the material of your bag. If you’re unsure about a cleaning agent, always test it on a hidden section of the bag before applying it more broadly.

Can you wash a duffel bag with other clothes?

Washing a duffel bag with clothes isn’t typically recommended. The bag’s zippers, straps, or buckles might damage softer fabrics during the wash. If you decide to wash them together, ensure the bag is enclosed in a mesh laundry bag to minimize potential harm. This also prevents the straps or zippers from getting tangled with other items.

Should I clean my duffel bag before storing it?

Absolutely. Storing a dirty bag can attract pests, and any residual moisture can lead to mold or mildew growth. Cleaning your bag before putting it away ensures it’s ready for your next adventure. After cleaning, make sure it’s dry and store it in a cool, dry place. Avoid stacking heavy items on top to maintain its shape.


Maintaining the cleanliness of your duffel bag not only ensures longevity but also promotes a healthy and hygienic storage solution for your belongings. Whether you opt for hand washing, machine washing, or spot cleaning, always use gentle techniques and avoid harsh chemicals. Remember to clean your duffel bag before storing it and ensure it’s thoroughly dry to keep it in the best possible condition.