how do you wash a suitcase

How Do You Wash a Suitcase?

Suitcases are more than just bags; they’re our trusty travel companions. From business trips to holidays, they carry our essentials and souvenirs. However, after several trips, suitcases can gather dirt, stains, and unwanted smells. Properly cleaning a suitcase can not only improve its appearance but also extend its lifespan and maintain the hygiene of the contents inside. So, how do you wash a suitcase so it is clean and ready for the next journey?

Cleaning a suitcase involves various methods, from spot cleaning for minor stains to a full deep clean for thorough refreshment. Utilizing a combination of mild detergent, white vinegar, and regular vacuuming ensures both the exterior and interior of the suitcase remain pristine and ready for your next adventure.

Here are these effective methods in greater detail. The methods are suitable for both hardshell and fabric suitcases, inside and out.

Spot Cleaning a Suitcase

Occasional spills or dirt marks can quickly make a suitcase look untidy. Spot cleaning is a practical approach to address these issues without undergoing a complete cleaning process. This method is swift and focuses on specific areas that need attention, either inside or outside the suitcase.

  1. Gather Supplies: Have on hand a bowl, mild detergent, warm water, and a soft cloth.
  2. Create the Cleaning Mix: In the bowl, combine a few drops of the mild detergent with warm water.
  3. Test an Area: Before applying the solution widely, dampen a small part of the cloth with the mixture and gently rub a hidden spot on the suitcase. This ensures the solution is safe for the material.
  4. Clean the Spots: Once confident, use the dampened cloth to gently work on the stains or dirt marks using a circular motion.
  5. Rinse the Area: With a different cloth, slightly wet with plain water, wipe away any leftover cleaning solution from the suitcase.
  6. Dry: Using a dry towel, pat the cleaned sections. Allow the suitcase to stand open in a place with good air circulation until fully dry.

Vacuum and Wipe Down to Clean a Suitcase

Dust and minor debris can accumulate on and inside your suitcase, especially after long trips or prolonged storage. A combination of vacuuming and wiping down can help restore the suitcase’s cleanliness without a deep wash.

  1. Prepare the Suitcase: Start by emptying the contents, ensuring every pocket and compartment is clear.
  2. Begin with Vacuuming: Use a vacuum cleaner, preferably one with a brush attachment, to meticulously clean both the exterior and interior of the suitcase. This helps lift loose dirt and debris.
  3. Formulate a Cleaning Solution: Mix equal parts water and white vinegar in a spray bottle. This blend is excellent for gentle cleaning and odor removal.
  4. Clean the Surface: Spray your solution onto a cloth, avoiding direct spraying on the suitcase to prevent oversaturation. Wipe down the entire suitcase, paying special attention to corners and crevices where dirt might hide.
  5. Inspect for Leftover Spots: After the general wipe-down, inspect for any stubborn stains or spots. Use the damp cloth to give these areas an extra rub.
  6. Air It Out: Position the suitcase in an area with good air circulation, leaving it open to let any moisture evaporate and freshen up.

Remember, maintaining a clean suitcase isn’t just about appearance but also ensuring a hygienic environment for your belongings during your travels.

Deep Cleaning a Suitcase

After many trips or long periods of non-use, a suitcase may need more than a simple wipe-down. Deep cleaning offers a thorough approach to refresh and sanitize the entire suitcase, inside and out.

  1. Ready the Suitcase: Empty all compartments, ensuring you remove any hidden items or debris.
  2. Brush Off Surface Dirt: Before submerging, use a soft brush to gently sweep away any loose grime or particles from the suitcase.
  3. Fill a Basin or Tub: Use lukewarm water and a mild detergent, creating a gentle bath for the suitcase. The basin, tub or bath should be big enough to submerge the suitcase.
  4. Submerge and Scrub: Place the suitcase into the bath, allowing it to soak for a few minutes. Then, using a brush, softly scrub the suitcase focusing on stained or particularly dirty areas.
  5. Empty and Refill: After scrubbing, drain the soapy water and replace it with clean water.
  6. Rinse: Dip the suitcase into the clean water multiple times, ensuring you’ve removed all detergent.
  7. Check Pockets and Zippers: Use a damp cloth to wipe any pockets, zippers, or areas that may have been missed during the initial wash.
  8. Air Dry: Position the suitcase in a shaded, well-ventilated space. Ensure it’s open to promote airflow and speed up the drying process. It’s vital to let it dry thoroughly to avoid any mold or mildew growth.

A thorough deep cleaning can breathe new life into your suitcase, making it feel almost brand new again. It’s a good practice to do this after many adventures or before storing it away for extended periods.


Can I machine wash my suitcase?

While some soft-sided bags might be suitable for a machine wash, it’s always best to check the manufacturer’s guidelines. Many suitcases contain elements that might get damaged during such a process.

How often should I clean my suitcase?

For those who travel frequently, cleaning their suitcase every few trips is a good practice. If you travel less often, cleaning once or twice a year or when it appears soiled should suffice.

Can I use bleach on my suitcase?

Using bleach isn’t recommended as it can lead to discoloration or damage to the fabric. For disinfection or stain removal, consider a mild disinfectant or a blend of water and white vinegar.

How do I address lingering odors inside the suitcase?

For persistent smells, you can place an open box of baking soda inside your suitcase and close it for a day or two. Baking soda is known to absorb and neutralize odors. Afterward, remove the baking soda and air out the suitcase.

Is it safe to use cleaning chemicals on my suitcase?

It’s advisable to stick to mild detergents or natural cleaning solutions like white vinegar and water. Harsh chemicals might harm the material, especially if it’s a specialized or waterproof fabric.

How can I prevent mold or mildew from forming in my stored suitcase?

Ensure your suitcase is completely dry before storing it. Store in a dry, cool place, preferably with silica gel packets inside to absorb any residual moisture. Periodically airing it out can also help in preventing mold growth.

What about cleaning the wheels and bottom of the suitcase?

The wheels and bottom often get the dirtiest. You can use a brush to dislodge any mud or debris. For deeper cleaning, a cloth dampened with a mild soap solution works effectively. Ensure you rinse off any soap residue and allow the wheels to dry completely before use.


Maintaining the cleanliness of a suitcase can increase its longevity and keep your belongings sanitary. From quick spot cleans to deep washes, ensure to choose the method that suits your suitcase’s material and the extent of cleaning required. Remember, a fresh suitcase makes for a joyful journey!