How to Wash A Duffel Bag – (with & without Washing Machine)

Duffel bags are now common to athletes, gym people, campers, swimmers, and even travelers. You can carry a lot of things together in it. Carrying is easier as well.

But the problem comes with cleaning. Duffel bags often collect dirt, sweat, and debris due to their heavy use. You will be in trouble if you do not know how to wash a duffel bag.

You can wash a travel bag using your washing machine or a bare hand. But the processes of washing different types of duffel bags are not the same. You also have to use different powders or sprays to remove odor or stain. Make sure you follow the right process.

Are Duffel Bags Washable?

Traveler carrying a duffel bag while walking outside airport

Yes, most of the duffel bags are washable. The materials determine whether the bags are washable or not. Duffel bags made of canvas, nylon, polyester, cotton, acrylic, vinyl, and linen are completely washable. You should not wash a duffel bag unless it is made of any of these materials. Make sure to check the label, especially for cotton bags.

How to Hand Wash a Duffel Bag

You should clean your duffel bag thoroughly with your hand. To do that, you will need:

  • Soft scrub brush
  • Mild detergent
  • Cool or lukewarm water
  • Bathtub or sink

Process of Washing A Duffel Bag with Hand

Let’s see the process of washing a duffel bag with your hand. Follow the steps below.

Step 1: Empty Your Duffel Bag

You do not want to wash anything valuable inside the bag. It might damage the items easily. To do that…

  • Open every department, zipper, and pocket of your bag.
  • Remove anything you find inside and put them in a plastic bag or box.
  • Clean those items separately since you do not want to put dirty items inside the bag again.
  • Turn your bag inside out to remove any dirt.
  • Use a vacuum to clean hard to reach the area deeply.

Step 2: Prepare Your Duffel Bag for Washing

Make sure you prepare your duffel bag for washing. You cannot wash the bag thoroughly unless you prepare your bag properly. Follow the steps below.

  • Use your hand to remove any exterior dirt and dust.
  • Take a damp rag to wipe down outside the bag to clean any large surface dirt.
  • Remove any frame your bag has.
  • Detach any removable pockets or straps for better washing.
  • Cut any loose fibers and threads.

Step 3: Remove Stains

You can pretreat the bag if you have any stains or stink in your bag. Pretreating will help you clean the stain or stink better during washing. To pretreat stains and stink,

  • Use any stain & stink remover to the targeted spot.
  • Do not use any bleach since it will damage the fabric.
  • Use a scrubbing brush or old toothbrush to remove the stain.
  • Wait for 30 minutes to let the treatment sit.

Step 4: Check the Label

You need to check the label at this moment. Why? Here are the reasons.

  • Your bag might not be suitable for submerging into the water.
  • The bag is not suitable for hot water.
  • It might not be cleanable with harsh detergent.

Step 5: Fill the Bathtub with Cool or Lukewarm Water

You need to use a bathtub or sink to wash your duffel bag. Make sure you have enough space to operate the washing process. Follow the steps below.

  • Fill your bathtub or sink with cool or lukewarm water.
  • Do not add warm or hot water since it may damage the fabric. It also discolors the bag.

Step 6: Add Detergent

Washing with water is not enough. You need to add detergent. Any kind of laundry detergent powder or liquid is good enough to wash. For that,

  • Make sure the detergent is free from dyes, fragrances, and chemicals.
  • Add a few drops of the liquid or the necessary amount of powder.
  • Mix the detergent and water properly.
  • You can also use a bucket to mix the detergent if you do not need to submerge the bag.
  • Add ¼ ounce of mild detergent with cool water in the bucket.

Step 7: Scrub the Duffel Bag

Once your detergent preparation is ready, you can start cleaning the duffel bag. Use a scrub brush or your old toothbrush. For that,

  • Dip your scrub brush into the solution.
  • Clean the outside slowly with soapy water.
  • Start on one side and work to the other side.
  • Scrub the straps, zipper, and other parts thoroughly.
  • Do not leave a single space even if it seems clean.
  • You can also clean the inside if any dirt is left there.

Step 8: Rinse Your Bag Completely

You need to remove the entire soapy residue left in the bag. To do that,

  • Take the showerhead and adjust the nozzle to a relatively slow speed.
  • Slowly rinse out the residue.
  • You can rinse the bag thoroughly if the label says so.
  • Otherwise, simply clean the residue with lukewarm or cool water.
  • You can use a bucket and mug to clean the residue as well.

Step 9: Clean Inside with Sanitizer

After cleaning both the inside and outside, there might be some bacteria left. You should use sanitizer in that case. For that,

Step 10: Dry Your Duffel Bag

Your bag is fully clean. But you are not done yet. It is time to dry your duffel bag. For that,

  • Simply hang it near the bathtub to drip dry.
  • Turn the bag inside out properly.
  • Take a few clips and hang the bag somewhere.
  • Try to hang it under direct sunlight if the fabric is good. It will reduce the odor and kill the germs easily.
  • Use natural light and air to let it dry properly.
  • Do not use the bag until it dries.

Can You Put a Duffel Bag in the Dryer?

Drying the bag in the dryer might be the worst decision for you. A dryer may overheat that damages any synthetic parts and glue joints of the bag.

Zips, buckles, and other metallic parts of the bag might damage the dryer drum. If you have to use a dryer, make sure the setting is at the lowest point for perfect drying.

How Long Does It Take to Dry A Duffel Bag Naturally?

You may need to wait at least a day or two to let the bag dry naturally. If the sun is too hot, it may take less time. Make sure you give enough time to dry it naturally for a fresh and clean bag to use.

Can I Wash A Duffel Bag in The Washing Machine?

You can wash most of the washable duffel bags in the washing machine. Some bags such as canvas are not recommended to clean in washing machines. It will damage the bag badly.

How to Wash A Duffel Bag in The Washing Machine?

A washing machine is the fastest way to wash a duffel bag. But you have to make sure to follow the proper steps below.

  • Do all the preparation work mentioned above.
  • Turn the bag inside out.
  • Put it into a pillow bag, or the metal parts of the bag might get snagged.
  • Use any mild detergent in a small amount (1-2 tbsp). Avoid the beach as it will discolor the bag.
  • Set the cycle into the lowest or a gentle level.
  • Use lukewarm or cool water.
  • Load the bag with a towel or something not delicate. Duffel bags may damage any fragile items in the machine.
  • Start the machine.
  • Take out the bag and reshape it— wipe out all the water and soapy residue.
  • Hang it somewhere to let it dry naturally.

How to Wash A Duffel Bag with Wheels?

Duffle bags with wheels add some benefits during carrying. You need to be extra careful when washing since it may jam the wheels. Nobody likes to use a duffel bag with squeaky wheels. Follow the steps below to clean a duffel bag with wheels.

  • Prepare your bag for cleaning.
  • Remove stains and stink for further cleaning.
  • Use a sponge or scrub brush to remove dirt.
  • Clean inside and outside with a brush and soapy water.
  • Rotate the wheels while washing and apply water to get rid of any dirt.
  • Use a thin brush to clean inside the wheels.
  • Dry the wheels right after washing. Water may damage the wheels when staying for long.
  • You can use lubricant after drying for smooth rolling.

How to Remove Odor from A Duffel Bag?

Odor is a common problem for the duffel bag due to its heavy use. Sweat, dirt, and debris cause unpleasant odor. The good news is you have tons of options available for removing odor from your duffel bag. Let’s check that.

Deodorizing Spray

The deodorizing spray is an excellent solution to odor problems. It is a simple solution. All you have to do is to spray and let it dry. Make sure you pick the right spray for the duffel bag. You can find some good deodorizing sprays here.

Liquid Soap

Take a cloth and add a few drops of liquid soap. Simply wipe down the inside of your bag and wait for the night. You will see the odor has gone the next day.

Antibacterial Wipes

Antibacterial wipes are the fastest way to remove odor from your bag. Simply wipe down the inside of the bag with a few disinfectant wipes and you are ready to go. You can even keep a few wipes in your bag.

Apply Oil

Some essential oil such as citrus, lavender, or vanilla can work as well. Take a piece of old paper and douse it in the oil. Then simply place the paper in the bag for a night and see the magic.

Baking Soda

Baking soda can work faster. All you need to do is to sprinkle 1 tablespoon of soda inside the duffel bag and wait for a night. You should see the odor gone the next day.

Lemon Juice

You can also use lemon juice to get a refreshing natural smell. Simply add a ½ cup of water and ½ cup of lemon juice to create a mixture. Then spray it throughout the bag and get the natural fresh smell.


Teabags can deodorize your duffel bag smoothly. You need to put a few unused tea bags inside and wait for a night to let them sit properly. The odor should be gone by the morning.

How to Remove Mold from A Duffel Bag?

It is common to experience mold since duffel bags expose to water, sweat, and dirt heavily. Follow the steps below if you want to remove mold from your duffel bag.

  • Wear rubber gloves to protect your hand.
  • Create a mixture of water and white vinegar, baking soda, or rubbing alcohol.
  • Take a scrub brush or old toothbrush and dip it down to the solution.
  • Tackle the mold with the brush smoothly.
  • Make sure to remove all the molds from both inside and outside.
  • Leave the bag under direct sunlight.
  • The light and acid should break the mold easily.

You need to dispose of your bag if the mold is not broken down. Do not throw it away. Give it to any recycler for further use.

How Often Should You Wash A Duffel Bag?

You should clean your duffel bag once a year. But you should keep your eyes open to see the dirt and smell. If your bag smells bad or collects some dirt, it is better to clean it right then. You should also clean it once in three months if you use it for swimming, gym, or sports. Otherwise, it may smell and look terrible.

Wrap Up

A duffel bag is a great companion for travelers, swimmers, sportspersons, and general people. It often gets dirty due to its heavy and rough use. You can enjoy a fresh and clean bag if you know how to wash a duffel bag.

Washing a cleaning bag is simple, and you can do it at home using your hand or washing machine. Make sure to check the label and construction materials before washing. It will help you keep the bag in good shape. A clean and washed duffel bag will make your experience better and take it to the next level. Clean the bag regularly for a healthy and hygienic lifestyle.

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