How to Wash a North Face Backpack – A Step by Step Guide.

How to Clean North Face Bag

Are you looking for instructions on how to wash your North Face Backpack?  Well you’re in the right place.  Our guide will take you through the step by step process of cleaning your North Face Backpack so it’s ready to go the next time you are!

We’ve had a ton of readers ask us – “Can you wash a North Face backpack?”  The answer is YES. That said, you need to know what you’re doing or you can mess things up in a hurry.  Read below to for details.

The Following is a Guide for Washing North Face Backpacks

Things you will need: A dirty north face backpack, bathtub or large sink, mild (non-bleach) detergent, old toothbrush, towels, large hanger

  1. Remove all items from the backpack
  2. Take a dry paper towel and remove most of the dirt or gunk
  3. Take wet towel (water only) wipe down remaining interior pockets to remove remaining dirt
  4. If Needed: Run tub or sink with clean water and submerge bag – gently use old toothbrush to scrub areas that are still dirty
  5. If Still Needed: Use OxiClean™ (very little) or other gentle detergent (non bleach) to soak the bag & repeat scrubbing with toothbrush
  6. Drain tub and refill with clean water to re-submerge backpack for rinse (repeat 2 to 3 times)
  7. Use large hangar and hang to dry – inside for best results

Clean Out the Backpack


First things first.  Before you can “clean” your bag, you need to “clean out” your bag.  This means opening every single pocket and compartment to make sure you don’t miss anything.  The last thing you want to end up with is a clean backpack, but a ruined cell phone or journal.

Tip: This is also a great time to reorganize your backpack.  Sometimes our bags get cluttered like our wallets.  Cleaning them out is a great opportunity to decide what actually goes back in.

Keep Things Dry

Initially, you’ll want to use a dry paper towel (or regular towel) to remove most of the grit and grime that can be seen.  By removing most of the dirt when it’s dry, you’ll avoid creating a mud-like substance that can make things worse than before you started.

Tip: It’s a good idea to turn the bag upside down and physically shake the bag after you’ve done this.  This will get out that hard to reach stuff that’s in crevices.

Wipe It Down

At this point, hopefully you’ve gotten most of the dirt out of your backpack.  If there’s still any visible dust or dirt, repeat the shaking process to get rid of most of it.  Even with all the shaking and wiping, there will still be dirt inside the pockets.  You’ll want to wet a paper towel or rag (with water only) and wring it out.  Begin wiping the interior down.  We usually like the wipe down 2 to 3 times, then re-soak the rag and wring out to clean it.  Complete this process along the interior first, then move on to the exterior of the bag.

Tip: Don’t be afraid to rinse the rag out frequently during the cleaning.  You don’t want to just move dirt around, but rather trap it on the rag and move it to the water.

Soak It

Some of you can stop at the step above (if your backpack isn’t too dirty).  But for some of us, we’ll need to clean it a bit more thoroughly. Run some tepid water in your bathtub or sink (the bathtub works easiest).  Refrain from using soap at this point.  Ideally, we want to clean the backpack without having to resort to any chemicals or soaps.  You never know how they’ll interact with your bag, so it’s always safest to wash it as conservatively as possible.

With the tub full enough to completely cover the bag, make sure all the pockets are open and submerge the entire bag in the water.  Gently use your hands to shake the bag to loosen any dirt that remains.  It’s also a good idea to have an old toothbrush on hand to scrub any areas that may need it.

Tip: After you submerge the bag, check to make sure you don’t have any air bubbles remaining and that everything is good and soaked.

Less is More

99% of you will have a clean bag at this point, so we recommend proceeding to the final step.

For those of you that have some stubborn stains that water just won’t remove (coffee or red wine) it’s time to bust out the OxiClean™ or similar cleaner like this one.  Please, please, please make sure your cleaner DOES NOT contain any bleach.  We feel as though there’s no need for an explanation, but let’s just say your red bag will be pink if you get bleach involved.

Again, you’ll want to run a tub of tepid water.  Go ahead and add some cleaner.  The key here is that less is more.  You don’t want to end up with a sudsy mess.  It’ll do it’s job, but you may never get it all out of the bag.  We’ve found success with as little as 1-2 teaspoons of powdered detergent.  Stir it around so the detergent is dissolved.

At this point, you’ll want to submerge the bag like you did above.  Get it do a point where the stained area will remained submerged in the water.  Let it soak for 4-12 hours depending on how bad the stain is.  Use your best judgement here, but you can usually tell if it’s going to take care of the stain pretty quick by checking it after 30 minutes or so.  Don’t be afraid to use your fingers to rub on the stain to see if it’s making any positive progress.

Tip: After the bag has been soaking for several hours, hit each stain with a toothbrush to help loosen, then re-soak.

Rinse, Rinse, Rinse

Now that your bag is clean, you want to make sure that all the soapy residue is gone.  The simplest way to get rid of it is to refill the tub with clean water and submerge the backpack again.  Repeat this process until all of the soapy residue is gone.

Tip:  You’ll be able to tell all the soap is gone when the water stays clean after 3-5 minutes of agitating the clean bag.  If bubbles are still showing up, keep starting the process over until there are no more bubbles or residue on the surface of the water.

Hang and Forget

hang dry north face backpack

You’ll want to hang your backpack upside down to allow any remaining water to drain out to expedite drying.  You’ll actually want to dry your backpack as slowly as possibly.  24-36 hours should usually do the trick, but we don’t like to hang it outside because it can cause the bag to dry rather quickly – which can result in some parts of the backpack shrinking.  You DEFINITELY want to AVOID using a dryer or hairdryer to dry the bag.  There are plastic and/or rubber components on the bag that will melt if you use either of these items.

Tip: Use the arm straps of the bag to hang it upside down on a hangar.  If your hangar is large enough, you can hang using both straps, but if not, one strap will work just fine.

We hope you enjoyed the above guide detailing how to clean a North Face backpack.  If you have any questions, please feel free to comment below and we’d love to answer them for you.  Check out this post if you’re interested in an affordable alternative to North Face backpacks.

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