Can You Wash a Messenger Bag? Yes! Here’s a Simple 4-Step Guide

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If you have a messenger bag, you know these bags are roomy, have excellent organization capabilities, and are very lightweight. They are the perfect option for transporting belongings, such as laptops, papers, keys, etc., to and from work, when you travel, and so on.

Like anything used for transport though, messenger bags do get dirty.

Can you wash a messenger bag? It’s a question we often get asked and the answer is yes, though you need to be careful and watch out for a few things.

Can You Wash a Messenger Bag?

Article: Can You Wash a Messenger Bag? Image shows a Young Man With Messenger bag

Yes, you can wash a messenger bag. But how will vary depending on materials.

Most fabric messenger bags can be washed to some degree. However, those made of leather won’t be machine washable and require hand washing or dry cleaning.

Some bags can be machine-washed, however, the most important thing is to check the label for washing instructions. For example, some messenger bags may indicate that they can be machine washed on specific settings, typically cold or gentle wash cycles.

Some sturdier messenger bags can be washed using hot water. And some can’t be machine washed at all (some require dry cleaning) and must be hand washed.

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Checking the label to see whether the bag can be washed is crucial.

We can’t say this strongly enough:

IF IN DOUBT – HAND WASH ONLY!

If you don’t check the label and wash a messenger bag in a machine that shouldn’t be machine-washed, you might destroy it. The fabric can shrink or change shape, you might damage the lining or foam padding (such as for laptop compartments), and you can damage zippers and buckles, or worse, the washing machine itself.


(That’s no joke – I’ve had to replace a washing machine because of internal damage caused by metal buckles – the internal agitators got cracked and eventually degraded completely.)

How to Machine Wash a Messenger Bag

OK, so you’ve checked the label again to double-check you can machine wash, right?

Once again(!) these instructions are meant only for messenger bags that can be machine washed without risk of damage. Follow the steps below.

Can I Wash a Messenger Bag

1. Empty the Bag

The first step is to empty the messenger bag of all contents. Go through every compartment so you don’t accidentally wash something that shouldn’t be washed.

Also, if you have anything dirty in your messenger bag that needs washing, wash that as well. Don’t put dirty or soiled belongings back into a cleaned bag, or else the bag will just get dirty again.

Make sure you remove food crumbs by turning the bag upside down and shaking gently, using a damp kitchen towel, or even a hand-held vacuum if you have one.

2. Preparing to Wash

At this point, you should pretreat any stains on the messenger bag. For this, use a stain remover and apply it to the messenger bag with a toothbrush or a soft bristle brush, and then let it soak for at least half an hour.

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Before you put your messenger bag in the washing machine, there are a few more things.

  • First, if there is a removable frame in the messenger bag, take it out
  • Second – ensure the pockets are open, so water and washing liquid can get in
  • Third – we strongly recommend putting it inside a mesh laundry bag or pillowcase to protect it:
Messenger bag inside mesh bag inside washing machine
A Messenger Bag, inside a Mesh Bag, inside a Washing Machine

3. Wash the Bag

OK, here we go.

The label recommendation will almost certainly be to use cold water and a gentle cycle for most messenger bags. Don’t be tempted to try something different.

We recommended you don’t use fabric softener, bleach, or any other products.

4. Let it Dry

Once the cycle has been completed, let the messenger bag dry. The usual recommendation is not to tumble dry your messenger bag, as it may cause damage to the components.

Leave the zippers unzipped and open, the bag upside down, and let it air dry. We wouldn’t even recommend a hair dryer – just let it dry naturally.

How to Hand Wash a Messenger Bag

Hand washing is the best way to wash a messenger bag or laptop bag. Even if the bag can be machine-washed, this approach gives you more control and is less likely to cause damage.

1. Prepare to Wash

As before, remove all contents from the bag. If you see interior or exterior stains, use a toothbrush or a soft bristle brush to apply stain remover, and let it sit for about 30 minutes.

Fill a bucket, basin, or a bathtub with 6 to 8 inches of warm water. Be sure not to use hot water. Also, add a small amount of gentle washing soap to the water.

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2. Scrub the Bag

Using a cloth or a rag with a bit of water, or even a soft brush, scrub all the dirty areas of the message bag, focusing on the heavily-soiled areas. If your messenger bag has a lot of mesh, a sponge might work better, although a toothbrush will do better at reaching hard-to-reach areas and getting stains out.

3. Rinse the Bag

Once all dirt and stains have been removed, empty the bucket of dirty water and fill it with clean, relatively cold water.

Use your hands to rinse the bag thoroughly. Then, wring as much water out of the bag as you can. Place your messenger bag in a thick towel; fold the towel over it, and give it a good squeeze to absorb more water.

4. Let it Dry

Hang the messenger bag upside down and let it air dry. Leave the zippers open and place the bag in a well-ventilated area.

Do not Tumble Dry

We strongly recommend you do NOT put your messenger bag in a drier! Thats likely to damage it no matter what the materials.

Before You Go…

As you can see, similar to washing a backpack, it’s not that difficult whether to machine wash or hand wash a messenger bag.

A lot depends on the material the bag is made of, or course. Take a look at our next article on materials for the low-down:

The Best Material for a Messenger Bag

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