man standing on hill wearing north face backpack

How to Clean Your North Face Backpack in a Few Simple Steps

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If you have bought yourself a North Face backpack, you’ve made a good choice. The North Face produces high-quality, strong, and durable backpacks, and if you care for yours properly, it could last you a lifetime!

If your backpack is a recent purchase, you may want to know how to care for it from the get-go, which is certainly the best way to do things. But if you’ve had your North Face backpack for a while, you’re probably here because the time for regular gentle cleanings has passed, and you need to know how to thoroughly clean your well-loved and hard-working backpack.

Whichever category you fit into, we have the answers you need.

Keeping a New North Face Backpack Clean

If you are the proud owner of a brand new, sparkly clean North Face backpack, you may want to start right away with maintaining your purchase in that pristine condition. Doing so is the easiest way to ensure you will always have a clean and new-looking backpack.


If you are using your backpack daily, you will want to do the following steps once every week, at least. If you are only using it for certain things, like camping or travel, doing this after each use should be sufficient.

You will need:

  • Toothbrush
  • Clean cloth
  • Towel
  • Hanger
  • Bleach-free detergent (only use if absolutely necessary)

The Step-by-Step Process

  1. Open all the pockets of your pack, and empty every compartment.
  2. Turn the backpack upside down, and give it a good shake to release any dust and dirt left inside.
  3. Start by cleaning the inside of each pocket with the dry toothbrush, focusing on the corners where dust and dirt are likely to gather.
  4. If you find any stubborn nooks and crannies where the toothbrush is unable to completely remove the dirt, try getting into those corners with a lightly dampened clean cloth, a lint roller, or a vacuum cleaner with a fine attachment.
  5. Inspect the pack for marks and stains.
  6. Try rubbing the stains with a damp cloth, and see if that is enough to get them out.
  7. If any marks have not been removed using the steps above, dip your clean cloth into a small amount of bleach-free detergent mixed with water, and rub the stains again.
  8. Once you are happy that all marks have been removed, wipe off any soap residue with a clean, damp cloth.
  9. Hang your backpack from a large hanger, and put it somewhere to air dry.
  10. Make sure your pack is completely dry before using it or packing it away.

Cleaning an Older North Face Backpack

If you have had your North Face backpack for a while, it may have gotten to the stage where it needs more significant cleaning than the steps above can provide. Before going on with the following methods, please be aware that The North Face only recommends spot cleaning for their backpacks. However, if your backpack is very dirty, and needs a more in-depth clean, you will likely need to risk one of the following methods to get it looking decent again.

Backpacks have a habit of filling up with dust, dirt, crumbs, dirty gym socks, loose papers, and spare change, and may even become moldy and stinky if left dirty for too long. If all this sounds familiar, and you’ve decided it is time for the backpack version of a spring clean, here is how to do it:

You will need:

  • Mild, non-bleach detergent (the best option will also be free of perfumes and dyes)
  • Sponges and washcloths
  • Toothbrush
  • Bath or bin large enough to submerge backpack
  • Clean, dry towel

The Step-by-Step Process

  1. Remove all the contents of your bag, making sure to leave behind no trash, coins, or loose dust.
  2. Flip the backpack upside down, and shake it well to remove any loose dirt, dust, and debris.
  3. Clean the difficult-to-reach corners with the toothbrush, a lint roller, or a vacuum cleaner with a fine attachment. Skipping this step may land you with a bath full of muddy water, and a dirty brown backpack
  4. Wipe down the entire backpack with a damp cloth, and inspect. If there are still many dirty marks and stains, try scrubbing them with a damp cloth and sponge before moving to the next step.
  5. If the pack is still showing a lot of dirt, mix a small amount of detergent with water, and dip your cloth and sponge in it. Spot clean the areas that are stained and dirty.
  6. If this has been good enough, and you are happy with your clean backpack, spot dry the damp areas with a clean towel, and hang the backpack up to air dry.
  7. If your backpack is very dirty, and the above steps have not done the trick, you may need to try submerging the bag. You can start by submerging it in clean water and allowing it to soak for a few hours, to see if that will affect the stains and marks. Scrubbing the stubborn areas with the sponge may help.
  8. If this is still not enough, submerge the backpack in clean water mixed with a small amount of detergent – 1 tablespoon should be sufficient.
  9. Allow it to soak for up to 12 hours, check on it often, and scrub the stains and marks with the sponge or cloth now and then.
  10. Use the toothbrush to get into hard-to-reach areas, and make sure the whole pack is clean.
  11. Once you are happy with the results, you will need to rinse the soap out of your bag. Fill the tub with clean water, and submerge the backpack in it. Shake the pack around in the water, and get as much of the detergent out as possible.
  12. Repeat step 11 as many times as necessary, until you are absolutely sure all the detergent has been rinsed out.
  13. Pat the backpack dry with a clean towel, removing as much moisture as you can. DO NOT put your bag in the dryer, as you will irreparably damage it.
  14. On a large hanger, hang your bag upside down, with all compartments open, to allow for the greatest water loss. Hang the hanger with the bag on it somewhere where the water can drip without causing damage, but where the bag will not be exposed to direct sunlight or heat. Drying could take anywhere from 24 to 48 hours.
Watch this video for a similar, but somewhat different process of backpack cleaning and washing.

Machine Washing Your North Face Backpack

Since The North Face does not recommend submerging their backpacks, machine washing is not our first suggestion. However, if you don’t have the time or inclination to follow the steps above, and you wish to risk machine washing your bag, follow these steps for the best results.

You will need:

  • Laundry bag or pillowcase
  • Mild, non-bleach detergent

The Step-by-Step Process

  1. Follow the steps above for emptying your backpack, and removing as much dirt and debris as possible.
  2. Remove any metal frames, and any removable straps or attachments.
  3. Cut off any loose threads, and close all zippers.
  4. Place the backpack into a protective laundry bag. If you don’t have one, place it into a pillowcase, and tie it closed at the top. If your backpack is too big, or you are otherwise unable to do either of the above, turning the backpack inside out can work in some cases.
  5. Add a small amount of detergent to your washing machine, and start the bag on a very gentle cycle. If your machine has a hand wash cycle or a delicates cycle, use one of those.
  6. DO NOT allow the machine to complete a high-speed spin cycle.
  7. Once the wash cycle is complete, remove the backpack from the machine, and take it out of the protective case. Hang it upside down with all compartments open, and allow to fully air dry before using it or packing it away.

Cleaning a Moldy Backpack

If your backpack has been lying in the back of your cupboard, damp, or with dirty or damp items in it, it will probably have developed some mold in its recesses. Follow these steps to clean out a moldy backpack. Wear a mask during this process, to protect yourself from mold spores.

  1. Take your bag outside, and shake it well with all compartments open and empty. DO not do this indoors, as you will be releasing mold spores into your house.
  2. Brush off all visible mold with a coarse brush, and get into the corners with a toothbrush.
  3. Mix some white vinegar with water to make a cleaning solution, and scour the moldy patches with this mixture. Use a sponge, and focus on moldy stains.
  4. Wash the bag using one of the methods above (hand or machine wash), and allow to air dry completely before using the bag or packing it away.

Now you know how to clean your backpack, no matter the state it is in. The last step you should take is only necessary if your backpack is waterproof – during cleaning, you may have washed or scrubbed off some of the waterproofing that was protecting your pack. The best option is to look into getting the waterproofing redone, as this will ensure the safety of your belongings, and the longevity of your bag.

Amy Catchpole

Amy Catchpole is a lifetime farm girl who currently lives on a farm with her husband, dogs, horses, and sheep. As a farmer, she is very concerned with lasting and durable tools and products, as well as the environment and the welfare of the planet. Aside from farming and animals, Amy’s biggest passion is the English language, and she is an avid writer and editor.