How To Wash a North Face Backpack: A Useful Guide

How To Wash a North Face Backpack: A Useful Guide

Those of you who spend a good amount of their time outdoor in nature know the importance of a quality backpack all too well.

Having a backpack that can carry enough clothing, gear and items is one of the things that can possibly make or break your next outdoor adventure.

Hikers, climbers, campers and travelers from all over the world rely on their backpacks to store and carry their belongings.

The reason why backpacks are so widely used by those that are beyond school age, is their practicality. Your hands are left free while carrying it and a quality backpack is comfortable, sturdy and durable.

In today’s guide we will focus on one very important step in owning a backpack, that of keeping it clean.

As you saw from the title, we will be discussing The North Face backpacks in particular. The reason we picked The North Face is because of the brand’s reputation for quality products and also due to their backpacks being widely popular and used by many.

Bear mentioning backpacks such as Borealis, Jester, Surge and Recon, along with other designs that some of you might already be familiar with.

In a previous guide we have gone through the steps of washing a North Face jacket, which you can find here.

Without any further ado, let’s get started with the steps of how to best wash a backpack by The North Face.


1. Backpack Care: Is Washing Really Necessary?

We understand that this sounds strange, seeing how we are about to get into the washing process of a backpack, but it is something that must be mentioned beforehand.

Generally speaking, washing a backpack is not highly advisable. Quality backpacks are made to withstand challenging conditions and they typically come with DWR coating that is meant to repel water, thus keeping the items stored inside dry.

Aside from that, there is a risk that it can get damaged during the washing process, especially if a washing machine or harsh detergents are used. We will discuss how to avoid these issues in the following paragraphs.

With all that being said, what is the best way to clean a backpack?

Spot cleaning is the most advisable method, also mentioned by The North Face themselves in their Product Care Q&A. They do not recommend that you fully wash or submerge their backpacks in water, so be aware of that.

Sometimes, however, spot cleaning may not be enough to get rid of all the dirt and grime that your backpack has accumulated in its adventures with you.

Only then, when the situation is serious and the backpack bears no resemblance to its original look, you should consider giving it a proper wash.

man hiking with the north face backpack

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2. Washing a North Face Backpack (Before washing)

What You Will Need

Here we have given the short rundown of the things you will need to properly and safely wash your The North Face backpack:

  • Dirty backpack;
  • Basin, bathtub or sink large enough to fit the backpack;
  • Mild non-bleach detergent;
  • Paper towels or hand towels/cloth;
  • Soft brush or toothbrush;
  • Hanger.

Before Washing

The very first step before washing your backpack is to make sure that there is nothing inside it. Check every pocket and compartment and take everything out.

When that is done, turn it upside down, with all the zippers opened, and give it a good shake that will help dislodge and get out all the small and hard to reach debris that might be left inside.

Once the backpack is completely empty, you can proceed to the next step.

Brushing Off Dirt and Grime

The step of brushing or wiping off the dirt from the outside and inside of the backpack is also important. If you were to go right to soaking the backpack, removing the dirt would be a real pain because getting it wet can actually cause it to stick onto the fabric worse than it was to begin with.

Here is where the toothbrush or soft brush, whichever you have at hand, will come into play. This can also be done with a dry paper towel. We advise using the paper towel for the larger areas and the toothbrush for smaller crevices that require a bit more effort.

Always keep in mind to do this gently so as to not scratch or damage the surface of your backpack.

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3. The Wipe Down Method

The wipe down method is the safest way to go about cleaning any backpack, including those by The North Face.

It uses very little water and no detergents at all, which means less risk of damaging the DWR coating or the backpack itself.

Cleaning the Interior

While this might not always be necessary, cleaning the interior is a good way to keep the backpack looking like new for longer and making sure that there is no dust or dirt stuck to the inside, which would complicate matters if you will have to wet the backpack.

This can be done by using either a paper or regular towel you don’t mind getting dirt on.

The best way is to wet the cloth first and then wring it out to remove all of the excess water. Remember, you want to clean the backpack with as little water as possible to begin with.

Wipe down each compartment and pocket until you are certain that it is clean.

Cleaning the Exterior

After the interior is clean, you should decide whether spot cleaning is the way to go or whether you will have to go a bit further with the cleaning process.

If you are spot cleaning, using a damp cloth directly on the spot that needs to be cleaned is the easiest and also the recommended method by The North Face. Spot cleaning takes no time and you will not have to deal with the possible issues that fully cleaning a backpack might cause.

On the other hand, if you intend to give the entire bag a quick clean, then using the same method of wet cloth/paper towel for the exterior will work just fine.

You can re-soak the cloth as needed, just make sure to always wring it out first. Remember, once again, that we want to keep things as dry as possible up to this point.

After you are done with this final step, generally the backpack should be clean enough and hung to dry.

the north face yaiza backpack

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4. The Soaking Method

If your backpack is still visibly dirty or you are not satisfied with the cleaning provided by wiping it down with a wet cloth, then soaking it would be the next step.

To soak the backpack, you should use tepid water and fill up the basin, sink or bathtub, whichever you are using for this step.

You should leave out detergents and soaps of any kind for the time being. Soaking can, most of the time, fully clean a backpack without having to resort to the use of detergents.

With the tub full, submerge the backpack in the water with all compartments and pockets opened, which will allow the bag to get clean thoroughly.

In order to make sure that this step is successful, we would recommend using a brush or toothbrush to get into the hard to reach parts of the backpack. They can also be used on the fabric itself, lightly, to help scrub off what dirt might be left.

Read also: How To Wash a Patagonia Jacket

5. Using Detergent

First off, we would advise against taking things this far as there is no guarantee that the detergent, even very mild ones, will not react badly with the backpack and DWR coating. This step should be used only when there are stains that won’t come off.

Using a mild, bleach-free detergent is the best way to go about it.

Our suggestion would be to use either NikWax products, which are specially formulated for fabrics treated with DWR products, or any other bleach-free product that is similar to it.

If nothing similar can be found, then OxiClean™ or other mild powdered detergent may be used.

The water should be tepid for this method, too. The cleaner must be added to the water first, do not pour it directly on the bag. Use as little as you can get away with and mix it well so that it fully dissolves in the water.

Once again, fully submerge the bag in the water, making sure that the stained area remains under water.

Allow it to soak for a few hours depending on how bad the stain is. We would recommend you check it after the first 20-30 minutes and see if the stain rubs off or is lifting. The shorter the time that the bag remains in the water, the better it is.

After cleaning it with this last method, it is essential to rinse it well.

Rinse and then rinse some more by submerging the backpack in clean water until there is no residue left from the detergent. This is noticeable when bubbles stop forming when you shake the bag under water.

6. Drying

To dry your bag you will need a hanger and hang it in a place where it can dry slowly, such as your garage. While it will dry faster if hung outside, this may cause it to shrink and you would want to avoid that.

Do not use a dryer or any other type of fast-drying method as they will damage the fabric and cause it to melt or shrink.

Hang it upside down for best results, as this will also allow the water to drain out faster.

How to Clean a Backpack

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7. Can You Use a Washing Machine?

Well, if your washing machine has a hand wash program, then at the lowest temperature setting and with the lowest number of spins, preferably also using a laundry bag for the backpack, you might be able to get away without damaging the backpack.

That being said, we would highly advise against it. It just isn’t worth the risk.

washing machine


There you have it! We hope you found this guide helpful and that your backpack is now squeaky clean and good as new!

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