Here's how to make an old backpack look like new again.

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Your child might have outgrown last year's shoes, but chances are their backpack is still in good shape. Unfortunately, stinky remnants from old lunches, dirt, and smelly gym clothes can linger. There's no need to add a new backpack to your back-to-school shopping list, though. Kristiana Laugen of San Antonio, Texas, a home expert at Handy, told us how to bring a bag back to life. Before you get started, just be sure to read the care instructions on the label, since it's possible some fabrics will require special care.

How to Wash a Backpack
Credit: Getty Images

You'll need

  • A stain remover
  • A sponge
  • Mild detergent

Make sure the backpack is free of debris

Laugen says to start by making sure the backpack is completely empty, including all the interior and exterior pockets. She continues, "If you find snacks have fallen to the bottom of the bag, use a handheld vacuum cleaner to remove any crumbs that are stuck at the bottom or in the creases. This simple step will make the washing process easier and will prevent any little critters from being attracted to the backpack."

Target any stains

Next Laugen says, "to ensure that every compartment gets cleaned, keep the zippered pouches open. After everything is emptied, remove the detachable straps, grab a sponge and use a stain remover (like Tide stain pens) to target any major stains on the outside and inside of the backpack. Gently scrub the soiled areas and let the stain remover sit for about 30-40 minutes."

Place it in the sink

Now that you've emptied the backpack and addressed the stains, it's time to head to the sink. Laugen says, "fill the basin about halfway with warm water to fully cover the backpack and add about 1-2 tablespoons of gentle detergent (like Seventh Generation liquid dish soap)". She also suggests putting a little extra detergent on a sponge to scrub any remaining stains or soil on the backpack. She adds, "once you work through cleaning the outside of the backpack, turn it inside out to target the interior. Complete the same process of adding some gentle detergent to the sponge and scrub the interior stains while the backpack sits in the sink with the water and detergent. Let the backpack soak for about 30 minutes."

Let it dry

After 30 minutes have passed, drain the sink and completely rinse the backpack until it's free of detergent. When you're finished, let it dry. Laugen suggests wrapping it in a towel and squeezing it to get rid of excess water to expedite the process. Then she says to hang the backpack to let it air dry.