How to Clean an Internal Frame Backpack

Backpack-cleaning-by- robinvanmourikInternal frame packs are notoriously difficult to clean. External frames (with removable fabric) and traditional school style backpacks do well with both hand washing and machine washing on a gentle cycle and are generally the suggested techniques. Simply remove anything possible and toss it in with gentle detergent and let it air dry and you’re good to go. Internal frame packs, while sleek and sexy, are a pain in the butt when they get dirty.

After every hike, make sure to remove everything from your pack and give it a good shake out upside down to get rid of any debris. Make sure to open up all the pockets when you’re shaking it out too to get the little sandy bits. If you’ve encountered mud, let it dry and then shake it out once it’s turned back into dirt. And if you’re having trouble getting it all out, use a vacuum and suck out that annoying dirt and sand.

If you’ve had a small spill or spots on your internal frame pack that won’t shake off, try using a damp cloth and water to remove the spots. If your pack is made of nylon, don’t scrub too vigorously because it can make the fabric fray. If your pack is waterproof, you’ll want to be extra gentle so as not to rub off any waterproofing membranes. If water just doesn’t do the trick by itself, you can use a detergent. Make sure, however, to use a tech wax like Nikwax if it’s got waterproofing where the spot is that you’re trying to remove. If not, stick with a gentle detergent like Woolite or Palmolive and be gentle.

After a while, though, packs get grimy with sweat and body oils, especially if you’ve been out in the summer sweating like a dog with your pack right up against your skin. In this case, you’ll want to see if your frame is removable. Some frames are and are meant to be adjusted to the curvature of the carrier’s back. Make sure to label left and right, top and bottom, forward and back on the poles so you put them in correctly again. If you can’t remove the poles easily, don’t. You’ll never be able to get them back in again and will be stuck with a clean but ruined pack.

Once you’re ready, fill a tub with cool water and mix in a small amount of tech wash or gentle detergent, depending on waterproofing. Submerge your pack and let it soak in the water for a few minutes. Come back and gentle agitate it around and gently scrub on the problem areas. You’ll want to not push to strongly on submerged foam areas so they don’t absorb too much water. After another soak for a few minutes, drain out the water from the tub and give it a rinse in cool water. Be sure to rinse until water runs clear and there are no soap residues. Next, squeeze water out as much as possible, gently of course, and then hang the pack upside down to drip dry in a shaded, well ventilated area.

Of course, doing this will slowly decrease your waterproofing so we only recommend doing it once your pack is really gross or following your pack’s care instructions. Some packs require dry cleaning so always check the tags!

One Comment

  1. Roxanne says:

    Great tips on washing an internal frame pack. Thank you…I’ve been wondering how to wash a large Roots backpack. I wasn’t sure if submerging it in the bath tub was a good idea; I’m happy to know its ok. Also good to know about the waterproofing concerns. Thank you for your suggestions.

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