Travel Fresh: How to Clean Suitcases and Bags

Travel Fresh: How to Clean Suitcases and Bags

We drag our suitcases and travel bags wherever we go. And hampers are literally where we put our dirty laundry. So, is it a surprise we might unpack an unwelcome stowaway smell? Or that our hamper might harbor an unwanted odor or two? All of these essentials — suitcases, garment bags, and hampers — are crucial to storing and transporting our clothes, towels, and other accessories.

But when was the last time you gave them a good wash? Over time, these bags can accumulate dirt, stains, and yes, many unpleasant odors. Luckily, just some occasional cleaning will help keep these items fresh, clean, and ready for use, whether for a long-haul flight or for storing dirty clothes in the laundry room. Read on for tips and tricks for cleaning suitcases and other storage and travel essentials.

How to Clean Garment Bags

To clean garment bags, start by emptying them of any clothing or accessories. Use a vacuum cleaner with a brush attachment to remove dust, dirt, and debris from the interior and exterior of the bag. For fabric garment bags, you can spot clean stains with a gentle detergent solution and a soft brush or cloth. We recommend using our SaltyLama laundry detergent sheets dissolved in a small amount of warm or cool water. In addition to providing an effective clean, our plant-based sheets come in lightweight biodegradable zero-waste packaging. If you never want to run out of detergent again, you can also simply subscribe. Just schedule when you want your order. After washing, rinse out the solution with water and allow the bag to air dry in a ventilated area before using it again.

For plastic or vinyl garment bags, you will need to wipe down the surface with a solution of mild soap and water and use a clean cloth to dry.

How to Clean Suitcases

Cleaning a suitcase requires a bit more effort, especially if it’s fabric or constructed with multiple compartments. But by following these steps, you should be able to remove any odors and dirt.

Go ahead and start by removing any items from the suitcase, checking all pockets and crevices, and vacuuming the interior to remove crumbs, dirt, and debris.

For soft-side suitcases — made from fabric — spot clean stains with a gentle detergent solution and a soft brush or cloth. If you encounter tougher stains or odors, consider using a fabric-safe stain remover or enzyme-based cleaner if you’re dealing with pet-related smells.

If your suitcase has a persistent odor, sprinkle baking soda inside the empty suitcase. Let it sit for several hours to absorb those smells, then vacuum. When you’re tackling the interior — including the lining, pockets, and compartments — give extra attention to handles and zippers, which are frequently gripped, grabbed and touched. Lastly, you can use a lint roller to remove any remaining debris from the interior lining. If you further want to spruce up how your luggage smells, add a few drops of essential oil to a cotton ball and place it inside the suitcase. Lavender, lemon, or tea tree oil will naturally deodorize your cause.

Once it’s washed, rinse the suitcase with water and allow it to air dry completely before use.

If you’re cleaning a hard-sided suitcase, wipe down the exterior with a solution of mild soap and water for the best results. Remember hard top suitcases are made of plastic and get a lot of scuffs and scratches as they travel through airports, down suitcase chutes, and across conveyor belts. You can buff scuffs out, or just roll with it. To clean the wheels and handles, use a damp cloth, paying special attention to any crevices or grooves. For hard-to-reach areas, try using a cotton swab dipped in soap and water.

After you’ve cleaned it, it’s important to maintain your suitcase. Regularly inspect your suitcase for any signs of wear and tear, such as frayed stitching or broken handles. Between trips, store it in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight to prevent mold and mildew. And don’t overpack it when it comes time for your next trip, either. Too much weight can strain the seams and zippers.

Remember, your suitcase is your travel companion. Regular cleaning not only keeps it in top-notch shape, but ensures it remains fresh and hygienic for your next trip.

How to Launder Your Laundry Bags

Laundry bags are exposed to dirty clothes and linens on a regular basis, but we often forget to wash them on laundry day — making these bags prone to lingering odors. Here’s what you need to do to clean laundry bags at home:

First, empty the bag of all contents, turn it inside out, and give it a good shake. If it’s a fabric-based bag, you can machine wash it on a gentle cycle with one SaltyLama laundry sheet in cool to warm water. Our laundry detergent sheets are convenient, mess-free alternatives to liquid or powder detergents, and they dissolve completely in water, leaving no residue behind.

For extra odor elimination, add a half cup of white vinegar to your load. This will help pull any lingering smells you don’t want hanging around. Once the wash cycle is complete, remove the laundry bag from the washing machine and allow it to air dry thoroughly before use. Shake it out to help prevent wrinkles. 


Follow these laundry tips to keep your bags fresh, clean, and ready for use whenever you need them. Whether you're preparing for a trip or doing laundry at home, a clean and well-maintained clothes bag will make sure your belongings are stored and transported efficiently and hygienically.


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