Yuck! Dirty luggage is the last thing a traveler would like to have while traveling. So, if you are a frequent traveler, you should clean your luggage when you come home after a trip. But how to clean your luggage?

Don’t worry, as the title mentioned, this the only luggage cleaning guide you will ever need. I have not only described the general process of cleaning your luggage but also provided plenty of frequently requested cleaning guides. You will find guides for cleaning the interior and exterior of hardside or softside luggage, for removing bedbugs, molds, scratches/scuff marks, and much more.
Use the Table of Contents below for quick access to the particular cleaning guide.

how to clean luggage

How to Clean Luggage?

Nobody would like to store their belongings in dirty luggage. And I guess neither do you so I have mentioned a wholesome cleaning process you can apply to clean your luggage every time it gets dirty.
“The following is a general cleaning process, check out the Table of Contents for particular cleaning processes.”

  1. Precautions: Do not bring your dirty luggage into your house without cleaning it first instead leave it on your porch or garage, because perhaps your luggage is containing contagious germs.
    Any make sure to unpack the luggage thoroughly in the garage or porch, wash the clothes on a full cycle and in warm water. This process is necessary to kill bacteria and viruses.
  2. Vacuum the Entire Luggage: When you return from a trip, there is a high chance that your luggage is filled with dust, debris, hair, and different unwanted fragments. Use a handheld vacuum cleaner to get rid of the dust and unwanted fragments. Avoid using a large size vacuum cleaner, because it may damage your lining. If you don’t have a vacuum cleaner then shake your luggage a couple of times and wipe out the exterior with a stiff brush.
  3. Sanitize the Luggage: Use hydrogen peroxide, rubbing alcohol, or disinfectant wipes to sanitize the luggage. Spray a solution of 60 percent hydrogen peroxide or rubbing alcohol and water on the entire luggage, especially spray on the high touch areas like handles, side grips, and wheels. Leave the surface wet for one minute, then wipe down the liquids with a clean fabric.
  4. Clean the Exterior: For softside luggage, mild detergent with warm water or fabric cleaner is pretty efficient. Mix a mild detergent with warm water, dip a clean towel in it, and start scrubbing the exterior until you are satisfied. If you want to use fabric cleaner, then spray the luggage body and let the foam settle down. Rub with a brush and pay attention to the visible dirt patches. 
    For hardside luggage, dip a washcloth into a mixture of warm water and kitchen clear or normal detergent. Rub the damp cloth on the exterior in a circular motion. Avoid using a stiff brush, because it might scratch the surface. Do not use ‘Acetone’.
    Wipe away all the water, detergent, or cleaning foam with a dry cloth after cleaning.
  5. Clean the Interior: If the removable components of your luggage are machine washable, then wash those on the machine. Otherwise, clean those components by hand with warm water and a small amount of mild laundry detergent.
    If your lining is removable and washable on the machine, then just put it on the washer on a gentle cycle. Otherwise, for nylon linings, dissolve washing detergents in warm water and for linen or canvas lining, use baking soda and warm water. Dip a soft towel or cloth in the solution and dab at the spots or stains you want to get rid of.
  6. Dry It and Store It: When you’re done cleaning, first of all, congratulations, leave your luggage entirely open under direct sunlight and in an open breathable place so that air can fasten up the drying process. Also, dry all the other removable components thoroughly.
    When you are certain that your luggage is completely dry, store it in a clean, cool, and dry place. Avoid storing it in your bedroom. Also, don’t let your luggage get wet to avoid mold.

How to Disinfect Luggage?

how to disinfect luggage

Hydrogen peroxide, rubbing alcohol, or disinfectant wipes can be used to disinfect both hard side and soft side luggage.

  1. Fill a spray bottle with hydrogen peroxide or about 60 percent of the way with rubbing alcohol and then add water. Use a light mist to clean fabric luggage.
  2. Spray the solution liberally on the wheels and handles of your luggage, then use a microfiber cleaning cloth to thoroughly wipe off any dirt from the wheels. Use the same process to clean the surface of luggage to get rid of any viruses or harmful bacteria.  

If you are using disinfectant wipes, as you can guess, you only need to wipe the entire luggage thoroughly with the wipes.

Sanitizing Vs Disinfecting

After coming from a tour, only Lord knows what kinds of microscopic creatures are crawling on your luggage. Thus, cleaning your luggage becomes inevitable. And when it comes to clean something, the words ‘sanitize’ and ‘disinfect’ are often used interchangeably despite having big differences.  
Sanitization is a process to reduce contaminations or bacteria to a safe level. You should use sanitizing the surfaces that don’t typically come into contact with seriously dangerous bacteria.
On the other hand, disinfecting is killing every hazardous element on a particular surface. This is a more powerful process than sanitizing. Disinfecting is best for big messes, and to get rid of viruses or bacteria completely.

How to Clean Away Luggage?

how to clean away luggage

Away manufacture hardside luggage, usually made of polycarbonate and aluminum.

Use a soft, damp cloth, warm water, and mild soap for the exterior shell and interior fabric lining to clean hardside Away luggage.  You can use a magic eraser to buff away strong marks. But don’t use magic erasers on Luminous Limited Edition – Mirror PC luggage to avoid damaging the shiny exterior, instead use warm water, gentle soap, and a washcloth to remove scuff or marks.

A soft damp cloth and mild soap can be used on aluminum edition Away luggage for cleaning, also alcohol-based wipes can be handy to clean aluminum edition Away luggage.

How to Clean Samsonite Luggage?

how to clean samsonite luggage

Use a gentle soap and warm water, then rinse well to clean a hardside luggage. Samsonite officials suggest any silicone-based automobile or furniture polish for waxing, as it will preserve the luster and add resistance to the covering. However, don’t try to clean your luggage with a combination of cleaner-polish.

For cleaning softside samsonite luggage, spot cleaning with a mild soap (e.g. dish soap) and water are recommended. However, you can also spot removal product such as Spray ‘n Wash or foam type cleaner to remove spots which are difficult to clean.

Samsonite luggage is popular for its sturdy construction, but their luggage also gets dirty and needs to be cleaned. Gentle soap and warm water are all in one solution for cleaning Samsonite luggage, but contact specialists before using any hard chemicals to clean spots or whatsoever.

how to clean softside and hardside luggage

How to Clean the Exterior of Softside Luggage (Nylon, Canvas, Linen)?

The exterior shell of most of the softside luggage is made of Nylon, Canvas, or Polyester. You can clean any of them with warm water and mild laundry detergent. I am describing the recommended technique below thoroughly for better understanding. Make sure to empty the entire luggage before cleaning.

  1. Get rid of the dust, pet hair, debris from the exterior of your softside luggage. If needed, use a vacuum cleaner or blower.
  2. Fabric and textile cleaner or detergent and warm water are capable enough to clean the stains. So, prepare your cleaning product, warm water, and a clean towel or a scrubber.
  3. If you are using detergent, prepare a mixture of mild laundry detergent with warm water. Dip the towel in it and start scrubbing the stains until they come off.
  4. If you are using fabric and textile cleaner, make sure it foams up when applied. Spray your luggage with the foaming spray and start scrubbing it until the stains come off.  You can spray the whole luggage body if you want to clean the entire exterior. After cleaning, Vacuum off all the foam with a vacuum cleaner.
  5. Afterward, wipe away all the excess detergent and chemicals with a wet towel soaked only in water. This process helps to prevent nasty round outlines created by excess detergents.

Dry out all the liquids from the outer shell, you can do it with a hairdryer. Then leave (preferably overnight) the luggage with all of the zippers open in a spacious breathable space for airdrying. Make sure your luggage is completely dry before placing it into storage or using it.

How to Clean the Exterior of Hardshell Luggage (Polycarbonate, ABS)?

Nowadays, most of the exteriors of hardshell luggage are made of plastic (either Polycarbonate or ABS, sometimes both). So, it’s easier to clean the exterior than soft-sided ones. But before you apply any kinds of cleaning chemicals on the shell, read the cleaning instructions for your luggage carefully.
However, I have mentioned some amazing tips worth following to yield the best results.

Do not use ‘Acetone’, it can eat through some plastics.

  1. Prepare a mixture of warm water and kitchen clear or normal detergent. Dip a washcloth into the mixture, dampen it and start wiping down the whole exterior. Make sure to clean the handle (s) and wheels thoroughly. For textured exteriors, mix some white vinegar with water.
  2. Scrub out any stains, spills, or sticky spots. You can use a sponge or brush for scrubbing but if you try to clean too roughly, you might scratch the surface. Try wiping in a circular motion.
  3. Another alternative for cleaning hardshell luggage is to use a spray cleaner. Just spray the cleaner on the exterior and wipe it off with a soft cloth or towel.
  4. After wiping down the entire surface, take a moist cloth and remove any soap or detergent residues. It will prevent nasty round watermarks from ruining the look of your luggage.

When you’re done cleaning, allow your luggage to dry thoroughly.

How to Clean the Interior of Luggage?

Believe it or not, the interior of a suitcase gets dirty very quickly and sometimes dirty interiors cast an obnoxious smell. Moreover, if you store your clothes inside of a dirty suitcase, your clothes have enough odors to ruin your entire trip. So, it’s pretty important to clean your interior at least twice a year or more based on how much you travel. 

Read the cleaning instructions before cleaning your luggage. A tag inside luggage contains the instructions. If the tag is missing, check out the manufacturer’s website or contact them directly.

  1. Cleaning Removable Components: Remove any removable components (e.g. pouch, small removable pockets, etc.) and wash them separately.
    • If the tag indicates that machine washing is safe, wash the removable components according to the instructions.
    • Otherwise, clean those components by hand with warm water and a small amount of mild laundry detergent.
    • Leave them in an open place to airdry.
  2. Vacuuming the Inside: Pick a handheld vacuum cleaner and vacuum every little crevice you can find to remove dust, debris, dirt, and crumbs. If you don’t have a handheld vacuum cleaner, lift your luggage in the air and shake it a couple of times to make sure that all debris got out. Don’t use a full-size vacuum, as it can rip out your lining. Moreover, if your lining is removable, take it out first and then vacuum the interior.
  3. Cleaning the Lining: If your lining is removable and machine washable, then just put it on the washer on a gentle cycle. But if your lining is not removable, you have to wash it by hand.
    For cleaning nylon lining, fill a sink with warm water and dissolve some washing detergent in the water. Take a soft cloth or towel and dip it into the water. Then dab the fabric at any stain or spot you want to clean until it’s mostly gone.
    For cleaning canvas or linen, use baking soda and water.
    If you just want to freshen up your lining a bit, then soak a washcloth in warm water mixed with fabric softener and rub that all over the lining.
  4. Drying the Interior: If you have washed your lining in the washer, let the lining air-dry overnight. However, if your lining is not removable, then dry your lining with a hairdryer as much as you can. In either process, leave your suitcase open overnight in an open breathable place, to avoid getting mildew or any nasty smells.
  5. Replacing Everything & Storing: Once every component is 100% dry and aired out, replace everything including the lining, and close it. Finally, store it in a dry and clean place.

How to Remove Scratches/Scuff Marks from Hardside Luggage?

how to remove scratches or scuff marks from hardside luggage

Hardside luggage catch scuff marks and scratches quite often, and keeping checked size hardside suitcases safe from scuff marks is almost impossible. So, it is pretty common to have scratches and scuff marks on the shell of your luggage, especially when luggage handlers toss luggage recklessly.

You can use cleaning erasers, mild abrasives, or toothpaste to remove scratches and scuff marks from hardside luggage. It’s better to test a small area first to be sure the cleaner is appropriate for the surface before applying it to the whole surface.

Using a cleaning eraser:

  • Wet a cleaning cloth with water and wipe away the surface to remove any oil, stains, or dust.
  • Gently run the eraser across the surface and work the eraser down the length of the scratch but avoid rubbing too fast.
  • Wipe the suitcase down with a wet paper towel or damp cloth to remove residue.

Using toothpaste:

  • Apply a small amount of toothpaste to the scratches with a toothbrush.
  • When applying, work the toothpaste over the scratch in a circular motion.
  • Wipe off any residue using a clean cloth.

You may want to avoid using certain cleaning agents that include acetone, ammonia, and benzene compounds. These compounds can damage the luggage surface and leave a sticky residue.

How to Get Grease Stains/Black Marks Off Softside Luggage?

Most of the travelers have to deal with grease stains on their checked luggage. Because all kinds of moving parts in the airport baggage system are lubed with grease to keep them running smoothly and those greases love to embrace checked luggage. So, no wonders that black grease stains are a huge pain in the neck for checked baggage.
You can get rid of grease stains or black marks on nylon or hardside luggage at home, but leather and canvas luggage require professional care.

The following steps can remove grease stains or black marks from your softside luggage up to 80% without harming the fabric and color.

  1. Pour some dry baking soda/cornstarch on the dirty spot. Rub it into the fabric with a toothbrush and let it sit for a while. Soda/cornstarch will soak up the grease and allow you to clean the spot with detergent. When most of the grease is absorbed brush off the baking soda/cornstarch.
  2. Next, fill a pan halfway with warm water and add enough Ivory Snow powder or liquid to make suds with gentle splashing. Ivory Snow is a good option because it won’t bleach out the color or degrade the fabric of your suitcase.
  3. Apply the suds to the greasy spot with a sponge or an old toothbrush, rubbing in for one or two minutes.

This process will remove up to 80% of black marks. Repeat the process if necessary.

How to Clean Mold Off A Suitcase?

Dampen or wet luggage easily attract mold or mildew. Also, if you store your luggage in a dark, humid place, soon enough mold will absorb your luggage surface. Mold is a living organism; it will continue to grow and create stains and odor. Removing mold off of your luggage is pretty important, otherwise, it will transfer to your belongings. Check out the mold cleaning instructions for your luggage or apply the following steps to clean mold off the suitcase.

  1. Place your luggage in an open place with access to direct sunlight. Unzip and open all compartments for sufficient air circulation. If possible, place the luggage under direct sunlight. This way your suitcase will not be dampened and wet anymore.
  2. Now it’s time to remove the molds. Fill a spray bottle with 1 cup of distilled vinegar or rubbing alcohol and 1 cup of water. Give the bottle a good shake.
  3. Spray the suitcase with the solution and wait a couple of minutes. Saturate a bristled brush or a sponge in the solution.
  4. Gently scrub the moldy areas with the brush or sponge. Keep scrubbing until the mold comes off.
  5. Lay the open suitcase (also open all the compartments) in direct sunlight and let it dry thoroughly.

After you make sure that your suitcase is completely dry, store it in a dry and clean place. Keep your luggage away from any type of liquid while it is being stored.

How to Clean Luggage With Bed Bugs?

Bed bugs are one of the worst nightmares for a traveler. After discovering a group of blood-sucking pests is crawling over all your belongings inside your luggage is repellent enough to ruin the whole trip. Some researchers at the University of Sheffield found out from a recent study that dirty clothes attract bed bugs the most. Also, travelers have high chances to catch bed-bugs in cheaper hostels, hotels, and Airbnb.

Therefore, you should avoid cheap hotels and carry dirty clothes in sealed plastic bags. But if anyhow your belongings get infested by bed bugs, you shall apply the following steps to get rid of bed bugs.

  1. When you arrive home, don’t bring your suitcase inside until it is washed properly. Keep the suitcase in a safe and isolated place like in the backyard, garage, or porch.
  2. Empty the suitcase and place the contents in sealed plastic bags or clean garbage bags. Also, you should get rid of your current clothes and wear some clean clothes after a hot shower.
  3. At first, unpack all the clothes from the plastic or garbage bags and place them inside the washer. Throw the bags into the dumpster.
  4. Wash your clothes in hot water and dry them at a high temperature. At least, the 120-degree temperature is necessary to get rid of all the bedbugs.
  5. Pick a stiff brush and scrub your suitcase to loosen up any dead bed bugs or bed bug eggs. Then vacuum the suitcase inside and out, use the tiny adapter to get into all corners and the bottoms of all pockets, especially around the zippers. Empty the vacuum canister safely.

If you feel that vacuuming isn’t enough, you can use specially formulated pesticides for bedbugs. Stores like Walmart, Home Depot sell those sprays.

  • Spray the entire luggage thoroughly, cover every little crevice, corners, and pockets. It will get rid of any remaining bed bugs.

But if you want to use something more natural or are concerned about the pesticide smell lingering, a steamer is an amazing solution for you.

  • Rent or purchase a steam cleaner and steam the whole luggage multiple times to kill the bed bugs entirely. Bed bugs die instantly at around 160-degrees Fahrenheit hot steam.
  • Lastly, leave your luggage to bake out in the sun for drying. Before storing clothes again, inspect the luggage thoroughly and if bedbugs are still there, repeat the process or get new luggage.

Moreover, it is recommended to clean yourself and wear some clean clothes after cleaning your luggage, so that your body doesn’t carry bed bugs.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Quick Question: Which cleaning method are you going to use to clean your luggage?

Conclusion

So that’s it, now dirty luggage won’t be a pain in the neck for you while traveling. Let’s do a quick recap of what we have discussed so far in this article.

  1. Vacuum the luggage entirely before cleaning it with a handheld vacuum cleaner.
  2. Use hydrogen peroxide, rubbing alcohol, or disinfectant wipes to sanitize your luggage.
  3. Do not use any rough chemicals that can damage the materials of your luggage.
  4. Use mild detergents, warm water, and a clean cloth to clean both the surface and lining.
  5. Magic eraser is a handy tool to remove any scratches or scuff marks on hardside luggage.
  6. Baking soda/cornstarch can remove grease spots.
  7. Distilled vinegar or rubbing alcohol with water can help you get rid of mold.
  8. Minimum 120-degree temperature can kill bedbugs.
  9. Always, dry your luggage thoroughly after cleaning and then store it in a dry place.

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