Those in love with the outdoors know how important it is to have a quality backpack while exploring the backcountry. A well-made backpack that can carry enough gear and clothes is, without a doubt, one of those things that can easily make or break a hiking escapade.
Travelers, campers, climbers, and trekkers from all over the globe rely on these simple but crucial pieces of equipment to carry and store their essentials. In this article, I’ll be talking about one of the most important steps in owning a backpack – washing it. And, as you can see in the title, I’ll be focusing on the backpacks made by the North Face in particular.
This is a renowned brand whose backpacks are widely popular for a good reason – they’re among the best on the market. Without further ado, here’s what you need to know in order to keep your North Face backpack clean:
Is It Really Necessary to Wash a Backpack?
Seeing how I’m about to discuss the ways in which you can properly wash a TNF backpack, this may sound like a strange question. However, it’s still a topic I need to touch on beforehand.
In general, washing a backpack is not something that’s usually advised.
After all, these kinds of bags are made to withstand all kinds of weather conditions, including downpours – they are coated with a DWR finish whose job is to keep your belongings dry by repelling water and moisture.
Besides that, there’s always the risk of damaging the backpack by washing it, particularly if harsh detergents or a washing machine is used. In the following paragraphs, I’ll touch on these issues as well.
With that said, what’s the most adequate way to clean one of these things? Spot cleaning is undoubtedly the most recommended method, and one that’s mentioned by the North Face itself in the Q&A section on the company’s website.
The brand advises against submerging their bags in water or washing them fully, so keep that in mind. However, as you can already guess, spot cleaning just doesn’t cut it sometimes.
It’s not a method that always works – when your North Face backpack accumulates a lot of grime and dirt, spot cleaning won’t help you much.
Only then, when your TNF backpack is seriously dirty and you can’t stand looking at it – let alone use it – should you consider washing it properly.
Before Washing a North Face Backpack
Here’s a shortlist of all the items you’ll need in order to safely and adequately wash your North Face bag:
- Your dirty TNF backpack
- A toothbrush or a soft brush
- Non-bleach, mild detergent
- A cloth, or hand/paper towels
- A sink that’s large enough to fit the backpack (you can also use your bathtub)
Obviously, the first thing you’ll want to do is check the interior of your backpack and make sure that it’s completely empty.
Thoroughly check every compartment and pocket and remove everything you find.
Once you’re done with that, make sure that all the zippers are open and turn your North Face backpack upside down.
Give it a good shake – this will dislodge all those little and hard-to-reach pieces of dirt and make them fall out of the bag. Proceed to the next step once your backpack is completely empty.
Brushing Off Grime & Dirt
The next step is just as important and includes wiping or brushing off the dirt from the backpack’s interior and exterior.
There’s a good reason why this needs to be done before you put the bag into the water – once the backpack is wet, removing the dirt that is stuck in its fabric can be even more challenging as it will stick onto the material even more.
This is where the soft brush, or a toothbrush, comes into play. However, keep in mind that this step can also be completed with the use of dry paper towels.
The best course of action would be to combine both of these items – use the toothbrush for all those little crevices filled with dirt and the paper towel for the bag’s larger areas. Be as gentle as you can – the last thing you want to do here is to scratch the bag’s surface.
The Wipe Down Method
This is the safest way in which you can clean a backpack, whether it was made by the North Face or by any other brand.
The wipe-down method doesn’t use any detergents – opting for it means that you won’t be at risk of damaging the material or the DWR coating. Also, it uses very little water.
Cleaning the Interior of the Backpack
Even though this is not something you need to do every time, cleaning the bag’s interior is certain to increase its lifespan and make it look new for longer.
By cleaning the backpack’s insides, you’ll make sure that there’s no dirt or dust stuck in it, which would almost certainly make everything a lot more complicated once the bag is wet.
This part of the process can be completed through the use of a simple paper towel. If you have a regular towel that you don’t mind getting dirty, you can use that as well. Whatever you choose, wet it first and then thoroughly wring it out in order to remove excess water.
Remember – you want to use as little water as you can. Slowly and carefully wipe down all of the bag’s pockets and compartments until they’re completely clean.
Cleaning the Exterior of the Backpack
Once you make sure that the bag’s interior is completely clean, you’ll have to make an important decision.
You’ll need to decide whether your North Face backpack requires thorough washing or simple spot cleaning.
If you decide to go with spot cleaning, the easiest way to do it is to wipe all the dirty spots with a damp cloth. This simple method is also the one recommended by the North Face itself.
Furthermore, opting for spot cleaning means not having to deal with the problems that could be caused by full washing. It also doesn’t take a lot of time.
On the other hand, those wanting to give their entire North Face backpack a quick clean can simply use the same paper towel/wet cloth method for the bag’s exterior.
Feel free to re-soak your cloth whenever you want to, but don’t forget to wring it out before using it. Once again, it’s important to keep in mind that you need to use as little water as possible.
Once this last step is completed, your North Face bag should be sufficiently clean. Hang it to dry.
The Soaking Method
If the cleaning done by a wet cloth doesn’t provide satisfying results or if your North Face backpack is still visibility dirty, maybe it’s time to give another method a try. And that other method is soaking.
If you decide to soak your dirty TNF backpack, keep in mind that only the use of tepid water is recommended.
For this first step, fill your bathtub, sink, or basin with enough lukewarm water. For the time being, leave out soaps or detergents of any type – in most cases, the soaking itself is enough to fully clean the bag, removing the need to use any kind of chemical products.
Once the bathtub, sink, or basin is filled with tepid water, submerge your dirty North Face backpack into it.
Remember to do so with all the pockets and compartments opened. This will make it easier to thoroughly and completely clean the entire bag. To make sure this step goes down successfully, I recommend the use of a toothbrush or a soft brush.
With one of these, you’ll be able to clean all the hard-to-reach spots of your backpack. You can use these on the bag’s fabric too, with the goal of scrubbing away all the remaining dirt. Remember to do this as lightly and carefully as possible.
Using a Detergent
The first thing I need to mention here is that taking things this far is not something I can recommend. This is due to the fact that there is no guarantee that the chemical cleaning solutions, even if they’re very mild, won’t react poorly with the DWR coating and the bag’s fabric itself.
Resort to using a detergent only if your North Face backpack has stains that you’re unable to remove by using paper towels and toothbrushes.
The best way to go about this is to use a detergent that is bleach-free and very mild. NikWax products are a great choice for something like this – they are specially formulated for materials that sport a DWR coating.
You can also use products that are similar to those made by NikWax, i.e. cleaning solutions that are bleach-free and mild. And if you can’t find anything similar, a mild-powdered detergent such as OxiClean might do the trick.
For this method, you will also need to use lukewarm water. Do not pour the cleaner directly onto your backpack – add it to the water instead.
Try to use as little cleaner as you can and give your best to mix it in so that it completely dissolves in tepid water. After that, submerge your dirty bag into the water and make sure that all stained spots stay under it.
Depending on how dirty the backpack is, allow it to stay submerged for a couple of hours. In my opinion, it would be a good idea to check on it after the first 40 minutes to determine whether the stains are lifting. After all, you want your TNF bag to stay soaked for as little time as possible.
Once the bag has been cleaned through the use of this method, it’s very important to rinse it thoroughly.
Rinse as much as you can and keep submerging the bag in clean water until you notice that there’s no detergent residue left. You’ll know that this happened once the bubbles stop appearing every time you shake the backpack under the water.
Drying the Backpack
This is where the hanger, which I’ve listed above, comes into play – use this simple item to hang your wet backpack in a place where it will be able to slowly dry off. In my opinion, one of the best places for this is the garage.
While it’s true that your wet TNF bag may dry faster if you hang it somewhere in your yard, remember that doing that can cause shrinkage, and that’s something you definitely want to avoid.
One very important thing to mention here is that you should avoid using a dryer. Fast-drying devices such as that one can seriously damage your backpack’s fabric, or even cause it to shrink or melt.
Finally, make sure to hang your bag upside down – by doing so, the water will drain out of it much faster.
Can I use a Washing Machine to Wash My Backpack?
Is there a hand-washing program on your washing machine? If so, you might be able to wash your TNF bag in it without damaging it.
However, it’s very important that you use a laundry bag for your backpack as well as the lowest number of spins and the lowest temperature available.
But still, I advise against doing this – your TNF backpack may still end up damaged. To put it simply, washing it in a washing machine just isn’t worth the risk.
All backpacks need a good cleaning from time to time, whether they’re made by the North Face or any other brand.
By keeping your bag clean, you increase its lifespan and allow it to perform better in all kinds of conditions.
As you can see from above, washing a North Face bag is not difficult at all, no matter which method you decide to go with.
Just make sure to be thorough and careful while spot cleaning, wiping down, or soaking your bag, and resort to using mild, bleach-free detergents only if your TNF backpack is really dirty.
I’ve had the privilege of hiking the Camino de Santiago twice, walking up Ben Nevis, and spending three weeks hiking in the Candian Rockies. I love the peace that comes from getting out of the cities I have lived in to enjoy hikes of all lengths in various countries.