You know how they say you should never buy something in white when it can show dirt easily? Yeah, I completely ignored that rule when I bought my Hyperlite Mountain Gear backpack.
While I absolutely love my backpack (and love the color of it!), it unsurprisingly took about three minutes on the trail to get dirty. I’m pretty sure that it was my very first trip using it where some of my leftover boxed wine leaked out of the outside pocket and left a pretty gnarly stain on the bottom (this is why I can’t have nice things).
After two years of use and then hiking the High Sierra Trail (the fresh burn zone did not help the color of my backpack), I recently decided that it was finally time to clean the ol’ bag.
In my indoor life, I’m a HUGE FAN of laundry stripping – especially my sheets! I always find that after laundry stripping, my textiles are so bright and feel so clean. While I read some articles saying that you might not want to use detergent-based cleaners for your backpack, I decided to throw caution to the wind and put together a good laundry stripping bath – something I know and love so well.
For those of you who aren’t familiar with laundry stripping, you run a bath with the hottest water that you can, dissolve 1/2 cup of powdered Tide laundry detergent, 1/4 cup of Borax, and 1/4 cup of Washing Soda (I eyeball this every time). If you have trouble finding any of these ingredients, try Lowes, Home Depot, or other home improvement stores. You then submerge whatever you are stripping, stirring about once an hour, until your water has gone cold. You are then supposed to wash whatever you have just stripped in a rinse cycle, but my washing machine doesn’t have such a setting, so I just run a regular load.
I made my laundry stripping concoction in my bathtub and submerged my backpack, making sure that all of its most dirty spots were fully underwater. I let it soak for about two hours before taking a closer look and realizing that it wasn’t doing much for the actual stains on the backpack. I used a cleaning sponge to spot-scrub some of the larger stains (including my red wine stain), and to my surprise, they pretty much all came out!
I soaked the backpack for about another hour and the water seemed to get much dirtier than it had in the first two hours (maybe I scrubbed all the dirtiest parts out of it? Who knows). I thought that it the soak had been good enough, so I drained the tub. I rinsed out my backpack with the showerhead and then hung it up upside to drain.
It took about a full day to completely dry, and once it was dry, there were some spots where non-dissolved detergent had clung to the fabric. I wiped it all off with a wet paper towel, and just like that, my bag was so clean!!
I was very pleased with the results of laundry-stripping my backpack, and I will definitely do this again in the future! It may be my new annual end-of-summer ritual…
One last tip for stripping (or soaking your bag for that matter) is to make sure to remove any metal framing that your backpack has so that it doesn’t rust. For me and my bag, that took the form of two aluminum stays that I could remove from the inside of the backpack. This will differ between packs though.
If you have any questions or have laundry-stripped your bag and want to tell me how it went, leave them below in a comment or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Happy hiking, and happy cleaning!