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How often should you?

How often you should clean luggage — and the right way to do it

No matter how you get there, traveling gives your luggage a real beating. With just a little bit of TLC after every trip, however, it can feel fresh, clean and ready for next time. There's no need to dry clean luggage with these expert tips from cleaning coach Leslie Reichert.

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Handles and bottoms

Wipe handles with a damp microfiber cloth, a disinfecting wipe or an all-purpose cleaner. If there are wheels, wipe them off, too. For bags without wheels, take care to wipe the bottom of the bag. It often ends up sitting directly on floors and picking up all sorts of germs. Yuck!

Clorox Disinfecting Wipes Value Pack, $12, Amazon

Interior

Vacuum the luggage's interior using the upholstery attachment. Don't forget to clean the pockets, too. Wipe away minor spots with a damp microfiber cloth. For stubborn stains, try a bit of upholstery shampoo.

Stuff happens. If you had a major spill of shampoo, conditioner, body lotion, etc., suction it up with a wet/dry vac. You may have to blot the spill with a bit of water to loosen residue as you vacuum. Repeat as needed to remove as much of the spillage as possible.

Proactive tip: Next time, pack all liquids and spray cans/bottles in plastic zip-close bags.

Exterior

For molded plastic, hard-sided or soft vinyl:

Remove spots using a microfiber cloth and mild soap and water or, for stubborn stains, use a solution of all-purpose non-abrasive cleaner and water, mixed according to product directions. Rinse and dry. To add a layer of protection, apply a coat of silicone-based auto wax to hard-sided luggage or a coat of Armor All to soft vinyl or molded plastic. As always, check luggage manufacturer’s care guide for specific recommendations.

For nylon and other synthetic fabrics:

Wipe exterior with a damp (not soaking wet) microfiber cloth, taking care not to saturate the fabric. To remove stubborn stains, use a laundry pre-treatment and a mild solution of dish detergent and water or sponge the area lightly with upholstery shampoo, working from the middle of the stain to the edges. (Test products on an inconspicuous spot first.) Air dry away from direct sunlight. Grease stains come clean with some K2r or a similar de-greaser. After cleaning the luggage, spray the bag with light, even coats of Scotchgard to add extra protection.

For cotton canvas:

Cotton canvas is a breeze to clean. Just toss it in the washer with your usual detergent and run the warm/cotton cycle. Tumble dry until it is just damp, then air dry. When the bag is clean and dry, treat it with Scotchgard. (First, protect painted metal parts like zippers and locks by covering with masking tape.) Before storing your canvas luggage, make sure it is completely dry or you'll end up with a bagful of mildew and rust.

For leather:

Wipe spots with a slightly damp cloth. For stubborn stains, use saddle soap as directed. If stains persist, consult a leather cleaning establishment for help.

Kiwi Saddle Soap, $5, Amazon

For more cleaning tips, click here to learn about the best mop and the vacuums that HGTV stars swear by.

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