Cleaning coach Leslie Reichert shares her top luggage cleaning tips for when you've fully unpacked from your adventures.
How to clean luggage handles and wheels
If you want to know how to disinfect luggage after travel, start by wiping down all 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!
These bestselling microfiber cloths with 48,000+ verified five-star ratings are extremely versatile and can be used to clean just about anything.
A household fave with nearly 79,000 verified five-star ratings at Amazon, choose between normal Clorox Disinfecting Wipes and the wipes with microscrubbers, depending on how dirty the surface is.
How to clean the luggage 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.
If you had a major spill of shampoo, conditioner or body lotion inside your suitcase, 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.
This spot cleaner from Bissell claims to lift tough stains such as red wine, grape juice and coffee.
This wet/dry vacuum boasts over 17,000 verified five-star Amazon ratings, with various shoppers calling it a "super sucker."
Proactive tip: For your next vacation or long weekend, make sure to pack all your liquids and spray cans/bottles in plastic zip-close bags.
How to clean the luggage exterior
There's no need for a suitcase cleaning service or to learn how to steam-clean luggage — it's actually quite easy to clean the exterior of luggage.
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 that's 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.
Although initially formulated for use on cars, this wax works just as well on other hard surfaces, such as hard suitcases.
Armor All is said to fight aging, fading and cracking while helping renew and revitalize vinyl, rubber and plastic.
For nylon and other synthetic fabrics, wipe the 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 a de-greaser. After cleaning the luggage, spray the bag with light, even coats of Scotchgard to add extra protection.
This powerful spot remover is quick drying and can be used on almost any fabric including clothing, carpets, upholstery, wallpaper and more.
Protect your suitcases from wear and tear with this Scotchgard fabric protector, which preemptively repels liquids and blocks stains.
For cotton canvas duffel bags and luggage, 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. (Beforehand, though, it's best to protect painted metal parts like zippers and locks by covering them with masking tape.) Before storing away 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 professional leather cleaner for extra assistance.
This saddle wax cleans, softens and preserves smooth leather, according to the brand.