How to Clean a Canvas Bag

Canvas bags are everywhere! They are one of the most ever-present, ever-versatile accessories, well, ever! Most of us use canvas bags in one form or another, and many of us utilize them for more than one purpose.

From holding personal or children’s items, to carrying groceries from supermarket to checkout, and even to marketing our businesses, these handy totes have made an effective and eco-friendly name for themselves replacing that landfill loser known as the plastic bag (cringe!). And if you’re like most folks these days, you probably have several of these around the house, in your car, in your closet, or even in your desk at work. But just because we have tons of them, does that mean we have to just toss them away when they get dirty? No way! In fact, isn’t that one of the very reasons for the canvas bag – so we don’t have to cast yet another item onto that giant pile at the city dump? Here’s a better idea – don’t cast it; clean it!

What to pay attention to when cleaning a canvas bag

Most of the canvas bags we all own can take quite a beating, and this means they sometimes need to be cleaned. You don’t have to clean it every week or even every month, but whenever you see it’s gotten dirty, it’s time to clean it. One of the most prolific uses for these convenient little satchels is carrying groceries, and that means spills and crumbs get into it that can do your canvas bag in. So, grab all the bags you have and take just a few minutes to learn what to pay attention to when cleaning these handy totes. 

Pay attention to: Safety

First and foremost with all projects we undertake is safety. Naturally, you need to be careful when washing any items so as not to get detergent in your eyes or chemicals on your skin. Over and above that, there are just a couple steps to take when it comes to washing your canvas bags safely so their vibrant colors don’t fade and their additions such as embroidery and buttons don’t come off. Pay attention so colors don’t fade or bleed. Additionally, you’ll need to pay attention to added components, bag prep, and storage. 

Pay attention to: Color

Keeping colors vivid when washing a canvas bag starts with a color test. You don’t want the colors to fade or bleed, so make sure you do this with all canvas bags before washing. Follow these steps: 

  1. Fill a bowl or sink with water; 
  2. Dip a colored corner (or other colored area) of your canvas bag into the water; 
  3. Keep this part of the bag in water for about 10 minutes; 
  4. Take the bag out of the water, wring it out, and wipe it on a clean towel (paper towel is okay, but be careful not to get flecks of paper onto the bag); 
  5. Did the color bleed into the water or onto the towel? If so, now you know your canvas bag is not colorfast and, therefore, you must spot clean this one (instructions below). 

Pay attention to: Added components

Buttons, embroidery, and other fun items that are added to a canvas bag make it even more of an attractive keepsake, so it’s important to pay attention to these when washing. If these are removable, by all means, remove them and set them aside. If you have a canvas bag that contains components that are not removable, this is a bag you’ll need to spot clean (instructions below). 

Pay attention to: Bag prep

Everything you do takes prep, and washing your canvas handbag is no exception. Prep for this is quite simple: 

  1. If there’s a label, check it for cleaning instructions; 
  2. Remove all contents; 
  3. Remove all detachable elements, such as brooches, buttons, and embroidery; 
  4. Brush off all crumbs, etc.; 
  5. If you’re not spot cleaning, turn the bag inside out for hand or machine washing. 

Pay attention to: Storage

When you’re done cleaning your canvas bags, you’ll want to store them properly so they’ll all be fresh and ready to go the next time you need to use one. After all, the idea here is convenience. 

Find a place in your home where you can lay these babies flat. After they’re dry, you can set one on top of another. Or, if you like, you can hang them up in a closet or cabinet. Hanging them on hooks can make them lose their shape, so you may want to stuff them with a little tissue paper to help them retain their shape properly. Be sure to use uncolored tissue paper so there’s no chance of colors from the tissue bleeding onto your freshly cleaned canvas bags. 

You can also use a laundry bag or an old pillow case to store your canvas bags. For this purpose, cotton is best, and by all means never use plastic bags! Not only does this defeat one of the most significant reasons for buying a canvas bag in the first place, which is eco-friendliness, but storing canvas bags in plastic can cause mold or mildew to grow on and inside them. 

If you’ve purchased a particularly attractive canvas bag that you really want to keep beautiful for as long as possible, consider using a protective spray that will treat new canvas. (These can be purchased at any arts and crafts store.) 

How can I remove dirt/stains from my canvas bag?

After you’ve prepped your canvas handbag, you’re ready to clean it. You can do one or a combination of these: spot cleaning, hand washing, and machine washing. Spot cleaning is best to remove tough dirt and stains, or if your canvas bag contains added components such as embroidery. If your bag has particularly tough stains on it, you may want to spot clean it first to get those stains off, and then hand or machine wash it (depending upon what the instruction label states is safe). 

Spot cleaning

Use spot cleaning for all canvas bags that contain added components such as embroidered elements that cannot be removed. Follow these steps: 

  1. Dampen a clean sponge or towel with water; 
  2. Place a coin-sized amount of a mild detergent that is permissible on fine washables onto the sponge/towel (you can also use gentle hand or body soap, or mild dish washing liquid); 
  3. Without rubbing, blot each stain carefully, so as not to disturb nearby added components; 
  4. For tougher stains, you can use a clean toothbrush to gently scrape stains away; 
  5. Air dry. 

How can I clean my canvas handbag by hand?

If you don’t have to remove dirt or stains separately by spot cleaning, you can either hand wash your canvas bag or wash it in a machine. 

Hand washing

Hand washing definitely is best when washing a canvas bag that contains added components that cannot be removed, such as embroidery or felt elements. Follow these steps: 

  1. Use a mild detergent that can be used on fine washables, gentle body or hand soap, mild dish washing liquid, or mild detergent; 
  2. Fill a bowl or sink with clean cold water; 
  3. Pour about a half teaspoon of detergent, soap, or dish washing liquid into the water and swish around; 
  4. Soak the canvas bag in the solution for about a half hour to an hour; 
  5. Take the bag out, clean the sink, and now add clean water to rinse; 
  6. Dip the bag into the rinse water several times to remove all traces of detergent, OR allow the bag to soak in rinse water for about 10 to 15 minutes; 
  7. Pull the bag out, wring it out gently, lay flat, smooth out wrinkles, and allow to air dry. 

Which tools are best when cleaning a canvas bag?

The answer to this question depends on a number of things. First, does it contain added components such as felt or embroidered items? If so, spot clean with a mild detergent using a clean cloth or sponge, or a toothbrush to scrape away dirt and stains. Does the instruction label state you can use a machine? Then, by all machines, go ahead and toss it into the machine. In this case, use a mild detergent, particularly if there are colors you want to stay vivid and attractive. 

Which detergents are best when cleaning a canvas bag?

For canvas bags, it’s best to use mild detergents. If you’re spot cleaning or washing by hand, you can use one of those mild detergents that work well on fine washables. You can also use a gentle dish washing liquid, gentle body soap, or even a mild hand soap to wash a canvas bag. However, if your bag contains colors, it’s important to always perform the color fade or color bleed test beforehand. See instructions above under “Pay attention to: Bag prep.” 

Can I use a washing machine to clean my canvas handbag?

It depends. First, if there’s an instruction label, always check there first for the answer to this question. If there’s no label, you may want to hand wash your canvas bag. If you’ve ever washed canvas sneakers in a washing machine, you know that sometimes when you wash them, their shapes are just never the same. Consider hand washing in order to allow your canvas bag to retain its proper shape longer. Of course, if you’re washing a stack of dollar canvas bags that you just want to use for grocery shopping or storage, and you’re not particularly concerned with how pleasant-looking they stay, by all means, toss them into the washing machine and get on with your day. For that purpose, a canvas bag is all about ease and convenience; you certainly don’t need to add one more unnecessary chore to your day. 

Machine washing

Machine washing is definitely a great idea for canvas bags, particularly if you’re cleaning a stack of them at once. After you’ve done all the necessary prep – color test, emptying, etc. – do the following: 

  1. Check the label on the inside of the bag for instructions; 
  2. Set the temperature accordingly, or if there are no instructions, set the temp on cold since you don’t want the bag to shrink; 
  3. Remember to wash it either by itself or with other like materials; 
  4. For a canvas bag, air drying typically is best. If you have a clothesline, that can work, but make sure you don’t leave it out in the sun too long; you don’t want those colors to fade. Naturally, if the label states drying in the machine is fine, go ahead and do that. If there’s no instruction label, always try to air dry your canvas bags. Be sure to lay it flat or hang it up in a manner that will retain its shape. 

What’s that you say? You only paid a dollar for your canvas bag? But wait – how many of these have you bought and thrown away? The answer likely is dozens, and some people have even bought hundreds! So, wait – how many dollars have you wasted throwing them away now? Yes, regardless of how much you spent on it, your canvas bag can last a long time, and it’s always at the ready. Qualified, accessible, and exceedingly useful, these convenient carry-alls do just that – they store and carry just about anything. And when they get dirty, we can just toss ‘em … NOT! Seriously, why would you want to throw away a useful canvas bag when all you have to do is clean it, especially considering that millions of destructive plastic bags have been replaced by them. Canvas bags have become a staple in our lives, with their amazing convenience and versatility. And they’ve certainly done their part for the environment. Hats off to you, canvas bag!

How to Clean a Canvas Bag
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