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Washing your School Backpack – Don’t Ditch It – Revive It!

Washing your child’s school backpack may not be up there on your list of favourite things to do, but read on and consider giving it a go.
As back-to-school time approaches, you are probably turning your attention to prepping for getting your kids back in class. The ever-increasing list of required supplies can be dauting to say the least – not to mention expensive. Whether you have the option to purchase a backpack of your choice, or are obliged to buy the school backpack, they can be expensive if you have to buy one every year. And we all know that backpacks can certainly take a beating from students. They get thrown onto a variety of dirty floors, sat on, spilled on at lunchtime and stuffed with all manner of paraphernalia, including food and lollies that are often left to fester in the depths. By the end of term, the humble backpack is approached with no small amount of trepidation by mums all over Australia.
It’s no surprise then, that many parents prefer to ditch the old and buy new every year. But you’d be surprised how your downtrodden backpack can bounce back after cleaning, saving you money, and reducing environmental waste into the bargain.
It sounds like an arduous task, but it’s easier than you think.

Washing in your Machine
Most backpacks made of nylon or canvas can be washed in your washing machine. Always check the care label first, just to make sure.
1. First, empty the backpack, brush off visible dirt, and either shake out crumbs or vacuum them. That’s the worst part over with! Remember, also to remove any metal frames and detachable straps.
2. Follow the label’s instructions for advice on the correct water temperature and cycle. If there is no label, it’s best to opt for a cold wash on a short cycle. If you are washing with other items, you might want to place the bag inside a pillowcase.
3. Once the washing cycle is complete, check for any residual stains and/or stubborn sticky patches. You can spot-treat stains by mixing a teaspoon of mild detergent with lukewarm water and apply to the stain, working the mixture in with a soft-bristled brush or sponge, before rinsing. For the stick patches, use a small brush (like an old toothbrush) with some cooking oil, which will lift the ‘goo’, and rinse with the brush and warm water.
4. Air dry the backpack flat on an old towel or hang it on a clothesline or rack. Don’t be tempted to dry it in your tumble dryer, which can damage the fabric and zippers.

Washing by Hand
Washing your backpack by hand does take a little more time but it is still easy to do. Any bags with a leather-trim, or with a protective coating that repels rain, should all be washed by hand. Bags with embroidered or printed logos may be ok to wash in your machine, but if you’re unsure, opt for the handwash option.
If you were going to throw the backpack away, then you may as well give it a try in the washing machine first, and if it works out, you saved yourself some cash.

For washing by hand, follow the steps above and just substitute the washing machine for a sink or bath bull of lukewarm water with a small amount of detergent. Use a dishwashing brush to scrub the backpack inside and to remove any gunk from the zippers.
Because you won’t have the benefit of the spin cycle of your washing machine, and backpacks are pretty hard to wring, you may have to pat it with a towel to remove excess moisture.

Establish a Daily Routine
Make a deal with your child that they will empty their backpack daily to make sure all lunch remnants are removed, that any sticky spots and spills are cleaned while they are easy to remove. That way, their trusty backpack will see them well through the next term, and you will be relived of the holiday backpack trauma.

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