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How To Clean Your Hard- or Soft-Sided Suitcase

If you travel on even a fairly regular basis, you know all-too-well how much of a beating your luggage can take. From rough handling by airline staff to being crammed into taxi trunks and everything in between, it’s not uncommon for even the most durable luggage to sport some stains, scuffs, and other damage over time.

Fortunately, there are some steps you can take to restore your seasoned suitcases to their former glory. Whether you have a soft-sided or hard-sided suitcase, we’ve got some simple and effective step-by-step tips for cleaning.

Before You Begin…

It’s always a good idea to check with the manufacturer of your luggage for specific care and cleaning instructions. If your luggage is under warranty of any kind, be aware that you could void your warranty by failing to follow care and maintenance instructions. That being said, we’ve found that these suitcase-cleaning tips are relatively risk-free—but it’s still a good idea to test any cleaning products you’ll be using on your suitcase in a small and inconspicuous area before proceeding. This way, you can check for any discoloration or other adverse reactions.

Cleaning A Hard-Sided Suitcase

Hard-sided suitcases tend to be easier to clean than soft-sided ones since they don’t stain as easily and are generally more durable. Still, there are some specific tips worth following to yield the best results.

Soak and Clean Removable Parts

Start by checking your suitcase for any removable parts, such as liners and other compartments. If there are any, remove them (being careful to remember how they should be positioned when re-inserted) and either wash them in your washing machine on a delicate setting or soaking them in a mixture of warm water and gentle dish soap.

While these parts are removed, this is also a good time to vacuum out your suitcase of any debris using a handheld vacuum or a standard vacuum with a hose attachment.

Wipe Down the Exterior

You can use the same soap and warm water mixture on the outside of your hard-sided suitcase as you did on the removable liner. Use a sponge or a wash cloth to give the suitcase’s exterior a thorough scrubbing, wiping in circular motions for the best results. Just be careful not to use any type of abrasive sponge or rag, as these could leave scratches on your suitcase. Don’t forget to wipe down handles, luggage wheels, and other accessories as well.

When you’re done, dry off your suitcase’s exterior with a dry microfiber cloth.

Get Rid of Stubborn Marks and Scuffs

If you have any stubborn scuffs or marks that won’t come off with a quick wipe-down alone, you can try using a magic eraser, being careful to test the eraser in a small and inconspicuous area first. Some mild cleaners are also suitable for removing these types of scuffs and marks.

Cleaning A Soft-Sided Suitcase

Because their exteriors are made of fabric (such as canvas) rather than a solid material, soft-sided suitcases are more prone to staining and are thus a little more difficult to clean. Still, you can remove stains from your soft-sided luggage and have these pieces looking like new again with a bit of time and elbow grease.

Soak and Clean Removable Components

Just as you would with a hard-sided suitcase or hard shell carry-on, begin by removing any liners or other components for a good soaking or cleansing in your washing machine. Be sure to dry them thoroughly before putting them back in your suitcase, and use the time they’re removed to vacuum debris out of the inside of your suitcase and any pockets/compartments thoroughly.

Scrub and Lint-Roll Exterior Fabric

The exterior of a soft-sided suitcase is prone to accumulation of lint, pet hair, and dust over time—so take time to lint roll these surfaces. Thoroughly. You may also want to use a toothbrush or a small scrubbing brush to remove dust and other accumulated debris from tighter crevices of the suitcase itself, such as corners and areas around zippers.

Spot-Clean Fabric Areas as Needed

While you can’t completely wash a soft-sided suitcase, you can spot-clean it as needed. Using a mixture of warm water and a mild laundry detergent, scrub stains and discoloration away from soft fabrics such as canvas. You can do this with a clean washcloth or scrub brush.

Dry With a Hair Dryer or Air Out

Be sure to thoroughly dry out your soft-sided suitcase before placing it back into storage or using it. If you’ve only spot-treated a few small areas, you can probably use a hair dryer to do this in a few minutes’ time. If a lot of the suitcase’s exterior has gotten wet during cleaning, however, you may want to consider leaving your suitcase outside in a covered area to air-dry over the course of about 24 hours or so.

While some people may prefer to think of scuffs and stains on their suitcases as souvenirs from their trips, many travelers enjoy maintaining a clean suitcase inside and out. If you fall into the latter category, you’ll find these tips useful for cleaning your hard- or soft-sided suitcase. Of course, if your luggage has seen better days and you’re in the market for something completely new, you can find plenty of great options at CHESTER.

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