plain tote bag

How to Wash a Tote Bag

Tote bags are a staple accessory for many of us, serving as a handy and eco-friendly way to carry our belongings.

But after a while, even the sturdiest tote bags can start to look a little grubby and worse for wear.

That’s why it’s important to know how to properly wash your tote bag to keep it looking clean and fresh.

Washing your tote bag not only helps to remove dirt and stains, but it also helps to keep your bag in good condition and prolong its lifespan.

Plus, using reusable bags like totes is a small but impactful way to reduce waste and protect the environment.

In this article, we’ll cover everything you need to know about how to wash a tote bag, including the different types of tote bags, how to prepare your tote bag for washing, and the best methods for washing and maintaining your tote bag.

So, whether you’re a frequent tote bag user or just looking to clean up an old favourite, read on for our top tips and tricks.


Types of Tote Bags

tote bags

Tote bags come in all sorts of materials, shapes, and sizes, making them a versatile accessory that can be used for anything from grocery shopping to carrying textbooks to the library.

The material of your tote bag is an important factor to consider when washing it, as different materials require different care.


Cotton is one of the most common materials for tote bags. It’s sturdy, durable, and can be easily washed in a machine or by hand.



Canvas is another popular material for tote bags, especially those intended for heavy-duty use.

Canvas bags are thicker and more robust than cotton bags, and can withstand more wear and tear.

However, canvas bags may require special attention when it comes to washing, depending on the type of canvas and any embellishments or decorations.



Nylon is another material that is often used for tote bags, particularly those intended for outdoor activities like hiking or camping.

Nylon is lightweight and water-resistant, making it ideal for use in wet or damp environments.

Nylon tote bags can typically be machine washed, but may require a gentler detergent or a lower heat setting on the dryer.


Other materials

Some tote bags are made from more unusual materials, such as recycled plastic, leather, or even burlap.

These materials may require special care when washing, such as hand washing or spot cleaning, so be sure to check the care instructions before attempting to clean them.

No matter what material your tote bag is made from, it’s important to take care when washing it to avoid damaging it or causing it to shrink or fade.

By understanding the materials your tote bag is made from and following the appropriate washing instructions, you can keep your bag looking its best for years to come.


Preparing the Tote Bag for Washing

empty white tote bag

Before you toss your tote bag in the wash, it’s important to take a few simple steps to prepare it for washing.

First, be sure to empty the bag of any items and remove anything from the pockets.

You don’t want any loose items banging around in the machine and potentially causing damage to the bag or the machine.

Next, give the bag a good shake to remove any loose dirt or debris. This can be done outside or over a trash can to avoid making a mess.

If your bag has any stains, now is the time to spot treat them with a stain remover or mild soap.

Simply apply a small amount of the stain remover to the affected area and let it sit for a few minutes before washing.

Taking these simple steps before washing your tote bag can help to ensure that it comes out of the wash looking clean and fresh.

Plus, it can help to prevent any damage to the bag or the washing machine, such as loose items getting caught in the machine’s drum.

Once your tote bag is prepped and ready for washing, it’s time to move on to the next step: washing the bag itself.

Whether you choose to hand wash or machine wash your tote bag will depend on the material and any care instructions provided by the manufacturer.

We’ll cover both methods in the following sections.


How to Hand Wash a Tote Bag

hand wash tote bag in the sink

If your tote bag is made from a delicate material, or if the care instructions recommend hand washing, then you’ll want to take a gentle approach to cleaning it.

Here’s how to hand wash a tote bag:

  1. Fill a clean sink or basin with lukewarm water and add a small amount of mild detergent. You want enough detergent to create suds, but not so much that it leaves a residue on the bag.
  2. Gently submerge the tote bag in the water and agitate it with your hands. Be careful not to scrub too hard or wring the bag, as this can damage the material.
  3. Let the bag soak for 10-15 minutes, then drain the soapy water and rinse the bag with cool water until all the soap is removed.
  4. Gently press the excess water out of the bag, being careful not to twist or wring it. Then, lay the bag flat on a clean towel to air dry.

When hand washing a tote bag, it’s important to be patient and gentle to avoid damaging the material or any embellishments on the bag.

Avoid using hot water or harsh detergents and be sure to rinse the bag thoroughly to avoid leaving any residue behind.

If your tote bag is made from a more robust material, or if the care instructions recommend machine washing, then you can use a washing machine to clean it.

We’ll cover how to machine wash a tote bag in the following section.


How to Machine Wash a Tote Bag

colorful tote bags in the washing machine

Machine washing your tote bag can be a quick and easy way to clean it, but it’s important to follow a few guidelines to ensure that the bag doesn’t get damaged in the process.

Here’s how to machine wash a tote bag:

  1. Check the care instructions on the tag of the tote bag. This will tell you whether the bag can be machine washed and any special care instructions to follow.
  2. If the bag can be machine washed, turn it inside out before placing it in the machine. This will help to protect any decorations or embellishments on the bag.
  3. Use a gentle cycle with cool water and a mild detergent. Avoid using hot water or harsh detergents, as these can damage the material.
  4. Once the washing cycle is complete, remove the tote bag from the machine and gently press out any excess water.
  5. Lay the bag flat on a clean towel to air dry. Avoid using a dryer, as the heat can cause the bag to shrink or fade.

Machine washing a tote bag can be a quick and convenient way to clean it, but it’s important to be cautious to avoid damaging the bag.

Be sure to follow any special care instructions on the tag and use a gentle cycle with cool water and mild detergent.

With these simple steps, you can keep your tote bag looking clean and fresh, no matter what material it’s made from.


Tips for Maintaining Your Tote Bag

hanging tote bag

Now that you know how to wash your tote bag, it’s important to take some steps to maintain it so it stays clean and in good condition for longer.

Here are our tips for maintaining your tote bag:

  1. When not in use, store your tote bag in a cool, dry place. Avoid leaving it in direct sunlight or in a damp area, as this can cause damage to the material.
  2. If you spill something on your tote bag, be sure to clean it up as soon as possible. The longer you wait, the harder it will be to remove the stain.
  3. Tote bags are designed to carry a lot of items, but try not to overload them. Too much weight can cause the material to stretch or tear, so be mindful of how much you’re carrying.
  4. Even if your tote bag doesn’t look dirty, it’s a good idea to spot clean it regularly to remove any dirt or debris that may have accumulated. Use a mild detergent and a soft cloth to gently clean the surface of the bag.
  5. If you have multiple tote bags, try rotating them so each one gets some time off. This can help to extend the life of each bag and prevent wear and tear.

By following these tips, you can keep your tote bag looking and functioning its best for longer.

Remember, the key to maintaining any accessory is to be mindful of how you use it and take care when cleaning and storing it.

With a little extra care, your tote bag can be a stylish and reliable companion for years to come.



tote bag for grocery shopping

In conclusion, knowing how to wash and maintain your tote bag is essential to keep it looking its best and functioning for longer.

Whether your tote bag is made of canvas, cotton, or another material, following the right washing and care instructions can help to prevent damage and keep it clean.

Remember to always check the care instructions on the tag before washing your tote bag, and avoid using harsh detergents or hot water!

Spot cleaning regularly and storing your tote bag properly can also help to extend its life and keep it looking fresh.

With these simple tips, you can maintain your tote bag and enjoy it for years to come.

So go ahead and grab your favourite tote bag, take care of it, and enjoy the convenience and style it brings to your daily routine.