Cleaning Your Suitcase After Travel

clean suitcase ready to store

The step you might be forgetting between the Lyft back to your apartment and the stowing of your suitcase for your next trip can save wear and tear on your gear and keep it clean and serviceable longer.

The Rolling Suitcase – Checked and Carry On

These workhorses roll up to 50 lbs. of your gear through airports and along sidewalks, sometimes through mud or muck (or worse!) If you have a travel situation in which you are using a giant rolling bag and not simply carrying on, you’ll want to make sure your bag is resilient against the forces of gravity and nature. Even if it’s your rolling international carry on bag, you don’t want to be handling it and put your fingers in something sticky. It’s worth the time to keep them clean, too.

rolling suitcase
Eagle Creek Tarmac collection, cleaned and ready to store

Wipe Down Your Suitcase

Start by wiping the entire case down (a damp cloth or a Clorox wipe is a great start.) I had a white powdery substance which was not contraband, but as it turns out, no less sinister — it was dried mayonnaise! Gross! I don’t eat the condiment, so somehow, my rolling bag was near someone’s sandwich at some point.

handle slides on suitcase
Check to make sure slides and handles are wiped down and work.

The Suitcase Wheels

Make sure to tackle the wheels and wheel wells to keep them spinning. There will be hair, it’s probably NOT yours. Again…gross! I use Clorox wipes to pull out hair, gunk, sidewalk salt residue, and other unsavory debris. I’m sure the number of times I’ve rolled through gum and cigarette butts is more than I’d like to consider.

Gross suitcase wheel
Gnarly suitcase wheel after travel

Suitcase Zippers and Buckles

Check zippers and handles and buckles to make sure there was no damage. Sometimes you may have a lifetime guarantee on your bags (or, in some cases if your bag was broken, you may have a claim with the carrier.)

Backpacks and Duffels

Just like your rolling bags, it’s a good idea to sanitize and clean your packs, too.

Straps and Buckles

Same concept — if you have sternum straps and clips, anything which got checked and may have caught on a conveyor belt, make sure they all still work. It would be the pits to get to your hiking destination and find your lumbar belt is missing a buckle.

Sometimes it’s practical, especially in the case of very large capacity through-hike packs, to splurge on a super packable bag cover for transit.

Zippers and Mesh Storage

Whenever I’ve around the ocean, I forget not all my gear loves the salty water as much as I do. IF your pack has metal zippers, make sure to wipe them as soon as possible with a damp cloth and freshwater, pat dry. I have had several zippers cease up because my daypack on the dive boat got wet while I was swimming with the fishes.

There’s also the scenario where zippers just blow out or become damaged. Again, many good gear companies will help you out and replace these faulty mechanisms.

Mesh storage compartments are lovely for water bottles and reef-safe sunscreen, BUT they snag easily. Make sure you haven’t taken on any new holes during your travels.

dent in suitcase side
Dented crease from travel

Inspect Suitcase for Soft Material Damage

Just like the rest of the bag, just do a visual inspection to make sure things look normal. For my weatherproof outer material I use 303 spray and a damp cloth to protect and shine it up. For my more canvas-like soft cloth parts I use a damp cloth or a Clorox wipe.

Suitcase Storage

I try to embrace Marie Kondo concepts and let my cases “rest” while they are being stored. Nothing is stored on top of them, they just live beneath my hanging clothing in the closet. However, I like knowing that next to my clean clothing, are clean and tidy suitcases. Don’t drag airport germs into your living space. Five extra minutes of care will help keep your gear in shape and in travel-ready condition, just like you!¬†Always make sure before putting your case in the closet that it’s ready for the next impromptu flight!