Wipe down your suitcase or clean out your personal effects bag when returning home from a trip?  Who does that? Most travelers, simply unpack and put the luggage away until the next vacation or business travels. But, think about where that piece of luggage has been.  Yuck! Now is the time to get down and dirty by cleaning your luggage and checking that travel supplies are in working order. Read on to find out how to make this habit a part of your on-going unpacking routine.

what are some tips for cleaning luggage

Just some of my luggage that needs cleaning. Photo credit Dana Zucker, Luxe Traveling Mom.

Okay, admit it.  When was the last time you thought about cleaning luggage, let alone the last time you actually did it?  It’s just not something that crosses most travelers’ minds. But, it should. We pack our clothes, personal care items, shoes, dirty clothes, and so much more in our suitcase. We place our suitcases, carry-on bags, and what-not on surfaces where so many people touch them and where germs and dirt abound!

We haul these same bags into our homes, roll them through the house, and throw them on our beds. After we unpack, we simply roll them back through the house to store for the next trip.  But, it’s time you thought about giving that luggage a thorough cleaning — before storing for your next trip. To help you get started, here are some tips for making sure your travel supplies are in clean AND proper working order!

Cleaning Luggage

I recommend following the manufacturer’s care instructions for your luggage, but if you’re like me, you’ve thrown out the instructions along with the box they came in. Never fear, search on-line for all care instructions for your suitcases. Clean inside and out. Wipe down all handles, locks, and pulls, too. Open up the suitcase completely. Either wipe the inside with a mild soap mixture and leave open to dry or spray with an air dry natural clothing spray.

why it's important to clean your luggage


This is the time to inspect all your luggage. Confirm all locks and zippers are in working order and there are no tears. Get anything repaired that needs to be or decide if it needs to be tossed and replaced.  You don’t want to be traveling and have that small tear become a complete tear and have to buy a new piece of luggage that’s not in your travel budget or becomes a huge hassle.

Luggage Tags

Take the time to check all of your luggage tags  — and yes, wipe them down, too. Confirm our name and phone number are clear, easy to find, and up-to-date.  FYI: We never put our home address on our luggage tags; instead, we place our husband’s business card in the tag.


Don’t forget to tackle the backpacks, both for adults and the kids, especially with school looming in the near future.  My husband is an athlete and carries one filled with dirty gym clothes. Just think of what has gone in these bags and where they have been left – floors, toilets, etc., not to mention the bacteria from the dirty clothes.  If you can, it might be a good idea to machine wash – just be sure to check the manufacturer’s instructions.

when should I clean my luggage

This backpack has carried a lot of dirty triathlete gear. Photo credit Sherry Wernicke, Luxe Traveling Mom.

Squares/Packing Cubes

Wash your packing cubes as directed and air dry completely. I like to turn these inside out when washing to clean the area where the dirty clothes have been.

Personal Needs Bags

With mild soap and hot water, completely wipe out and rinse personal needs bags. I also use a little alcohol wipe to clean, once they’re completely dry, as this is where the most germs can grow. If you use plastic bags for anything, including your carry-on liquids, throw them away and start with new ones.

Personal Care Bottles and Tubes

Empty and clean these bottles and tubes! Throw away any product that is in them and start anew. If you can’t get rid of the product after a good soaking, then please, discard. Anything you’ve had all year that’s been opened, like toothpaste, make-up, and creams should be thrown out. Hey, it will give you a chance to try that new anti-aging eye cream!

why you need to clean your luggage regularly

Personal needs bags especially need cleaning. Photo credit Dana Zucker, Luxe Traveling Mom.

Carry-On Bags

If you are anything like me, I use the same carry-on bag and keep everything in it. But, you need to empty it out completely. I throw away all mints, gum, etc. and wipe down all the pockets. I clean my earphones and all my cords with a damp cloth and lay them out to dry. I then restock it all. Truth is, I usually find all kinds of goodies in there, most of which can be trashed.

Emergency Kit

If you don’t travel with an emergency kit you should. But if you do, check all the expiration dates and restock. When I checked mine this year, my bandaids were so old the wrapping was a little yellow. If I use it on vacation, I replace it right when I get home, so I don’t forget.

Update Travel Documents

Check all your lists and copies of frequent flyer numbers, passport, photo ID, hotel loyalty programs, club memberships, and anything else. Make sure all numbers, points, expiration dates, and contact information is up-to-date and not about to expire, especially that passport.

Make sure you keep all phone numbers handy and put in your phone contact list for easy access when you may need them in a hurry during your travels. Also, check all your loyalty and frequent flyer points to make sure you don’t have any about to expire, if you don’t use them.

While you may not think about it, take the time to do a little luggage cleaning.  Do it for the health of your family and so you are ready for your next great adventure or weekend getaway.