The 13 Best Products to Clean a Suitcase in 2023
Clean your suitcase inside and out with our picks for sprays, wipes, brushes, and more.
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Travel + Leisure / Alli Waataja
A good piece of luggage can last years, even decades — and get dirty within minutes. The list of hardships your suitcase is likely to endure in its lifetime is endless: dirty sidewalks, muddy snow, conveyor belt grime, scuffs and scratches, interior spills, stains, odors, and good old-fashioned germs.
Fortunately, cleaning a suitcase is relatively simple. Most problems can be solved with a little soap and water and an all-purpose cleaner. Below, we’ve rounded up 13 products that can clean every inch of your suitcase, inside and out, hardside or softside. However, like your wardrobe, different materials require different types of care so be sure to always read the specific instructions provided by your luggage maker before you begin.
This cleaning stalwart works great on the stains most likely to affect luggage, including built-up dirt and grease.
Be sure to dilute this solution according to the brand's instructions.
If you’re only going to buy one product to clean your luggage, consider picking up a bottle of Simple Green's highly versatile All Purpose Cleaner Concentrate. Designed to be diluted with water for gentler surfaces, Simple Green works well for spraying down hardsided luggage or spot-cleaning fabric; it's especially effective on ink stains and grease spots. Just a head's up that Simple Green isn't a disinfectant (see below for disinfectant options) but it does come in mild sassafras, lavender, and lemon scents to freshen up surfaces, too.
Price at time of publish: $5 for 32 ounces
The Details: 32 ounces, 67.6 ounces, 1 gallon
It's fabric-safe and eliminates 99.9 percent of germs, including coronavirus.
Surfaces aren't considered fully disinfected until after 10 minutes.
While the Simple Green All Purpose Cleaner is our favorite spray cleaner, Lysol's Disinfectant Spray is the bottle to grab if you’re looking to disinfect every inch of your luggage, including hardside and softside outers, plus any handles and lining. After you unpack your bags and prepare to store them away for your next trip, a few sprays of this can add peace of mind that you’re not keeping germs and bacteria around, too. This fabric-safe spray contains zero bleach and fully disinfects after 10 minutes.
Price at time of publish: $7
The Details: 19 ounces
This soft but sturdy brush is great for scrubbing softsided luggage.
We don't recommend using a brush on hardsided luggage, as it could leave scratches.
Although the S.M. Arnold Soft Utility Scrub Brush is designed for car care, fans report cleaning everything from tires to couches with it. The soft, polystyrene bristles will cling to soapy water, making it ideal for scrubbing down softside suitcases and luggage wheels. Mix water with castile soap (see below) to create a cleaning solution, then use this brush to wash away the grime accumulated on nylon or other manmade fabrics. Just make sure to allow the suitcase to dry fully (preferably in the sun) before storing.
Price at time of publish: $7
The Details: 8.9 x 5.6 x 2.7 inches
Diluted in water, this versatile soap makes a great cleaning solution for softside luggage.
It doesn't foam up and it has a chemical smell.
The best method for cleaning a softside suitcase is with mild laundry detergent diluted with water, and for that task, we recommend the famously versatile Dr. Bronner's 18-in-1 Pure Castile Liquid Soap. It's biodegradable, so you can feel comfortable cleaning your suitcase outdoors and letting it dry in the sun. Pick up a bottle (available in seven scents or fragrance-free) and use it for other tasks around the house, including laundry, mopping, and dishes. Just make sure to read the dilution instructions when measuring out the soap and spot test, too.
Price at time of publish: $4 for 2 ounces
The Details: 2 ounces, 4 ounces, 8 ounces, 16 ounces, 32 ounces, half gallon, 1 gallon
Designed for use on fabrics, this foamy cleanser fights stains on soft luggage.
The brush bristles are very stiff, so be gentle when applying the foam.
If your fabric bag still has old, stubborn stains, we recommend going at them with the Woolite Fresh Fabric Cleaner, which dispenses cleaning foam from a built-in brush. Designed for carpets, upholstery, and other fabrics, this foam is more likely than castile soap to remove stains from grease, makeup, and other aggressive spills on the outside of your suitcase or in the lining. That said, some users reported that it affected the color of their furniture, so be sure to try it on a small, inconspicuous area first.
Price at time of publish: $5
The Details: 12 ounces
A little bit of this soap mixed with water is all you’ll need to clean a hardside suitcase.
You’ll want to dilute the dish soap even more than you would washing dishes.
While softside bags call for a brush and laundry soap, a hardside shell is best cleaned with a microfiber cleaning cloth (like these from Amazon Basics) and a mix of water and dish soap. I prefer Seventh Generation Free & Clear Liquid Dish Soap because it's gentle, free of dye and fragrance, and easy on your skin. Just be sure to use a nonabrasive microfiber material instead of a sponge, which could cause scratches on your precious cargo carrier.
Price at time of publish: $4 for 19 ounces
The Details: 19 ounces, 50 ounces
This two-in-one cleaner prevents leather bags from cracking and fading.
Do not use this spray on suede, nubuck, or faux leather.
While some dry cleaners offer specialty leather-cleaning services, the price and ease of Weiman Leather Cleaner and Conditioner are hard to ignore. (I like the spray, which cleans off easily with no residue, though Weiman also offers wipes and a cream.) This cleaning product is most commonly used on leather furniture, but works just as well on accessories like handbags, leather luggage, and shoes.
Price at time of publish: $8 for 12 ounces
The Details: 12 ounces, 16 ounces, 22 ounces
This dye-free solution will make your plastic trim shiny again.
If you don't follow the instructions to a T, you’ll be disappointed in the results.
Though the name would suggest it's suited to automobiles only, Car Guys Plastic Restorer promises to renew the shine and finish of anything made of plastic, rubber, or vinyl. We recommend cleaning your suitcase first with gentle soap and water, letting it dry, then applying this potion to the plastic surfaces. Allow it to sit for 10 to 15 minutes then buff it with a microfiber cloth.
Price at time of publish: $17
The Details: 8 ounces
The nozzle pivots, making it easy to get into the tightest spaces.
The battery life is pretty short, so this is best suited to brief cleaning tasks (like suitcases).
I own a handheld vacuum that I would not recommend, so for this pick, I consulted a friend who has a healthy obsession with vacuums, and the Black + Decker 20V Max Handheld Cordless Vacuum is her favorite for cleaning suitcases and other tight spaces. The pivoting nozzle and extended crevice tool make it perfect for reaching odd angles, and the dirt bowl is easy to empty without making a huge mess. The suction is very strong, but as a result, the battery doesn't last very long before needing a charge again. If you want to spend a little more for a vacuum that works on suitcases and other surfaces but isn't handheld, check out the Bissel LIttle Green ProHeat Portable Carpet Cleaner.
Price at time of publish: $63
The Details: 18 x 6.88 x 6.75 inches
Though these wipes are designed to disinfect, they are also capable of getting off dirt and minor stains.
Because wipes create extra waste, consider limiting these to small areas and on-the-go uses.
When you want to give your luggage a quick wipe-down, these bleach-free Clorox Disinfecting Wipes are our go-to product. Available in lemon or fresh scent, these versatile wipes disinfect surfaces like handles and zippers (killing 99.9 percent of viruses, including coronavirus, within 15 seconds). While sanitizing is their main purpose, the wipes can also clean off dirt, mud, and grease spots on hard luggage in a pinch.
Price at time of publish: $4 for 35 count
The Details: 35 count, 75 count
For travelers who are extra-cautious about bed bugs and moths, this system is a fuss-free way to destroy pests.
It's on the pricier side, so make sure it fits all of your luggage before you buy.
If you’ve ever brought bed bugs or moths into your apartment, you know how dramatic and difficult they can be to eliminate. Unfortunately, these little beasts often hitch their way into your space on your suitcase. The ThermalStrike Ranger Bed Bug Heater is like a heated laundry hamper for your suitcase; just slide your bag in and seal it up, and the sides heat up to 120 degrees to kill any pests that might have traveled home with you.
Price at time of publish: $199
The Details: 18 x 14 x 27 inches
For outdoorsy types, this specialized detergent maintains the waterproofing treatment found on backpacks and other gear.
It's pricey, so avoid using it for anything but waterproof fabrics.
If you’ve invested money in a high-quality waterproof sling bag or backpack, you should take special care when laundering it. Nikwax Tech Wash is designed for use in washing machines or hand-washing and works on Gore-tex and other water-repellent fabrics. It's on the pricier side, so we wouldn't recommend doing regular laundry loads with it, but for waterproof travel accessories (and clothes), it's a must-have.
Price at time of publish: $11 for 10 ounces
The Details: 10 ounces, 34 ounces, 169 ounces
After particularly smelly trips, this little gadget can make your bag fresh for the next vacation.
Though the product is touted as fragrance-free, some users noticed a slight scent.
If you can't shake a sweaty, damp, or smoky smell inside your luggage, try tossing one of these Mainstays Charcoal Closet Odor Eliminators into the suitcase and check back in a few days. Each tennis-ball sized tub works quickly but is designed to last up to four months, so you can move it to another smelly area when you’re done.
Price at time of publish: $6
The Details: 17 ounces
The first step when cleaning your luggage is to read the care instructions on your luggage maker's website. Most brands have extensive tips and tricks in their FAQ section, which is where we researched many of the methods suggested above. This will prevent you from doing any serious damage.
Depending on whether your bag is hardside, softside, waterproof, or leather, you should choose your cleaning accessories accordingly. Most cleaners should be applied with a brush or a cloth, though be wary of an abrasive tool on hardside luggage.
Though most of the cleaners recommended in this article are gentle, there is always a chance that a cleaning product could damage the color or texture of your luggage. Always spot-test an area that isn't as visible to ensure the product is safe for your surface.
It depends. For grease stains on hardside luggage, try Clorox Wipes or rub a paste of baking soda and water onto the stain. For fabric grease stains, the best solution is to sprinkle cornstarch on the stain when it's fresh and allow the starch to soak up the oil. As a final resort, the Woolite Fresh Fabric Cleaner foam and built-in brush can be used, but don't use it too often, as it could damage the fabric coating.
Many manufacturers recommend a cleaning eraser like a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser, though I only use these on light-colored surfaces, since they can sometimes leave a white residue on dark surfaces. Believe it or not, a tennis ball can also be effective at removing scuffs. Finally, for dark surfaces, a shoe polish or beeswax-based furniture polish might do the trick.
Many dry-cleaning establishments will dry clean leather bags, but otherwise, this isn't a service typically offered by dry cleaners, and it's unnecessary as far as we are concerned.
For this article, T+L contributor Nancy Einhart used research as well as her own experience as a lifestyle writer and seasoned traveler to choose the best products to clean a suitcase.
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