When preparing for a trip, we often spend a lot of time packing and planning. We think about what to take for days and often buy new travel bags or suitcases. However, we rarely think about another significant part of the packing and unpacking process – cleaning and storing the luggage after returning from a trip. When we return from a trip, we are full of impressions and tired, so we just throw the dirty laundry in the washing machine and store the suitcases in the closet – but this is a habit we should change.
Traveling is a relaxing experience, but not so much for our luggage. Every time we travel, it can end up damaged or dirty. If we don’t take care of these consequences as soon as possible, the luggage life span will be reduced. We can do things to make our luggage look as good as new in the years to come. Are you interested in learning how? Keep reading; you’ll find all the answers in the rows below. Let’s start with the basics – what types of luggage are there and how to choose the right one:
1. How to choose the right kind of luggage
Luggage is not something you want to skimp on. If you buy a quality piece and take proper care of it, it will last for years. Yes, you’ll pay more for it, but in the long run, it’s better than replacing luggage every year because low-quality suitcases are much easier to damage.
When shopping for luggage, you can choose between soft-sided and hard-sided options, and both types have advantages.
- Hard-sided luggage is usually made of advanced plastics, such as ABS and polycarbonate. This plastic is lightweight but also highly resistant. Hard-sided suitcases, such as the Flex Vega Medium Suitcase, are durable, sturdy, less prone to staining (although they might get scratched), and easy to maneuver.
- On the other hand, luggage with soft sides is made of fabrics – usually woven nylon, such as Cordura, ballistic, or ripstop. It is light and flexible but not suitable for carrying fragile things. It can’t be scratched but can be stained more easily than hard-sided cases.
Which one you choose is a matter of personal preference and your needs.
Things to look out for when shopping for luggage include a metal zipper, a well-attached handle, smooth-rolling wheels, and a warranty.
2. Why is cleaning the luggage important?
Regular cleaning of the suitcases will extend their life and prevent the appearance of stains due to the accumulation of dust. If you don’t clean your luggage, you risk your clothes getting an unpleasant smell or even getting dirty. Dirt and grease stains cause the fabric to deteriorate, and debris trapped in the suitcase’s wheels can harden and cause the wheel to break. When you do not clean your luggage, there is also a risk of mold. If you’ve ever had mold in your suitcase, we believe you’ve discovered that it’s easier to buy new luggage instead of cleaning it, but it’s an additional expense you can easily avoid by taking care of your luggage.
That’s not all. There is another reason to thoroughly clean your suitcases every time you return from a trip. It’s bed bugs. Bed bugs are widespread in hotel rooms and are a big problem for hotels and airlines. Like it or not, the bed bugs in your hotel room may want to come home with you. Not only do these tiny pests hide (and breed) inside beds, couches, and clothes, but they’ll happily “board” your suitcase or wardrobe if given a chance. That’s why it’s important to know what you need to do to prevent bed bugs from spreading around your home. When you arrive from your trip, it would be a good idea to check your suitcases, clean them, and throw all the clothes in the bag into the wash immediately.
3. Start cleaning from the handle and wheels
Cleaning the suitcase starts with the handle. Pull it out and clean it with a microfiber cloth and liquid hand soap or dishwashing detergent diluted in water. After it dries, disinfect the handle thoroughly. Repeat the same procedure on the wheels of the suitcase. If necessary, get extra help with brushes with soft bristles to remove debris or stones from the wheels.
4. How to clean luggage exterior
Before embarking on any cleaning, check your luggage manufacturer’s cleaning instructions. Quality suitcases and travel bags usually have these instructions. If you use cleaning agents that do not comply with the instructions, you can damage the luggage and lose your right to the warranty. How you clean the exterior of your suitcase depends mainly on the material it is made of because you don’t clean plastic, fabric, and leather the same way, so we have explained each material as a separate entity:
5. Cleaning hard-sided exterior
Cleaning hard-sided luggage is quite simple. The method we will describe below applies to all types of plastic (ABS, polypropylene, polyethylene):
- Make lukewarm water and dishwashing detergent cleaning solution.
- Using a soft cloth, apply the cleaning mixture to the luggage’s exterior using a soft cloth and gently rub it.
- If there are visible stains, add a paste of baking soda and water and clean them.
- Wipe the surface with a soft, dry cloth and leave the luggage in a place with good air circulation to dry completely.
6. Cleaning soft-sided exterior
Cleaning luggage with soft sides is more demanding than the previously described method. You must make sure that you use a detergent suitable for the fabric of your bag or suitcase. Never use bleach or solvent, as you can do more harm than good to the material.
Follow these steps for best results:
- Clean the outside of the bag. You can do this with a tape roller, by hand, or with a vacuum cleaner – which is probably the best option. If you do not vacuum the dust and small particles of dirt first, when you apply the solution, they could only make your luggage even dirtier.
- Make a cleaning mixture out of appropriate detergent and water. A foaming agent is preferable, so you can see where you have applied it.
- Scrub the luggage’s surface with a brush, and pay extra attention to stains or heavily soiled areas.
- Leave the detergent mixture on for as long as the manufacturer recommends, and then wash it off according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
- Leave the luggage to dry well in an airy, preferably sunny place. You can put it away only when it is completely dry.
If you want to avoid using chemicals, you can also clean the soft-sided exterior with an attachment for upholstered furniture with a steam cleaner.
7. Cleaning leather exterior
Leather suitcases and bags look expensive, but leather is hard to clean because even a drop of water can leave a permanent stain.
- Use a mild water solution and liquid laundry detergent to clean leather luggage. If the luggage has stains, use dish soap instead of detergent.
- Soak a soft, clean cloth in the prepared solution, wring it out, and gently wipe the leather surface. Apply the same pressure to all parts of the bag.
- Let it air dry (not in the sun, so the edges don’t curl).
- When completely dry, treat leather luggage with cleaning spray for leather.
8. Cleaning the aluminum exterior
Cleaning will be effortless if you have a suitcase with an aluminum surface, and your luggage will look like you just bought it a long time ago! Take a cleaning agent specially designed for aluminum, apply it to the surface of the suitcase, rub it in, and let it do its magic. Wipe with a soft, dry cloth and watch your case shine like new. Another way to clean aluminum luggage is to wipe it with a cloth soaked in a solution of lukewarm water and soap. Be sure to dry with a soft, dry cloth.
9. How to remove marks and scratches from the luggage exterior
Hard-sided luggage is susceptible to scratches due to interactions with other bags in the transport part of the vehicle you’re traveling in. Scratches can spoil your luggage’s look, so fixing them as soon as they appear is important. Clean them with a solution of warm water and soap; you will see that they look much less visible. If they still “catch your eyes,” try to rub them off with a pencil eraser. Yes, you heard right – a regular eraser will make scratches almost invisible. Rinse the surface once more, and your case is ready. In case of severe damage, you may have to replace the suitcase or seek compensation from the carrier you are traveling with.
10. How to clean a luggage interior
Vacuum the suitcase inside, paying particular attention to corners and narrow areas to remove all crumbs, dust, and dirt. Wash the detachable compartments and bags in the washing machine on a gentle cycle. For most stains, a mixture of water and mild detergent is the best choice. After thoroughly drying, the suitcase is ready to rest until your next trip.
11. Is there a way to prevent damaging your luggage?
If you’re traveling by plane, wrap your luggage in plastic foil at the airport. This option isn’t free, but it will best protect your suitcase from bumps, scratches, and theft. If you skip this option, fold the handle on the bag before handing in your luggage and remove the carrying strap and similar accessories that could get caught and damaged on the conveyor belt. Never sit on your luggage. Suitcases look like an ideal place to rest after standing in line for a long time, but they are not designed to support the weight of an adult. When you arrive at your destination, avoid dragging your suitcase on uneven surfaces, as they damage its wheels.
12. Tips for storing luggage
Before storing it away, close all compartments and pockets on the luggage, remove the carrying strap and store it in a suitcase or bag. Put silica gel or lavender bags in your suitcase to prevent unpleasant odors from forming. To save space, store smaller suitcases inside larger suitcases. You can also use them to store seasonal things, like bedspreads or bedding. Store clean and dry suitcases and travel bags in a dry place protected from direct sunlight. Moisture can cause mold growth, and the sun bleaches the exterior.
If you plan to store the suitcase in a basement or an attic, wrap it in a protective cover or garbage bag to prevent dust accumulation. Never put heavy things on stored suitcases and travel bags, as this distorts and damages them. We hope you found our tips helpful. Choose the luggage that suits your needs, take care of its maintenance, and travel safely. Good luck!
Tomas is a digital marketing specialist and a freelance blogger. His work is focusing on new web tech trends and digital voice distribution across different channels. Life and Style Hub