How to Give New Life to Your Old Suitcases

published Oct 21, 2017
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(Image credit: Daniel Kim/Stocksy)

Between spills, errant shoe bottoms, and airplane grease, inside and out, our suitcases may not be the cleanest. This year, before you pack for your holiday trips or winter getaways, give your luggage the royal treatment so you can put your carefully packed clothes somewhere they’ll stay fresh and clean.

How to Clean the Interiors of Most Suitcases

1. Empty Your Suitcase Thoroughly

Even if you think you completely empty your suitcase after each trip, you’re likely to find some overlooked socks or souvenirs in some pocket or other when you go to clean your suitcase. Open every zipper and run your hand through every compartment before you start cleaning.

2. Wash Detachable Components

Undo straps, buckles, snaps, and zippers inner compartments from your suitcase. Look for tags with cleaning instructions to see if you can toss them in the laundry. Alternately, hand wash them with some dish soap and water and hang to dry.

3. Vacuum

You may not be able to see crumbs or visible dirt, but a thorough vacuuming with a brush attachment will loosen and remove dust and dirt that’s taken up residence in your luggage. Get into all the little nooks, crannies, and corners. Vacuum inside any compartments you weren’t able to remove.

4. Wipe Down

To spot clean any interior soil, scrub with a toothbrush dipped in a baking soda paste. Make sure to completely wipe out the baking soda, taking care not to get anything too soaking wet. Dry with a hair dryer right away.

(Image credit: Esteban Cortez)

How to Clean Fabric Suitcase Exteriors

First, use a cleaning brush with medium-stiff bristles to loosen exterior dirt. Then vacuum with the brush attachment and a finish off with a lint roller if necessary.

If the outside of your fabric luggage has any grease marks, sprinkle some cornstarch on them and leave it for a while, allowing time for it to absorb the grease. pp

Next, wipe down your fabric exterior with a damp rag and a bit of mild detergent. Rub in the direction of the fabric. Again, avoid getting your suitcase too wet; the last thing you want is to create a breeding ground for mildew.

Make sure your suitcase is completely dry before storing it. Dry it in the sun if you can.

How to Clean Hard Case Suitcase Exteriors

Plastic exteriors can be wiped down with a damp rag and mild soap. Be sure to dry immediately so you don’t leave any streaks. If your hard case luggage is aluminum, stick to just plain water because some soaps can leave marks. Again, dry right away with a soft towel. Address any scuff marks with a melamine sponge.

How to Clean Leather Suitcase Exteriors

Use a leather cleaner to clean the exteriors of your leather luggage, followed by a leather conditioner. Dry out of direct sunlight. Have a professional address any stains.

How to Clean Suitcase Hardware, Handles, and Wheels

Use warm, soapy water and a rag to clean hardware, handles, and the wheels on your luggage. Be sure to rotate the wheels to reach every part and dry hardware right away to avoid any water damage. Afterwards, use a disinfecting wipe to wipe down these hard-working components of your suitcase.

A Note on Suitcase Maintenance and Storage…

Now that your suitcases are restored to their very best selves, go the extra mile to ensure they stay as clean as possible. Spray fabric protector onto your fabric suitcases and paint your aluminum hard cases with metal lacquer. Metal hardware on any suitcase can be protected with a thin coat of clear nail polish.

When storing, keep your suitcases out of damp basements, don’t stack heavy things on top of them, and if you must nest them, place them in large garbage bags first.