How to Clean Your Diaper Bag: An Efficient Guide to Washing Like a Pro!

I love my diaper bag. There, I said it!

It was one item I wasn’t too hesitant to splurge on. I did have some strict requirements when I was choosing which to buy, though – to say I was picky is probably an understatement.

An automatic pregnancy reaction is a heightened awareness of other pregnant people around you, as well as parents with young kids.

Personally, the first thing that caught (and still catches) my eye is the diaper bag. More specifically, the number of torn or flaky diaper bags I saw (and still see) hung to strollers.

I’m generally a very laid back person, but if there’s one thing I knew, is that I needed a diaper bag that lasts!

Fast forward five years and two kids onward, and my diaper bag still looks as good as new!

a full diaper bag placed on a wooden table

It’s one piece of baby gear we’ve used on the daily, too; it was at the receiving end of countless spills, mountains of crumbs, and more dirty diapers than I care to count.

It’s served as a hospital bag, traveled with us, and survived long car trips and many scanners in crowded airports. It’s found itself placed on cold snow and hot sand, and every other surface in between.

So, what’s probably the most important trick to extending the life of your diaper bag? Effective and material-safe cleaning!

Since we’ve been there and done all of that as a family, this article will let you in on everything you need to know about your diaper bag cleaning routine so it stays as good as new for as long as possible.

Why Should I Clean My Diaper Bag?

I know! There’s so much to clean already, right? Why add something else to that seemingly never-ending list?

Well, there are benefits to cleaning your diaper bag on a regular basis.

Your diaper bag is your constant sidekick, home to all the baby things you’ll need while on the go. It can carry everything from diapers (not only clean, but soiled ones as well) to food.

It’s placed on a good mix of surfaces, each of which are not necessarily clean themselves. Just think about the millions of germs in bathrooms as you change your little one’s diaper, in parks, or in store trolleys as you get your shopping done.

So, the point is that your diaper bag is on the frontlines of parenting. From spills, crumbs, old candy stuck to the bottom, and your purse and phone – it can soon become a germ-ridden environment. And we all know that germs + babies = a recipe for disaster!

Disinfecting your diaper bag can help keep illnesses at bay. It also keeps the items you store in it all clean (as long as it’s not a dirty diaper, of course), and odor-free.

Cleaning your diaper bag properly also extends its lifespan and leaves it looking great, so that you can feel confident wearing it outside the house in public.

How Do I Know It’s Time to Clean My Diaper Bag?

Diaper bags should be wiped down and disinfected every week. This prevents stains from setting.

A deeper bag clean is recommended every 6 months or after trips to germ-infested places (bathrooms, airports… you get the gist).

The tell-tale signs that point to an earlier clean up needed include strange odors, stains, spills, and crumbs.

Can I Go Longer Between Clean Ups?

Yes, if you treat your diaper bag well!

A major part of treating your bag well is keeping it properly organized. The majority of diaper bags come with compartments aimed at specific baby gear.

Some have a separate caddy that fits nicely within the bag, but which can be easily taken out for diaper changes.

This can help extend the time between clean ups – you can leave your diaper bag hung to the stroller and only place the caddy on the changer. It’s then easy to give a quick wipe down to the caddy, and it’s as good as new again.

Dirty diapers are the bane of any diaper bag. If you’re cloth diapering, invest in a trusty wet bag that does not let odors – or anything unsavory – escape.

If you’re using disposables but there’s no bin in sight for you to throw dirty diapers in, chuck the diaper into a plastic bag. There are scented versions which help you to not stink up the whole diaper bag.

Allocate a compartment for formula or breastmilk, too. Make sure that formula containers close well, and test bottles twice to check they’re properly sealed and nothing could leak inside. The same applies for any other bottles containing hot or cold water, too.

Keep a couple of food seal clips handy for when a snack ends up half eaten. Another option is to invest in some reusable food storage bags – not only are they environmentally friendly and keep snacks fresher, they also prevent pesky crumbs from travelling to the far ends and creases of your diaper bag.

Organizing your diaper bag properly will keep it from unnecessary wear and tear, save you from messes, and will allow you to go longer in between cleans. Win-win!

How to Clean a Diaper Bag

There are endless options for diaper bags out there when you’re still shopping for one. You’ll come across loads of options made from a plethora of different materials, and you can choose from whichever you prefer.

Wiping down, spot cleaning and disinfecting is generally safe to do on all diaper bags, but more thorough cleaning methods such as using the washing machine and soaking in water can completely ruin some diaper bags.

So, always check the manufacturer’s instructions on how to wash their diaper bag first before you buy it, just to make sure that you’re okay with the methods they state you can use.

If it’s not stated that your diaper bag is machine washable, you will NOT want to take that risk and ruin it, obviously.

With that being said, here’s a general step-by-step guide to cleaning your diaper bag effectively and efficiently, every single time:

Step #1: Empty the Contents

First things first, make space for all your diaper bag’s contents – you’d be surprised by the number of things diaper bags manage to fit!

Once you’ve emptied it, turn it inside out and flip it upside down over a trash can (or, as I sometimes prefer to do instead, the sink).

Shake it a few times to get everything out, and move on to step #2.

Step #2: Vacuum

Vacuum any remaining debris using the wand attachment on your vacuum.

Don’t forget corners and creases!

Step #3: Remove Detachables

Set aside any detachable straps, keychains, partitions and anything else that can come undone.

Follow the below steps if they’re made of the same material as the body of the bag, but do not place in the washing machine.

If the straps are made of leather (for the sake of giving an example), or the partition contains cardboard to keep it stiff, just do a gentle wipe down.

Step #4: Apply Stain Remover

Pre-treat stains by applying a stain remover of your choice.

Make sure that the product you use is safe for your diaper bag’s material, though. Stain removers shouldn’t be used if your diaper bag is made of leather, suede or silk.

Step #5: Let it Sit

Allow the stain remover to work its magic by leaving it on the stain for the amount of time recommended by the manufacturer.

Step #6: Scrub Away Stains

Using an old toothbrush, gently scrub away the dirt and stains.

Step #7: Wash

Pat dry the areas you cleaned with the stain remover, and if recommended by the diaper bag manufacturer, throw in the diaper bag inside out in the washer or hand wash it.

Don’t forget to open all zippers and pockets for a more thorough clean.

To prevent doing any damage to the bag, use a mesh laundry bag or pillowcase if your washing machine has an interior rotator.

Step #8: Dry

Lastly, hang your diaper bag to dry in a well-ventilated area with all its pockets open.

Go for a shaded area to avoid fading.

How to Handwash Your Diaper Bag

The majority of diaper bag manufacturers recommend hand washing the bag, rather than throwing it into the washing machine.

Personally, I prefer opting for the safer option and washing it by hand.

If you have the time for that and prefer to do it that way, follow these steps for a thorough clean:

  1. Use a basin or bucket that can hold the diaper bag – and the water, of course.
  2. Fill with water and a mild detergent.
  3. Place the diaper bag in the bucket or basin and make sure that it’s all covered with water.
  4. Soak the bag for a few hours to break up stains.
  5. Gently brush the interior and exterior of your bag.
  6. Rinse the bag with clean water and leave it to air dry.

How to Clean a Polyester, Vinyl, or Nylon Diaper Bag

Many diaper bags come in polyester, vinyl, or nylon. These materials cannot be soaked or placed in the washer.

Nonetheless, you can still give diaper bags made from these materials a thorough clean. Here’s how:

  1. Empty the bag and open all pockets and compartments.
  2. Flip the bag upside down and remove crumbs and dirt.
  3. Combine water and a tiny amount of mild soap in a bowl.
  4. Dip a cloth into the mixture. You want a damp cloth, rather than one that’s soaking wet.
  5. Wipe down the bag, rubbing stained areas using a circular motion. Use a mixture of baking soda and water if the stain’s a stubborn one.
  6. Wipe the bag dry using a clean towel.
  7. Leave it to air dry.

How to Clean a Leather Diaper Bag

Leather is beautiful, and if treated well, will last ages.

A leather diaper bag also involves a higher investment up front; the last thing you want to do is to ruin it at first use! So, you should take extra precautions when cleaning a leather diaper bag.

Leather diaper bags should never be soaked or put in the washer. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions to ensure that you’re following the ideal method that will keep yours safe.

The steps below are general guidelines on how to clean a leather diaper bag:

  1. Empty your bag; turn it upside down and shake off crumbs and debris.
  2. Vacuum the inside of your bag for a more thorough clean.
  3. Wipe down the exterior of the bag with a damp cloth. Do not put any detergents or softeners on the cloth.
  4. Use a trustworthy, pH friendly leather cleaner and wipe the exterior in a circular motion.
  5. Repeat the step above for the interior as well. Using a leather cleaner will remove bacteria without damaging the bag.
  6. Let it sit (don’t hang) and wait for it to dry.
  7. Once dry, rub the interior and outside of your bag with a clean cloth and leather conditioner. This helps prolong your bag’s lifespan, as the conditioner replenishes the natural oils that were removed during cleaning.
  8. Let sit for 15 minutes and wipe down any excess oils with a clean cloth.
  9. Your baby bag is good as new again!

What Products Can I Use to Clean My Diaper Bag?

Let’s go over what’s safe to use, what’s in the middle and debatable, and what you should always stay away from when cleaning your diaper bag:

Safe: Baking Soda

Baking soda is a brill, natural way of absorbing odors caught in the fabric of the diaper bag.

Pour baking soda into small containers and place them inside all pockets of the bag. Leave to sit for at least 24 hours.

Safe: Baking Soda and Water

A thick paste made of warm water and baking soda can help remove stains. Use a toothbrush or cloth to work the mixture into the stain. It works wonders!

Safe: White Vinegar

White vinegar is a disinfectant.

Pour some white vinegar into a spray bottle and spray the inside of the diaper bag. Don’t fret about the strong smell – it will disappear as the vinegar dries.

You can also use the white vinegar to wipe down the surfaces, rather than spraying.

Safe: Leather Cleaner and Moisturizer

Leather bags need some extra TLC.

Using a commercial leather cleaner and moisturizer for leather bags will extend your diaper bag’s life span and keep it from flaking.

Remember how much you paid for that! You’ll want to do everything you possibly can to prolong its lifespan.

Safe: Mild Laundry Detergent

Not all detergents are appropriate for washing diaper bags. Go for a gentle and mild one to ensure utmost care.

Safe: Wipes

Where parenting’s involved, wipes are the holy grail.

You can use them for everything – spills, messes, boogers, a quick dash of dusting… the list is truly endless.

You can also use them to give your diaper bag a quick wipe down while on the go. After all, on the go is where diaper bag messes happen! Leaving it all until you arrive home is not ideal.

Safe: Dish Soap

Dish soap is excessively underrated. It’s gentle, yet mighty and can clean the inside of your diaper bag magnificently.

So and So: Stain Remover

Stain removers fall somewhere in the middle between cleaning products that are safe to use for cleaning diaper bags, and those that aren’t.

Not all stain removers affect fabric in the same way, so make sure you’re getting a stain remover that the manufacturer assures is safe to use on diaper bags.

Also, when you get the product, make sure to do a test patch first so you don’t end up ruining the whole diaper bag in case it doesn’t turn out to be safe to use.

Not Safe: Too Much Soap

This is a been-there-done-that tip.

I absolutely love the smell of baby fabric conditioner – so much so that I tend to overdo it when it comes to pouring it out of the bottle!

The first time I washed my diaper bag, I did exactly this, only to end up rinsing it a million and one times in an effort to get rid of suds.

This especially applies if your diaper bag’s a darker color. Believe me, it takes great effort to remove all soap remnants from the fabric.

Not Safe: Bleach

Using bleach on a bag that’s not completely white spells disaster.

In Conclusion

A clean and sanitized diaper bag keeps viruses and bacteria away. You wouldn’t want your little one’s essentials stored in a germ-ridden environment, would you?

Cleaning your diaper bag regularly ensures that nothing nasty is coming into contact with items that your baby is using on the daily.

Diaper bags come in diverse materials. They are generally very durable, but they still require care. Following a good cleaning regimen extends the diaper bag’s lifespan.

Make sure you follow the appropriate directions for diaper bags made of materials that require specific care.

More importantly, always remember that there’s no one size fits all cleaning routine for all diaper bags out there! You should always read through the manufacturer’s instructions to ensure a safe clean.

Happy diaper bag cleaning!

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