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When was the last time you cleaned your luggage? No, not using a vacuum attachment to suck up any dirt, crumbs, and schmutz that have accumulated inside your suitcase over the years—although you should do that too. We’re talking about cleaning, or at least wiping down, the outside.

If it’s been a while, you’re not alone. In a 2023 survey of 1,000 British and American travelers, nearly one-fifth (18.7%) of respondents indicated that they have never cleaned their luggage, while 28% said they only clean their luggage if it looks dirty. The good news is that no matter how long it has been, you can start now. Here’s how to clean your luggage.

How to clean your luggage

There are no hard-and-fast rules about how often to clean your luggage, but it’s a good idea to at least give it a quick wipe-down after each trip you take. Here are a few different cleaning methods:

Quick disinfecting wipe-down

Use a disinfecting wipe or alcohol wipe to clean the handle(s) and hand grips on your luggage, as well as any zippers: Basically, the places you touch most. Next, wipe the wheels and the bottom of the suitcase, then take care of the rest.

Some airports now (still?) have disinfecting wipe dispensers in the terminals, so make use of those if you can. It’s the perfect way to pass time waiting for a delayed flight.

Deep(er) cleaning at home

Keep in mind that luggage takes a beating almost every time it’s used, and you’re never going to get it to look like it did when you first took it out of the box. That said, it’s possible to make visible improvements.

It’s always best to check the care instructions that came with your luggage, but if those are long-gone, try these methods:

Hard-sided luggage

First, use an alcohol wipe, or a sponge or microfiber cloth that has been dipped in a solution of warm water and dish soap to wipe it down. If you need something stronger, dilute some non-abrasive, all-purpose cleaner with water, and apply it with a cloth or sponge. Then, use a clean rag damp with clean water to rinse the suitcase.

Let it air dry somewhere without direct sunlight. For an extra layer of protection, buff it with a wax-based furniture polish.

Soft-sided luggage

First, use an alcohol wipe, or a sponge or microfiber cloth that has been dipped in a solution of warm water and dish soap to wipe it down. If it still looks dingy, make a solution of one part white vinegar and two parts warm water, and use a cloth or sponge to apply it to the suitcase. Use an old toothbrush dipped in the solution on any stubborn stains.

You can also spot-treat stains by making a paste out of baking soda and water, and gently rubbing it onto the affected area. Allow the paste to penetrate the stain for a few minutes, then wipe it away with a clean, damp cloth.

When you’re finished with the cleaning part, allow the suitcase to air dry in a place that doesn’t get direct sunlight.

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