Mostly, diaper bags can be cleaned and cared for with just a few simple non-toxic household items. If you put a little time and effort in now and again, your bag shouldn’t have trouble going the distance and staying with you for the long haul.
Most bags can be cleaned with water, vinegar, baking soda, and dish soap. However, there are times when you’ll need to pull out the heavy-duty cleaners.
Supplies For Proper Cleaning and Disinfecting
- Baking soda
- White Vinegar
- Old Toothbrush
- Soft rag (a discarded t-shirt or face cloth will do.)
- Spray bottle
- Baby wipes
Additional Supplies for Tough Stains or Leather Surfaces
- Leather cleaner
- Leather Moisturizer
- Stain remover or Magic Eraser
- Plastic knife or butter knife
Diaper Bag Cleaning 101
Here is the quick and easy step-by-step guide for bags that need a quick touch-up. Before you jump in, take a minute to look at the manufacturer’s labels inside your bag.
If you go against the manufacturer’s cleaning instructions and your bag becomes damaged, it’s unlikely the warranty will be honored.
- Empty all the contents of your bag, including all zippered and snapped compartments, and discard ANYTHING that is expired or broken.
- If you have a bottom panel in your bag, remove it and then turn the bag inside-out and shake out any extra debris that is lingering in the seams or corners of your bag.
- Vacuum or wipe the interior with a damp rag or baby wipe to catch any lint, errant crumbs, etc.
- If you have the time, put a small box of baking soda inside the bag and let it sit overnight. The baking soda will absorb and neutralize odors and leave your bag smelling fresh and new again. (If your bag is stinky, it may be more effective to sprinkle the baking soda around the bag’s interior as well as the pockets and compartments. Let it sit overnight, shake out the bag and vacuum any remaining powder.)
- Once the baking soda has done its job, remove the box and return the bag right-side out. Shake and reshape your bag.
- Spray the interior lightly with white vinegar to disinfect and let dry. The vinegar smell evaporates once the bag is dry (about 5 minutes.)
- Replace the bottom panel.
- Re-fill with necessities, ensuring they are all up-to-date, properly sealed, and in good working order.
Diaper Bag Cleaning – Advanced
First, you must determine the material of your bag. Each option has advantages and disadvantages, but each can be adequately cleaned with just a little extra effort.
Cleaning Cloth, Plastic, or Vinyl Bags
If you have a cloth bag, the fabric can likely withstand some warm water and soap. Some cloth bags are not color-safe, so it’s wise to test a small spot to ensure it can handle your cleaning solutions first. Then, follow the directions below.
- Follow the first three steps in Diaper Bag Cleaning 101.
- Locate any stains (interior and exterior.) For crusty food stains, begin by scraping off the dried, hardened crumbs with your knife. Don’t dig or scrape too hard. You want to flake off the crumbs, not gouge or scratch the material.
- Take a towel dampened with warm water and dab at the remaining stain.
- If the stain is still there after the warm water treatment, add a drop of mild soap (dish detergent or whatever you wash your baby’s clothes in) to the damp rag and gently rub the stain in a circular motion.
- Dab the soapy area with a clean rag and warm water to remove the soap.
- Let the area, or areas, dry.
- If the stain is STILL there when the fabric is all dried, it’s time for the baking soda. (To save time, you can skip the mild soap and water step if you feel the stain will be stubborn, but, in my experience, most stains will come out with just some soap and water.)
- Take a small amount of baking soda and add enough water to mix it into a thick paste.
- Apply the paste to the stain by rubbing it gently into the fabric with a rag or old toothbrush and let it sit for 5 – 10 minutes.
- Once the paste begins to dry, take your knife and gently scrape away the paste.
- With your rag and warm water, gently remove the remaining paste by rubbing it gently in a circular motion.
- Let the bag dry.
- If the stain refuses to budge even after the baking soda treatment, you may need to opt for your trusted stain remover or Magic Eraser. Follow the directions on your remover, and don’t forget to perform a spot test on the fabric first to ensure it can handle the agents in the remover.
- Once your bag is clean, spray the interior lightly with white vinegar to disinfect and let dry. The vinegar smell evaporates once the bag is dry (about 5 minutes.)
Some bags claim they can be machine washed. While this may sound good, I don’t always feel comfortable machine washing bags.
Not all washing machines operate the same way. Some are more gentle than others. If you have any doubt, play it safe, and hand wash your bag either using the spot-cleaning method above or by submerging the bag in a large bucket or sink and letting it soak for 10-15 minutes to release any dirt and stains.
Then, shake out the bag, reshape it, and hang it to dry. If your bag’s fabric is fade-resistant, try hanging it outside in the sun. Sunlight is a natural disinfectant, plus it will leave your bag smelling fresh!
Cleaning Leather Diaper Bags
Leather bags certainly have their advantages, but they do require extra care. If you have a leather bag that needs a heavy-duty cleaning, you must follow the manufacturer’s care instructions.
Always clean a test spot first to ensure the solutions you’re using won’t damage the bag, and proceed with caution from there.
- Follow the first three steps in Diaper Bag Cleaning 101.
- If the interior smells dirty or musty, place the open box of baking soda inside the bag and leave it to do its magic overnight.
- Once the baking soda has absorbed and neutralized any odors, remove the box and work on the exterior of your bag.
- If you want to disinfect the bag, spray some white vinegar onto a rag and gently rub the rag along the interior surfaces. Be careful not to get vinegar on any leather visible on the exterior.
- Locate any stains on the bag’s surface and attend to them according to the instructions on your leather cleaner. Take your time and be gentle.
- Once you’ve cleaned the leather, it’s time to condition it. This should be done at least twice a year to keep the leather moisturized and prevent cracks and splits.
- After you’ve conditioned the bag, you can wipe it briskly with a soft cloth or chamois to shine it up and get it looking brand new again.
A Word on Mold
Mold is NOT something you want to tangle with. If you find mold in your bag or if you notice a distinctly foul odor, it may be time to have the bag professionally cleaned.
It’s crucial to eliminate any mold from your bag because it can be highly toxic. Something that horrible needs to stay away from your baby or any of his supplies. If you think you have a moldy bag, bring it to a professional cleaner and let them assess it.