Your luggage carries everything you need wherever you travel. But unless you know how to clean a suitcase properly, beware! That favorite suitcase may now be packing along viruses and bugs, too. And the last thing you want is uninvited guests hitching a ride on your luggage and into your home.
Knowing how to properly clean and sanitize luggage before you store it will help ensure you are not welcoming interlopers into your house that could cause trouble for you down the road.
Step 1: Don't bring your dirty luggage into your home.
Your carry-on and checked luggage has probably been touched by numerous hands and been in contact with an untold number of potentially dirty and contaminated surfaces on your trip. For this reason, whenever I return from a trip, I place my suitcase and carry-on “in quarantine” in the garage until I have unpacked it and cleaned all luggage surfaces properly. If you don't have a garage, then a porch or storage area will suffice.
Step 2: Before you clean your suitcase, unpack and clean your clothes.
Unpack in the garage and put clothes straight into the washing machine. This is very easy if you are using packing cubes to organize your clothes. Place your clothes directly in the washer (not on the floor with the thought that you'll wash them later). Wash them on a full cycle and in warm water. You want your clothes to be virus- and bug-free when they are done.
If your packing or compression cubes look or feel dirty, or you suspect you may have encountered bed bugs, you can place them directly into a sink with warm water and a non-detergent soap (powdered soap is typically non-detergent) and give them each a good wash and rinse. Hang them to dry. If you aren't going to clean them, then put your travel packing cubes back into quarantine (24 hours at least) in the garage with your suitcase.
Step 3: Sanitize luggage high-touch surfaces.
Sanitizing is different than cleaning. Use disinfecting wipes that contain at least 60 percent alcohol to clean the handle, any hand grips on the side, and the wheels of your checked and carry-on luggage. Essentially, focus on any high-touch areas where nasty germs may congregate. Be sure the surfaces stay wet for at least 30 seconds and preferably a minute or more so that viruses and bacteria will be killed.
Step 4: Clean the outside of your suitcase.
Clean the outside of your luggage with non-detergent soap and warm water. Use a rag to gently scrub the outside surfaces of your carry-on and checked bag. Do NOT use any bleach, spot removers, or cleaning solvents as this may damage your luggage.
Step 5: Clean the inside of your luggage
Use a vacuum cleaner with an edge nozzle to remove dust, dirt, and other bits of debris. Be sure to work carefully into the corners and crevices of your luggage. Keep a sharp eye out for signs of bed bugs. And since you could be sucking up bed bug eggs and bugs themselves, remember to also toss out the vacuum bag (in an outside trash can) once you have cleaned your suitcases.
Step 6: Dry your suitcases thoroughly.
This is where sunshine is your friend. Leave your luggage to dry—if possible in a hot sun for a few hours. The sun will serve two purposes. One, it will dry your suitcases thoroughly. But, more importantly, the heat will potentially kill any residual viruses and bacteria and will also help to potentially eliminate the odd bed bug or two. Of course, if it’s raining or there is no sunshine, drying your bag will take longer. Don't try to speed up the process with a hairdryer or room heater as you could damage your bag.
Step 7: Bag it and store it away from your bedroom.
Once your luggage is sanitized, clean, and dry, store it in a clean, cool, and dry place. Do not store your luggage in your bedroom unless you have absolutely no choice due to space limitations. If you must store luggage in your bedroom, bag it and seal the bag while it is still in the garage or on your porch to prevent any chance of a wayward bug (bed bug, cockroach, or other multi-legged creature) wandering out for a visit.
Now your clean and sanitized luggage will be ready and waiting for your next travel adventure .
Related Eagle Creek Products:
Caldera Wheeled Duffel
ORV Trunk 30
Gear Warrior 4-Wheel Carry-On
Related Links (from Eagle Creek blog):
How to Keep Everything Smelling Fresh in Your Luggage
How to Keep Your Luggage for a Lifetime
What are the Best Ways to Use Packing Cubes?
How to Do Laundry While Traveling
By Michael Hodgson on June 15, 2020
A lifetime of globetrotting across all seven continents fuels Michael's ongoing passion to explore the world, all in search of a great story or photograph for the HI Travel Tales blog he runs with his wife. Join the Subscriber Club to track his global adventures.