The Ultimate “Sports Bag” Cleaning Guide

A view of a grey sports bag on a bench in a room
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Eventually, all sports or gym bags will need a good cleansing. Whether they’ve seen every dugout in the southeast or it hits the weights with your athlete Monday through Friday, there’s going to come a time that it will need to be thrown into the wash – or at least given a good hand bathing.

Our clothes get a daily treatment of germs, and our sports bags should, too – especially with all the sweat and bacteria it comes into contact with. From cleats to sneakers. From towels to half-eaten snacks. From extra shorts to ones already worn. There’s a lot of wear, tear, and stench that happens between the zippers. So, take your shoes out, remove the water bottles, and start cleaning!

Get to Washing: How Often?

A view of a green canvas duffel bag next to an aloe plant

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The quick and dirty answer (excuse the pun) is to clean it as often as you use it – but don’t skip out on cleaning it at least a couple of times a week.

Disinfectant wipes will be your best friend and the easier way to do a super short pick-me-up. Grab a Clorox or two and make sure you’ve wiped out the inside nicely – including all of the pockets! Dawn dish soap can work well, too, and it’s gentle enough to use on nearly all materials. Just mix soap and water, lather up a towel, and refresh all of the nooks and crannies.

The Stench: How To Get Rid of Odor?

It’s so easy to develop a stinky bag. The shoes that it carries could be the culprit, but so could the sweat of the clothes or the environment it continues to encounter. Whatever the case, the stench has got to go – but how do you get rid of it?

First things first, fight off the odor before it happens. Carry around a box of dryer sheets with you. Take a few out and place them in each compartment – this keeps things fresh and not as fast to deteriorate (in terms of the stink).

For extra stinky situations, you may need to call on the help of some good old-fashioned newspapers. Roll them up and stick them inside. The paper will soak up the smell (this helps with shoes, too!). Go the extra mile and add some essential oil drops to really help fight off the nasty scents.

All the Mess: How to Clean Common Situations?

A view of multi-colored sports bags hanging up to dry on fencing

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Stinky Shoes

First things first, take them out of the bag and follow the preceding advice on removing the stink from this situation. Secondly, follow our lead – and listen closely. You will want to grab some tea bags. Once you take your cleats or sneakers from your sports tote – slip the tea inside! This will instantly help to freshen the sniffer and absorb any and all of the bad odors inside.

Now, start carrying shower caps with you to and from the gym. Disposable ones are the best route to take as you’ll want to cover your shoes after wear and toss them once they need to be unwrapped. This helps trap the germs and the possible dirt from escaping into all the nooks and crannies of our sports bags.

A pair of shoes leaning against a sports gym bag

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Extra Dirty

Unzip it. Walk outside. And shake it out! Once that’s finished, you’ll want to get a handheld vacuum or corner attachment to grab any excess dirt that’s decided to take a ride with you. This is especially helpful for our baseball and softball players that like to carry a bit of the infield with them everywhere they go.

Another great way to combat those tiny, pesky particulars is to have a lint roller nearby. Give your pockets and a quick roll to grab any excess – you’ll be surprised how much it’ll snag for you!

Toiletry Explosion

It may have gotten too hot and exploded (aerosol hairspray is known to do this!), or maybe your travel lotion decided to spill. Whatever the case, it needs to be cleaned! It can create quite the mess, but it’s one of the easier ones to clear out.

Wipes are your best friend here. Just get to work getting all of the goop to go, so it doesn’t cause crusting or stickiness in the days to come.

The Final Five: Tips & Tricks For Keeping Sports Bags Clean

Empty It

If you’re not using your bag, empty it. The worst thing you can do is leave shoes, sweaty clothes, and food inside. This will allow bacteria (and the stink) to permeate throughout the fabric and make it harder to freshen up. Create the habit of emptying it after your workout, practices, or game times.

Machine Wash It

Check the tag. If your bag is machine washable – utilize that option! Wash it, at a minimum, once a week. And then use our previous suggestions in between those washing, such as the wiping down technique.

Grab some bacteria-fighting detergent to throw in – yes, there are specific detergents that will sanitize (find it here)!

Pack Plastic

Grab some extra-large ziplock bags to hold onto your dirty, wet, and clean clothes. Keeping these items separate won’t allow for cross-contamination, and keeping them inside the bags will allow your actual bag to stay fresher and cleaner … for longer.

Compartment Functions

Various compartments in a sports gym bag

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Give each compartment or pocket a function and keep it steady. Use that particular spot for the same thing, over and over again. This, again, helps with cross-contamination but it also helps lessen the mess. Snacks on one side and toiletries on the other – if a mess comes to call they won’t run across the entire bag or mix and match with other necessities.

Fresh Air, Please

At the end of the day, fresh air is truly your sports bag’s best friend…once you wipe it and wash it, freshen and drop in some oils or dryer sheets. Leaving it unzipped and in the presence of Mother Nature is a great asset.

Every once in a while, air out your bag! Seriously, it helps the fabric breathe.