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Can You Dry a Backpack in The Dryer? (How To Guide!)




How to dry a backpack in the dryer

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Hikers and outdoor enthusiasts often ask this question when their hiking backpacks gets soaked during hikes or other activities.

While it is possible to dry a backpack in the dryer, there are certain materials, such as leather or wool, that cannot be put in the dryer as they will shrink or damage easily. But most backpacks can be dried in the dryer at a low heat setting over longer times of one hour or more.

It is crucial to quickly dry a wet backpack as it will otherwise get moldy (mildew) and start to develop musty smells.

In addition, care must be taken to avoid damaging the backpack by using the wrong temperature or drying for too long.

This blog post will provide tips on how to successfully dry your wet or musty-smelling backpack without damaging it.

Drying Backpacks in the Dryer: Materials and Temperatures

When it comes to drying backpacks, there are a few things you need to take into account in order to ensure that your backpack doesn’t get damaged in the process.

The first thing is the material of your backpack and the second is the temperature setting on your dryer.

In general, you will always want to use as low a temperature as possible and a setting where the dryer spins frequently.

You will want a slow steady warming of the bag so that it does not melt. This is especially true for synthetic backpacks like those made from nylon or polyester.

For natural materials, like cotton, it can make sense to use higher temperatures and there are some advantages of getting the job done faster, suchs as the higer efficiency against musty smells and mold (see section on this later!).

What backpacks can be dried in the dryer?

The material largely determines what backpacks can be dried and what temperatures you can use.

Different materials will require different temperatures; for example, cotton can be dried at up to 140F without any damage, while nylon or polyester (which most backpacks these days are made from) should be dried on a slightly lower setting.

showing the types and materials of backpacks and whether they can go in the dryer or not.
Overview of the types of backpacks that can go in the dryer without getting damaged, and those that cannot be dried in a tumble dryer. If just a small part of the bag is made of leather or wool, it cannot be dried unless you can somehow separate them.

Additionally, leather or woolen backpacks should never go into a clothes dryer as they will shrink or become brittle.

Now that you know how to properly dry your backpack based on its materials, let’s talk about what temperature settings you should use for each type of fabric:

Cotton or canvas – Up to 140°F.

Nylon & Polyester – Medium Setting (120-130°F) consult care label if available.

Do not put leather (also fake leather) and wool backpacks in the dryer – Air Dry Only!

Now that you know how to properly dry your backpack, based on its materials and the temperature settings, you can rest assured that your backpack will be good as new in no time!

If your backpack is made entirely of synthetic materials like nylon, then it should be safe to put in the dryer on a low setting.

However, if any part of your backpack – such as straps or zippers – are made from leather, you’ll want to avoid putting it in the dryer altogether as this could damage the leather.

Backpacks with wool or silk components shouldn’t go in the dryer either and those with lots of knobs or strings sticking out will need some prep before being tossed into the machine (i.e., making sure they’re buttoned up and secured).

All in all, it’s best to check the care instructions for your backpack before throwing it in the dryer.

Key Takeaway: To ensure that your backpack doesn’t get damaged when drying it, you must take into account the material of the backpack and the temperature setting on the dryer.

How to Avoid Damage When Drying a Backpack in the Dryer

When drying a backpack in the dryer, it’s important to use low heat settings and check on the backpack periodically to avoid damage.

Additionally, stuff the backpack clean towels or similar to help retain its shape during the drying process.

For extra sensitive backpacks like those made from thin nylon or polyester and vinyl, you might want to put the pack in a thin cotton protection sack before drying.

Also make sure that all strings and metal parts are either taken off or tucked inside the backpack. 

How Long Does It Take to Dry a Backpack in the Dryer?

The answer depends – but there are some things to keep in mind first.

The average backpack takes between 40 and 80 minutes to dry in a clothes dryer set on the low or air-only setting, which is appropriate for most synthetic backpack such as those from Osprey or The North Face.

However, this time will depend on both the size of your backpack as well as its material composition.

For example, backpacks made from synthetic materials will usually take less time to dry than those made from natural fibers like cotton or wool.

Some of the backpacks from Fjällräven, for example, are made with a G-1000 that is 65% polyester and 35% cotton, which means that it can tolerate higher temperatures and therefore shorter drying times than those made entirely from polyester or nylon. 

Fjällräven Kankens backpack
The iconic Fjällräven backpack is made from a mix of cotton and synthetic material or just polyester, and can be dried in the dryer if needed!

If you’re unsure about the fabric of your backpack, be sure to check the care label before placing it in the dryer. And if you have a delicate or expensive backpack, it’s always best to stay on the side of caution and air dry it instead.

Also, the drying time depends on the thickness of the fabric. For nylon and polyester, the thickness is designated with a “D” or a “T” after the number.

For example, most backpacks are made with 400D or 600D polyester fabric that is quite thick, but some heavy duty bags are made from up to 1000D! 

The thicker the fabric, the longer it will need to dry. 

But for most backpacks, throwing them in the clothes dryer on low is perfectly fine – just make sure to empty out any pockets first!

Key Takeaway: You can dry your backpack in the dryer, but the time it takes to dry will depend on the backpack’s size and material composition.

How to Dry Your Backpack in the Dryer?

Drying your backpack in the dryer is a great way to kill any bacteria or mold that may be lurking in the fabric.

It’s also a quick and easy way to get rid of any musty smells. But before you toss your pack into the machine, there are a few things you need to do first.

1. Remove All Items From Your Backpack, Including Any Loose Dirt or Debris.

Give it a good shake outside too – this will help loosen up anything that’s stuck inside the fabric. Also make sure that any loose zippers or strings are tucked away or removed. You can dry these by hand or in a small wash bag. 

2. Check the Care Label on Your Backpack (Usually Located Near the Bottom).

Most packs can be machine-washed on a gentle cycle using warm water, but some require hand-washing or spot-cleaning only. 

If the care label says that you can wash it at high temeratures, you can also dry at high temperatures, but if the label says “hand wash only” then you should air dry it or use the dryer at the lowest setting. 

Pro Tip: Throw in some soft sheets or towels with your bag to prevent to much wear and tear in the dryer!

If you’re unsure, err on the side of caution and wash by hand.

3. Place Your Empty Backpack in the Dryer Along with Some Old Dry Towels (This Will Protect It from Damage During Laundering).

Dry your pack on a gentle cycle using the warmest setting suitable for your backpack fabric. Be careful not to set the dryer at a fast spin or fancy program setting. You want the dryer to turn the bag, but not wear it down! 

  1. Once finished, remove your pack from the dryer immediately and open up all compartments/pockets so air can circulate freely inside.
  2. Remove any towels or other filliers you have put inside and re-attach strings and zippers if they were removed. 
  3. Leave it in a well-aerated place for a few hours before using it. 

You should also use a low to medium tumbling rotation setting. And finally, if your backpack is made of vinyl, be sure to wrap it in a thin cotton bag before putting it in the dryer.

Key Takeaway: It’s important to check your backpack’s care label before drying it, as some require air drying at room temperature. 

Tips for Successfully Drying Your Wet or Musty-Smelling Backpack

Putting a backpack in the dryer may seem lazy or like imposing unnecessary wear and tear on the pack, but sometimes it can actually necessary and for the best. 

When mold is involved, the high heat and quick drying made possible by the dryer is crucial to kill of any surviving microbes and get your bag completely free of that musty smell! 

An old backpack that has been wet several times will tend to get mouldy and smell bad unless dried properly after each trip.

In those cases, you might already have tried washing the pack or you may be coming straight from the rain.

Regardless, assuming you have a wet or musty-smelling backpack:

  1. Start by taking everything out of the backpack, including any loose papers.
  2. Check the inside and outside of the backpack for any mildew or mold and clean it off with a damp cloth and dilluted bleach or detergent if necessary.
  3. If your backpack is machine washable, wash the backpack on a gentle cycle with warm water and mild detergent. 

Otherwise, spot clean it as best as you can using a solution of equal parts water and vinegar applied to stained areas with a sponge before rinsing thoroughly.

Once you’ve cleaned the backpack, put all of its contents back in and close up any zippers or flaps.

Set your dryer to low heat and tumble dry your backpack for at least 30 mins or until completely dry.

What Are the Risks of Drying You Backpack in the Dryer?

Drying your backpack in the dryer may seem like a good idea to get it dry quickly, but there are actually several risks associated with doing this. For one, the heat of the dryer can cause the fabric of the backpack to shrink or even melt.

Leather will be scratched and worn down by the tumble movement of the drier!

Additionally, the dryer’s tumbling action can damage the backpack’s zippers or other hardware. And finally, if there are any items in the backpack that are sensitive to heat (such as wool or leather), they could be damaged by the dryer’s heat.

Even if the backpack fabric is rough (like the thicker polyester fabrics) they will get worn down quicker when put in the dryer. Air drying will always be less harsh on the bag and extent its lifetime. 

The only exception is when mold is involved, then the heat of the dryer is crucial to kill of any surviving microbes and get your bag completely free of that musty smell! 

So, while you may be tempted to throw your wet backpack in the dryer, it’s actually best to air dry it instead.

Can You Dry a Backpack Without a Dryer?

Assuming you’re asking if it’s possible to dry a backpack without using a clothes dryer, the answer is yes.

There are several ways to do this, depending on what materials your backpack is made of and how much time you have.

If your backpack is made of synthetic fabrics like nylon or polyester, hanging it in direct sunlight will help speed up the drying process.

Alternatively, you can place the wet backpack in front of a fan or heater to speed up evaporation.

If you’re short on time, placing the wet backpack in a sealed plastic bag with some silica gel packets can also help absorb moisture and hasten drying.

Backpack Drying FAQs

Can you put a backpack in the washer?

Yes, you can wash and dry a backpack in the dryer. However, it is important to read the care label on your backpack before doing so.

Some materials may not be able to withstand the heat of a clothes dryer and could shrink or suffer other damage. If possible, set your dryer to a low or delicate setting when drying your backpack.

Additionally, it is a good idea to stuff your backpack with towels or other items to help promote even drying and prevent the material from bunching up.

What Setting Do You Dry Backpacks On?

If you’re wondering whether you can dry your backpack in the dryer, the answer is yes – but there are a few things you need to keep in mind. First, always use a low temperature setting – no more than 200 degrees Fahrenheit.

You should also use a low to medium tumbling rotation setting. And finally, if your backpack is made of vinyl, be sure to wrap it in a thin cotton bag before putting it in the dryer.

By following these simple tips, you can ensure that your backpack comes out of the dryer looking and smelling fresh – and ready for your next adventure.

How to Machine-Wash Your Backpack

If your backpack is made of nylon, polyester or canvas, it is likely safe to machine-wash. (If the bag has leather trim, don’t machine-wash.)

Here are the steps:

  1. Remove all contents from the backpack, including any loose dirt or debris.
  2. Place the backpack in the washing machine by itself, on a gentle cycle.
  3. Use a mild detergent; avoid bleach or other harsh chemicals.
  4. When the cycle is finished, remove the backpack from the washing machine and allow it to air dry or put in the dryer. 

That’s it! Re-read this article to learn how to dry it in the dryer… 

How to Hand-Wash Your Backpack

Its fairly easy, just follow the steps below:

  1. Fill a sink or basin with lukewarm water and a small amount of mild detergent.
  2. Submerge your backpack in the water and gently agitate it to loosen any dirt or grime.
  3. rinse your backpack thoroughly with clean water.
  4. Hang your backpack up to air dry, or stuff it with towels to absorb any moisture.

Do backpacks shrink in the dryer?

No, unless they are made from wool, there is little chance that your backpack will shrink. And if it is made from a shrink sensitive material like wool, leather or silk, it should not be put in the dryer in the first place!

Can I dry my Nike backpack in a dryer?

Yes, you can put your Nike backpack in the dryer, but be careful and use only the lowest heat setting for maximum 45 mins.

The heat from the dryer can damage or melt different materials that make up your Nike backpack, such as synthetic fabrics and plastic components.

It can also cause shrinkage and distortion to the shape of your backpack. If possible, line-dry or air-dry your backpack instead.


When your backpack gets wet, it is important to dry it out as soon as possible to avoid damaging or shrinking the backpack.

The best way to do this is using a dryer, on a low heat setting. Depending on the material of your backpack, it may take anywhere from 30 to 80 mins.

Different materials will require different temperatures and times in order to be safely dried without shrinking or damaging the backpack.

In general, however, most backpacks are made from thick synthetic fabrics can be successfully dried in the dryer on low heat for about 30-40 minutes.

You might wear the backpack faster, but you also decrease the chance of mold overgrowth and musty smells!

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