So you can be confident your bags are germ-free. 

By Brittany Loggins
June 10, 2020
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Even if you haven’t traveled in a while, it can be hard to know how to ensure your luggage is completely clean. These days, safety and hygiene are priorities when it comes to travel—but until the recent coronavirus outbreak, how many of us really made sure our suitcases were sparkling clean and germ-free before and after a trip? Think of all the surfaces your bags likely touch along the way: airport and airline staff who might handle it, the inevitable food and drink spills, and exposure to airport germs (sorry, but sometimes you have to bring your suitcase into the restroom!). Needless to say, it helps to know how to disinfect luggage and keep it looking good as new for a long time.

To learn more about how to take good care of your baggage, we spoke to a cleaning expert with 20 years of experience, Leslie Reichert, the founder and owner of Green Cleaning Coach. Here are her top cleaning tips for both soft- and hard-surfaced luggage, so you can have peace of mind both while traveling and upon returning home.

Whether you have hard or soft luggage, your disinfectant can be the same: hydrogen peroxide or rubbing alcohol. Reichert advises wiping down the entire suitcase with either.

Fill a spray bottle with hydrogen peroxide and spray liberally on hard-faced luggage. Use “just a light mist if your luggage has a fabric surface,” Reichert says. 

Or, Reichert recommends filling a spray bottle about 60 percent of the way with rubbing alcohol and then adding water. This solution will also rid your luggage of any viruses or harmful bacteria. 

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Now let’s talk about those pesky stains. Fabric bags may be able to hold slightly more clothing, but they can be a pain to de-stain after a spill. 

“Stains on soft fabric surfaces can be sprayed or dabbed with hydrogen peroxide,” says Reichert. “Let it sit overnight to see if it lifts the stain.” 

That said, to remove grease-based stains, Reichert says to use rubbing alcohol or diluted dishwashing detergent. She also notes that you can add a few teaspoons of rubbing alcohol to a diluted dish soap and water mixture: “The soap will lift the dirt, and the alcohol will cut through the grease.”

For hard surfaces, you may be able to dodge stains, but if you start to notice scuff marks, Reichert’s trick is to grab a tennis ball or Mr. Clean Magic Eraser Sponge.

If your luggage has picked up an odor or been left with a stale smell over time, there are some quick fixes to try. For odor, sprinkle baking soda inside the luggage and let it sit for a few days to absorb any odors, Reichert explains.

“You can also make a linen spray by mixing witch hazel and a few drops of your favorite essential oil,” she says. “Spray the inside of the [suitcase] and it will smell great when you go to use it again.”

Reichert also has some advice for people who are afraid of bringing home lice or bed bugs. 

“I'd recommend storing the piece of luggage in a garbage bag for 48 hours to prevent contamination, then washing it inside and out with warm, soapy water,” she explains. “Then spray it with hydrogen peroxide or rubbing alcohol.”