How To Clean A Canvas Tote Bag

So, you’ve got a trusty canvas tote bag that you’ve been using for grocery shopping, beach trips, and everything in between. But over time, it starts to accumulate dirt, stains, and even a questionable odor. Fear not, because in this article, we’ll guide you through the simple and effective steps to restore your canvas tote bag to its pristine condition. From pre-treatment to stain removal methods, we’ve got you covered. Get ready to give your beloved tote bag a well-deserved cleaning makeover.


Before you begin cleaning your canvas tote bag, it’s important to gather all the necessary supplies. You will need a soft brush or cloth, mild detergent, a laundry bag (if machine washing), a stain remover, baking soda, essential oils (optional), rubbing alcohol (for ink stains), and a well-ventilated area for removing mold or mildew.

Next, check the care instructions on the bag or any tags attached. Different canvas tote bags may have specific instructions or restrictions when it comes to cleaning methods. It’s important to familiarize yourself with these instructions to avoid damaging the bag during the cleaning process.

Finally, prepare the bag for cleaning by emptying it of all its contents. This will allow you to properly clean all areas of the bag without any obstructions or complications. Once the bag is empty, you’re ready to move on to the cleaning methods.

Hand Washing Method

The hand washing method is a gentle and effective way to clean your canvas tote bag.

Start by emptying the bag completely. Shake out any loose debris and remove any items from the pockets or compartments.

Next, spot treat any stains you may find on the bag. Use a soft brush or cloth and a mild detergent to work the stain out gently. Avoid using harsh chemicals or abrasive scrubbing, as this can damage the fabric.

Prepare a cleaning solution by mixing a small amount of mild detergent with warm water in a basin or sink. Dip a soft brush or cloth into the solution and gently scrub the entire bag, paying extra attention to any stained or soiled areas.

Rinse the bag thoroughly with clean water to remove any residual soap or detergent. Make sure to rinse until the water runs clear and there are no soap suds remaining.

After rinsing, gently squeeze out any excess water from the bag. Avoid wringing or twisting the bag, as this can distort its shape or cause damage to the fabric.

Finally, air dry the bag by hanging it up or laying it flat on a clean, dry surface. Avoid direct sunlight or high heat, as this can cause the fabric to fade or shrink.

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Machine Washing Method

If your canvas tote bag is machine washable, you can use this method for a more convenient and efficient cleaning process.

Start by emptying the bag and spot treating any stains, just like you would with the hand washing method.

Before loading the bag into the washing machine, choose the appropriate cycle. Use a gentle or delicate cycle to minimize any potential damage to the bag.

When it comes to detergent, opt for a mild and gentle option. Harsh detergents can be too abrasive and may damage the fabric.

To protect the bag during the machine wash, place it inside a laundry bag. This will prevent the straps from tangling or getting caught in the washing machine’s agitator.

Once the bag is securely inside the laundry bag, start the machine wash cycle. Make sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions for water temperature and duration.

After the cycle is complete, remove the bag from the laundry bag and gently squeeze out any excess water. Again, avoid wringing or twisting the bag.

Finally, air dry the bag by hanging it up or laying it flat on a clean, dry surface. Ensure proper ventilation to prevent any mildew or musty odors from developing.

Using a Stain Remover

Sometimes, spot treating stains may not be enough to completely remove them from your canvas tote bag. In such cases, using a stain remover can be incredibly helpful.

Begin by reading the product instructions of the stain remover you have chosen. Different stain removers may have specific guidelines or precautions, so it’s important to follow them carefully.

To ensure compatibility with your bag’s fabric, perform a spot test by applying the stain remover to a small, inconspicuous area of the bag. This will help determine if the stain remover may cause any adverse effects on the fabric.

Once you have confirmed the compatibility, apply the stain remover to the stained area according to the product instructions. Use a soft brush or cloth to gently rub the stained area and work the stain remover into the fabric.

After treating the stain, rinse the bag thoroughly with clean water. This will remove any residual stain remover and prevent it from causing discoloration or damage to the fabric.

Finally, dry the bag thoroughly by air drying it. Avoid using high heat or direct sunlight, as this can cause the fabric to shrink or fade.

Removing Odors

Over time, your canvas tote bag may accumulate odors from various sources such as food, sweat, or environmental factors. Here’s how you can effectively remove odors from your bag.

Begin by emptying the bag completely and shaking out any loose debris. If there are any removable linings or pockets, take them out as well.

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Sprinkle a generous amount of baking soda all over the inside and outside of the bag. Baking soda is a natural odor absorber and will help neutralize any unpleasant smells.

Let the baking soda sit in the bag for several hours or overnight. During this time, it will work to absorb the odors.

After the baking soda has had enough time to work its magic, brush off the excess baking soda with a soft brush or cloth. Make sure to remove as much baking soda as possible.

To add a fresh scent to your bag, you can consider using essential oils. Simply add a few drops of your favorite essential oil to a cotton ball or a small piece of cloth and place it inside the bag. This will infuse a pleasant fragrance into the fabric.

Removing Mold or Mildew

If you live in a humid environment or have accidentally left your canvas tote bag damp, mold or mildew growth may occur. Here’s how you can safely remove mold or mildew from your bag.

Choose a well-ventilated area to clean your bag, as mold spores can be harmful if inhaled.

Start by brushing off any loose mold or mildew from the bag’s surface. Use a soft brush or cloth to gently remove as much as possible.

Next, create a cleaning solution by mixing equal parts water and vinegar. The acidity of vinegar helps kill mold and mildew spores effectively.

Using a soft brush or cloth, scrub the affected areas of the bag with the cleaning solution. Make sure to reach all corners and crevices to thoroughly remove any visible mold or mildew.

Rinse the bag thoroughly with clean water to remove any residual cleaning solution or vinegar smell.

Lastly, allow the bag to dry completely in a well-ventilated area. Ensure proper air circulation to prevent any lingering moisture that could encourage further mold or mildew growth.

Removing Ink Stains

Accidentally getting ink on your canvas tote bag can be frustrating, but it doesn’t have to be permanent. Here’s how you can remove ink stains effectively.

Act quickly when you notice the ink stain. The sooner you begin the removal process, the better your chances are of successfully removing the stain.

Blot the stain gently with a clean cloth or paper towel. Avoid rubbing the stain, as this can spread the ink and make it more difficult to remove.

Apply rubbing alcohol to a clean cloth or cotton ball, and gently dab the stained area. The alcohol will help break down the ink and lift it from the fabric.

Blot the stain again with a clean cloth or paper towel to absorb the ink and alcohol mixture. Repeat this process until the stain is no longer visible.

After treating the ink stain, wash the entire bag using the hand washing or machine washing method mentioned earlier. This will help remove any residual ink and ensure the entire bag is clean.

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Finally, air dry the bag thoroughly to prevent any remaining ink or moisture from causing damage to the fabric.

Preserving the Bag

To extend the lifespan of your canvas tote bag and keep it looking its best, it’s essential to take proper care and follow these preservation tips.

Avoid overloading the bag with heavy items or exceeding its weight capacity. This can cause stress on the straps and seams, leading to premature wear and tear.

When storing the bag, make sure it is clean and dry. Avoid storing it in a damp or humid environment, as this can promote mold or mildew growth.

Spot clean your bag regularly to prevent stains from setting in. Clean up spills and dirt as soon as possible to avoid permanent damage.

Avoid prolonged exposure to sunlight, as this can cause the fabric to fade over time. If storing the bag in a sunny area, consider placing it in a protective bag or covering to shield it from direct sunlight.

When handling your bag, make sure your hands are clean to prevent transferring oils, dirt, or other contaminants onto the fabric. This will help keep your bag looking fresh and clean.

Tips and Tricks

Here are some additional tips and tricks to help you maintain and clean your canvas tote bag effectively:

  • Use a lint roller to remove pet hair from your bag. Simply roll the lint roller over the fabric, and it will pick up any loose hairs.

  • Avoid using bleach on your canvas tote bag, as it can weaken the fabric and cause it to become discolored.

  • Harsh chemicals, such as bleach, should also be avoided as they can damage the fabric of your bag. Stick to mild detergents and stain removers specifically designed for fabric use.

  • Consider using a fabric protector spray to help repel stains and liquids from penetrating the fabric. Follow the product instructions for application and reapplication.

  • Before trying any new cleaning method or product on your canvas tote bag, it’s always a good idea to test it on a small, inconspicuous area first. This will help you ensure that the method or product is safe and suitable for your bag.


Cleaning and maintaining your canvas tote bag is essential for its longevity and freshness. By following the care instructions, addressing stains and odors promptly, and using suitable cleaning methods, you can keep your bag looking clean, vibrant, and ready for any adventure. With these tips and tricks, your canvas tote bag will continue to serve you well for a long time to come.


Mila Brooks

My goal for Go Girl Bags is to provide all of my site visitors with a trusted quality experience. Going down the rabbit hole of frustration trying to find the perfect bag for all you needs is not any fun. My researched information not only about bag looks, but also quality of materials and other aesthetics you may not have thought about will help you make a better informed decision. Thank you.

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