How to Wash a Suitcase: Get the Smells Out of Your Luggage

Whether you’re pulling out your luggage to go on a trip or are returning from one, you know that suitcases can develop some strange smells in storage or in transit.

Read on to learn how to remove unpleasant odors from your luggage and keep your bags smelling fresh while traveling or in storage.

Why Does My Luggage Have a Funky Odor? 

Over time, different scents can become embedded in the materials of your suitcase, causing it to stink. If your luggage has developed a funky smell, it could be for several reasons.

Musty smells usually result after luggage has been in storage. This is often because there’s little air circulation in the storage area.

Or you might find your luggage smells after a flight. Plane smells can come from jet fuel burn-off or being exposed to other people’s luggage in the plane during a flight.

How to Remove Odor from Luggage

Removing odors from luggage doesn’t have to be complicated! One of the simplest and most effective ways to remove bad smells from your luggage is to air it out.

Simply leave your luggage outside in a well-ventilated area and the fresh air will help eliminate any bad smells and leave your luggage smelling fresh and clean.

If fresh air isn’t enough to remove unwanted odors, here are a few ways to get rid of smells in your suitcase:

Note: Be sure to let your luggage sit for a few hours or even overnight for each of these methods.

1. Baking soda

If your luggage smells after a flight, apply baking soda! Baking soda is a powerful odor absorber and is a great option to get rid of odors in your fridge, on furniture, and even on luggage. Simply sprinkle some baking soda over the inside of your luggage and let it sit. The baking soda will absorb the unpleasant odor and leave your luggage smelling fresh. Once you're done, simply vacuum up the baking soda and you're good to go.

2. Charcoal

Activated charcoal is another great odor absorber. It’s highly porous and can absorb a wide range of odors. Activated charcoal tends to absorb odors best because it’s more porous, but non-activated charcoal also works to remove smells. To use charcoal, simply place a few pieces of activated charcoal in an open small bag or pouch and place it inside your luggage and close the lid.

3. Tea bags

It might come as a surprise, but you can use fresh tea bags as an odor absorber. The tannins in tea help eliminate the unpleasant smell. Simply place a few unused tea bags inside your luggage and close the lid. The tea bags will absorb odors and leave your luggage smelling fresh.

4. White vinegar

White vinegar, also sometimes referred to as cleaning vinegar, is a versatile agent that can be used to remove the bad odor from your luggage. Simply mix equal parts of water and vinegar and use a clean cloth to wipe down the inside of your luggage. The vinegar will neutralize the unpleasant odor, leaving your luggage smelling fresh. Make sure to air out your luggage after to allow the vinegar smell to disperse.

5. Essential oils

Essential oils are a natural way to eliminate bad smells from your luggage. Simply add a few drops of your favorite essential oil to a cotton ball and place it inside your luggage. The essential oils will leave your luggage smelling fresh and clean. Some popular essential oils for removing odors include lavender, lemon, and peppermint.

6. Dryer sheets

Dryer sheets are a convenient and easy way to remove a bad smell from your luggage. Simply place a few unused dryer sheets inside your luggage. The dryer sheets will absorb the bad smell, leaving your luggage smelling fresh and clean like clothes right out of the dryer.

How to Keep Luggage Smelling Fresh in Storage

When you want to keep your suitcase from smelling in between trips, it’s best to store it in a cool, dry place. When things get damp from hot, humid air it can activate dormant mold spores or bacteria that cause odors to occur.

Keep your luggage fresh in storage by:

  • Cleaning out your luggage between each use. After unpacking, quickly run a vacuum through the main compartment and pockets of your bag. This will remove any smell-producing debris from the luggage while it’s in storage.
  • Investing in a luggage cover. If you have a canvas suitcase, purchase a luggage cover to place over your bags while not in use. Or use a scented trash bag instead.
  • Placing cedar shavings or a lavender satchel in your bag while it’s stored. Not only will these items smell good, but they will also deter pests.
  • Bring out your bags once and a while to air them out. If you can, try pulling your bags out every few months to allow them to “breathe.”

How to Keep Clothes in a Suitcase Smelling Fresh

If you’re forced to pack your clothes in a smelly bag, or simply want to keep your clothes smelling fresh while on the road, here are a few things you can try:

  • Place a few dryer sheets between your folded clothes.
  • Store shoes in a separate pocket or keep them in a plastic bag with some tea bags for added odor prevention.
  • Wrap all your clothes in a plastic cover to keep the smells at bay. You could use packing cubes to keep your clothes and other items organized.
  • If you’ve got a cloth or canvas suitcase, consider investing in a hardshell luggage set. Hardshell coverings are less likely to stain or smell.

Need Help Removing Smells from Your Home? 

Now you know what to do to keep your luggage smelling fresh – but what about your home? The Cleaning Authority is ready to help you travel with peace of mind with our residential cleaning services. Request a free estimate online today or call us at (888) 658-0659 for more information!