How to Remove Mildew Smells From Backpacks

How to Remove Mildew Smells From BackpacksAfter many backpacking trips in which your pack has carried all sorts of things, including food, dirty clothes and damp gear, it can start to smell. With a little diligent care and some warm water, you can clean your pack and have it smelling cleaner.


Difficulty: Moderately Easy

Things You’ll Need:
  • gentle detergent
  • bristle brush
Step 1
Remove all items from your pack, unzip all pockets, take it outside and shake it out upside down so any small particles and debris falls out. If your pack has a removable plastic torso insert, then remove this now.
Step 2
Fill a bathtub or sink with warm water and add the directed amount of a gentle detergent such as Nikwax tech wash fabric care. Usually the ratio is a half capful to five gallons of water.
Step 3
Immerse your pack into the warm water, and let it get sudsy. Soak it for at least half an hour, and then return to gently scrub it with a clean bristle brush.
Step 4
Empty the water in the tub as it will have probably turned a brownish color. Refill with clean warm water and rinse the pack in this, gently shaking it around in the water until the bubbles are gone.
Step 5
Dry the pack thoroughly. This is crucial. Mildew occurs when microorganisms have a chance to breed and grow in a damp environment. Dry your pack in a room temperature place with a breeze, if possible. Put a fan or a space heater across the room from it. Do not put the space heater too closely to the pack. It will most likely take more than 24 hours for the pack to fully dry inside and out.

Tips & Warnings

Prevent your pack from smelling like mildew by letting it thoroughly dry after every outing. And do not leave damp items inside.


Article Written By Naomi Judd

Naomi M. Judd is a naturalist, artist and writer. Her work has been published in various literary journals, newspapers and websites. Judd holds a self-designed Bachelor of Arts in adventure writing from Plymouth State University and is earning a Master of Fine Arts in creative writing from the University of Southern Maine.

Don't Miss a Thing!

All our latest outdoor content delivered to your inbox once a week.



We promise to keep your email address safe and secure.