Cotton and canvas tote bags are flexible, lightweight, and long-lasting. You probably have a few of them sitting around, but you might not be cleaning them as often as you ideally should. After all, these fabrics do get exposed to the elements, as well as to everything that you carry inside them, so it’s worth giving them a wash every now and again to ensure that they don’t get grubby or smelly.
Lucky for you, it’s super easy to wash these tote bags.
Cotton is the easier of the two materials to deal with; after all, you almost certainly wash cotton whenever you do a load of regular clothes. However, there are a few things to keep in mind. For example, you’ll probably want to use a cold water cycle since cotton tote bags are vulnerable to shrinking. If the bag has been dyed, make sure it’s also colourfast before you throw it in the machine.
Once they’re out of the washing machine, resist the urge to put them in the dryer – even the low-heat setting might cause them to shrink. You’ll probably find that the bag looks a little crumpled when it comes out of the washer, so lay it on a flat surface and reshape it with your hands. Make sure not to forget to untwist the straps or handles. If there are still wrinkles after the bag has dried, just go over it with an iron, keeping to a medium setting, to get it looking as good as new.
Canvas isn’t likely to be something you’ve washed before, but you really just need to follow the same directions. Put your canvas in the machine, use a cold-water cycle, and reshape before air-drying. The only thing to be aware of is that fact that your canvas bag will be quite stiff when you take it out of the washing machine. Have no fear, that stiffness will go away as the bag dries.
Now that you know how easy it is to keep your cotton and canvas tote bags in great condition, you’ll have no excuse not to keep yours pristine.
The first thing you need to do is check if these added elements are safe for washing and cleaning. Specialists recommend removing all additions if possible (scarves, brooches, buttons, etc.). Of course you cannot remove a print or embroidery.
In this case, you should consider the following:
- Water temperature for both washing machine and handwashing: if your canvas bag features paintings, drawings, or other prints and patterns, you should make sure to wash it at cool temperatures.
- Color bleeding and transfer: If you wear colored canvas bags or your canvas bags feature colored prints and graphic designs, make sure the colors do not bleed, fade, or transfer in contact with water or other fabrics.
The Color Fading/Bleeding Test
Fill a shallow bowl with water and dip a small part of the bag into it to test the canvas for color bleeding, fading, or transfers. Allow the wet portion of the bag to sit in the water for about ten minutes.
Check the color of the water to see if any dye bled into it. Wring the wet part of the bag over a plain white cotton towel or cloth. If the canvas bag bleeds dye onto the towel, it is not colorfast. If it is not colorfast, you will have to spot-clean the bag rather than washing it. Do not wash the bag with other materials as the dye may transfer onto them. Skip this test if the bag is plain white.
Before you decide whether to wash the canvas bag in the washing machine, by hand, or by giving it a spot-cleaning, we have to prep the bag. Here’s what to do:
- Empty all bag pockets, then open any zippers and clasps, and shake the bag well upside down to remove dirt,trash, crumbs, coins, papers, and any other little things hiding in the bag.
- If possible, pull the bag inside out completely so you can see the lining. Use a lint roller to remove dust and crumbs. You can also use the fabric brush attachment on your vacuum to remove all the interior impurities. A table vacuum also helps because you can handle it more comfortably.
- Before you begin, examine the bag for particular care labels and/or type of materials used. Follow any recommended care guidelines and attempt to identify the type of stains, if existing, on your canvas bag.
If your canvas bag is stained, you should remove them before washing or intensely cleaning them. Heavy stains can be a big problem, as they often need some extra care. Some stains do not go away with water and a soft cloth, so you may need some liquid detergent or other stain removing products.
Make sure you apply the stain removal product on a discrete small portion of the bag to make sure the powder or liquid does not cause canvas burns, discolorations, or color bleeds. If everything looks good after a few minutes, use a white cloth and a damping technique to slowly and securely remove the stains. You should not scrub the stains because color transfers, discolorations, or canvas damage are possible.
Some canvas tote bags in white or plain colors are suitable for washing machines. Depending on the technique used to print them, they can also be good candidates for normal washing machines using cold water. However, watercolor painted canvas bags, canvas bags with leather trimmings, or canvas bags with adornments and other types of sensitive prints need manual washing. There are some techniques and methods to accomplish good cleaning without endangering the fabric or damaging the design/graphics/styling of the bag.
- After you’ve emptied the bag and taken the first steps to get rid of interior and exterior dust and debris, find a clean, soft white cloth (colored cloths could bleed dye onto the fabric, as well as do normal dish sponges) and dip the cloth in warm water.
- Wring out the excess water from the cloth and wipe down the canvas bag with careful but firm motions. Avoid colored parts that might lead to color fading and bleeding.
- If the prints or adornments on the bag are safe to come in contact with water, soak the entire bag in a basin filled with warm water. Clean the bag with a soft white cloth or a soft scrubbing brush using a circular motion. Specialists recommend this technique if you wash colorfast plain canvas bags.
- If the bag still presents stains and soil after completing the steps listed above, add a few drops of dish detergent or soap in a bowl. Use the mixture with the white cloth to rub heavily soiled areas. Keep moving to a clean spot on the cloth as you remove stains and grime. Follow up by rinsing the cloth well and wiping away any detergent residue.
- If you clean a plain canvas bag in a water basin and some stains or areas remain dirty, add a few drops of liquid detergent to the warm water and softly scrub the areas that present with heavy staining, grime, and soiling. Make sure you do not allow color bleeding.