February 2021

How To Clean A Canvas Bag (The Right Way!)

BLOG / How To Clean A Canvas Bag (The Right Way!)

article cover image

Canvas bags are quickly becoming a fashion staple in styling trends around the world. Their unique sizes, shapes, and textures lend the bags to blend with anyone's personal flair, as you can add paintings, embroidery, special hardware, and patterns ranging from simple to edgy.

Still, regardless of the unique additions or designs, your bag is likely to get dirty at some point. So, you need to know how to clean a canvas bag the right way. Use the guide below to get your bag spick and span in no time. 

What Is a Canvas Bag?

Canvas bags are beloved by fashionistas worldwide. They're a unique kind of tote that encourages the ultimate freedom of expression, thanks to the unique design and the bag's shape and size. 

The material that gives the bag its name, canvas, is one of three primary types of textile known as "plain-woven fabric." Although this textile has been a part of the fashion industry for a while, its popularity is rising once again due to its eco-friendliness. 

Unlike their environmentally harmful counterparts, you can reuse canvas bags for years, thanks to their remarkable durability. This strength is due mainly to the canvas's primary components:

Two-ply or multiple single yarns, all twisted together (this is the secret to its coarse texture) 

Linen (not used as much as cotton) 

Polyvinyl chloride (PVC), one of the most widely used synthetic plastic polymers in the world

Historically, canvas was not made of cotton, but hemp, where it originally earned its namesake ("cannabis," "canvas). 

In each form, the bag maintained outstanding durability without compromising flexibility and softness. Yet, it's still vulnerable to the accumulation of dirt and grime. 

Luckily, this is easy to take care of. Use the guide below to combat any unwanted buildup and keep your tote bag nice and clean. 

Prepare the Bag for the Cleaning Process

No matter how dirty your bag may be, you should never jump straight into the cleaning process. These accessories are widely appreciated for their customizability, so there are likely several additions (e.g., buttons, keychains, etc.) that need to be removed beforehand.  

 Below are a few critical tips on how to clean a canvas bag:

Empty the bag of all items. Please make sure to remove pens and chapstick, especially. Just like your clothes, canvas is susceptible to staining when these items accidentally end up in the wash. Once the giant blotches of dried wax and ink set in, you won't be able to get them out!

Double-check the tag for washing safety requirements. Lots of these bags feature painting, embroidery, prints, and more. Although many of these will do just fine in the wash, they may require only cold water, as heat might melt them off. Check the tag for the manufacturer's washing and drying recommendations.

Check for color bleeding. If you have a non-white canvas bag, it's best to check how well the dye stays put before tossing it in the wash with other items. (In other words, you will verify whether your bag is "colorfast" or not.)  

The Color Fading Test: Dip the bag in cold water and wring it out over a white surface. If dye drips, spot-clean the bag only.

Once you're ready to wash, there are a few different methods you can take to make sure your bag is spick-and-span. 

Stain Removal

There's one more measure you must take before commencing with the full cleaning process: Look over your canvas bag for any stains. 

Of course, since you're washing it, most of the blemishes will fade away. Yet, neglecting to scrub any stubborn spots out before putting your bag in a spin cycle could backfire, making them harder to remove. It's best to get rid of the spots before you essentially lock them in with the washing machine.

Follow the instructions below on how to clean a canvas bag of stains and spots: 

Test your chosen stain removal product on a small, discrete site on the bag first. Check for washing safety by watching for any bad side effects, such as worsening or spreading the stain, color fading or bleeding, or burns on the fabric. Allow the product to soak in the fabric for a few minutes to confirm that there are no harmful effects.  

Apply the stain removal product to the dirty spots. Please remember not to add too much to a single site. A little goes a long way, especially if you are using regular bar soap.  

Using a damp cloth or the soft side of a sponge, gently remove the stain. When spot cleaning most stains, you can avoid intense scrubbing. The spot should go away with a few strokes. 

Please be careful not to scrub too forcefully. Otherwise, you could potentially damage the material by fraying or splitting it or cause any of the stain and dye issues mentioned previously. 

If you're washing in a standard washer and dryer after stain removal from fabric, heed these tips from the American Cleaning Institute

Most canvas bags will do well when being machine washed in warm water (avoid hot water at all costs!)  

Use a gentle cycle.  

Choose a mild detergent.  

Avoid the following products in the wash



Stain Removers 

Detergents with lighteners 

Avoid fabric softeners 

Consider adding vinegar during the rinse cycle to eliminate all traces of residual soap

Manual Washing

Some bags won't be compatible with machine washing and require a bit of manual TLC instead. This is typical of the bags that have embroidered designs, paintings of various mediums, sewn or glued buttons, and screen prints. Others might also have leather in the lining or trim, like many in the Ubuntu collection. This is another material that requires hand washing. 

To avoid damaging the very details that set your canvas bag apart from the rest, follow the instructions below for how to clean a canvas bag with a manual wash:

Submerge a soft-textured white cloth into warm water. The cloth must be white. Otherwise, you risk the dye bleeding onto your canvas bag.  

Wring the cloth out to get rid of any excess water.  

Firmly but carefully wipe down the fabric without touching the sensitive adornments

Note: If you determined in the previous two steps that the whole bag and its designs can safely encounter warm water, feel free to submerge the entire canvas bag in water before Step 3. 

Add a few drops of mild detergent into a bowl with water. If you do not have laundry detergent, you can opt for body soap or dishwashing soap. Make sure your selected cleaner isn't too harsh for the fabric.  

Note: Ideally, you should mix 1 cup of water with ½ teaspoon of soap or mild detergent.  

Dip your cloth into the bowl and scrub the areas with heavy stains. 

Note: If you're having trouble getting rid of blemishes, add a drop of bleach into your cleaning mixture. Be very careful with this, as bleach can cause yellowing in the fabric. You can also use an old toothbrush with a mixture of toothpaste and baking soda for harder stain removal. 

Rinse the canvas bag by doing one last wipe-down with the warm towel. Depending on how dirty your cloth has gotten from the initial wash, you may want to use a different towel for this step.

As you scrub, make sure to use consistent circular motions. This is best for removing stubborn stains and ensuring the spot doesn't spread on your bag's fabric.  

Any leather materials should be rinsed or dusted only and should never come into contact with harsh soaps or bleach. 

Finally, think about the bag's hardware. Lots of canvas bags feature small metal pieces like rings, zippers, buttons, and chains to sharpen the overall look, secure the handles, and enclose your things inside. These pieces need attention during the manual washing, too.  

It's best to use a polishing product or a specialized brass cleaner to reinvigorate the metal pieces' shine. You can use a cotton ball to apply the cleaner and wipe it down with a white cloth to finish. Just be sure to keep the metal cleaner off the fabric to prevent stains.

How to Dry Canvas Tote Bags

Now, onto the final step of learning how to clean a canvas bag: Drying. Even if your bag is machine washable, you should never machine dry it.  

The intense heat in each dry cycle is likely to cause shrinkage and could irrevocably damage the fabric, making all your work thus far useless. Additionally, the fabric or sensitive designs may warp, causing the bag to lose its shape and its functionality. 

For this reason, experts say that a crucial part of washing safety is exclusively air drying your bag and hang it up to preserve the original shape. You'll get the best results by hanging it up somewhere with lots of sunshine and a nice breeze. (air drying it inside may lead to mildew or mold buildup, as it might remain too moist for too long in a dark, stuffy room.) 

These bags tend to dry with a few wrinkles here and there. If this happens to yours, just spray a small amount of water on those problem spots and go over them with short strokes using an iron. Please be careful with this step while drying canvas bags, as holding the iron on a single spot for too long will burn the fabric.

Extra Tip: Storage and Preservation

Now that you're done learning how to clean a canvas bag, you'll need to do everything you can to preserve its cleanliness. Of course, the bag will inevitably collect some dirt here and there during use, but you can prevent unnecessary buildup with the right storage technique. Plus, the way you store your bag is vital to maintaining its shape and structure.

Here are a few maintenance tips to help keep your Ubuntu handbags in good shape: 

If your canvas bag has a special shape (i.e., a star, circle, diamond, etc.), retain it by stuffing tissue paper inside when it's not in use.  

Note: Tissues can bleed color. Use white paper only to prevent this issue.  

Cover the bag with a cotton cloth to prevent dust buildup. Never use a plastic storage container, as this encourages the accumulation of mold and mildew.  

Store in a well-ventilated space - a humid room will also cause mildewing.  

Spray brand-new canvas bags with protective solutions to defend against stains and the designs' fading.

How to Clean a Canvas Bag FAQ

You may still have a few questions on how to keep your Ubuntu canvas bag squeaky clean. If so, see the FAQs below for more information.  

Can Ubuntu canvas bags be washed? 

Ubuntu bags should not be machine washed. You should hand-wash them instead. If you're in a pinch, please follow the guidelines above for a machine wash. Any bags with leather, sensitive designs, and other vulnerable additions should never be machine washed.  

How do you remove spilled lotion from the inside canvas tote? 

Remove as much of the lotion from the lining as possible. Sprinkle talcum powder or cornstarch onto the lotion-stained areas of the bag and leave it for a few hours. Remove the excess powder and wipe gently with a cloth and a mixture of mild detergent and warm water. Allow the bag to air dry. 

How to get sand out of my canvas bag? 

Remove all items from the bag and shake it upside down. This will get all the sand out of all the nooks and crannies. It's that easy! 

Can canvas bags be washed in the washing machine? 

Canvas tote bags can be machine washed; however, this should not be your go-to cleaning solution. Hand-washing is best.  

What is the best way to clean canvas? 

The best way to clean your canvas bag is to wash it by hand with a mild detergent or another cleaning solution like talcum powder or cornstarch. Wipe it gently with a damp, warm, white towel and allow it to air dry for the best results. This is best for maintaining washing safety during the occasional spot cleaning, too.


Canvas bags are widely beloved for their eclectic styling options, unmatched durability, and eco-friendliness. Use this guide to remind yourself of how to clean a canvas bag and keep yours nice and clean, preserving its shape, functionality, and quality for years to come. 

Remember that no look is complete without a beautiful tote bag and a matching bracelet to go with it. Shop through Ubuntu's bracelet collection to adorn yourself with jewelry that solidifies a cohesive look distinguished by the canvas bag's unique African design. Your fashion future starts here!



Please note, comments must be approved before they are published


Free Shipping over $50 & Free Returns

{ item.product_title }

{ item.variant_title }

{ formatMoney(item.original_price * item.quantity) }

SUBTOTAL { formatMoney(cart.original_total_price) }