How to Wash a Backpack, Lunchbox & More for Back to School


If you’re like most families, your kids’ backpack, lunch box and gym bag have been cast aside since that last school bell rang before summer vacation. As you gear up for back to school, what sights and smells will you find when you open them to prepare for the first day? Arm yourself with the odor neutralizing power of ARM & HAMMER™ Baking Soda and you’re ready to tackle whatever smelly stains and surprises your kids’ backpacks and lunch bags hold.

No matter which of our tips for cleaning back-to-school clothes, backpacks, lunch bags, shoes, sports gear, clothing, or the family car you use, gather these ingredients to be ready for stains and odors whenever they arise.


1. How to Wash Lunchboxes or Cooler Bags

Revive your kid’s lunchbox inside and out by using all-natural baking soda to clean and deodorize. Baking soda is a mild abrasive that’s good for helping lift surface stains without bleach. And as nature’s odor absorber, you can get rid of the funky smells from last year’s lunches – even if a sandwich or banana became a surprise science experiment over the summer.



  1. Sprinkle baking soda on a damp sponge.
  2. Gently wipe the inside and outside of the lunchbox, including the handle or strap as needed.
  3. Rinse with a clean cloth wet with warm water.


To Remove Particularly Potent Lunchbox Odors

How to clean school lunch box with Arm and Hammer Baking Soda
  1. Use the ARM & HAMMER™ Baking Soda Shaker to sprinkle baking soda inside lunch box.
  2. Close and fasten the lunch bag and leave overnight – or even a few days – to allow the baking soda to absorb odors that may have worked their way into the fabric or foam.
  3. Tap the lunchbox over a trash can to remove excess and wipe with a damp cloth.



2. How to Wash a Backpack or School Bag


how to wash a backpack wiping exterior down

Baking soda is a safe and effective way to help remove stains, grime, and odor from your backpack. Here’s how to use baking soda to clean a backpack quickly and easily.

  1. Using a bowl, mix 3 tablespoons baking soda with about 1 tablespoon warm water (slowly add more a ½ teaspoon at a time if needed) until you achieve a paste-like consistency. Optional: add a few drops of dish soap to help clean.
  2. Rub the baking soda paste over the stains or areas that need cleaning. Try using an old toothbrush to give it a scrub.
  3. Rinse off with a clean damp cloth and let dry.



To Remove Odors Inside Backpacks or Smelly Gym Bags:


  1. Put an ARM & HAMMER™ Baking Soda Fridge-N-Freezer™ Odor Absorber box or a plastic sandwich bag of baking soda (with top open) in the gym bag or backpack pocket(s) and zip closed. Let sit for 24 hours or more as needed to absorb odors.
  2. Alternatively, sprinkle baking soda into the backpack, zip shut and allow it to sit for 2-3 days to neutralize odors. Tip the backpack or bag over a trash can to remove excess baking soda and wipe out the interior with a damp cloth.

3. Deodorize and Whiten Stinky Shoes


Have your kids’ shoes gotten a bit of summer stink or stains of unknown origin? Baking soda can help remove sweaty foot odor in shoes and help revive white soles or stained fabric.


To deodorize sneakers, try sprinkling some baking soda directly into the shoes. Leave for a few days for the baking soda to absorb odors. Tip the shoes over the trash and tap to dispose of any remaining baking soda or vacuum out. Alternatively, make a baking soda deodorizer sachet by adding 1/3 cup baking soda to a square of cloth, forming a pouch, and tying off with string, ribbon, or a rubber band. Place a soda sachet inside each stinky shoe.


Our How to Wash Shoes with Baking Soda guide has more tips for using baking soda to whiten and brighten shoes and laces.

4. Get Sporting Equipment Clean & Fresh


To clean golf irons, football gear, hockey sticks, and soccer balls & guards, make a paste of three parts ARM & HAMMER™ Baking Soda to one-part water, then brush on, rinse and let dry. This works great for grit and grime that can get on helmets, pads, and gear.

5. Bring Back Hand-Me-Down Clothes


Give secondhand clothes a second chance for back-to-school! Whether you’re repurposing clothes from an older sibling to a younger, or you’ve scored great (and affordable) finds at a consignment or thrift shop, baking soda can help your used clothing look and smell fresher and newer.


Help remove musty odors and boost your laundry detergent by adding ½ cup of ARM & HAMMER™ Baking Soda to your washing machine or learn about more ways to wash thrifted or consigned clothing and items shared between friends and families.

6. Clean the Family Car


The family car can get messy in no time, especially when chauffeuring the kids back and forth to school or after-school activities. When spills from snacks, dirt from cleats, or muddy paws get on your cloth or vinyl interior, clean things up with ARM & HAMMER™ Baking Soda.


Here’s how:

  1. Mix ¼ cup baking soda and 1 quart warm water in a bowl or bottle.
  2. Apply the solution to the stained area with a sponge or soft cloth.
  3. Rinse with cool water and wipe dry.


Get more advice for how to clean car seats and interiors with baking soda from our car cleaning guide.

7. Plastic Lunch Containers and Bento Boxes


hand washing plastic lunch bento box


When school starts up, the kids are constantly go, go, go — and their snacks need to go with them. You can keep plastic containers fresh with a sprinkle of baking soda on a clean, damp sponge, then wash as normal. The shaker container of ARM & HAMMER™ Baking Soda is a convenient way to add a little when needed and refill.


For stubborn odors on plasticware, soak containers in a solution of 4 tbsp Baking Soda and 1 quart of warm water.





More Baking Soda Cleaning & Deodorizing Hacks Around Your Home


Start the school year off fresh with baking soda. And check out other ways baking soda can help clean and deodorize your home for back to school and every day.


Tips to freshen things up

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