Travel tips – suitcase cleaning & maintenance
I did my major house cleaning routine yesterday. My major house cleaning routine takes sometimes for days, since it also includes organizing all letters and bills in the drawers, cleaning the insides of beds and wardrobes (and also the top of the wardrobes), washing all bed linen, cleaning the windows and also the window frames. Due to the very high humidity of the Azores, major house cleanings should be regularly carried out. When- after a longer stay in Hungary – my friend Kati and myself returned to the house in March, we were surprised to find that several items made of wood, paper, or cotton started to mould. Now you could of course say to yourselves “Rita, you silly girl, what did you expect with 100% humidity?” and you would be right. But I simply did not know what to expect, since I have never lived at a place with such extreme humidity. And I did even ask someone to regularly open the windows regularly, but apparently it was not enough. Soon I will be traveling back to Hungary again, but now I have a checklist to make sure everything is properly stored so that this little incident does not happen again.
I prefer to use natural household cleaners – for example distilled vinegar, bicarbonate of soda (also known as baking soda) – whenever possible. But on the Azores I could not find distilled vinegar anywhere, only balsamic and apple vinegar. Unfortunately, these cannot be used (that well) for household cleaning purposes.
The cleaning of my SUITCASES is part of my major house cleaning routine. In Hungary I have cleaned my suitcases once a year, but here on the humid Azores I clean them once in every 6 months. What makes this cleaning so pressing and important in Sao Miguel is, that on this climate every organic material, food rest, and even paper (even the stickers you get upon checking in) is prone to mould very quickly – but not under my watch, not anymore.
Suitcases get dirty during the travel. At the check-in counter at least 2 stickers are put on the suitcase which then travels through a maze of conveyor belts; if the weather is rainy at your destination – poof – your suitcase has a nice mud coating on the bottom; but simply touching a few less-than pristine clean objects and then grabbing the handle of your suitcase could bring bacteria over. So next time you are going on a trip, bacteria collected during previous adventures might be already waiting for you on the handles and the outside & inside of your suitcase.
Of course there are other solutions for keeping the outside of your suitcase clean, not just the regular manual cleaning. Suitcase covers are becoming increasingly fashionable and available in all colors, patterns, and sizes. They protect the outside of your suitcase, and are of course removable and washable. However, the handles and the inside of the suitcase still needs to be regularly cleaned.
If you don’t have a suitcase cover, I suggest you regularly clean your suitcases for the following reasons:
- I personally like when the things I travel with are nice and clean – I am sure you are the same. Even if this cleanliness lasts only until I get to the airport, but still.
- Like I mentioned before during travels the handles and the outside of the suitcase will be eventually covered with dirt and bacteria. Without the cleaning this dirty state might be the starting state when the suitcase is used the next time (and it gets dirtier and dirtier after every travel, you get my drift).
- Dirty suitcases might bring harmful bacteria to our homes.
Cleaning the inside and the outside of the suitcase are equally important. I am opting for using a scrub sponge and bicarbonate of soda mixed with water – but of course there are lots of other products you can choose as cleaning agent. You only need to pay attention to the fact, that shiny hard-shell suitcases might lose their shine if you use store-bought simple disinfectants. Of course, hard-shell suitcases are much easier to clean, and the results of our cleaning efforts are much more visible – but the same cleaning routine can be applied to soft luggages.
I usually use distilled vinegar for cleaning the handles and the inside of the suitcase, and once it is dry, I sprinkle in a few drops of 100% lemon essential oil. This is of course an optional step, but it makes the clean suitcase smell lovely. In the followings – as motivation – I would like to show you the before and after photos of Pinky, and my white suitcase I bought in New York.
Lots of people think that the inside of their suitcase is completely clean, since they only put their clean clothes in the suitcase. But think about the last time you put in your hiking boots after a hike, the tripod of the camera, or food items – the residual dirt from all of these things remains inside the suitcase, where next time the clean clothes are placed again.
Please note: when using distilled vinegar for cleaning do not use any other chlor-based cleaning products (e.g. bleach) because it produces harmful chlorine gas, which can cause chlorine gas poisoning which includes breathing difficulty, nose and throat irritation, and other health problems.
Summary: I recommend you clean your suitcases and backpacks at least once a year.
If you liked this article, please let us know in the comments. Also please tell us about how you keep your travel essentials clean?