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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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).
  3. 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?

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