How to Machine Wash a Canvas Tote Bag? (in 7 Steps)

How to Machine Wash a Canvas Tote Bag

The downside of reusable bags is that they need to be cleaned regularly. It’s not a big deal if you can toss them in the washer. Let’s talk about how to machine wash a canvas tote bag.

7 Steps for Washing a Canvas Tote Bag the Right Way

Our canvas tote bags are 100% cotton so they can be machine-washed. If your canvas bags are made of jute, hemp, or linen, check with the manufacturer for care instructions.

Turn It Inside Out

Turn the bag inside out and brush off debris like crumbs or fuzzies. You don’t need that junk clogging up your machine. Also, turning the bag inside out protects the design from wear during the wash cycle.

Color Check

The first time you clean the bag, it’s not a bad idea to check for colorfastness. If the bag is any color other than white or natural, the dye may bleed when you wash it. (However, the graphic design ink should not bleed).

Dampen a paper towel or light-colored cloth and rub the bottom of the bag with it. Does it come away stained with the bag’s color? If so, you have options. It’s best to wash canvas in cold water anyway and that reduces fading and bleeding. You can also add a cup of vinegar to the rinse cycle to keep the colors bright.

Wash the Bags with Similar Items or Alone

Since the bags might be contaminated with germs, experts recommend washing them by themselves to avoid cross-contamination. Nevertheless, if you’re trying to save on water, electricity, and detergent, it seems silly to run a nearly empty cycle. Instead, wash the bags with bathroom rugs or some other non-clothing item that requires cold water as well. Just remember that anything fuzzy may shed on the bags.

Stain Removal

Let’s back up for a moment and talk about getting stains off canvas tote bags. Anything oily can be removed with a paste of baking soda and dish soap or a commercial stain remover. Be sure to do that first because cold water may set the greasy stain permanently.

Dampen the spot with warm water and work the paste into the fabric with a toothbrush or your fingers. Let it sit for 10 minutes then rinse with warm water. If the stain hasn’t disappeared, repeat the process.

Meanwhile, markers, blood, and non-oily food stains can be pre-treated with stain remover or a little detergent.

Add Detergent and Choose the Settings

Even if the bags are visibly dirty, follow the directions for how much detergent to use. You don’t have to use extra because excess detergent can harm the machine. You also won’t need fabric softener.

The best settings for washing canvas tote bags are cold or cool water and the gentle cycle. Even though the bags are tough, they will stay looking nice longer this way.

Air Dry

Because you’ve used the gentle cycle, the bags may feel pretty damp. But don’t put them in the dryer! Hang them to dry. Bonus points for putting them in the sunshine as the UV rays will help kill off any leftover bacteria.

Iron If Desired

Chances are that the tote bags look pretty wrinkled after washing. Once they dry, keep them turned inside out and iron them. Use the same iron settings you would for 100% cotton or denim. (That’s why they stay inside out for ironing because the high heat might damage the graphic design).

Why Is It Important to Machine Wash a Canvas Tote Bag?

Obviously, washing your bags keeps them looking nice. But it also prevents food poisoning from listeria, salmonella, and E. coli from lurking in your grocery bags. Someone went to the trouble of measuring the amount of fecal matter in unwashed shopping bags. (You really don’t want to know what they found). Let’s just say that it’s important to wash your tote bags weekly or monthly depending on how often you use them.

Can You Wash Canvas Tote Bags by Hand?

Of course, you can hand-wash tote bags. The same rules apply. First, pre-treat stains and turn the bags inside out. Then use cold water and an appropriate amount of detergent. You can save yourself some work by letting them soak for at least ten minutes.

Wringing them out is the hard part. Instead of twisting them, we suggest rolling them up and pressing out as much water as you can. If you roll them inside a towel, it will remove more water and help the bags dry faster.

How Many Canvas Tote Bags Do You Need?

This is a good question because if you’ll be washing them often, they take time to dry.

How many bags do you use when you go to the store? Now, double that number so that you always have a clean set available. For reference, a family of four might need a dozen bags.

Lucky for you, we have great prices on our canvas tote bags. Moreover, they come in many different categories like sports or Disney so that you can personalize your look for any occasion. Here are two examples:

You Can Do Hard Things Tote Bag

You Can Do Hard Things Tote Bag


Designed for teachers, the inspirational message on this bag is motivational for everyone else, too. The colorful design is colorfast and fade-resistant.

You can get this tote in either black or natural colors. Both are made from 12-ounce per yard cotton canvas. That’s a heavyweight, durable fabric and it’s machine-washable.

The bags measure 15 inches wide by 16 inches tall. It has 20-inch canvas handles with a 9-inch handle drop. In other words, they are perfect for slipping over a shoulder or carrying in your hand.

Wildflower Cutting Tote Bag

Wildflower Cutting Tote Bag


No words are needed – this pretty tote bag keeps springtime close at hand. The design is fade-resistant and the natural-colored canvas bag won’t bleed color when washed.


We hope these tips on how to machine wash a canvas tote bag help you keep things tidy. Remember, turn the bags inside out and wash them in cold water in the gentle cycle. Only air-dry them. Then the durable fabric should last for a nice, long time.

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