It's about that time of year again, another summer has flown by! Though the temperatures won't show it, summer-holiday break is winding down and is nearly time for your family to ease back into the school routine.

Back-to-school shopping has become as much of a national shopping event as the notorious Black Friday. School supplies, clothes, new tech gadgets - these things really add up! Understandably, school supplies, like clothes, need replenishing if you've got rapidly-growing kids in your house. However, there's one school supply that likely doesn't need to be replaced every year: the backpack.

Sure, making milestone grade-changes, such as advancing from elementary school to middle school, kids may want to trade in the adorable Peppa the Pig or Paw Patrol pack for something 'more sophisticated.' This might be an opportunity to lay the groundwork for some more important life lessons.

Advise your kids to choose their backpack wisely; something they will want to wear for multiple years. Pick a neutral color to avoid looking worn and used, and that will last all through to their senior year - that is, if it's properly cared for. One idea is to let them know that this is the last backpack you'll buy for them and if they have a change in taste and style, the next backpack will come out of their own pocket. Enforcing this rule can help establish concepts of budgeting, taking good care of your belongings, and appreciating their value.

Many popular styles of backpacks are made of materials like canvas, leather or suede (or synthetics of the two), ripstop straps, Ethylene-vinyl acetate (strap padding), plastic buckles, and zinc alloy zippers and zipper pulls. Some popular trends are bringing back the acrylic, shiny plastic-looking styles as well. All of these materials are fairly easy to maintain but here are some tips and tricks on backpack care, including preventative-care, that will help keep backpacks clean and prolong their life.

There's a new backpack in the house, now what?

  • Look for the tag to identify cleaning guidelines for the bag. This should give you a good idea of any caveats about washing the backpack.
  • For canvas or all-fabric bags without a synthetic or true leather or suede material, snip any price tags and check the pockets. Machine wash the bag by itself using your household Tide detergent unless the care guidelines on the tag explicitly advise against machine washing. Washing the backpack by itself is a precaution in case the colors run since this backpack has likely never been through the wash before.
  • Dry the backpack according to care guidelines as indicated on the tag. If there is no tag, line-dry the backpack outside (out of direct sunlight) or let it hang in the garage until dry. Always hang-dry by a strap when possible, as this allows maximum airflow and the backpack will dry faster. Making sure you hang the backpack by a strap or handle prevents fabric from stretching.
  • Once your backpack is dry, you can spray the outside with Scotchguard or similar protective spray. For backpacks that have some form of leather or suede material that didn't make it into a pre-wash, this is the first preventative care tip for protecting those items. Spray liberally on the outside of the bag in a well-ventilated area, preferably outside. Again, let the bag hang-dry by a strap or handle outside (out of direct sunlight) or in a garage so that any lingering scent of the protective spray dissipates. This is a good step to do several days or even a week prior to your student starting school.
  • Acrylic or the shiny, PVC-material backpacks are easy to clean liquids from. Just wipe spills and then you can use a cotton or microfiber cloth to rinse the material with a mixture of warm water and your household Tide detergent. Use a clean, dry microfiber towel to dry the material so that fuzz or lint doesn't stick to it.
  • *Tip: Acrylic, vinyl or PVC-like material can sometimes be more susceptible to scuffs and scratches. Try a white pencil eraser, credit card or block specifically made for shoe scuffs to buff the scratch or scuff out.
  • For any stained areas along backpack zipper tracks, straps or handles, spot-treat with a Tide-to-Go instant stain remover pen. If the stain persists, you can soak the affected area in a clean bowl of warm water mixed with about one teaspoon of your household Tide detergent. Repeat until stain is lifted and allow bag to air-dry or, for stubborn stains, bring the backpack to your nearest Tide Cleaners and we'll be happy to take a look!

These steps can be repeated with some frequency, but we recommend limiting to twice a school year or quarterly, at most. After the initial wash and dry, try to line or hang-dry the item as machine dryers are tough on fabric integrity and color.

Once your student has selected a bag, you (and they) should fully expect it to get some wear and tear over the years. This is normal and most backpacks are created from materials with durability in mind. Kids will outgrow their clothes, but their backpack could tagalong all the way through high school, maybe even college. Barring the kind of damage that interferes with the backpack's functionality, a little TLC once or twice a school year should keep the bag looking good and your student feeling confident.