Why You Should Clean Your Luggage After Every Trip

When you travel, it's not just you who's embarking on a globetrotting journey — your luggage tags along, too. And while you're possibly lounging at an airport cafe — loading up on snacks and charging your phone to help you survive that long layover — your trusty suitcase is having its own adventure below decks.

That adventure? Well, it's more of a rough-and-tumble journey when you think about it. Your luggage takes the brunt of each and every trip and stopover possible. From rolling along mucky city streets to getting crammed into the trunk of taxis, navigating the dusty floors of airports, and being whisked away on a fast-moving conveyor belt, if our bags could talk ... they'd have a lot of tales to tell.

Plus, considering how checked luggage is handled — exposed to all kinds of stuff like dirt, grime, bacteria, and even those mystery liquids on the tarmac — there's one thing your bag is probably longing for after any trip: a good, deep clean.

A germ's favorite trip

In between all the sightseeing, culinary adventures, and airport layovers, you'd be surprised at the kind of germs that thrive on the streets and in the dimly lit airport luggage rooms. According to a study by the University of Nottingham and the Finnish National Institute for Health and Welfare, respiratory viruses were found in nearly 10% of all airport surfaces swabbed, from check-in counters to security bins, check-in kiosks, and railings — aka the places most travelers touch with their bare hands before grabbing their belongings. And what were some of the most unwanted travelers the study found? Traces of rhinovirus — guilty for what's known as the common cold — and samples of the influenza A virus. Not the type of souvenir you'd want to bring home, right?

And if that's what's happening upstairs, imagine all the grimy encounters your suitcase can run into in the cargo hold. With each leg of its journey, your bag is passed from handler to handler, slides on greasy belts, goes through tight squeezes with other bags, and, in some cases, it even falls victim to shampoo explosions from neighboring luggage — which means you can never be too sure about where it's been or how clean it is. So, while the contents of your suitcase might feel safe inside, the exterior of your bag tells a different story — one of smudges, scuff marks, and, occasionally, it can become a first-class ticket for carrying and spreading harmful bacteria.

Cleaning your bag for added peace of mind

At the end of the day, the unavoidable truth is that your suitcase is going to collect some unwanted travelers of its own. Luckily, though, you have the power to ensure that these unwelcome guests don't make it into your home. For starters, a great way to quickly clean luggage is to wipe it down with an antibacterial wipe. Pay special attention to the handles — where your bag is most likely to have been touched — and the bottom, along with the wheels — both of which have been in closer contact with the floor. Whatever you do, make sure you keep the suitcase off your bed or couch until it's been fully cleaned.

Now, for the inside, empty your suitcase and throw all of your clothes into the wash. This will help prevent hitchhiking bedbugs from making their way into your home. Then, use a vacuum to get rid of any leftover dust and crumbs. Once the bag looks clean, take a damp cloth with a mild detergent and give the interior a good wipe down. To prevent mold and that musty smell, let your suitcase dry outside or in a well-ventilated area, like your garage.

Don't be fooled, though — this isn't about turning you into a germophobe! Rather, it's about ensuring the longevity of your suitcase and safeguarding your health at the same time. Because no matter how you look at it: a clean bag equals a happy traveler.