How to Clean a Dirty Golf Bag: A Step-by-Step Guide

How To Clean A Dirty Golf Bag: A Step-By-Step Guide

If you’re wondering how to clean a golf bag, chances are you’re either buying an expensive one and want to maintain it, or your current bag is a bit dingey.

Not to worry; there’s a ton of ways to fix it, clean it out, and eliminate any odor from sweaty towels or old turf on the bottom of the bag.

Leather and canvas are the most common types of golf club bags out there. They have to be built tough, and these are the two top materials for them.

Let’s talk about how to clean those, and then get into some other tips for general golf bag maintenance and cleaning.

If you’d like to see a graphical breakdown of cleaning a golf bag, we got you covered:

Golf Bags

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How to Clean a Leather Golf Bag

To know how to clean a leather bag, you should know just what leather actually is.

Leather is what’s known as a naturally occurring polymer. Polymers, on a molecular level, are extremely tough. They’re resistant to just about everything.

An example of a synthetic polymer would be plastic, so in a sense, you can say leather is as stubborn as plastic in many regards.

Naturally occurring polymers have weaknesses, which is why you have to be careful to follow these steps and ensure your leather golf bag is cleaned properly.

#1 Vacuum

dry cleaning golf bag

Leather is stitched together, not molded, so it’s reasonable to assume that dirt and debris could get in between those stitches.

Using the nozzle narrower attachment that comes with most vacuums, suck up as much of the dirt out of those hard-to-reach spots in your bag and exterior pockets.

This will make everything easier going forward, and takes out the bulk before you start cleaning with liquids.

#2 Dry Wipe

Start with a paper towel, cotton rag, or anything that you can get your hands on that will wipe away debris and dirt from the interior pockets.

You should have your golf bag up on a table or surface so that you can wipe off the bottom, handles, and main surface of it as well.

#3 Wipe With a Safe Substance

The cardinal sin of leather is using a harsh chemical on it, like bleach or ammonia-based household cleaners.

Just because something is on the shelf doesn’t mean it’s good for leather. Because leather is a natural polymer, it has a way that it can be broken down, usually through synthetic means (like harsh chemicals).

Use rubbing alcohol to wipe away stains or spots on leather, such as grass stains, by gently dipping a cotton swab into a shallow bowl of it.

#4 Use a Spoon

For real: use a spoon. Get a cotton rag or microfiber cloth, whatever it is that you’re using, and wrap it around a normal dinner spoon.

You can use the spoon as a handle to gently maneuver the rag around the interior of the golf bag and its pockets.

#5 Let It Dry

Modern Hair Dryer

Do not put in the sun.

Do not try to dry it with a hand dryer. Hang it upside-down so gravity can do some of the work, and let it dry.

You can have a cooling fan (not air conditioner) blowing on it if you wish, but nothing with a drastic temperature change. This can take a while to dry.

#6 Seal

Leather needs to be sealed off after it’s been cleaned.

You don’t have to polish it (though it does look good), but sealing the leather will prevent dirt and debris from being absorbed into any imperfections.

If you’ve ever seen leather that’s specifically worn-out in one area, that’s because it was a weak spot—which cannot be helped in naturally occurring polymers—and it was not sealed or protected properly. That’s not what you want to happen to your leather.

#7 Dry Again

Sealer doesn’t take long to dry, but it still needs to have the package-recommended amount of time before you stuff your clubs back in.

Leather is generally easier to clean than canvas. So long as you follow all the steps, you won’t damage your leather, and in the end, you’ll fortify it against further dirt and damage with a good seal.

How to Clean a Canvas Golf Bag

blue canvas golf bag

Canvas is just as resilient as leather, it’s just not as puncture-resistant or tear-resistant as leather is. Against normal abrasion and use, it will last you for ages if you maintain it properly.

It’s not too difficult to clean canvas, it’s just about being consistent. Canvas latches onto the dirt, which is why it’s best to get an adapter and fasten your bag onto the back of the caddy if you have the option.

#1 Vacuum

Vacuuming helps to pull up loose dirt that could otherwise unintentionally be rubbed into the canvas, and spots that are stitched together.

You don’t want to make the later stages harder on yourself. Much like with our leather bag cleaning instructions, use the narrowing tool for your vacuum’s nozzle to reach the corners without being too harsh. This will lift up the majority of the dirt.

#2 Treat Spots

Spot treating means taking a non-abrasive or harsh chemical and applying concentrated amounts of it to problem areas on your canvas.

Most notably, in the instance of golf bags, grass stains and dirt will be the two biggest issues you’ll face. Using a gentle nylon bristle brush, move in clockwise circles to gently press the cleaning agent into the canvas.

This will work deep to remove the stain, if all goes well, and make later stages much easier.

#3 Scrubbing

nylon brush for golf bags

Canvas is built tough.

The higher the denier rating (example: 500D canvas), the more it can handle. That means that the canvas is thicker due to tighter thread counts, which means it’s less likely for dirt to penetrate, but when it gets in, it doesn’t want to leave.

Using that nylon brush, use some warm water to scrub circle into your nylon bag and lift that dirt out.

#4 Spot Sponge

Using a sponge, dampen it and wring it out completely.

Go over those treated spots from earlier, gently dabbing to pull up any dirty water and discoloration that may have risen to the surface during step three.

You can do this in any area that appears to have been a little too saturated with water. This will expedite the drying process.

#5 Drying

For most golf bags, they’re a bit too big to actually fit inside of your dryer. Drying a canvas bag is infinitely more egregious than drying out a leather one.

We still don’t want to use high heat, but we want to hang it upside-down to allow gravity to do some of the work.

There’s a tip below to use for your canvas bag that will help it retain its shape. Keep in mind that canvas is more porous than leather, so drying times will take a lot longer.

You can expect your canvas bag to take anywhere from one to three days to fully dry. Give it the time it needs, otherwise, you’ll end up rusting your clubs, pushing more dirt into the open threads, or damaging your bag.

Tips to Remember When Cleaning

golf bags in the sun

Under no circumstances should you leave your golf bag to dry out in sunlight.

Chances are that your bag is a shade of blue or a light brown (as many golf bags tend to be).

Water, even just water molecules, can act as a lens that will intensify sunlight ever so slightly, and bleach the color out of your bag. This is accelerated beyond normal wear and tear.

Buff it out. Your golf bag is going to be wet, then dry, and it will mostly retain that same finished shape until your next cleaning.

You already have golf towels for those hot days, so clean them up, and stuff the pockets of your golf bag compartments with them during drying.

This ensures that the pockets are almost fluffed out when dry, so your bag won’t look old, and so the pockets will be easier to access on the course.

You can make your golf bag as clean as it was when you first purchased it with a few simple bits of attention to detail.

For one, any grooves on the outside must be wiped out with a rag. Run a toothbrush or nylon bristle brush along canvas to get dirt spots out. Pay attention to the handles (including the underside).

A Cleaner, Better Bag for Your Clubs

Between maintaining your golf clubs and just having a generally cleaner appearance (which helps your credibility on the course), it just doesn’t feel good to lug a dirty bag around.

It’s still, discolored, and will smell like more than the turf when you get home and put it in your closet. Keep it clean with this simple step-by-step guide that we’ve created, and you’ll look like a professional on the course, no matter what.

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