The Minister Of Information Shares His Bag Cleaning Secrets.
I was a Burner. What's a Burner? A "Burner" is someone who attends the Burning Man Festival located in the inhospitable environment of the Black Rock Desert in Nevada. For the past 3 years I've brought along my Red Oxx Gear. And despite every effort to keep it clean while attending, I have to go through a particular process to clean my bags, as they always get filthy.
The surface of the Black Rock desert is called playa. Playa is a fine white powder-like dust with a high alkaline content. As such, it gets on, and into, everything and can be quite difficult to dislodge upon return to civilization, especially in woven fabric like Cordura nylon.
My Bag is Playa-tized
The bag I carried with me on the playa while touring Black Rock City was the Chica. I wanted a messenger style bag that was not too big or bulky that I could carry my desert survival gear like umbrella, water bota, dust mask, bandana, goggles, disposable camera, and gifts.
My Chica, forever playa-tized?
My Chica, selected in Khaki, a color that should show as little playa dust as possible, worked out perfectly in function. In appearance, whether Khaki or not, was quite another matter. Despite never touching the dusty ground, my Chica ended up getting completely "playa-tized," a burner word for the effect the dust has on a person or object.
On people it's somewhat curable with several baths, showers and a few weeks of "decompression." On objects, a good washing, sponging and wipe-down takes care of most of the dust.
All the black trim, now dusted Khaki.
My Chica however, was a severe case and would require special cleaning attention. The dust had so impregnated the fabric, the black webbing and edging was no longer black!
After proudly displaying my "playatized" Chica to fellow Red Oxx associates, I took photos and set to work. The bag was dust coated on the inside flap as well...
...and had a couple light brown mystery stains on the outside flap?
Mysterious brown stains?
The Cleaning Goods
What you will need to clean your bag:
- Air compressor with jet nozzle
- Soft bristle brush
- Tub or shower stall
- Mild soap solution like Dr. Bronner's Magic All-in-One Soap
- A warm dry place to hang a dripping wet bag
Alternately, if you don't own an air compressor or have access to one, a shopvac or ordinary household vacuum works well. I used the air compressor because playa dust is notorious for clogging vacuum filters! A large bucket can be used instead of a tub but the water may get dirty quickly requiring a fresh refill or two.
Hose out the inside first.
The Minister's Secret BAG CLEANING Procedure
1. First, make sure your bag is dry. Dry mud and dust can be cleaned off more easily than wet. Take your dry brush and brush the entire outside of the bag. Use sweeping strokes, pressing your other hand against the inside opposite the strokes.
2. Next, fire up your compressor and start air hosing out the inside of the bag first, zipping open all pockets, compartments, flaps, etc. inside and out. If particularly dusty, wear appropriate eye wear and breathing protection.
Hose off the outside using sweeping strokes.
3. I then blasted the surface of the exterior in sweeping strokes, up, down, left, right and diagonally.
4. I paid particular attention to the black edging and webbing. Using an air hose worked extremely well, especially if I positioned the nozzle about 1/2 to 1 inch away from the fabric. You can see by the image below this was quite effective in removing the stubborn playa dust.
Scrub the whole bag, including strap and webbing.
5. After hosing off the bag I took it to the tub along with my soft bristle brush and a bottle of Dr. Bronner's Magic All-in-One Soap. I set the water to a warm trickle and added a small splash of soap on the bristles. I soaked the bag inside and out and scrubbed the exterior of the bag with the brush, paying special attention to the webbing and zippers. I wanted the zippers clean because playa dust will lock up a zipper in short order. It destroyed tent zippers and 4 pairs of zippered shorts in the past. Our heavy-duty Red Oxx zippers can handle playa dust. None-the-less, I wanted them clean.
6. Rinse the bag, pour out the water and find a nice clean, airy, warm place to hang your bag to dry. I like hanging mine outdoors during the summer. It should dry completely in a few hours unless you've soaked the padding, in which case it could take a couple days. NEVER put a Red Oxx Bag in the dryer!
Hang out to drip dry.
This bag cleaning procedure worked wonders, returning my Chica to like-new condition (see below).
~ The Minister of Information for the Department Of RedOxx Affairs
My "decompressed" Chica returned to like-new condition.