Bike panniers and their care



Arkel panniers are built to withstand almost any abuse. While they may go a lifetime without any real need to be cleaned, some may want to make a better impression. It always boils down to these questions:

Q. Can I clean my bike panniers?
A.  Of course you can. For regular road dirt simply hose down your pannniers. Use enough water to have the dirt run down completely. If the dirt is dried up and cakes on the fabric, you can use a soft bristle floor brush along with the water. Never use the brush alone as it will encrust the dirt deeper.

Q. I have oil stains from my bike chain. How can I remove them?
A.  First try a mild soap - like hand soap - with water and try to brush off. If it doesn’t work you can use a stain remover (like Shout! for example). Use only on the oil stain. Brush off and rinse.

Q. Can I put my bike pannier in the washing machine?
A.  Well, yes, but we don’t see why you’d do that. You have to unscrew all the hardware off, remove the inner plates and put in the machine. Use cold or lukewarm water, little soap, and gentle cycle. The clean will be clean, but the waterproofness may suffer a bit each successive washing.

Q. My panniers are not waterproof anymore. How come?

A.  Your panniers never were completely waterproof to start with! The water will seep in through needle holes and zipper teeth, even if the inner side of the fabric has a full waterproof coating. But brand new fabric has an outside DWR (Durable Water Repellent) that makes the water “bead” on the surface, fooling us into believing that this is what makes a pannier waterproof, while the inner coating is really the most important. As the DWR wears off (it is not so “Durable”!) the fibers begin to gorge themselves with water making us believe that it is not waterproof anymore. The fabric still is as waterproof but, effectively, the water will begin to seep in faster because of the capillary action of water soaked threads at the seams.(This is why Arkel panniers have a "hood" over them) If you wish, it is possible to somewhat restore the DWR with commercially available products at a sporting goods store (cost is $7-9 for a 12 oz. spray can).

Q. How can I keep my beautiful panniers from fading over time?
A. Fading is part of any textile and has nothing to do with the fabric itself. From bathing suits to curtains, t-shirts or even cars, the color pigmentation of any color will be affected by U.V. rays after prolonged exposure. We employ a special U.V. inhibitor in our fabrics, but it is expected that the color will eventually lose its brightness. Regular treatments with DWR (Durable Water Repellent) will help prolong the original brightness since most of the DWR's contain some assorted types of U.V. inhibitors as well. We use the best fabric, but many years of good use will eventually begin to show. Consider that as a tribute to your lifestyle!

Q. Do I have to do any kind of maintenance on the panniers?
A.  A pannier is not a bike, but there are parts to check from time to time, like the tightness of the screws. About the only preventive measure that may be done if you wish to keep the panniers for a real long time is to apply a little bit of silicon oil on the zippers, once a year. It only costs a couple of bucks and the first time it's done it will absorb a bit more oil as it soaks in. The good news is that just one bottle will last you for the life of the panniers. Be sure it is 100% silicone oil with no additives.

Q. What if something breaks on my panniers? What should I do?
A.  Few things can “break” on our panniers, and most of them are minor, and can wait before being cared for. See our Emergency Repairs section for information about what to do if your panniers become damaged. Should you ever need spare parts, we’ll be more than happy to provide them to you.


Do you have a suggestion, question or comment that we can help you with or that you would like to share with other Arkel Owners? Email us and let us know!