Hack Your Pack: How to Make Your Own Vacuum-Seal Bags

By Chris Long, a Home Decorator expert
How to Make Your Own Vacuum-Seal Bags

DIY Vacuum-Sealed Bag

For trips longer than a week, it’s hard to figure out what to take with you and what to leave behind; especially if you’re only planning on taking one bag. Instead of worrying if you packed enough clean socks or underpants, however, you can increase your packing space by up to three times with just two things: a trash bag and a vacuum cleaner.

The vacuum pack hack

Commercial vacuum seal bags are all over the place these days, and while they look like a great idea, they tend to cost an arm and a leg. Fortunately, making your own vacuum seal bag at home is incredibly easy and simple.

To start, you’ll need:

  • Any vacuum cleaner with a detachable hose
  • A plastic bag such as a garbage bag or XXL zipper storage bag

Step 1: Pack

How to Make Your Own Vacuum-Seal Bags

Step One: DIY Vacuum-Sealed Bag

After you’ve made sure your bag is free of tears, rips or holes, fill it about two-thirds of the way full with folded clothes.

Step 2: Gather and vacuum

How to Make Your Own Vacuum-Seal Bags

Step Two: Gather and Vacuum

Gather the top one-third of the bag in your hand and insert the vacuum hose in the opening so that it’s sitting directly over the clothes. Make sure you have a tight seal where the hose meets the bag or too much air will escape and the bag won’t compress. Then just turn the vacuum on and let it work its magic.

TIP: You can help the process along by kneeling on the bag while the vacuum is going. This helps to press out more air and to further compress the clothes.

TROUBLESHOOTING: Don’t let the vacuum hose drift away from the clothes while it’s on. The clothing works as a kind of filter for the air suctioning process. If the hose slips to the side, it might suction on to the bag and stop drawing air.

Step 3: Twist and seal

How to Make Your Own Vacuum-Seal Bags

Step Three: DIY Vacuum-Sealed Bag

Once all of the air has been removed from the bag, quickly remove the vacuum hose, shut the opening with your hand and twist the bag below your hand to seal it off before tying it shut. You should now have a neatly sealed, vacuum packed bag of clothes ready for packing!

How to Make Your Own Vacuum-Seal Bags

Ta-Da! A DIY Vacuum-Sealed Bag

The return trip

More often than not, however, it’s hard to come across a vacuum while traveling, even if you ask the hotel or hostel staff as nicely as possible. If you find that you can’t get everything you need back in your backpack, try the following method of air-removal packing. It’s not as effective as a vacuum seal, but it makes a significant difference. All you need is:

  • A plastic bag
  • A bathtub or sink filled with water

The water bath method

How to Make Your Own Vacuum-Seal Bags

The water bath method

  1. As with the vacuum seal process, fill the bag with your clothes and seal it off as much as possible, holding the top of the bag in one hand and leaving a small opening for the air to escape.
  2. Submerge the bag as far as you can in the water, making sure the water level is above the top of the clothes while being careful not to splash water in the opening.
  3. Using your hands and, if you have a tub, your feet, push the clothing down as hard as you can to force as much air out as possible.
How to Make Your Own Vacuum-Seal Bags

The water bath method

  1. Once you’ve pressed as much air out as you can, twist the top of the bag and seal it off.
How to Make Your Own Vacuum-Seal Bags

The water bath method

Other uses

Apart from travel packing, you can use this cheap vacuum seal method for other things like:

  • Packing for college
  • Creating more closet storage space
  • Making more room in the attic
  • Preventing winter/summer clothes from collecting mildew
  • Killing bed bugs
  • Sealing off smelly clothes before you get a chance to wash them
  • Using the water method, you can seal food for long-term freezer storage

What are some ways you’ve found to use cheap vacuum storage or to increase your packing space while traveling?

Now that you know how to pack your bag on the cheap, check out Utrip‘s budget-friendly featured trips like Poor But Sexy in Berlin, Best of Historic Lisbon or The Sport Culture of Munich

or create your own personalized trip and slide the budget down to Lean or Shoestring

Chris Long has been a Home Depot store associate in the Chicago area since 2000. He is a contributor on DIY projects for Home Depot’s website, as well as Home Depot’s HomeDecorators.com website. He provides tips to homeowners on topics ranging from closet storage to furniture to floor coverings.

10 thoughts on “Hack Your Pack: How to Make Your Own Vacuum-Seal Bags

  1. My daughter is going to camp this summer for 7.5 weeks out of state. This is a perfect way to get all of her bedding and clothes to fit in hopefully not too many suitcases that we have to check on the plane. Thank goodness for the people that figure these hacks out!!

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