Tote Bag Facts

What You Need To Know About Tote Bags

The Ultimate Functional Accessory

In recent times, tote bags have become quite the functional accessory due to their simple versatility and ease of use. These tote bags can easily be personalized to represent who you are or be bought from several branded designers to make a fashionable statement while still being mindful of the environment. These bags can be dressed up or down depending on the event. Available in a wide range of sizes in a wearable material, a canvas bag can serve your needs for a wide variety of occasions. 

What is a Tote? 

Custom Tote Bags

 A tote is simply a large bag suitable for carrying (or toting) lots of stuff, that has a large opening on the top. A tote bag, in essence, is any bag of variable size that often lacks fasteners other than a pair of parallel handles on either side to hold the bag by. The main purpose of a tote bag is to serve as an easy carryall, especially during those busy days spent shopping or running errands. A canvas tote bag, however, is any tote made from the durable, fabric material woven out of cotton or linen. This material is also found on sails, tents, backpacks and other items. Canvas is also the very same material used by artists everywhere as the base for their medium.

The History of the Tote 

The History of Tote Bags

Totes first came into creation in the 17th century, but the term "tote", which means "to carry", did not become common until the 1900s. Particularly in the United States, totes did not reach their height of popularity until 1944, when one of the major apparel companies released their iconic Boat Bag. Interestingly enough, the purpose of this original tote was to carry ice during outings and the bag itself has remained in production with little change in product design. The Boat Bag continues to be made from a durable canvas material, which has undoubtedly withstood the test of time.

Although this company has contributed a great deal to the popularity of the tote, it's the American housewives of the 1950s who greatly ushered this bag into mainstream society. Totes became a staple accessory in the completion of errands and chores, which then led way to the totes becoming a fashion statement in the 1960s. This is when designers such as Bonnie Cashin took advantage of the practical design and turned it into something elegant. The bag also hit the intellectual society when the popular New York City bookstore, The Strand, adopted and re-introduced its own version of the classic tote. High-end totes are now commonly seen on runways across the world during every Fashion Week, which boasts another level of luxury than the classic and practical cloth tote bag.

Now, in the present day, these eco-friendly totes are available in a wide variety of colors and images. From subtle political expression to pop culture symbols, literally, anything can be printed on these bags. The flexible material also makes it possible to customize to suit your personal sense of fashion and needs.

What is a Tote Made of?

A tote is often made of cotton or linen, although hemp has also been a popular material historically. Many people confuse canvas itself to be a material, although the term actually refers to the style of the fabric's weave and not the material of the fabric. For example, a tighter weave is called duck canvas. When it comes to the actual fabric materials, cotton is derived from the cotton plant. Another popular material is linen, which is derived from the flax plant. Hemp, which is not so common anymore, is derived from the cannabis plant.

Canvas fabrics have historically been used for sails, tents and painting. With a simple waterproof coating treatment, this fabric becomes impermeable in rain or shine. Canvas material is also exceptionally good for custom tote bags due to its flexibility. The material is lightweight and holds the ink from prints well without bleeding or flaking of the design.

Canvas materials are sourced from the environment naturally, making these materials the perfect choice for those who are environmentally conscious. The reusable nature of canvas tote bags further supports the ecosystem by reducing the production of wastes.

What are the popular weights of canvas material that is used in canvas totes?

Canvas material is available in 4 oz., 5 oz., 6 oz., 8 oz.,10 oz., 12 oz., 14 oz., 16 oz. and 24 oz. weights. The popular weights of the canvas material out of those options are the 6 oz. for lower quality bags (also known as Cotton totes or Cotton sheeting totes) and 12 oz. for durable canvas totes. The heavier weights are reserved for fashion totes.

What is the difference between 5 oz. 6 oz. 10 oz.,12 oz. canvas material?

The differences in weights account for differences in the canvas material. The 5 oz. material is thin but also the most popular option for cheap bags, such as those used for grocery shopping in order to prevent the wastage of plastic bags. The 6 oz. material is indistinguishable from the 5 oz. so it is often better to opt for the cheaper 5 oz. material if deciding between the two.

The 10 oz. canvas material is reserved for high quality totes that are durable and last several years of use. This material looks even better with age, as it washes and wears well. The 12 oz canvas material is heavy duty and used to make more refined looking bags, encroaching into fashion beyond practicality and simplicity.

What is GMS for a Tote Bag and how is GMS calculated?

GMS means grams per meter squared. A gram is a unit of weight. A thousand grams equals one kilogram. Basically, it is another term to determine the weight of the fabric when the material ends up being a blend of two or more fabrics. The higher the GMS, the heavier the weight of the fabric.

What is the difference between canvas and cotton tote?

Canvas can be made from cotton through a special weaving process. Although canvas can be made from other materials, including cotton, the build tends to be sturdier than a plain cotton bag.

The advantages of a plain cotton tote bag include the positive environmental impact due to its reusability. They also tend to be cheaper but serve multiple purposes, from errands to shopping. Another benefit of cotton material is the fact that it retains heat transfer, iron-ons and screen-printing extremely well. Cotton itself is heat resistant up to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. The material is also easily penetrable by a needle, serving as an adequate canvas for threadwork and embroidery. Cotton bags also tend to be lightweight, between 4 oz. and 6 oz. However, this also means that cotton tote bags aren't as durable and should be handled with care.

Canvas tote bags are heavier duty than cotton tote bags due to the intricate weaving process used during manufacturing. As a result, canvas tote bags can carry heavier items for long periods of time without worry of the bag ripping or giving out during an errand or day out. Even on canvas material, iron on logos, screen printed designs and heat transfer applications work well with little effort. Due to their sturdy nature, canvas tote bags tend to be heavier, weighing between 8 oz. and 24 oz. The most popular canvas weights are 10 oz. and 12 oz. 

Although both types of totes have their advantages and disadvantages, the best tote bag for you depends on what you plan on using the bag for. Cotton tote bags work well temporarily for light use. However, canvas tote bags are more durable and can withstand continuous wear and tear, accounting for why these bags tend to last longer.

Are tote bags waterproof?

 Although many store-bought totes will come waterproofed, many DIY projects and cheaper bags will not have a waterproof coating over them. The advantages of waterproof totes are limitless and worth paying for if you're debating between the two. After all, a bag that is weather resistant will protect your belongings from water damage. An easy way that you can waterproof your drawstring tote is with wax. A bag can be DIY waxed at home to make it waterproof.

It is important to remember that the wax coating will not last forever. Typically, the coating will have to be reapplied once every year. The coating will last longer with proper care. Remember to never wash your bag with hot water. It is best to use a soft brush with natural bristles to clean the bag or even hand wash with cold water.

How to Clean / Wash / Care For Your Tote 

Spot Cleaning A Canvas Bag

Although totes can be machine washed or hand washed, The best solution for a dirty canvas tote bag is to spot clean it. Some canvas tote bags in white or plain colors are suitable for washing machines. Depending on the technique used to print them, they can also be machine washed using cold water. However, watercolor painted canvas bags, canvas bags with leather trimmings, or canvas bags with adornments and other types of sensitive prints need manual washing

To Spot Clean Your Tote

You'll need mild detergent, a cleaning rag, cold water, and some good old-fashioned elbow grease. Washing machines, ironing and a trip to the dry cleaners need not apply. After gathering your supplies, it's truly just a matter of getting down to business. Rinse your cleaning rag and wring it out. Drizzle liquid laundry detergent on the rag. Blot the tote with the rag to spot clean stains and built up residue. Don't forget to turn the bag inside out to clean it in its entirety. Once satisfied with your efforts, wipe the entire tote down once last time with a clean wet rag to remove any lingering soap residue. Once clean, simply lay the tote flat and allow it to air dry.

Stain Removal

If your canvas bag is stained, you should remove them before washing or intensely cleaning them. Heavy stains can be a big problem, as they often need some extra care. Some stains do not go away with water and a soft cloth, so you may need some liquid detergent or other stain removing products.

Make sure you apply the stain removal product on a discrete small portion of the bag to make sure the powder or liquid does not cause canvas burns, discolorations, or color bleeds. If everything looks good after a few minutes, use a white cloth and a damping technique to slowly and securely remove the stains. You should not scrub the stains because color transfers, discolorations, or canvas damage are possible.

Hand Washing

Start off by dipping the entire bag in clean, lukewarm water. Then, wring out the excess water and use a soft bristled brush or your fingers in a light, circular motion to remove any dirt or debris. Focus on problem areas with a light detergent. Follow up with a final rinse to remove all remnants of detergent. As for drying, simply hanging the bag up on a clothesline to air dry will work well. The risk with throwing a tote into the dryer is the issue of shrinkage. Allowing the bag to instead air dry will help the bag retain its original size and shape.