How to Wash a Down Sleeping Bag

Sleeping bag, thermos and boots outdoors on sunny day

Sleeping bags can last a long time when properly cared for, and the less you wash a sleeping bag, the better. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t times when it would do your sleeping bag a lot of good to give it a good washing.

A down sleeping bag can be washed at home with gentle non-detergent soap that is specifically for washing items that are down or synthetic-filled. Sleeping bags can be dried in the dryer, but be sure to do so on a low heat level. Sleeping bags can also be spot cleaned at home.

For some people, their preferred method of cleaning their sleeping bag is going to be to take it to be professionally cleaned. But that doesn’t mean you can’t do it at home yourself. There are specific methods you should use when cleaning a down or synthetic sleeping bag, but once you learned what they are you’ll be ready to do it yourself at home in a flash!

Spot Cleaning a Sleeping Bag

As I mentioned before, the less you wash your sleeping bag, the better. Limiting washing will help to extend the life of your sleeping bag. So what are you to do when you get some dirt or marshmallow on your sleeping bag? Chances are, it’s not dirty enough that you’ll need to throw the entire bag in the washing machine. Spot cleaning your sleeping bag is surprisingly easy, and will significantly cut any time that it would take to wash or dry the entire sleeping bag, which can take several hours.

Spot cleaning is much faster and simpler because you can focus on the smaller, individual dirty spots rather than having to clean the entire sleeping bag.

You can make your own cleaner by combining non-detergent soap and water into a paste. You can use a toothbrush to gently clean the shell of the sleeping bag with the past. You can also wash and rinse the outside area of the sleeping bag without getting the inside wet by holding the shell or liner fabric away from the insulation as you clean. This will cut down the drying time even more.

Washing a Sleeping Bag

A sleeping bag can go many years without needing a complete wash, so even after a camping trip, you don’t need to worry about thoroughly washing it unless the bag has gotten super dirty. If you find yourself in this scenario, there are a couple of different ways to move forward:

Hand Washing a Sleeping Bag – You can hand wash your sleeping bag at home in your bathtub.

  1. Fill your bathtub with cold or warm water and add the soap. Make sure you are using the right cleaner for your bag (down vs. synthetic). Use the smallest amount of soap necessary, since using more soap will make it more difficult to rinse all of it out later on.
  2. Put your sleeping bag in the tub and gently work in the soap throughout the entire bag. Make sure to focus on the dirtiest spots. Let the bag soak in the soapy water for no longer than one hour.
  3.  Drain the tub and press as much water out of the bag as possible.
  4.  To rinse your sleeping bag, fill the tub with cold or warm water and work the soap out. Let the bag sit for 15 minutes before draining the tub and pressing out the water. Repeat this process as many times as necessary until all the soap has been rinsed out.
  5.  Gently squeeze out as much water as you can from the bag, gather it into a ball, and carry it to the dryer.
  6.  You can dry the bag in a large dryer if you have one at home, but if it’s too small and the bag stays balled up, take it to the laundromat. If you would rather air dry your sleeping bag, take it outside and lay it flat on the grass or a towel in a spot where it will get some sun, since this will help the drying process go by quicker.
Row of washing mashines in appliance store

Machine Washing – If hand-washing your sleeping bag isn’t your preferred washing method, have no fear. You can always use a washing machine since most sleeping bags can be machine washed. Just be sure to use a front-loading washer or a top-loading dryer that doesn’t have an agitator.

If this is how you decide to go about cleaning your sleeping bag, just be aware that home front-load washing machines tend to be small and energy-efficient, so yours may not be able to give the sleeping bag the space it needs to tumble and clean thoroughly. If this is the case, you may need to hand-wash the bag or take it to a laundromat or professional cleaner.

If you find that your washing machine is big enough for the bag to tumble, you can wash it on a gentle cycle in cold or warm water. Again, be sure to use the appropriate soap, and as little as possible of it so it can all be rinsed out easily. You can also add a few other damp articles of clothing or towels that need washing to help balance the spin of the machine and to ensure that your bag gets a thorough cleaning. After washing the bag once, run it through another rinse cycle just to be sure that all of the soap gets properly rinsed out.

How to Dry Your Sleeping Bag

Sleeping bag in the tent. Camping. Equipment for recreation and tourism.

After a good washing and rinsing, you can throw your bag in the dry on low heat. It is important to dry it at a low heat so that the sleeping bag doesn’t melt. If you have a down sleeping bag, throw a few clean tennis balls into the dryer once the bag is nearly dried, since this will help break up any clumps of down that may have formed at any point in the cleaning process.

Make sure the sleeping bag is completely dry before putting it bag into a bag for storage. You can leave the bag sprawled out for one night for a little extra air drying, just to be sure.

Other Ways to Clean Your Sleeping Bag

If none of these previously mentioned methods appeal to you, you can always take your sleeping bag to a professional cleaner and have them take care of the entire process for you. This will be the more expensive option but will save you time and energy.

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