How to Wash a Sleeping Bag – Best Ideas

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Last Update: 16.Feb.2020

by Willie Test

Hiking

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Contrary to popular belief, you definitely should wash your sleeping bag. While many people think that a sleeping bag is just too delicate to wash, it turns out that regular washing is one of the best ways to keep your best adventure companion in good working order.

However, there’s plenty of misinformation out there about cleaning sleeping bags. So, we’ve made this how-to-guide to get you ready to take the best possible care of your gear.

Coming up, we’ll walk you through the basics of sleeping bag care, by providing you with the best sleeping bag washing instructions. Plus, we’ll give you all of the information you need to get out and adventure. Let’s get to it!

Why Too Much Compression is Bad for Your Bag

First things first, let’s talk about why you need to wash your sleeping bag. It turns out that washing your sleeping bag is the best way to restore your bag’s natural loft

What is loft, you might ask? Basically, loft is the “fluffiness” of the down feathers or synthetic fibers in your sleeping bag or insulated gear. Since sleeping bags work by trapping your own body heat next to you to insulate you from the outside, loft is critical to keeping you warm.

Essentially, the more loft a sleeping bag has, the more warm air it can trap next to your body. This means that when your sleeping bag loses loft, it loses some ability to keep you warm.

How does your sleeping bag lose loft? The number one enemy of sleeping bag loft is compression, so if you’re someone who stores their sleeping bag in a small stuff sack, you may want to rethink your habits.  

Sleeping bag compression

Additionally, if you store your sleeping bag properly, but you’ve found that it just doesn’t have the same loft as it used to, it might be time to wash your bag. Cleaning a sleeping bag can help restore some of its loft by removing dirt and grime from the insulation.

Thus, it’s really important that you wash your bag regularly to maintain its natural loft. Coming up, here are some top tips for how to clean a sleeping bag!

How to Wash a Sleeping Bag in a Washing Machine

If you don’t like handwashing, we’ve got some good news for you: You can use a washing machine for your sleeping bag. Here’s how to wash a sleeping bag in a washing machine:

  1. Look at the tag on your sleeping bag. This will list any important instructions from the manufacturer that you should follow. Use the manufacturer’s instructions instead of ours if they differ.Sleeping bag washing tag
  2. Get a gentle, non-detergent soap that’s made specifically for down and synthetically insulated garments and sleeping bags. If you don’t have this, find a chemical, dye, and fragrance-free alternative.
  3. Consider going to a laundromat with front-loading washers. These larger washers can be easier to use when washing a large object, like a sleeping bag.
  4. Place your sleeping bag and soap into the washing machine for the normal cycle length. We recommend using the gentle cycle with warm or cold water (not hot) with the smallest amount of soap recommended by the soap manufacturer.   Sleeping bag into the washing machine
  5. Wash your bag for one full cycle. If it still looks sudsy – especially if you have a down bag – consider a second rinse cycle.

As you can see, cleaning your sleeping bag in a washing machine doesn’t have to be very difficult. But, do keep in mind that you want to be as gentle with your bag as possible when washing it.

This means avoiding any top loading washing machines with agitators, which can rip your bag. Plus, you’ll need to be patient with your bag as it gets washed through a longer gentle cycle.

How to Wash a Sleeping Bag at Home

Although many people go to the laundromat to clean their sleeping bag, there’s no reason not to do it at home. If you have a washing machine at home, you can simply follow our instructions for machine-washing a bag. Just be sure that you don’t use a top-loading machine with an agitator!

If you’re wondering how to wash a sleeping bag at home without a washing machine, here’s how to do it:

  1. Fill a bathtub up with warm water and add a small amount of down/synthetic soap. You’ll want to be careful with soap as you don’t want to over-suds your sleeping bag.
  2. Place your sleeping bag in the tub filled with water. Let your bag soak in the water for at least one hour. If there are places that are particularly dirty, you can rub them to loosen the dirt.Sleeping bag in the tub filled
  3. Drain the tub to remove all of the water.
  4. Re-fill the tub using warm or cool water. Rinse your sleeping bag by letting it sit in the tub for about 15 minutes. Repeat this process until your sleeping bag is completely suds free.
  5. Remove most of the water from your bag by squeezing it. You won’t be able to get all of the water out but get as much as you can.
  6. Carry your bag like a big ball to the dryer or your air-drying location.
  7. If you choose to use a drying machine, you can simply set your machine on tumble dry-low heat. Should you want to air-dry your bag, simply hang it in the partial sun or lay it flat on a towel (you will need to flip it at some point).

How to wash a Synthetic Sleeping Bag

If you’re wondering how to wash a synthetic sleeping bag, we’ve got good news for you: down and synthetic sleeping bags have more or less the same washing instructions. So, you don’t have to do anything special for washing a synthetic bag. Just follow the above instructions, and you’ll be all set.

Spot Cleaning Your Bag

Should your sleeping bag have a few small spots of dirt that don’t really warrant a full washing, you may be wondering if you can spot clean instead. The answer? A resounding yes. 

Spot cleaning a sleeping bag is a great way to keep your bag fresh and clean without the hassle of a full wash. Here’s what you need to do:

  1. Use a very small dab of your normal sleeping bag washing soap. Apply it to the dirty spot on your sleeping bag.Dirty spot in sleeping bag
  2. Get a soft-bristle toothbrush and use that to scrub out the dirt.Toothbrush
  3. Rise your sleeping bag using a wet sponge until all the soap is gone.
  4. Lay your sleeping bag out in the sun and let it dry completely.
  5. Voila! You’re done!

How to Dry a Down Sleeping Bag

While washing a down sleeping bag and a synthetic one requires pretty much the same procedure, you might be wondering how to dry a down sleeping bag. When you have a down sleeping bag, the drying process is very important as it helps declump the down and restore loft. Here’s how to do it:

  1. Dry your down sleeping bag in a dryer on tumble dry-low heat.
  2. When your bag is almost dry, but still a bit damp, add a couple of clean tennis balls to the machine. This might sound silly but trust us. Tennis balls help declump your bag!
  3. Remove your sleeping bag from the dryer. Let it sit out on a flat surface overnight to ensure it’s completely dry. When there’s no moisture left in the bag, pack it into its storage stuff sack.

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