How To Wash A Sleeping Bag?

Rilor Staff
Update: July 17, 2021
Table of Contents

Learning how to wash a sleeping bag is an essential skill. After all, these sleeping bags are used in various outdoor applications. They can be used inside the tent or outside, leaving them dirty and grimy. 

Of course, you can't just let that mess sit in your bag. You see, the accumulation of dirt, debris, and oil will build into the bag's fill--regardless if it is synthetic or down. Once this happens, your bag will lose its warmth and fluffiness (or loft). 

Fortunately, there are various means on how you can restore your sleeping bag's cleanliness. 

How Often Should You Clean Your Sleeping Bag?

The truth is, there's no limit when it comes to the frequency of washing your sleeping bag. But at the same time, there's no real need to wash them after each of your trips. In fact, you are free to wash your sleeping bag even once a year. 

But if you are using it frequently, it is a good idea that you wash it from time to time. You can do this before storing the bag after a season. In this way, your sleeping bag will be free from residues, dirt, and body oil prior to stashing them. 

In cleaning your sleeping bag, you should remember the following:

  • Don't do dry cleaning - Keep in mind that the chemical used on dry cleaning is too harsh for the fibers and fabrics of the sleeping bag. They can shed the oil treatment of the down, which helps in maintaining the loft. 
  • Take care of it while camping - Just because the sleeping bag is meant for outdoor use doesn't mean that you are free to dirt. You should try to keep it clean as much as possible. It is recommended that you use liners while you are sleeping inside them. Furthermore, don't insert yourself while wearing dirty clothes. Moreover, you can also remove the air inside it to prevent condensation.

How To Wash A Sleeping Bag

A. Machine-Washing A Down Sleeping Bag

  1. The first thing that you need to do is to find a commercial washer. With this washer, you can guarantee that the bag is fully contained and rinsed. If you don't have access to nearby laundromats, you can opt for your front-loading washer. Don't use a top-loading washer that comes with an agitator because the latter can damage the fabrics of the sleeping bag. 
  1. Use a gear wash that is specifically designed for down fills. You can use any cleaning formula, as long as it states that it is safe to be used on items that have down. Don't use detergents because they can decrease the loft and clump it.
  1. When machine-washing, make sure that you unzip the bag fully. Otherwise, the slider is susceptible to snags and breakages. 
  1. Typically, you will need to machine-wash the sleeping bag using warm water. Configure the machine into a gentle cycle only. 
  1. After washing, rinse the bag thoroughly to ensure that no cleaning chemicals are left. You see, the residues of these commercial cleaners can prevent the down of the bag from becoming fluffy again. You should try your best to eliminate the moisture inside the bag. 
  1. When taking out the sleeping bag from the washer, make sure that you support its entire body. It is an excellent way of preventing the seams from being ripped and strained. Squeeze the remaining water, and you can dry the bag already. 

B. Machine-Washing A Synthetic Sleeping Bag

  1. Similar to down sleeping bags, you should try your best to load a synthetic sleeping bag inside a laundromat. If this option isn't available, you can use a front-loading washer instead. Again, avoid those machines that have agitators on them as they can ruin the sleeping bag.
  1. It is essential that you use the correct cleaning solution for your synthetic sleeping bag. In this context, you can use specifically-tailored cleaners that state that they are safe to be used on synthetic products. Please don't settle for detergents as they can decrease the fluff of the synthetic down. 
  1. The bag should be fully unzipped so that the slider won't snag or break.
  1. Use warm water and put the machine into a gentle cycle. Or you can follow the bag's instructions in the appropriate setting. 
  1. Rinse the sleeping bag two or more times to strip off the residues of the cleaning solution. You should rinse thoroughly so that the bag becomes wet but never drenched. 
  1. In removing the sleeping bag from the machine, support its entire body and not just a single end. After that, squeeze the bag a little more before you proceed to dry it. 

C. Hand-Washing A Sleeping Bag

  1. Use a bathtub and fill it with warm or cool water. Warm water is still preferable since it helps in removing grimes and debris.
  1. After filling the tub, put the appropriate cleaning solution on it--regardless if it is for synthetic or down sleeping bags. Don't use excess soap because it is difficult to rinse.
  1. Place the bag in the water-filled tub and start cleaning the bag. Make sure that you work thoroughly on those areas that have evident soiling or dirt. After you manually remove the blemishes, let the sleeping bag soak in the tub for an hour. 
  1. After that, you can already drain the tub of its contents and squeeze the sleeping bag to remove the excess water.
  1. Fill the tub again with water to rinse the sleeping bag. After that, you should clean the bag again with soap and let it soak in the tub for another fifteen minutes.
  1. Drain the tub and squeeze the remaining water again. Do this procedure again until such time no soap is left. 
  2. After this, you can take your sleeping bag to a commercial dryer so that it can be dried. If you are drying in your home, make sure that you set it to a low setting. Using high heat can melt the fabrics. If you don't have a dryer, place the sleeping bag on a flat surface (in an area with no sunlight and humidity). You are also free to hang the bag and wait for it to dry. 

Spot-Cleaning A Sleeping Bag

It is also essential that you spot-clean your sleeping bag before washing them. You need to ensure that the linings on foot and head of the sleeping bag will be cleaned first. These are the parts that are quite prone to dirt build-up.

Spot-cleaning a sleeping bag is not a difficult task. You simply need a soft bristle brush and mild soap. Apply the cleaning agent to the area and scrub it using the brush. Do this process as gently as possible. 

After that, you can wash the area you worked on using a wet sponge.

In Summary

Now that you know how to wash a sleeping bag, I am pretty hopeful that you'll be diligent enough to do this errand. Trust me. Doing such an errand will bring you convenience in each of your outdoor trips. Who wants to sleep in a dirty and smelly sleeping bag anyway? 

That's it for now. If you have other inquiries, feel free to ask me in the comment section below.

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