How to Wash a Sleeping Bag
How you wash a sleeping bag depends on whether it is filled with synthetic fiberfill or down. Both are machine washable but use different detergents, and they need a large enough machine without a central agitator. Generally, wash using cold or warm water on the permanent press or delicate cycle. Dry in a clothes dryer on low or air dry. Drying can take up to five hours, so give yourself extra time.
Never use fabric softener, chlorine bleach, or alternative bleach products when washing a sleeping bag since it can affect the insulation and water repellency. Also, never wash it at the dry cleaners since the cleaning solvent can affect the filler. Wash the sleeping bag thoroughly at least once a year. After every 10 uses, turn it out, wipe it down, and air it out. Sleeping bags can lose a little bit of their insulation value each time they're washed, so it's recommended to wash them only annually or once per season.
Continue reading for step-by-step instructions on washing, drying, maintaining, and storing a synthetic fiber or down sleeping bag.
|How to Wash a Sleeping Bag|
|Detergent||Regular laundry detergent or down wash|
|Water Temperature||Cool to warm|
|Cycle Type||Permanent press or gentle|
|Drying Cycle||Low heat|
|Special Treatments||Add dryer balls to speed the drying process|
|Iron Settings||Do not iron|
|How Often to Wash||Wash at least annually, and wipe down after 10 uses|
What You'll Need
Equipment / Tools
- Washing machine or bathtub
- Soft-bristled nylon scrub brush (Optional)
- Automatic dryer, clothesline, or drying rack
- Wool dryer balls
- Regular laundry detergent or down wash
- Enzyme-based stain remover
How to Wash a Synthetic Fiberfill Sleeping Bag
Read the Care Label
All sleeping bags are required by law to have a care label with cleaning instructions. Follow the instructions. If the tag is missing, the following steps are safe for all sleeping bags filled with synthetic fiberfill.
Treat Visible Stains
If the bag is heavily soiled or has visible stains from food, tree sap, or blood, pretreat the stains. Use a dab of enzyme-based stain remover and work it into the stain with a soft-bristled nylon brush. Allow the stain remover to work for at least 15 minutes before adding the sleeping bag to the washer or bathtub.
Set the Washer Water Temperature and Cycle
A sleeping bag should be washed in cold or lukewarm water on the gentle or permanent press cycle with a low final spin speed. The washer drum should be large enough for the sleeping bag to tumble around; it should not overstuff the washer.
Only use a front-loading washer or a top-loading washer without a center agitator or a removable center agitator (like the Whirlpool 2-in-1 Washer). When loading the washer, add a couple of large towels to help balance the load.
Do Not Overdose Detergent
Use a high-efficiency (HE) low-sudsing laundry detergent. Do not overdose because removing detergent residue is essential. Do not add fabric softener, bleach, or alternative-bleach products, which can affect the moisture-repellent quality of the outer shell of some sleeping bags.
Add a Second Rinse Cycle
Add a second rinse and spin cycle to ensure that all the soil and detergent residue is removed from the bag.
Dry the Sleeping Bag
You can dry a clean sleeping bag in a large automatic dryer on low heat. Add two or three wool dryer balls to help keep the bag aerated and to break up clumps in the fiberfill.
If the dryer is not large enough for the bag, open it and lay it flat over a drying rack or clothesline. Reposition the bag several times as it dries and manually break up clumps in the filler.
How to Wash a Down-Filled Sleeping Bag
You can wash down-filled sleeping bags following the same steps as those with fiberfill, with one exception. Down bags must be washed using a soap formulated for down. A down cleaner like Granger's Down Wash or Nikwax Down Wash is formulated to remove soil and odor while protecting the oils that provide the moisture-repellent qualities of the feathers.
Treating Stains on a Sleeping Bag
Stains on your sleeping bag are likely to occur if you're outside, exposed to the elements. Many sleeping bags have a waterproof or water-resistant outer lining, which is good if you catch a liquid spill immediately and wipe it away before it permeates the fibers. Other common stains include dirt and mud, grass, oil and food, and sometimes, blood. Each type of stain has a removal method that works best.
You can also use an enzyme-based stain remover: Pre-treat the stain 15 minutes before washing, rubbing the stain remover into the stain with a soft-bristled nylon brush.
Care and Repairs
Check your bag periodically to ensure the seams, zippers, and drawcords are in good shape. Feel the insulation to see if it's evenly distributed. Small holes or tears can be closed with a needle and thread or covered with a fabric patch. If the zipper needs replacement, bring it to a professional tailor.
If you have a new down sleeping bag, you might occasionally notice down or feathers poking out, especially along the seams. Before new bags settle, it's common for down and feathers to test the seams. If you notice any quills poking through, push them back in. The little hole it made should close up.
If your sleeping bag is treated with a special waterproof coating and you notice that your sleeping bag is absorbing water and getting soggy, it's time to refresh the waterproof coating. The original DWR (durable water repellent) finish on a sleeping bag's shell eventually wears off (it can be months or years, depending on your usage). A DWR product can restore water repellency and help keep the bag cleaner if you reapply this finish.
Storing a Sleeping Bag
Ensure the sleeping bag is completely dry before storing it in a breathable cotton or mesh bag. Always keep the bag in a cool, dry space to prevent mildew growth. Avoid damp basements and unheated (and uncooled) spaces like garages, attics, and car trunks.
How Often to Wash a Sleeping Bag
Wash the bag at least once a year or at the end of each camping season. Getting a sleeping bag with a removable, washable liner is recommended. Wash a liner after each use. A clean liner keeps your bag cleaner longer.
After every 10 uses, wipe the sleeping bag with a clean cloth and warm soapy water. Turn it out, and hang it to air dry.
Tips for Washing a Sleeping Bag
- Use a sleeping bag liner which is much easier to wash. You can get lightweight silk or cotton or choose fleece or insulating synthetic performance fibers for a warmer liner. If your bag does not come one with one, you can buy it separately.
- After every use, open the bag flat and allow it to air and dry thoroughly.
- To keep your sleeping bag cleaner longer, protect your sleeping bag from the ground with a tarp.
- Another tip for keeping the bag clean is to sleep in clean clothes each night.
Will washing a sleeping bag ruin it?
Machine or hand washing a sleeping bag continuously can decrease the insulating properties; therefore, washing a sleeping bag annually or as necessary is recommended. A removable, washable liner will enable you to keep sweat and body oils off the bag, keeping it clean longer.
How long does it take for a sleeping bag to dry?
It takes about 3 to 5 hours for a down or synthetic-fill sleeping bag to air dry or machine dry on low. Synthetic fill usually takes longer to dry than down.
What can you do about mold, mildew, or a musty smell in a sleeping bag.
Wipe any spots with full-strength vinegar to kill and eliminate mold and mildew. It will kill the spores and deodorize the sleeping bag.