How to Wash a Sleeping Bag

Woman in green sleeping bag in tent looking at sunrise

Jordan Siemens/ Stone/ Getty Images

Project Overview
  • Working Time: 15 - 20 mins
  • Total Time: 3 - 5 hrs
  • Skill Level: Beginner

Whether you're a serious camper or sending your kid to a sleep-over, a sleeping bag is essential. Eventually, like any bedding, it will need to be washed. How you wash a sleeping bag depends on whether it is filled with synthetic fiberfill or down. Both are washable but handled slightly differently.

The main thing to remember when you're ready to wash a sleeping bag is to allow plenty of time for it to dry. Drying can take up to five hours, so plan ahead!

 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 cycle
 Iron Settings  N/A

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

  • Front-loading washer or Top-loading washer without a center agitator
  • Bathtub
  • Soft-bristled nylon scrub brush
  • Automatic dryer
  • Wool dryer balls
  • Clothesline or drying rack

Materials

  • Regular laundry detergent
  • Down wash
  • Enzyme-based stain remover

Instructions

How to Wash a Synthetic Fiberfill Sleeping Bag

  1. Read the Care Label

    All sleeping bags are required by law to have a care label with cleaning instructions that should be followed. If the tag is missing, these instructions are safe for all sleeping bags filled with synthetic fiberfill.

  2. 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.

  3. 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 that has a lower final spin speed.

    Due to the size of a sleeping bag, it should only be washed in 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.

    Tip

    Sleeping bags can be handwashed in a bathtub. Follow the same guidelines for water temperature and detergent as recommended for a washer. The wet bag will be heavy and it is difficult to remove excess rinse water from a sleeping bag when handwashing. Add at least an hour to the drying time.

  4. 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.

  5. Add a Second Rinse Cycle

    To ensure that all of the soil and detergent residues are removed from the bag, add a second rinse and spin cycle.

  6. Dry the Sleeping Bag

    The clean sleeping bag can be dried 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

Down-filled sleeping bags can be washed 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.

Repairing a Sleeping Bag

Small holes or tears can be closed with a needle and thread or covered with a fabric patch. Replacing a zipper is best done by a professional tailor.

Tip

If you are camping, use duct tape or even an adhesive bandage to cover a rip until you can get home.

Storage

Be sure that the sleeping bag is completely dry before storing it in a breathable cotton or mesh bag. Always store the bag in a cool, dry, conditioned space to prevent mildew growth.

Tips to Keep Your Sleeping Bag Clean Longer

  • Protect your sleeping bag from the ground with a tarp.
  • Use a sleeping bag liner which is much easier to wash.
  • After every use, open the bag flat and allow it to air and dry thoroughly.
  • Sleep in clean clothes each night.