How to Wash a Sleeping Bag for a Clean Camping Nap

When you rely on your equipment to keep you warm, dry, and maybe even alive through the night, you want to take care of it. This means you need to know how to wash a sleeping bag without damaging it.

A dirty sleeping bag isn’t just smelly and unpleasant. It can also reduce your bag's insulating ability, which makes for long, uncomfortable nights. A soiled bag will make you feel colder in the winter and clammy in the summer.

When your bag accumulates dirt, grime, and body oils, it loses its loft. The best way to restore the loft is to learn how to wash a sleeping bag.

HOW TO WASH A SLEEPING BAG: WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW FIRST

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Before you pull out the Tide, check the label for the instructions. Different materials require different care. And if you’ve invested in a good sleeping bag, the last thing you want to do is destroy it in the washer.

Is your sleeping bag machine-washable? If so, then the best way how to wash a sleeping bag is in the washer. We don't recommend trying to handwash your sleeping bag unless absolutely dictated by the manufacturer.

However, not just any washer will do. You’ll need a large-capacity front-loading machine for the best results. Your bag needs plenty of room to allow for the water to work its magic.

More importantly, it needs enough room and water to become thoroughly rinsed. Residue from soap and detergent can attract and hold on to more dirt the next time you use it.

Along with room, the agitators in top-loading machines can easily tear your bag to shreds and damage the insulation. Who needs that? Your bag needs to tumble gently to preserve its integrity.

Some new top-loading models forgo the use of agitators, but we recommend you not take that risk. If you don’t have a front-loader, no worries. Your local laundromat should have plenty standing by, hungry for your quarters.

CHOOSE THE RIGHT CLEANERS

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Before proceeding, make sure you know your sleeping bag’s filler materials. They may be synthetic or down. It’s essential to choose the correct cleaner for each type.


HOW TO WASH A SLEEPING BAG WITH DOWN FILLER

Down provides unique benefits for insulation in sleeping bags and outerwear. You don’t want to destroy its natural capabilities by using a harsh detergent that strips it of its waterproofing.

Experts in both cleaning and camping gear recommend using a specialized down cleaner such as Nikwax Down Direct Wash or Gear Aid Revivex Down Cleaner.

Nikwax Down Wash Direct, 300ml
  • Soap-based cleaner that...
  • Improves the water repellency...
  • Easy wash-in application;...
  • Safe for use on jackets, gear...
  • Water based, biodegradable,...
Gear Aid Revivex Down Cleaner for Jackets and Sleeping Bags,...
  • Restore loft and warmth while...
  • Mild formula contains no extra...
  • One pouch of this concentrated...
  • Safe for use on all products...
  • Packaging may vary

As well as providing in a better-smelling sleeping bag, these specialized formulas preserve the down’s water repellency. Best of all, they do this without removing the shell's breathability



How to wash a sleeping bag with synthetic filler

To clean sleeping bags and outdoor cold-weather gear with synthetic insulation, you want to look for a “Technical Cleaner.”

Nikwax makes a popular TechWash that campers seem to love. Other brands worth considering are Granger's Performance Wash or Gear Aid’s Pro Cleaner.

Nikwax Tech Wash, 300ml
  • Safely cleans technical...
  • Enhances performance of Nikwax...
  • Easy wash-in application;...
  • Recommended for technical...
  • Water based, biodegradable,...
Granger's Performance Wash / 1 ltr / The Ultimate High...
  • Recommended by the Worlds...
  • Adds NO Scent or Optical...
  • Throughly Cleans, De-odorizes...
  • MONEY BACK GUARANTEE- If you...
  • Water-based, Fluorocarbon /...
Gear Aid Revivex Pro High-Tech Fabric Cleaner, 10 fl oz -...
  • Concentrated, low suds...
  • Technical wash restores...
  • Free of fragrances, softeners...
  • Specialized formula can be...
  • Packaging may vary; available...

These unique formulas don't include fabric softeners that hamper the fabric’s breathability or wicking function. They also abstain from fragrances that might affect your hunt.

PREP YOUR BAG

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Now that you have the right machine, detergent, and water temp, it’s time to learn the finer details of how to wash a sleeping bag, step by step.


First

Examine your sleeping bag thoroughly for any rips or tears. You can sew on a patch or use ripstop tape. This helps to ensure your insulation doesn’t get damaged during the washing process.


Next

Ensure that there’s no loose change or other items in your sleeping bag and zip it up. That includes any pockets or hoods so that no open zippers can catch on the fabric.


Then

Turn your sleeping bag inside out to turn the waterproofed exterior to the inside of the bag. This allows the free flow of water and detergent to work through the material and insulating layers.

HOW TO WASH A SLEEPING BAG

FOR BEST RESULTS

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Add the sleeping bag into the washer by itself, along with the amount of soap specified by the detergent manufacturer.


RUN

You should always check your bag’s label for washing instructions regarding water temperature. However, if it’s too faded or torn off, you’ll want to opt for cold or lukewarm water. Turn the machine on using the gentle cycle using either cold or warm water.


RINSE AND REPEAT

Once finished, run it through the rinse cycle again to ensure the machine has removed all soap. Then, check the bag to make sure the water has been thoroughly extracted. If not, run it through the spin cycle again.


DRYING

Your best option is to air-dry your sleeping bag. High dryer heat can melt synthetic insulation. So, hang your bag up to dry indoors.

Once it's nearly dry, you can run it through the dryer on a low-heat cycle to restore the loft. Add a pair of tennis balls to will help break up any clumps and distribute the down evenly.

If you can’t air-dry your sleeping back, then use a large dryer set on low heat. Adding some clean terry-cloth towels will decrease the drying time. To keep the temperature low, stop the dryer and let some heat out throughout the cycle.


HOW TO KEEP YOUR SLEEPING BAG CLEAN

Once you’ve been through all the hassle of learning how to wash a sleeping bag, you probably don’t want to repeat it too soon. So, to prevent grime from building up in your bag, use the following tips:

  • Use a sleeping bag liner to prevent dirt from accumulating
  • Change into clean clothes before using your sleeping bag
  • Hang your bag in the sunshine to air it out.

HOW NOT TO WASH A SLEEPING BAG

Don’t be tempted to send your bag out for dry cleaning. The chemicals used in the process can destroy your bag's insulation and permanently damage the waterproof shell.

And while you may think hand-washing is the gentlest approach, it can also result in poor results. Handwashing such a cumbersome item may mean leaving soap residue, which means you'll have to repeat this tiresome process more often.

GET NAPPING

Now that you know how to Wash a Sleeping Bag, you’ll find your sleep more comfortably when you’re camping. You’ll find that you’re warmer, dryer, and sleep better outdoors than you have since it was new.

What do you find is the trickest part of maintaining your sleeping gear in the wilderness? If you have a story or tips to share, sound off in the comments.

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