How to Wash a Sleeping Bag
A good quality sleeping bag will last a very long time, as long as it’s properly cared for. The following sleeping bag care guidelines should help you keep your camping investment in tip top shape, so you can enjoy it for years to come.
DO NOT DRY CLEAN YOUR SLEEPING BAG. The manufacturers of our synthetic and down fills inform us that solvents and fumes used in cleaning may be retained in the insulation and if inhaled, could produce skin irritation, allergic reaction, or possibly serious physical injury.
Before attempting to wash a sleeping bag, you have to determine whether it’s a down-insulated sleeping bag or one with synthetic insulation. Down insulated sleeping bags are more delicate due to the baffling that holds the down in place inside the sleeping bag. Excessive weight put on these baffles from wet down could rip them, which will result in the down shifting and will affect the efficiency (warmth) of the bag. The following instructions for washing are general guidelines; your bag may require different care, so please make sure to read the manufacturer’s instruction tag first.
Whether it’s a down insulated sleeping bag or a synthetic insulated bag, it will need periodic cleaning to extend the life and maintain maximum loft. Professional cleaning services are available, however it is possible to wash your own sleeping bag.
Sleeping bags are too large and delicate for standard home washing machines so a commercial-sized (laundromat), front-loading, non-agitating washing machine is the best choice. Wash your bag in warm water with a down or synthetic insulation-specific detergent. Don’t rely on the single rinse; set the washer to rinse several times to thoroughly remove soap and dirt. An extra spin cycle will also remove excess water. Dry in a front load industrial dryer at the laundromat. Dry the bag on the lowest heat setting possible, while frequently checking to make sure the drum of the dryer is not getting too hot. During the drying cycle you will want to throw a few tennis balls into the industrial dryer, along with your sleeping bag, to gently break up clumped insulation, to re-loft the bag. Check your sleeping bag frequently to ensure it isn’t getting too hot, as heat settings on some machines are not to be trusted. Never let the dryer stop unattended, especially if the dryer doesn’t have a cool-down cycle. You don’t want the sleeping bag to be resting on a hot dryer drum, which may cause melting of the outer nylon and zipper.
No matter which type of sleeping bag you have, make sure it is completely dry before storing. For more on sleeping bag care visit our sleeping bag insulation care page.
Sleeping Bag Storage
Before you store your sleeping bag, make sure it’s completely dry. If, after you get home from your trip, your sleeping bag is slightly damp, it should be dried completely, before it is stored. Even a slightly damp sleeping bag runs the risk of developing mildew, if stored for a long period of time. The best way to dry a damp sleeping bag is to air it out outside, then turn it inside out and air it out some more, so it can air out from both sides of the bag. After each trip, whether your bag is damp or not, airing it out is a good practice to adopt.
Your sleeping bag may have come packed in a compression sack or a stuff sack, for easy storage and portability, but this is not the most optimal container for long-term storage. If you’re storing your sleeping bag for an extended period of time, and have a little extra closet space, hang your bag. If space is at a premium, invest in a nylon mesh bag or a breathable cotton storage bag. These bags will maintain your sleeping bag’s loft throughout its lifespan, whereas compressing it into a tight bag constricts and damages the insulation. Find a cool, dry place to store your sleeping bag.