How to wash your sleeping bag

Like any bedding, sleeping bags can often hold a special place in our heart. They  do, after all, hold us tight at night, keep us warm in winter and to some, they can even act as a protection barrier from those unknown open spaces.

Many of us hope this cosy relationship will last for many years to come and, with the right care, our sleeping bags may very well be in it for the long haul. All they require is a little TLC and a gentle clean from time to time.

With these care and cleaning tips, you and your sleeping bag could camp happily ever after.

  • Be gentle and patient

Your sleeping bag takes care of you so it only makes sense to return the favour. Avoid being aggressive with those two-way zippers and if you want to curl up by the fire, consider wrapping an old bag around you. This will prevent burn holes and a lingering smoky smell. 

  • Sleep in clean clothes

Over time, body oils, sweat and dirt can diminish your sleeping bags insulation power. Change into a fresh pair of clothing and always try to remove sunscreen before climbing in. 

  • Consider using a liner or air out your bag

Acting as a barrier between your skin and the bag, liners are a great way to keep your sleeping bag clean. They do add degrees to your bag temperature though so use in the cooler months would be better suited. Alternatively, airing out your bag every day when on the road will help reduce moisture and any unwanted smells.


Washing a synthetic sleeping bag

If your sleeping bag doesn't explicitly say it's made with down filler, it's almost certainly synthetic. Handwashing and machine washing are both suitable procedures to clean your synthetic sleeping bag.

For small stains or targeted areas, a simple hand wash should be effective in removing grime. Mix a small portion of (non-detergent) soap with a container of warm water and drab a sponge or cloth on the affected area. Use clean water to rinse and leave the bag out to dry thoroughly.

Another option would be to clean your sleeping bag in a large, front-loading washing machine. It is recommended to use a commercial-sized machine, like the ones used in a laundromat. This is because smaller machines may not be able to tumble a sleeping bag enough and top loaders tend to tear them. Set the machine to a gentle cycle, using warm water for the full wash and add a mild soap or very mild detergent. It's recommended to run the cycle several times to ensure all soap residue is cleared away. Once complete, hang out on the line to dry or place in the tumble dryer on a low setting. 

Washing a down sleeping bag

'Down' sleeping bags are filled with soft down features and are a popular purchase due to their high fill power. Meaning, it traps heat and stores it efficiently while still remaining lightweight. 

Handwashing your down requires a bathtub and specialized 'down' cleaner. Fill the tub with lukewarm water, add the mild soap and place the sleeping bag in. This process takes a little longer as you'll need to rinse and repeat several times until there are no more traces of soap. Hang up to dry or tumble dry on low heat.

Again, you'll need a large, front-loading washer to machine wash your bag. Before you get started ensure all zips and Velcro straps are closed. Add the specialised cleaner and set the machine to a warm gentle/delicate cycle. It's thought that adding clean tennis balls to the cycle or tumble dry process prevents the down from clumping. When finished rinse the bag several times before drying.

Note: Before starting any of the above washing procedures, it is recommended you read the instructions of care for your sleeping bag first.

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