How To Wash A Sleeping Bag (And Dry It Too!)

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Learn how to wash a sleeping bag with ease! My step-by-step guide will help you keep your sleeping bag fresh and clean for all your camping adventures.

how to wash a sleeping bag, and dry it too

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Your sleeping bag is your cozy home away from home when you’re out in nature! But washing any type of sleeping bag can seem like an intimidating task. Where do you even start? Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered!

In this blog post, I’ll show you step-by-step how to wash a sleeping bag (and dry it too!) so that it stays fresh and clean for all your future camping trips.

So let’s get started!

Before You Start: Pre-Washing Preparations

Before washing your sleeping bag, it’s important to read the care label and choose the appropriate detergent for the material; treat any stains or make necessary repairs beforehand. Keep in mind that washing a down sleeping bag requires different procedures than synthetic bags.

Read The Care Label

Before washing your sleeping bag, it’s important to read the care label. The label should provide instructions on how to properly clean and care for your specific sleeping bag. It may also indicate if there are any special precautions you need to take or if certain cleaning methods should be avoided.

Make sure to pay attention to temperature and detergent recommendations as well as any warnings about fabric softeners or bleach. Following these instructions can help ensure that your sleeping bag stays in good condition and lasts longer.

Choose The Right Detergent

Choosing the right detergent is crucial when washing a sleeping bag. You don’t want to use just any regular soap as it may damage the filling of your sleeping bag. When selecting a detergent, make sure to choose one that is specifically made for outdoor gear or down insulation, like Nikwax Down Wash or Granger’s Down Care Kit.

Avoid using bleach or fabric softener as these can strip off the durable water repellent (DWR) finish and leave behind residue that will attract more dirt and oils. Also, be mindful of fragranced detergents which may attract insects while you’re out camping. Choosing the right detergent will not only clean your sleeping bag properly but also prolong its lifespan so you can have plenty of restful nights in your trusty gear!

Treat Stains And Make Repairs

Before washing your sleeping bag, it’s important to treat any stains and make repairs as necessary. Use a gentle soap or stain remover and spot clean any heavily soiled areas with a soft brush. Avoid using bleach or strong detergents that can damage the insulation of your sleeping bag.

Inspect your sleeping bag for any tears or holes and patch them up with a repair kit before washing. This will prevent further damage during the wash cycle. It’s also a good idea to remove any loose items such as phone chargers or zippers that could snag on the fabric of the sleeping bag during washing. Taking these simple steps will ensure that your sleeping bag stays in good shape for many camping seasons to come!

Washing Down Vs Synthetic Sleeping Bags

When it comes to washing sleeping bags, down and synthetic fills require different care. Down needs special attention as it can clump when wet and lose its insulating properties. Synthetic bags are easier to take care of but may still require some extra steps for proper washing.

If you have a down sleeping bag, hand-washing with a gentle down-specific detergent is recommended to prevent damage to the feathers. For synthetic bags, machine-washing on a gentle cycle is usually sufficient. Always refer to the care instructions for your specific sleeping bag before starting the wash process.

How To Hand Wash A Sleeping Bag

To hand wash a sleeping bag, start by filling a bathtub or basin with lukewarm water and detergent, then submerge the bag and soak for 15-20 minutes before draining and gently squeezing out excess water.

Step 1: Fill Tub Or Basin With Water And Detergent

The first step to washing a sleeping bag is filling a tub or basin with water and detergent. Make sure the container you choose is large enough to fit your sleeping bag comfortably. Remember to carefully read the care label before choosing any cleaning product. Once you’ve selected the right soap, add it to the water and mix well until suds appear.

Step 2: Submerge And Soak Sleeping Bag

Once you have filled the tub or basin with water and detergent, it’s time to submerge your sleeping bag. Gently push down on the sleeping bag until it is completely submerged, making sure that there are no air pockets. This will help ensure that every inch of the sleeping bag gets cleaned thoroughly.

After soaking the sleeping bag, give it a gentle massage to help work out any dirt or stains. Be careful not to twist or wring out the bag as this can damage the insulation. Allow it to soak for at least 30 minutes, but if heavily soiled areas exist allow up to an hour before draining and rinsing in clean water using a mesh laundry bag for added protection.

Step 3: Drain Water

After soaking your sleeping bag in the detergent solution, it’s time to drain the water. Be careful not to wring or twist your sleeping bag as this can damage the filling and affect its ability to keep you warm. Instead, gently press down on the bag to release excess water.

Once most of the water is out, drain what remains from the tub or basin. You may need to repeat this process a few times until all detergent residue has been removed from your sleeping bag. Be sure that all soap bubbles have disappeared before moving on to the next step.

How To Machine Wash A Sleeping Bag

If you’d prefer to machine wash your sleeping bag, I must insist that you use a washing machine without a central agitator like in the image below. It can be either a top loading washer or front loading, but it just can’t have anything that would potentially rip the delicate sleeping bag fabric.

use a washing machine without an agitator when washing a sleeing bag

Step 1: Select Water Temperature And Washer Cycle

The first step in machine-washing a sleeping bag is to choose the appropriate water temperature and washer cycle. Most sleeping bags come with care instructions that specify whether they should be washed on warm or cold settings. If you insist on machine washing a down sleeping bag (and I suggest you don’t), it’s important to use cold water to avoid damaging the delicate feathers. When selecting the washer cycle, opt for a gentle or delicate setting to avoid any unnecessary wear and tear on your bag.

If you’re unsure about what setting to choose, it’s always better to err on the side of caution and go with a more gentle option. Remember that washing machines can be harsh on fabrics, so taking extra care when selecting your cycle will help keep your sleeping bag in good condition for many camping seasons ahead.

Step 2: Don’t Overdo The Detergent

When washing your sleeping bag, it’s important to be mindful of the detergent you’re using. While you may think more is better, adding too much detergent can actually damage the insulation and reduce its ability to keep you warm. Stick to the recommended amount on the detergent label or use a specialized product specifically designed for sleeping bags.

Also, make sure to avoid using fabric softeners or bleach as they can break down fabrics and damage any water-repellent coatings. For heavily soiled areas, spot clean with a mild soap before proceeding with washing your entire sleeping bag. In short, be gentle with your cleaning products to ensure that your sleeping bag stays in good shape for future camping seasons!

Step 3: Load The Sleeping Bag In The Washer

When it comes to loading your sleeping bag into the washer, you’ll want to make sure you’re doing it properly. First, unzip the sleeping bag and turn it inside out. This ensures that the inner layer of your sleeping bag is exposed and can be thoroughly cleaned during the wash cycle.

Next, place your sleeping bag in the washer gently and avoid stuffing or cramming it in there. Make sure there is enough space for water and detergent to circulate throughout the entire sleeping bag. If you have a top-loading machine, load your sleeping bag horizontally to reduce any potential damage caused by agitation during washing.

How To Dry A Sleeping Bag

Once you’ve washed your sleeping bag, it’s important to dry it properly. In this section, we’ll cover pre-dry preparations and the different drying methods to prevent clumping and ensure that your sleeping bag stays in good shape. Don’t miss out on these valuable tips!

Pre-Dry Preparations

Before drying your sleeping bag, there are some important pre-dry preparations to keep in mind. First and foremost, make sure that you’ve removed any excess moisture from the bag itself. You can do this by gently squeezing out any remaining water or using a towel to blot it dry.

Next, consider adding something like clean tennis balls or dryer balls into the dryer with your sleeping bag. These will help to break up any clumps that may form during the drying process and ensure even distribution of heat throughout the bag.

Lastly, be sure to hang your sleeping bag in a well-ventilated area for at least an hour before storing it away. This will give it enough time to fully dry out and prevent any musty odors from developing while in storage. Proper pre-dry preparations are crucial for maintaining the longevity of your sleeping bag and ensuring you stay comfortable on your next camping trip!

Air Drying vs Machine Drying Sleeping Bags

After washing your sleeping bag, it’s important to dry it properly to prevent mold and mildew from forming. You have two drying methods to choose from: air-drying or machine drying.

hang sleeping bags to dry them

Air-drying is the most common method, and it’s what I recommend since it’s gentle on the bag and doesn’t cause any damage. To air dry, simply hang your bag over a clothes line or anywhere else that it can hang freely in the wind.

If you’re short on time or don’t have space for air drying, you can use a machine dryer with low heat settings. Before placing the sleeping bag inside the dryer, make sure it’s clean and free of detergent residue.

Tips For Preventing Clumping

Clumping can be a real issue when drying your sleeping bag, especially if you have a down-filled one. That’s why it’s important to know some tips for preventing clumping during the drying process. One easy way is to toss in a few clean tennis balls into the dryer with your sleeping bag. The balls will help break up any clumps that may form and evenly distribute the fill.

Another tip is to periodically remove your sleeping bag from the dryer and manually breaking up any clumps that may have formed before returning it back for additional drying cycles. This can also help speed up the drying process overall. Just make sure not to overheat or over-dry your sleeping bag as this could damage its insulation or outer fabric material.

Store It Properly

Properly storing your sleeping bag after washing is important to maintain its shape and quality. First, make sure it is completely dry before packing it away. Don’t store it in its stuff sack as this can damage the insulation. Instead, hang it up or store it loosely in a breathable cotton or mesh bag.

It’s also a good idea to periodically take your sleeping bag out of storage and air it out for a few hours to prevent musty odors and keep the insulation from clumping up. If you’re going on an extended camping trip, consider bringing along a lightweight compression sack to keep your sleeping bag compressed without damaging the insulation.

Sleeping Bag Care FAQs

How Often Should I Wash My Sleeping Bag?

As a general rule, it’s recommended to wash your sleeping bag after every camping trip. However, if you’ve only used your sleeping bag for a short period of time and it doesn’t seem particularly dirty or sweaty, you can get away with washing it less frequently

Can I Wash My Sleeping Bag In Warm Water?

Yes, you can wash your sleeping bag in warm water, but it depends on the type of sleeping bag and its care instructions. Some synthetic bags can be washed in warm water without any problems, while down-filled sleeping bags are more sensitive to high temperatures. It’s important to read the care label on your sleeping bag before washing it so that you know what temperature to use.

Can I Use Fabric Softener On My Sleeping Bag?

Using fabric softener on your sleeping bag is not recommended. Fabric softeners tend to leave a residue that can clog the airspaces in the insulation, causing it to lose its insulating properties over time. This is especially true for down bags, as they are more delicate and require proper care.

How To Wash A Sleeping Bag: Final Thoughts

So there you have it, folks! You can now confidently wash and dry your sleeping bag without any fear of ruining it. Remember to always check the care label before starting, choose the right detergent for your specific bag, and treat stains or make repairs beforehand.

Photo of author

Thomas Coleman

Thomas is a lifelong camping, fishing, and outdoor enthusiast! He is proud to be an Eagle Scout and treasures every moment he gets to spend with mother nature. He has been camping in 14 states, 3 countries, and 2 continents. When not blogging about camping and the outdoors, he enjoys photography, playing guitar, and traveling with his wife.