Expert Advice: How to Wash A Sleeping Bag

On average, most people tend to wash their sleeping bags once every three months, but this really depends on the frequency that they are used and more importantly, the environment and conditions that they have been used in.

The majority of the time, sleeping bags will only require a spot wash where you simply rub the dirty area with a wet sponge. However, if you have been sleeping outside with no tent, or have embarked on an extensive outdoor physical excursion where showering was not an option, your sleeping bag may require a more thorough clean.

The following steps are a guide to washing your sleeping bag in both a machine, and by hand. The process does not differ whether you have a synthetic or a down sleeping bag.

Washing Machine Method

The most important thing to ensure when washing your sleeping bag in a washing machine is that the machine is large enough (at least 10kg) to accommodate your sleeping bad. When washing, you should use a low heat with a low spinning RPM, and most importantly, a light fabric cleaner.

If your washing machine is not large enough to accommodate your sleeping bag, do not attempt to squeeze and fit your bag into the machine. Doing so would at best only shorten the lifespan of your bag, but it could potentially rip and damage your sleeping bag beyond repair.

  • Read The Instructions– As with all laundry that you place inside your washing machine, the first thing that you must do is take time to read the care instructions. Generally speaking, the care advice for all sleeping bags are the same. However, some manufacturers highly recommend that you do not machine wash your sleeping bag. If so, see hand washing guidelines below.
  • Sleeping Bag Preparation – The first step to take in preparing your sleeping bag for being washed, is to ensure it is zipped all the way up with any Velcro folded to hold the bag in place. It is also advisable to fold the bag inside out, this being of particular importance if your sleeping bag has a waterproof shell.
  • Washing machine – When it is time for your sleeping bag to be washed, squeeze the bag into the washing machine and spin the drum a few times to make sure that it fits correctly. There is no particular best practice for this. As long as the sleeping bag has room to move in the washing machine, there should be no problem.
  • Detergent – Next you need to add laundry detergent into the washing machine. Please, do not add fabric softener as although this might make your bag smell nice, it can also damage the sleeping bag. It is important that you wash your sleeping bag on a low heat (maximum 30 degrees), and ideally on a low RPM (a maximum of 800RPM) to help protect your bag.
  • Final Spin – Once the machine has finished its cycle, put it on an extra rinse to ensure that you get rid of all the excess soap. When you take the sleeping bag out of the washing machine, lay it on a towel on a flat surface such as a table and then roll the sleeping bag tight in order to ensure that you have rid the bag of all water. Do not wring the bag out as this can cause the material inside to form in clumps. –
  • Drying – There is no preferential way of drying a sleeping bag. Most sleeping bags will be able to go into a tumble dryer on a low heat or alternatively, if you have access to a washing line, you can hang your sleeping bag outdoors to dry naturally.

Hand Washing Method

It is advisable to consider hand washing your sleeping bag as opposed to machine washing. This is as hand washing may be considered a gentler approach which will extend the life of your sleeping bag.

The process to handwashing your sleeping bag is similar to that of using a washing machine but with a couple of subtle differences which we will expand upon below. Note that you will require a container or basin, that is large enough to hold your full sleeping bag. It is worth considering using your bath tub as this will provide plenty of room for your manoeuvre.

  • Preparation – As mentioned earlier, the preparation and steps involved for hand washing your sleeping bad is very similar to that taken for using a washing machine. However, less importance can be placed on folding your bag inside out and so forth as with hand washing, there should be very little movement resulting in less probability of damaging the bag by way or tearing.
  • Water – You must fill your container or bath tub with enough water to allow you to completely submerge your entire sleeping bag. If you are using your bath tub, it would be ideal to lay the sleeping bag flat along the bottom of the bath. If you are struggling with air pockets raising the sleeping bag, you could always remove your shoes, get into the bath and lightly step on your bag to ensure its immersion.
  • Detergent – The same as with utilising a washing machine, fabric detergent can be used but softener is not to be used under any circumstances.
  • Cleaning – Upon adding the washing detergent to the water, you need to ensure that, as mentioned above, the entire bag is still submerged in the now diluted solution with the detergent being pushed through the sleeping bag a few times and then left for a while to soak. Although this process may be lengthy, it is proven to be very effective.
  • Removing Soap – Once you have followed the above cleaning step a few times, you need to eradicate all of the washing detergent from the sleeping bag. The most efficient way of doing so is to use your hands or feet to press down on the sleeping bag to help squeeze out any soap. You will most likely have to empty your container or bath tub of the used dirty water and replace with cold water a few times whilst still ensuring that you are applying pressure to the sleeping bag until soap is no longer present.
  • Drying – Please follow the exact same procedure as advised earlier under the ‘Washing Machine’ section.

Sleeping Bag Storage

Now that your sleeping bag is clean, you will want to ensure that it stays that way until required again. It is best practice to store your sleeping bag gently folded and in a dry cupboard, or alternatively, in a large cotton sack which will allow your sleeping bag room to breathe.

Despite what you may expect, it is not advisable to keep your sleeping bag stored in the compression sack that it comes with, as with time, this can damage the bag. In addition, it is also not recommended that you keep your sleeping bag in a watertight carrier such as a plastic bin liner as these are prone to condensation which could result not only in your sleeping bag smelling unpleasant, but could potentially result in mould growing on your bag.

Finally, please remember that your sleeping bag will not last forever and washing your bag frequently will inevitably reduce its lifespan. If the time has come to replace your sleeping bad and you would like some guidance, please check out our sleeping bag reviews here:

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