How to Wash A Sleeping Bag / Expert Advice

On average, we probably wash our sleeping bags once every three months, but it really depends how much they've been used and more importantly, in what conditions they have been used in. Most of the time sleeping bags will just need a spot wash where you simply take a sponge to your sleeping bag rubbing the dirty area, however if you've been sleeping outside without a tent, or on a serious cross-country walk where showering was not an option, you may need to give them a thorough clean.

The following steps are a guide to washing your sleeping in both a machine and by hand.  The process is exactly the same whether you have a synthetic sleeping bag or a down sleeping bag.  

Washing Machine

The most important thing to remember when washing your sleeping bag in a washing machine is make sure you're washing machine is large enough (at least 10kg), use a low heat and low spinning RPM and most importantly a light fabric cleaner.

If you don't have a washing machine large enough, the worst thing you can do is to try and fit your sleeping bag into a too small machine.  It's a total disaster for your sleeping bag and at best will shorten the lifespan, whilst at worst, could rip and damage beyond repair your sleeping bag.

  1. Read The Instructions -As with everything you put into the your washing machine, the first thing you must do is read the instructions.  The advice on washing your sleeping bag is 95% of sleeping bags, however some manufactures highly recommed that you don't machine wash your sleeping bag.  If so see hand washing below.

  2. Sleeping Bag Preparation - The first you must do to prepare your sleeping bag to be washed is zip up the zip and fold any Velcro to hold the bag in place.  Personally I would also fold it inside out.  This is particularly important if your sleeping bag has a waterproof shell.

  3. Washing - Once you're ready to wash, squeeze your sleeping 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 has room to move in the washing machine, there should be no problem.

  4. The Important Section - Next you need to put washing detergent into the washing machine, however don't add fabric softener as this might make it smell nice, but can also damage the sleeping bag.  It's important that you washing your sleeping bag on a low heat (at max 30 degrees) and ideally on a low RPM (at max 800RPM) to help protect your bag.

  5. Once it has finished it's cycle, put it on an extra rinse to make sure you get rid of all the soap.  When you take it out of the washing machine, rest it on a towel on a flat surface such as a table and roll the sleeping bag tight up to get rid of all the excess water. Don't wring it out. This can can cause the material inside to clump up.

  6. Drying - It's up to you how you dry your sleeping bag.  Most sleeping bags will be able to go into a tumble dryer on a low heat, however personally we prefer to hang the sleeping bag in a washing line to dry naturally.  

Hand Washing

Personally I would highly recommend that you look at hand washing your sleeping bags, rather than machine wash.  Yes it takes longer, but personally I think your sleeping bag will last longer.

Generally the process is exactly the same as above with the only key difference that you need to put into slightly more effort.

  1. The Container - To wash your sleeping bag, you're going to need a container big enough to easily fit the whole sleeping bag into.  Personally I find there's nothing better than a bath, however we've lots of different containers over the years.

  2. The Preparation - This is very similar to above, however it's not as important that you fold your sleeping bag inside out, or that you zip the zips.  There's going to be very little movement with a hand wash and therefore very little chance of anything tearing or ripping.

  3. The Water - Once you're ready the wash, fill the bath so there is enough water to completely submerge the whole sleeping bag.  If you have to, take off your shoes and step up and down on the bag until it is lying flat on the bottom of the bath.

  4. The Detergent - The same as above, fabric detergent is okay, but fabric softener is totally band.

  5. The Cleaning - Once you've added the fabric cleaner to the water, you basically need to squeeze water through the sleeping bag and leave it to soak for a while.  This process will take a while, but is very effective.

  6. The Final Part - Once you've completed the above a few times you need to completely remove all the soap from your sleeping bag.  The best way to do this is to use your your hands or feet press down on the sleeping bag to get rid of all the soap. You will probably have to keep emptying the bath and refilling it with cold water. In any case, you need to keep pressing down on the sleeping until no soap appears.

  7. Drying - Exactly the same as above, take out the sleeping bag and lay it flat on a flat surface on top of some towels.  Roll up the sleep bag tight and press down on it to get rid of any excess water and then hang the sleeping bag on a washing line.

Follow Up

Its really not very difficult to wash your sleeping bag either in a large washing machine or by hand.  

Once your sleeping bag is clean, make sure you still it correctly.  The general advice is to store your sleeping bag either lightly folded in a dry cupboard or a large cotton storage sack that gives the sleeping bag plenty of room to breath.

What ever you do, don't keep it stored in it's compression sack as this will damage the insides of the bag over time.  We would also highly recommend that you don't store your sleeping bag in watertight bags as they are prone to condensation which could result in mold growing in your sleeping bag. 

As a final point, it's important to remember sleeping bags will not last forever. The more times you wash your sleeping bag, the shorter it's lifespan becomes. If you want help replacing your sleeping bag, then check out our sleeping bag reviews here.

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