How to Wash a Sleeping Bag: Full Guide to Sleeping Bag Care

Whether you are going camping or crashing on the floor, it is vital to ensure your sleeping bag is always clean. An adequately maintained sleeping bag means the difference between cozy nights and long cold nights on the floor or ground. Cleaning a sleeping bag is an easy process that can be done using a washing machine or by hand. In this guide you will learn how to wash your sleeping bag, how to completely dry it, and also how to safely store it until your next camping trip.

When to Wash a Sleeping Bag

So, how often should you clean your sleeping bag?

  • Wash your sleeping bag when it is darkened with grime and is losing loft.
  • If you are sure the previous user had a skin infection, and you are not sure if the bag is infected or not.

When Not to Wash Your Sleeping Bag

  • There is no need to machine wash or hand wash your sleeping bag every time someone uses it. Spot cleaning is also a cleaning method, and it is great for when dirt is concentrated in a specific area.
  • If your sleeping bag is still not looking the best after being washed many times in the past, there is no need to keep washing it. It may be time to consider replacing it instead.

Washing Synthetic Filler Sleeping Bags

There are two main types of sleeping bag insulation: down and synthetic. Before you begin washing your bag, it is important to determine what type of insulation it has. If you own a down sleeping bag, proceed with the instructions below. For synthetic bags, however, the process may be a bit different.

Synthetic filler sleeping bags are lined with polyester fragments to keep you warm. They are highly water-resistant. If your bag is not explicitly labeled as having down filler, it is most definitely synthetic. They come with machine wash instructions labeled that you should follow closely to avoid damaging the fillers and the bag itself.



How to Wash a Sleeping Bag

There are three main ways to wash a sleeping bag: spot cleaning, hand washing, and machine washing. Bags that are particularly dirty may require a combination of spot cleaning and washing.

To get started washing your sleeping bag, you will need a few cleaning supplies and household items.

Supplies Needed

  • Warm water
  • Cold water
  • Specialty detergent
  • Regular liquid laundry detergent
  • Bathtub
  • Clean tennis balls
  • Large front loading washing machine
  • Dryer
  • Toothbrush

Depending on the size of the washing machine and dryer in your home, you may want to consider taking a trip to the local laundromat.


Spot Cleaning a Sleeping Bag

Sometimes your sleeping bag does not require a full wash, but just a little touch up and spot cleaning. The reason for this is that, over time, regular washing subjects the sleeping bag to unnecessary wear and tear. In most cases, you can go for a long time before you will need to wash your sleeping bag thoroughly.

How to Spot Clean a Sleeping Bag

Mix a paste with water and a small amount of non-detergent soap and gently use a toothbrush or washcloth to clean the shell. Clean the hood and collar since that is where dead skin, body oils, sweat, and hair tend to accumulate. Hold the shell away from the insulation to clean the area without making the inner part wet.

Sleeping bags do not need to be washed regularly with proper care. You can keep it relatively clean, fresh, and smelling nice by doing the following:

  • Wear clean clothes to assist in absorbing the oils and sweat from your skin.
  • Use a sleeping bag liner.

If the sleeping bag has one pesky stain, you should spritz the area and then dab it with a cleaner.

Clean Sleeping Bag After Washing


Hand Washing a Sleeping Bag

Hand washing a sleeping bag can be a long and tedious task, but it also gives you the ability to be as gentle as you want with the bag’s material. We recommend using a bathtub for hand washing because it reduces the chances of being soiled and making a mess during the process.

How to Hand Wash a Sleeping Bag

  1. Before filling the bath with warm water, be sure to rinse it out carefully.
  2. Fill the tub with warm water and add a suitable cleaner for the down or synthetic sleeping bag. For the synthetic bag, use a mild fabric cleaner and a specialty detergent for down bags. Use the soap moderately and mix it until it is evenly distributed.
  3. Put the sleeping bag in the water, work in the soap evenly throughout the sleeping bag. Rub the soiled parts together and soak it for an hour or so.
  4. Drain the water while pressing excess water from the bag and refill the tub with clean, warm water.
  5. Gently remove the soap from the bag. Do not squeeze or wring the sleeping bag.
  6. Allow the bag to 15-20-minute rest before removing any excess water.
  7. Repeat the whole process to remove soap from the bag entirely. Make sure you empty and refill the tub with warm water as you proceed.
  8. Once the sleeping bag has no more soap, drain the water from the bath and push it down to remove the logged water.
  9. Put your arms under the bag and pick it in a ball to avoid ripping the seams. Please take it to the dryer.
  10. You can choose to air dry it or use a large dryer to dry it. Turn your heat setting to low after reading labeled instructions.
  11. If the dryer is small, you can take the bag to a laundromat, air dry it, or lay it flat on a clean surface outside. Air drying takes a longer time. Also, you may have to break up clumps of insulation as it dries.


Machine Washing a Sleeping Bag

Cleaning your sleeping bag using a washing machine lightens the load, and the process is quicker than hand washing. Ensure that you use a front-loading washing machine. If you are using a top-loading washing machine, remove the agitator to prevent the sleeping bag from getting ripped and tangled on it.

Synthetic sleeping bags can be washed in the home washing machines as long as there is no agitator.

How to Machine Wash a Sleeping Bag

  1. Before inserting the down sleeping bag in the machine washer, run it via a rinse cycle to eliminate excess soap residue. If you are in the laundromat, ensure nothing in the machine could snag your bag.
  2. Zip up the bag, and if it has a waterproof shell, you should turn it inside out.
  3. Put the sleeping bag in the machine and a technical cleaner. Do not use powdered detergent. You can use mild liquid laundry soap.
  4. Wash the bag on a gentle cycle in warm or cold water.
  5. Once the machine wash is finished, rinse the bag thoroughly. Press down on it to check if it has been rinsed thoroughly. If soap suds come out, it means you need to go back in a rinse cycle.
  6. If you have a slippery floor, you need to cover it with towels to soak up excess water when removing the sleeping bag from the washing machine.
  7. While removing it, ensure you support the length of the bag when transferring it to the dryer. Sleeping bags tend to be heavy when wet and down feathers are too delicate.
  8. Tumble dry the bag on a low heat setting. Throw in a few tennis balls into the dryer to hinder the down clumping. You can also use wood dryer balls instead of tennis balls.

It may take a few hours for the sleeping bag to dry completely, so whether you prefer to air dry or use a dryer, you can engage in another chore as you wait for the sleeping bag to dry. To speed up the drying, you can also add a fluffy bath towel in the dryer with the sleeping bag. The bath towel will absorb and speed up the drying time.

For those who own a double sleeping bag, you may find that it is too large for your home washing machine. Instead, to machine wash a double bag, we recommend bringing it to your local laundromat. You may also opt to hand wash a double bag, although it can be a long and tedious process.



9 Tips for Maintaining and Washing Your Sleeping Bag

Two Rolled Up Sleeping Bags

  1. Never dry clean your synthetic sleeping bag. Dry cleaning a sleeping bag will tamper with the bag’s synthetic fill.
  2. Ensure you use a large washer if you have a winter sleeping bag, a zero-degree bag, or an alpine bag with an oversized loft, large baffles, and top-quality insulation. Overstuffing your home machine will hinder its performance.
  3. Using a household cleaner or a standard detergent could result in down clumping.
  4. Do not use hot water. Cold or warm water is preferable.
  5. In most cases, the original durable water repellent finish on your sleeping bag will wear off. Restoring this finish will restore the sleeping bag’s repellency and keep the bag cleaner.
  6. Repair your broken zippers and fabric tears to prevent the down insulation from leaving. You can sew up the hole or make a patch using adhesive gear-repair tape. The tape is risky since the adhesive may remain, or the tear may worsen if you try to rip it off.
  7. Never use bleach, fabric softener, or alternative-bleach products while washing your sleeping bag.
  8. Washing and drying your sleeping bag can take a long time, so ensure that you do not attempt to wash it right before you go on the road.
  9. If you are a regular camper, you should wash it once a year, but if you are a severe camper and use the sleeping bag almost every day, you will have to wash it more often.



Storing Your Sleeping Bag

After washing the sleeping bag, it is time to pack it up and safely store it until your next camping trip. A good rule of thumb is to store the bag as loose as possible to maintain its loft and maintain its longevity. Avoid keeping the sleeping bag jammed into the small stuff sack unless you are transporting it or carrying it with you.

If you have adequate space, lay the sleeping bag out. You can also open or lay it out on top of something under the bed or couch. Another good option is to simply use a large, oversized sack so the bag will remain loosely stuffed.

Sleeping Bag Unrolled Flat
Unrolled, flat sleeping bag for storage.



Final Thoughts

Washing your sleeping bag is a helpful way to ensure it lasts longer. It is also a great way to prevent contagious skin infections. Therefore, before you get into washing your sleeping bag, ensure you read the labeled instruction on the kind of wash you require. If you cannot hand wash it, or use your washing machine, take a laundromat trip for efficient washing.


Happy Camping!

Do you have your own tips and tricks for cleaning a sleeping bag? We would love to hear about it! Let us know in the comments section below.


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