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Best Methods for Washing Sleeping Bags

August 14, 2023

Did you know that there’s more than one type of sleeping bag? And they’re all designed to withstand different temperatures.

Summer: These bags are appropriate for temperatures above 30F. Usually, they come with full-length zippers, which allow you to open them up fully for ventilation.

Three-Season: These bags are suitable for temperatures 20F and higher, which makes them ideal for trips in the spring and fall.

Winter: These bags are the puffiest out of the three – and for good reason. They’re designed to keep you warm in temperatures 20F and below.

What are Sleeping Bags Made Out Of?

what are sleeping bags made of

Sleeping bags consist of two parts – the shell and the lining.

The outer shell is often made from man-made fabrics such as nylon, taffeta, and polyester. Low-cost and breathable, these types of synthetic bags are perfect for family-oriented camping trips.

Others are made from more durable fabrics such as ripstop, which is made from a special type of nylon. DryLoft is also popular, though, it comes at a premium price.

The inner lining is just as important as the shell – it has to be breathable enough for you to sleep comfortably throughout the night.

Like the shell, it’s not uncommon to see taffeta, nylon, or polyester used in the sleeping bag lining. Other popular options include poly cotton, which is ideal for the summer, silk, and nylon.

The Importance of Keeping Your Sleeping Bag Clean

how to keep sleeping bags clean

Your sleeping bag will likely be on the ground, which means it’ll pick up a bunch of debris such as mud, dirt, grass—even bugs!

Another thing to consider is sweat, which over time, can seep into the shell or lining. That will moisten the sleeping bag, which can lead to unwanted odors. Not only that but your body oils will also transfer onto the bag.

That’s why it’s so important to wash the bag periodically.

What’s the best way to wash a sleeping bag? What products should you use for a down bag and synthetic bag? Keep reading for all the answers!

Machine Washing Synthetic Sleeping Bags

Synthetic sleeping bags are usually machine washable. Having said that, it’s always good to check the care tag label beforehand.

First things first, close everything up – that includes all zippers and velcros as they can easily damage other parts of the sleeping bag if left open.

Next, carefully put your sleeping bag in the washing machine. Ideally, you want to use a front-loading washer as top-loading models with a central agitator can damage the material over time.

Add two scoops of ACTIVE detergent and wash the bag on a gentle cycle with cold water. Avoid hot water as that can cause the sleeping bag to shrink.

Wait for the wash cycle to finish before removing the sleeping bag. Carefully transfer the wet bag into the dryer. Select the low heat setting and press start. For the best results, add a few wool balls or tennis balls – that will help it to dry faster.

Note: As long as you have the space, you can also air-dry your synthetic sleeping bag. Lay it on a clean towel outside and allow it to dry naturally. Make sure that it’s completely dry before storing it away.

How to Hand Wash Your Synthetic Sleeping Bag

It’ll take a bit more effort but you can also wash a sleeping bag by hand. First things first, close everything up, including the zippers and velcro attachments.

how to hand wash synthetic sleeping bags

Fill your bathtub with cold or warm water and add a scoop of ACTIVE detergent. Mix the solution by swirling your hand in the liquid.

Pro-tip: Don’t use too much detergent. Sleeping bags are bulky and hard to rinse in the first place—adding more detergent than necessary will make your work a lot harder.

Submerge the sleeping bag once you start to see bubbles. You might have to push it up and down to completely immerse it in the liquid. Allow it to soak for at least 30 minutes.

Drain the dirty water. Lightly press on the sleeping bag with your hands to get rid of the water.

Refill the bathtub with clean water. Rinse the bag by pressing down into it with your hand; continue until the water is completely clear and all the soap is gone.

Squeeze out as much water as possible out of the sleeping bag and transfer it to the dryer. Alternatively, you can let it air dry on a clean towel or surface.

Machine Washing a Sleeping Bag with Down

A down bag can be washed similarly. Just keep in mind that they are more delicate than those made of synthetic materials.

how to wash sleeping bags in the washer

Because of that, you don’t want to machine wash it too often, otherwise, will start to break down.

Start by closing all of the zippers and velcro attachments on the sleeping bag’s shell.

Load the sleeping bag into your front-loading machine. Add a scoop of ACTIVE detergent and wash on a gentle cycle. Ideally, you want to use cold water – that will extend the product’s lifespan. Avoid fabric softener.

If possible, add an extra rinse cycle (it can be difficult to get rid of all of the detergent).

Wait for the spin cycle to finish before removing the bag from the washer. Remember, down gets pretty heavy when it’s wet. It’s probably a good idea to cradle it in your arms so that you won’t tear the stitching.

As far as the drying process goes, you want to put your down sleeping bag inside the dryer and dry with the lowest heat setting and add a few clean tennis balls or wool dryer balls.

Make sure that it’s 100% dry before putting it away.

How to Hand Wash a Down Bag

Start by closing all of the zippers and velcros on the sleeping bag.

Fill a large bathtub with water, but don’t fill it up all the way, otherwise, the liquid will spill out when you put in the bag.

Add a scoop of ACTIVE detergent to the water – it’ll make for an effective sleeping bag cleaner. Mix it with your hand until soap suds are visible.

Carefully put the sleeping bag in the tub. Make sure it’s completely immersed in the solution and leave it for 15-20 minutes.

Drain the dirty water. Using your hands, gently squeeze out as much of the water out of the bag as possible

The next step is to rinse out the detergent. Fill the bathtub with clean water again and use it to “rinse” the sleeping bag. You want to do this until the product is free of soap – it can take several rinses for the water to become clear.

Remove the down sleeping bag from the tub when you’re done. Avoid wringing or twisting the bag – that can tear the fabric and make the fibers clump together.

Carefully transfer it to your dryer and dry on the lowest heat.

Tips for Keeping Your Sleeping Bag Clean

sleeping bag washing instructions

Here are some tips on how you can keep your sleeping bag clean, even with frequent use.

Change Into Clean Clothes When You’re Going to Sleep

Make an effort to change into clean clothes whenever possible; never crawl in with dirty clothes—the sweat and dirt will easily transfer onto your sleeping bag. Over time, the dirty compounds can damage the lining and shell.

Invest in a Sleeping Bag Liner

Liners are great in that they’ll act as a barrier between your skin and the sleeping bag. At the end of your camping trip, you can just put it in the wash and you’ll be good to go for next time.

Put a Pad on the Ground

Most sleeping bags have some sort of durable fabric on the bottom, but that doesn’t protect it from sharp objects such as sticks. Consider laying a pad down on the ground first before using your bag.

Air Out Your Sleeping Bag

If possible, air out your sleeping bag every day when you’re outdoors—this will prevent moisture from building up. Avoid leaving it under direct sunlight as the UV can degrade the fabric.

How to Wash Sleeping Bag – FAQs

Can I wash a sleeping bag in a top-loading washing machine?

Yes, you can wash it with a top-loading washer. Just make sure it’s distributed evenly and run a second rinse cycle to get rid of the excess detergent. Transfer it to the dryer afterward and tumble dry with low heat.

How many sleeping bags can I wash at a time?

Generally speaking, it’s best to wash them one at a time due to their size. You don’t want to overstuff your washing machine as that can make rinsing the detergent away difficult.

Having said that, you might be able to wash more than one at a time if you’re hand washing with mild soap – you just have to make sure your bathtub is big enough for them.

What water temperature should I use to wash my sleeping bag?

It’s best to wash your sleeping bag with cool or warm water. Avoid hot water as the heat can damage the bag. For example, it can damage the durable water repellent layer.

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Picture of Sophia Grant

Sophia Grant

Sophia Grant brings her extensive knowledge of laundry and clothing care to the masses with her intensive cleaning guides. Her thorough understanding of fabrics, detergents, and washing techniques helps readers master the art of maintaining their wardrobe. Sophia's advice ensures that anyone can achieve professional-level results at home, keeping their garments looking pristine and lasting longer.

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