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How To Wash a Sleeping Bag

Guide to cleaning and drying your sleeping bags

Keeping your sleeping bag clean can make a big difference to how it performs. Due to their size however, sleeping bags are notoriously difficult to wash. One way of helping to keep your sleeping bag clean is to use a liner inside the bag. The liner will absorb much of the dirt, grease and salts that would have previously been imbedded into the sleeping bag itself. Silk, cotton or fleece sleeping bag liners are all much easier to wash, particularly when you are out in the field. By regularly using a liner you drastically cut down the necessity to wash the sleeping bag itself.

The time will come however when you need to wash your sleeping bag. Most bag manufacturers will provide instructions how to do this based on the materials you bag is made from. Down bags in particular are problematic to wash properly, so it may be worth considering having the bag professionally cleaned. If you are washing your bag yourself, give yourself at least 3 or 4 days before you need to use the bag again to ensure the sleeping bag dries thoroughly.

Hand Washing Your Sleeping Bag

The best place to hand wash your sleeping bag is in the bath. Half fill the bath with lukewarm water and add the bag. We recommend you use a non detergent soap to clean your bag, such as Tech Wash from Nikwax. Massage the bag gently, leave it for an hour or so all the fibres are soaked. Gently massage the bag again and drain the bath. Rinse the bag through several times making sure that there is no soap residue left on the bag.

Machine Washing Your Sleeping Bag

If you are washing your sleeping bag in a machine, make sure you take note of the maximum load weight. The washing label on the sleeping bag should tell you what weight machine to use. Most domestic washing machines are not up to the task of washing a sleeping bag, so an industrial machine will be required. Before using the machine, be sure to rinse out any detergent residue from the draw. As with hand washing, we recommend using a non-detergent soap. Make sure you check the washing temperature recommended on the washing label.

Machine Dry

Drying sleeping bags can be more problematic than washing them. Once you have finished washing, squeeze out as much water as you can. As with the washing machine, domestic tumble dryers are unlikely to be up to the job. Wet sleeping bags can be very heavy. Be sure to set the dryer on the lowest setting you can. You may want to add in a tennis ball into the drum to help stimulate the bag and generate loft. Depending on the bags filling, it can take a couple of hours to dry in a machine (even if the outside of the bag seems dry, the filling might not be). As you are drying the bag, periodically stop the machine and turn the bag inside out to help dry the whole bag. Once the bag seems to have dried, leave it out to air for another day or so before using it or storing it away.

Air Dry

If you opt to air dry your sleeping bag, this can take several days. Leave the bag to air out of direct sunlight outside, or in a well ventilated warm room. If you have down sleeping bag, it is better to lay the bag out flat rather than hanging it over a washing line. Wet down will clump together, so as the bag is drying gently massage these clumps of down apart so the bag can dry fully. Even if the outer fabric seems to have dried quickly, the filling will take much longer.

*Please note that this page is intended for advice only. Please consult the manufacturers’ guidelines for specific information about your sleeping bag. No responsibility will be accepted for damage caused by washing.


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