Sleeping Bags Tips

How to Wash a Sleeping Bag

girl setting up camp

Learning how to wash a sleeping bag properly will significantly extend its lifespan, while preventing mildew growth and mold. Regardless of whether your bag includes goose down filler or synthetic filler, a bag should be washed at the end of the season if it gets soaked or dirty, to keep it in great shape. If you’re not sure of how to go about cleaning your bag at the end of the trip, then follow the cleaning steps and tips I’ve included in this guide, to keep your bag looking and smelling great for your next camping adventure.

Spot Cleaning a Sleeping Bag

How you care for your bag will depend on whether it has synthetic or down filling material. If the bag has goose down filling, then the cleaning process will require more care and time. In some cases, you may even want to take it to a professional cleaner if the goose down bag is in serious need of a deep clean.

But in some cases, your bag may not need a deep clean, so a spot clean can be sufficient. When you wash a bag, it can decrease the loft and will subject it to more wear and tear. Because of this, spot cleaning should be your first choice.

Since a deep clean can potentially damage the integrity of the filling material, only deep clean it if the bag is filthy, caked in dirt, mud, or grime, or if it has an unpleasant odor.

Spot cleaning is a fast and simple option for a bag that needs a little touch.

To begin, you’ll make a paste that consists of dish soap and warm water. You can use an old toothbrush to clean the shell gently. Make sure you focus on the collar and the hood of the bag, where oil from your skin and your hair tend to build up. You can hold the liner or shell fabric away from the insulation and rinse and wash the area while preventing the filling material from getting wet.

Deep Clean: Washing by Hand

If your bag is caked with grime and losing loft already, then go for a deep clean. Before you start, take a look at the manufacturer’s cleaning instructions, which should be clearly listed somewhere on the bag, and closely follow those instructions.

When you’re washing your bag, you should keep in mind that the bag will take several hours to dry, especially if it has a synthetic filling material. Use a non-detergent soap that’s gentle and designed for washing items that are synthetic or equipped with down.

Next, fill up your bathtub with cold water and use the appropriate cleaner based on the type of filling material your bag has. Try to avoid using too much soap since this will make it difficult to rinse out your bag.

Place your bag in the tub and work in the soap throughout the entire bag. Focus on the heavily soiled areas. Allow the bag to soak for about sixty minutes. If there is caked on grime, then you may want to leave the bag to soak for an extra thirty minutes.

Drain the tub of the dirty water and fill it with clean water to rinse out the bag. Make sure you gently work out the soap, then allow the bag to sit in the clean water for twenty minutes.

Drain the tub and repeat the process until all of the soap is completely gone.

Next, you’ll squeeze out as much water as possible, working your hands under the bag to gather it up into a ball so it can be carried outdoors or to your dryer. Carrying the bag this way will prevent ripping the seams or placing too much strain on them.


drying sleeping bags

Some bags can be dried in a dryer; however, this will vary from model to model. Never put your bag in a dryer unless recommended by the manufacturer. If the manufacturer instructs you to hang your bag up to dry, then place it on a clean, flat surface outdoors in partial shade or total sunlight. Some types of fillers can clump up after washing, so you will probably need to break up these clumps manually in order to speed up the drying time.

Machine Wash

If your bag can be machine washed, then you’ll save on both time and elbow grease. Make sure you wash the bag on the gentle cycle in cold or warm water and use the right type of detergent. Try to use as little soap as possible since it can be difficult to rinse out this type of bag due to the dense filling material. In fact, to be sure the bag is rinsed out well, place it on a double rinse cycle.

Other Important Care Tips

  • Check the bag after it has dried and ensure that the drawcords, zippers, and seams are in good shape. Make sure the filling material has been evenly distributed.
  • Over time, a bag’s durable water repellent finish will wear off. You can easily restore a bag’s water repellency by reapplying the finish. You’ll find several products on the market designed to restore a bag’s water repellency, each of which often feature a fast and simple application process.
  • If you notice any small tears or holes in your bag, then you can repair the holes using a couple of options.
  • First, you can sew it up by hand or use a sewing machine.
  • You can also patch the hole using a sleeping bag patch or adhesive gear repair tape.
  • Your bag may not need to be deep cleaned at the end of the season, in which case you may only need to spot clean it and allow it to air out, outdoors, fully unzipped for a period of twelve hours.

Final Thoughts

By learning how to wash a sleeping bag you can prevent odors, mildew, and mold growth. You can also evenly distribute the filling, and significantly lengthen the lifespan of your bag, so you can continue to use it season after season. Remember, it’s crucial that you check the bag’s cleaning instructions put in place by the manufacturer and follow them closely in order to avoid seriously damaging the bag.