How to Wash a Sleeping Bag (Proper Guide)

How to Wash a Sleeping Bag (Guide)

Welcome to our complete beginner’s guide on how to wash a sleeping bag! Whether you’re an avid camper, outdoor enthusiast, or just someone who enjoys a cozy night’s sleep on outdoor adventures, knowing how to properly wash your sleeping bag is essential for its longevity and performance.

We understand that washing a sleeping bag can seem like a daunting task, but fear not. we will walk you through the step-by-step process of hand-washing and machine-washing your sleeping bag which will play a vital role in improving the lifespan of your gear.

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Can You Wash a Sleeping Bag?

Keeping your sleeping bag clean is crucial for maintaining its insulation and overall performance. But can you wash a sleeping bag? The answer is yes, you absolutely can!

THINGS YOU SHOULD do Before Getting Started

Before getting started, it’s important to assess the condition of your sleeping bag. Check for any visible stains, tears, or damage that may require special attention. If you notice any major issues, it might be best to consult a professional cleaner or repair service.

  • Treating visible stains is an essential step. Whether you’ve spilled coffee during your camping trip or accidentally got mud on your bag, addressing these stains before washing will help ensure a thorough cleaning. Gently scrub the stained area with a soft brush or sponge using mild soap or stain remover.
  • Avoid harsh chemicals that could damage the fabric. Rinse the area thoroughly and check if the stain has been removed. If not, repeat the process until satisfied. For stubborn stains that won’t budge, create a paste using baking soda and water. Apply this paste onto the affected area and let it sit for about 30 minutes before rinsing off with cold water.
  • familiarize yourself with the care label on your sleeping bag. Different materials and constructions may have specific washing instructions that you need to follow. This will help ensure that you don’t accidentally damage your sleeping bag during the cleaning process.
  • Gather all the necessary supplies before starting the washing process. You’ll need mild detergent specifically formulated for outdoor gear or down-filled items (if applicable), a large tub or basin if hand-washing, and access to a washing machine if using that method. It’s also recommended to have a drying rack or line available for air-drying your freshly washed sleeping bag.

By taking these preliminary steps before beginning the actual wash, you’ll set yourself up for success in maintaining the quality and longevity of your beloved sleeping bag!


1. Hand-Washing

Hand-washing your sleeping bag is a great option if you don’t have access to a washing machine or if you prefer a more gentle approach. Here’s how to do it:

Fill Plastic Tub or Basin with Water and Detergent

  • Fill a large tub or basin with lukewarm water and make sure the water temperature is not too hot as it can damage the fabric or insulation of your sleeping bag
  • Make sure the detergent is fully dissolved before moving on to the next step.
  • Submerge your sleeping bag in soapy water for about 15 to 30 minutes and gently agitate it with your hands. This will help loosen any dirt or grime that may be trapped in the fibers.
  • Use a soft brush if necessary to pay extra attention to any particularly dirty or stained areas. Just be careful not to rub too vigorously as this could damage the fabric.
  • Once you’ve thoroughly cleaned the entire sleeping bag, drain the soapy water and refill the tub with clean water for rinsing. Repeat this process until no soap residue remains.
  • Remember, hand-washing can be time-consuming and physically demanding, but it’s worth it to preserve the longevity of your sleeping bag. So take your time and enjoy the process of caring for your outdoor gear!
  • Now that your sleeping bag has soaked for a sufficient amount of time, it’s time to drain the water. Carefully lift the bag out of the tub or basin and allow the excess water to drip off. Be gentle when handling the wet fabric, as too much force can damage the insulation.
  • Removing any remaining detergent residue. Gently squeeze and press sections of your sleeping bag to help release trapped soap bubbles. This will ensure that no detergent is left behind which could potentially irritate your skin during your next camping trip.
  • Avoid wringing or twisting your sleeping bag when removing excess water as it may form lumps

After you have finished draining and squeezing out excess water, proceed with caution when moving on to drying your sleeping bag. Remember, proper care in each step will help maintain its quality and extend its lifespan.

Note: The following steps are suitable for both synthetic fiberfill and down-filled sleeping bags

2. Machine Washing

washing your sleeping bag using a washing machine can be a convenient option. However, it’s important to follow the proper steps to ensure that your sleeping bag is cleaned effectively without causing any damage.

  • First, check the care label on your sleeping bag for specific instructions regarding machine washing. If the label allows for it, choose a gentle cycle with cold or lukewarm water. This will help prevent excessive agitation and protect the delicate materials of your sleeping bag.
  • Next, add a small amount of mild detergent specifically designed for outdoor gear or down products. Avoid using regular laundry detergent as it can leave residue and affect the performance of your sleeping bag.
  • Make sure to properly balance the load in your washing machine by adding some towels or similar items. This will help cushion and distribute the weight evenly during the wash cycle.
  • Additionally, consider using a front-loading machine instead of a top-loader as they are generally gentler on fabrics. If your sleeping bag is large or bulky, you may need to use a commercial-sized machine at a laundromat.
  • If your sleeping bag has waterproofing features, Avoid using fabric softeners as they can strip away this protection layer. Additionally, consider using specialized cleaners designed for outdoor gear when dealing with heavily soiled or odorous bags.

Remember, always consult the care label and manufacturer’s guidelines before attempting to machine wash your sleeping bag. Taking these precautions will help keep your sleeping bag clean and ready for many more adventures ahead!

Don’t Overdo the Detergent

using the right amount of detergent is crucial. While you might think that more detergent means cleaner results, it can do more harm than good. Overdoing the detergent can leave behind residue that is difficult to rinse out completely.

sleeping bag cleaning dosage How to Wash a Sleeping Bag
Image credit: NIKWAX

Excess detergent can also cause damage to the fabric and insulation of your sleeping bag. Harsh chemicals in some detergents may strip away the natural oils in down-filled bags or degrade synthetic fibers over time. This could reduce the warmth and lifespan of your sleeping bag.

To avoid these issues, follow the manufacturer’s or outdoor gear detergent instructions for how much detergent to use based on the size and type of your sleeping bag. It’s best to check on the side of caution and use less rather than more. If in doubt, opt for a gentle, non-detergent soap specifically designed for outdoor gear.

How Can I wash a Down-Filled sleeping bag at home?

fortunately, the washing process for down and synthetic sleeping bags is the same with one crucial difference. For down bags, it’s essential to use a specialized soap designed specifically. Products like Granger’s Down Wash, Nikwax Down Wash, or Storm Down Wash are tailored to effectively eliminate dirt and odors while safeguarding their moisture-repellent properties.

Drying Your Sleeping Bag Properly

After you’ve successfully washed your sleeping bag, it’s crucial to ensure that it dries thoroughly. Proper drying is essential to prevent mildew and unpleasant odors from developing. Here are some tips on how to dry your sleeping bag effectively. There are two options for drying: machine drying or air drying.

1. Machine Dry

  • If you choose to machine dry your sleeping bag, make sure to set the dryer on low heat. Too much heat can damage the fabric and insulation of the sleeping bag.
  • To speed up the drying process, throw in a couple of clean tennis balls or dryer balls This will help fluff up the insulation and prevent clumping, especially for down-filled.

2. Air-Drying

  • Unzip and lay out your sleeping bag flat on a drying rack, or a clean surface like a table or patio furniture, or Hang it over a clothesline in a well-ventilated area. Make sure there is enough space for proper airflow around the entire sleeping bag.
  • If you choose to lay it flat, turn the sleeping bag over periodically during the drying process so that both sides receive equal exposure to air. This will help speed up the drying time and prevent any damp spots from forming.
  • Avoid direct sunlight exposure while drying your gear, as UV rays from the sun may fade the color and also affect the insulation of your bag.
  • Remember that both methods may take some time depending on how wet your sleeping bag is and environmental conditions such as humidity levels. Patience is key here. Whether you choose machine-drying or air-drying, make sure your sleeping bag is completely dry before storing it away.

Additional Tips for Sleeping Bag Care

Remember that proper storage is just as important as regular cleaning. When not in use, make sure to store your sleeping bag in a cool and dry place to prevent mold or mildew growth. And don’t forget about using a liner! Sleeping bag liners add an extra layer of protection against dirt and body oils, making it easier to keep your sleeping bag clean between washes.

How Often Should I Wash a Sleeping Bag?

How often should you wash your sleeping bag? ideally, experts recommend washing your sleeping bag at least once per season. However, the final answer depends on factors like usage and quality of your bag. Consider how often you use your sleeping bag and in what conditions. If you’re an avid camper or backpacker who spends multiple nights outdoors each month, it may be necessary to wash your sleeping bag more frequently to remove dirt, sweat, and body oils that can accumulate over time.

When is it advisable to clean a sleeping bag?

Take into account any visible stains or odors. If there are noticeable marks or smells on your sleeping bag after a trip, it’s a good idea to give it a thorough cleaning before storing it away. always follow the care instructions provided by the manufacturer for optimal maintenance and longevity of your gear.

Can we deodorize sleeping bags after washing?

Yes, you can use a gentle fabric deodorize for your sleeping bag after washing and drying for a pleasant aroma.


Taking care of your sleeping bag is essential to ensure its longevity and performance. Washing a sleeping bag by hand is recommended to ensure gentle and precise care. Hand washing allows you to control the process, preventing damage to delicate fabrics and insulation. It’s especially important for down-filled sleeping bags, as machine washing can clump the insulation, reducing its effectiveness.

Synthetic fiberfill bags are typically made from polyester and can withstand machine washing on a gentle cycle. On the other hand, down-filled bags contain natural feather insulation and are more delicate.

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