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Washing a Sleeping Bag

It's Easy When You Know How!

Washing a sleeping bag is important - but it must be done properly. Washing it incorrectly can ruin your bag, or at least decrease its warmth and shorten its life.

sleeping bags on the ground

Why wash a sleeping bag?

Of course, you want your sleeping bag to smell good and feel great - but washing a sleeping bag is important for another reason: to prolong its life. 

Some people never wash their sleeping bags - ever! - in the mistaken belief that this is best for the bag. They are wrong. Eventually, dirt and body oils will build up, lowering the insulation value of the bag.

Wash your bag as infrequently as possible.

Washing a sleeping bag is a bit of a hassle - and it's actually not good for the bag to do it more than necessary!

You can keep your sleeping bag fairly clean for long periods by using a sleeping bag liner or by sleeping in clean pajamas or long underwear.

What if it gets noticeably soiled on the outside?

Wipe it with a damp cloth and then hang it to dry.

How often should I wash it?

If you're a typical camper, wash it about once a year. If you are a hardcore camper and use your sleeping bag every night for months, you might need to wash it more often.

Washing down sleeping bags

Down sleeping bags require extra care. The information on this page does not apply to down bags.

Click here to learn about down sleeping bag cleaning.

Washing synthetic sleeping bags

Never dry clean a synthetic sleeping bag

You might be tempted to take your sleeping bag to the drycleaners and let them deal with it. Don't do it! Dry cleaning will destroy your bag's synthetic fill.

The good news is that cleaning a synthetic sleeping bag is fairly straightforward. You'll be able to do it yourself easily by following these simple instructions.

Find a front loading washing machine.

Don't use a top loading washing machine. A sleeping bag can get tangled up and ripped on the agitator. (That's the big sticky-uppy thing in the middle of a top loader.)

If you own a front loader and if you are washing smaller sleeping bags (like youth sleeping bags or summer bags), great! You can do the job at home.

If you don't have a front loader, or if you are washing bulky sleeping bags, make a trip to the laundromat and use the heavy duty commercial washers.

front loading heavy duty washing machine

Do up the zipper.

sleeping bag zipper zipped

Choose a mild liquid laundry soap.

Don't use powdered detergent. Use a regular liquid laundry soap, or try Nikwax Tech Wash. Nikwax is recommended by some sleeping bag manufacturers. It cleans thoroughly and gently, and leaves no residue.

Set the controls.

  • Use cool or warm water - not hot!
  • Use the gentle cycle.

Drying the sleeping bag

When the wash cycle is finished, carefully transfer the bag to a dryer.

sleeping bag in dryer

Dry on "Low".

If you're at the laundromat, double check to see that the dryer has a "low heat" option and that it doesn't overheat.

laundromat dryer

Many commercial dryers have just one temperature: extra hot! Excessive heat will melt the fibers in your bag.

Put a fluffy bath towel in the dryer with the bag.

The towel will absorb water and speed drying time.

Another option: hang the bag to dry.

If you prefer, you can air dry your synthetic bag by hanging it in a warm dry spot.

sleeping bag on clothesline

Correctly washing a sleeping bag is not hard to do, and it will keep your sleeping bag looking good, smelling great and keeping you warm for years to come!

Now that you know all about washing a sleeping bag, click here to learn more about sleeping bags.

For more camping information, visit The Camping Family home page.

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