How to Clean a Sleeping Bag

Like any bedding in your home, even the most rugged sleeping bag will need to be cleaned periodically. Knowing the right way to clean your sleeping bag will help extend its life and usefulness.

What to Know Before You Clean

  • ALWAYS check the tag on your sleeping bag to determine the type of cleaning recommended by the manufacturer and follow the instructions carefully.
  • Determine what type of filling your sleeping bag contains (i.e. down vs. synthetic). Sleeping bags with 750 down filling or higher should only be cleaned professionally.
  • If you do decide to have your sleeping bag cleaned by a professional, make sure they do not dry clean your sleeping bag. Dry cleaning solution is petroleum-based and will ultimately destroy your sleeping bag.

How to Hand-Wash a Sleeping Bag

*For machine-washing instructions, scroll down.

This method is especially recommended for down-filled bags.

What You Will Need:

  • Mild laundry soap, such as Woolite or Ivory Snow
  • Bathtub
  • Cold water
  • Bare feet.

Cleaning Process:

  1. Zip the sleeping bag completely closed.
  2. Fill tub with cold water and add about 1/4 cup of laundry soap, stirring until soap is dissolved.
  3. Place sleeping bag in the tub laying it as flat as possible.
  4. Step into the tub with your bare feet, and march up and down on the sleeping bag until it is thoroughly submerged and the soapy water has worked its way through all of the filling.
  5. Empty the soapy water from the tub and with the sleeping bag still laying flat, refill will cold water.
  6. Step back in and with your bare feet and march up and down on top of the sleeping bag to squeeze out the soap residue (NEVER twist or wring the sleeping bag).
  7. Repeat steps 5 and 6 until minimal soap residue remains.
  8. Drain the water from the tub and roll sleeping bag into a cylinder, pressing down as you go to squeeze out as much excess water as possible. (NEVER twist or wring the sleeping bag as this may cause damage)

How to Machine-Wash a Sleeping Bag

What You Will Need:

  • Laundromat with a large-sized, front loading washing machines
  • Mild laundry soap, such as Woolite or Ivory Snow
  • Tennis ball

Cleaning Process:

  1. First, ALWAYS check the tag on your sleeping bag to make sure it is machine washable.
  2. If it is, set the washer on the delicate cycle using the cold water option.
  3. Fill the washer and add soap, place sleeping bag and tennis ball inside the washer and start the wash cycle (tennis ball helps prevent clumping).
  4. DO NOT add fabric softener at any time as it may damage your sleeping bag.
  5. When the washing cycle is completed, run it through an additional rinse cycle to remove any remaining soap.
  6. When the second rinse cycle is done, check the sleeping bag to see if soap residue remains. To do this, press down on the sleeping bag; if suds come out with the water, run an additional rinse cycle.
  7. Remove the sleeping bag from the washer promptly, and lay it on a clean, flat surface.
  8. Roll the sleeping bag into a cylinder, pressing down as you go to squeeze out excess water (NEVER twist or wring the sleeping bag as this may cause damage). It’s a good idea to complete this step in an area close to a drain. or if you are doing this on a table in a Laundromat, you may want to line the floor underneath with old towels, as there will be a good deal of water coming out of the sleeping bag.

How to Dry a Sleeping Bag

What You Will Need:

  • Large dryer
  • 2 or 3 tennis balls
  • Dryer sheet

The Drying Process:

  1. FIRST, check the tag on your sleeping bag to see if it is safe to put it in the dryer.
  2. Make sure you have removed as much excess water out of the sleeping bag as possible, using the roll-and-squeeze procedure noted above.
  3. Place the zipped sleeping bag in the dryer on low heat along with the tennis balls (they will help the sleeping bag retain its loft). You may add a dryer sheet if you’d like.
  4. Run the dryer for a full cycle.
  5. When the sleeping bag is dry remove promptly.
  6. If the sleeping bag is still damp after a full cycle, you may run it again, or you may lay it flat in a warm spot to air-dry.
  7. If you do not wish to use a dryer, or the tag on your sleeping bag says you shouldn’t, air dry your sleeping bag by laying flat in a warm location. If drying outside, avoid leaving the bag in the sunlight for extended periods of time as the UV can damage the nylon. An electric fan will also aid in drying if you’re in a hurry.

Additional Tips and Advice

  • DO NOT wash your sleeping bag in your regular washing machine; the bag is too heavy and may damage the machine.
  • It is not recommended that you use regular detergent or anything containing bleach as it may damage the sleeping bag and leave an irritating residue.
  • Always stuff your bag rather than rolling it. Stuffing is easier on the fabric and the fill.
  • Nylon shells of sleeping bags can melt at high heat, so if you are drying your sleeping bag, ALWAYS use the LOW HEAT setting.
  • NEVER wash your sleeping bag in hot water as it may cause damage and/or shrinkage.
  • If your sleeping bag contains a synthetic filling, chances are after washing, it will not regain its original loft (fluffiness) even if you use the tennis balls. However, this is normal, and should not diminish the effectiveness of the sleeping bag.

Comments

  1. Patrick says:

    Marvelous advice. I presume a duvet should be treated similarly.

  2. Melanie says:

    Patrick,
    You are correct! Here is the article on How to Clean a Duvet. You don’t have to use your feet in the tub for a duvet because the duvet is purely fabric (not stuffing), but you can if you want to just for fun. :)

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