How To Wash a Sleeping Bag

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Summertime sleep, whether down or synthetic, is crucial to this thorough cleaning procedure.

During warm weather, your sleeping bag serves as your bed away from home, whether you’re going camping or just stargazing in your garden. When used outside, however, this important summer item is sure to collect dirt, stains, and smells on both the tough outer shell and the delicate inside lining. Cleaning a down or synthetic sleeping bag requires caution to avoid bleach, fabric softeners, and dry-cleaning solution, all of which can cause discoloration and damage. After you’ve spent your next night in the great outdoors and need to find out how to wash a sleeping bag, this tutorial gives simple methods for restoring a dingy sleep sack to a week-new condition.

If your sleeping bag just has a few small markings or stains, use the spot treatment that follows; if the bag has big or many stains, or if it doesn’t smell daisy fresh, use a more thorough hand- or machine-washing method. Then snuggle in, zip up, and sleep well!

When you sleep in a sleeping bag, oils and salts from your sweat, as well as dirt from the outside world (including fine-grain sand), can accumulate within the bag and weaken the insulation, leaving it smelling less-than-fresh. Keeping your bag clean will actually extend its life and make sleeping more comfortable, so I’ve compiled a list of everything you need to know about washing your sleeping bag. If you already possess a Sea to Summit sleeping bag, certain models have maintenance instructions directly on the storage cell.

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Caring For A Down Sleeping Bag

A down sleeping bag should not be dry-cleaned.
Dry-cleaning chemicals can remove the oils from down, preventing it from lofting correctly.

Use down soap Grangers Down Wash is a good product; it is also available as part of a kit that includes a product to preserve the hydrophobic function of treated down (and even includes some special balls for use in the dryer which work better than tennis balls to loft up the down). Traditional washing detergents will also remove oils from down.

Tips For Synthetic Sleeping Bags

Use a non-detergent soap, such as Grangers Down Performance Wash, on synthetic bags.

Ordinary laundry detergent includes brighteners and fillers that can adhere to polyester fibers and decrease loft.

Use a front-loading washing machine instead.
The impeller’s mechanical motion (the plastic spiral in the drum) is far too harsh for a sleeping bag.

Use a front-loading washing machine on a gentle cycle* or hand-wash your sleeping bag. *Do not attempt to wash a down sleeping bag in a front-loading washing machine that does not have a delicate cycle appropriate for cleaning woolen items. When in doubt, it’s best to be safe and hand washes the bag.

A synthetic bag may be cleaned on a standard ‘gentle’ cycle with no problems.

Washing a Basecamp/Explore/Amplitude sleeping bag or an Ember quilt
Before washing, remove the straps from the underside of the quilt/bag. They have the potential to catch and harm the strap attachment points.

How To Wash a Sleeping Bag

Spot Cleaning Method

STEP 1 Examine the outside shell and inside lining of the bag for stains, paying special attention to the top of the bag where the neckline upsets the lining—the region most prone to stains from skin and hair oils. If the stain is on the inside lining, partially or completely unzip the bag to expose the stain before spot-treating.

STEP 2 Make a thin, runny paste needing a teaspoon of non-detergent liquid soap, such as castile soap, and a quarter teaspoon of warm water in a small basin.

STEP 3 Soak a clean toothbrush or terrycloth towel in the paste, then gently scrape it over the stain in a circular motion. Repeat until the stain has gone, then wipe the soap away with a clean, moist towel.

STEP 4 To dry, lay the bag flat, It side up, on a clean outside area that receives at least partial sunshine. In bad weather, air-dry the bag indoors by putting it flat (with the spot-treated side facing up) over two adjacent coat racks. Allow the bag to thoroughly dry before zipping it up and keeping it indoors.

Hand Washing and Drying Methods

To reduce drying time, hand-wash and dry your sleeping bag early in the morning on a warm, sunny day.

STEP 1 Half-fill a clean bathtub with either warm or cold tap water. Fill the tub halfway with liquid soap (if needing a specially formulated down soap for down sleeping bags or a tech wash for synthetic sleeping bags, use the manufacturer-recommended amount). To evenly spread the soap, waft it through the water with a clean hand.

STEP 2 Unzip the sleeping bag fully, then immerse it in the tub as flatly as possible. Begin at one end of the bag and gently knead the soapy water into both the outer shell and the inside lining of the bag until you reach the other end. Extra time should be spent kneading any parts of the bag that have obvious, significant stains.

STEP 3 Soak the sleeping bag for one hour. Then, while the bag is still in place, empty the tub.

STEP 4 Add warm or cold water to the tub. Knead any remaining soap from the bag with your hands. Then, empty the tub one more. Repeat until the tub’s water is clear and the sleeping bag is soap-free. Then, needing your hands, carefully squeeze out as much as you can.

STEP 5 While remaining in the tub, fold the sleeping bag in half and wrap it up from end to end. Then, with both arms, reach beneath the bag and pull it out of the tub. Unfold and unfold the sleeping bag, then put it flat on a clean outside surface (such as a patio table) that receives at least partial sunlight, with the outer shell side facing up (this waterproof side generally takes longer to dry). Several times throughout the drying process, turn the bag over. Allow the bag to thoroughly dry before zipping it up and keeping it indoors.

Washing Machine Method

A big, front-loading washing machine is ideal for washing a sleeping bag. While top-loading machines can be utilized, avoid ones with an agitator in the center of the wash drum. This spindle with vanes has the potential to rip the delicate lining of your sleeping bag or expose the insulation.

STEP 1 Unzip your sleeping bag and flip it inside out so the inside lining is facing up. Because the outside shell of a sleeping bag is frequently waterproof, trapped water may not escape during the spin cycle; the ultra-permeable inner lining will encourage water to be pulled out during the spin cycle, reducing drying time.

STEP 2 Place the sleeping bag, along with no other clothing, in the washer’s drum and add a half-cup of any liquid, non-detergent soap to the detergent basin. If you want to use a specifically designed cleaner, use down soap for down sleeping bags or tech wash for synthetic sleeping bags in the amount advised by the manufacturer.

STEP 3 Start the machine on a moderate cycle with either warm or cold water. If the sleeping bag is still dripping wet after the cycle, perform an additional spin cycle to wring out excess water.

STEP 4 Take the moist sleeping bag out of the washing machine and turn it inside out once again. Transfer the bag to the drum of a big dryer (ideally a front-loading model), and set the dryer to low heat. A low temperature is especially crucial for synthetic sleeping bags since their synthetic insulation might melt at hot temperatures. To get rid of clumps and properly disperse the down in a down sleeping bag, put two tennis balls into the dryer drum at the end of the cycle. When the sleeping bag is totally dry, store it indoors until its next usage.

Using a removable sleeping bag liner, you may reduce the need for regular washings. This will assist to avoid the formation of stains and smells.

Drying Your sleeping Bag

After gently squeezing the water out of the sleeping bag, carefully place it in a big wash bag before placing it in the tumble dryer.

A big cotton sack provides vital protection during the drying process for sleeping bags with very light shell/liner fabrics. Set the dryer on low heat or ‘delicates’ and run a full cycle – if needing a laundromat dryer, keep in mind that their thermostats are sometimes inaccurate, so err on the side of caution and choose a colder cycle.

Dryer sheets should not be used for this process because they can damage water-repellent shell coatings and decrease the wicking efficiency of liner materials.

Remove the sleeping bag from the washing bag and turn it inside out. Replace the bag in the washing sack and place it in the dryer. If you’re drying a down bag, throw in a pair of clean tennis balls with the sleeping bag to help break up clumps of down. If you ordered the Grangers Down Care package described above, will receive three lightweight plastic balls to utilize for this purpose.

Repeat these drying cycles until you are positive that the insulation is completely dry – mold or mildew can grow if the bag is even slightly moist when stored. If you can feel clumps of down in a down sleeping bag, the down isn’t completely dry.

Before returning the bag to its storage sack, hang it up in a dry location to air out.

Following these steps will allow you to wash your sleeping bag while maintaining its quality and comfort.

If all of this seems overly complex, one answer is to purchase a sleeping bag liner. This way, you won’t have to wash your sleeping bag as frequently.

How Often Should You Wash Your Sleeping Bag?

If you wait until filth, grime, and lumps in the insulation become visible, well have already reached the point when oils and salts are adhering the down plumes or synthetic insulating fibers together, decreasing loft. This type of grime appears initially around the hood and neck area, but the effect on the insulation is hidden on the interior of the bag.

PRO TIP: Don’t like doing laundry? Or are you just want to safeguard your investment in a high-quality sleeping bag? To keep your bag cleaner for longer, use a liner and spot clean with a specifically made synthetic cleaning agent such as Grangers Performance Wash.

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