Cleaning a sleeping bag the right way will ensure your gear is in great shape for years to come. Since we rent camping gear, we’ve spent a lot of time at laundromats with sleeping bags. From cheap imported bags to name-brand mummies, it’s important to know how to wash a sleeping bag to keep it undamaged and maintain its ability to keep you warm and dry.
Washing your sleeping bag in a bathtub
While some websites will recommend washing a sleeping bag in a bathtub, our preferred method is always an industrial front-loading washing machine. While industrial washing machines make things a lot easier, sometimes you simply don’t have access to a laundromat. In those situations, follow the steps below, and use a well-cleaned bathtub as your ‘washing machine’.
Which laundry detergent to use
As you learn how to wash a sleeping bag for the first time it’s important not to cut any corners, especially with detergent. Many sleeping bags are made with waterproofing qualities, and most bags are assembled with extremely lightweight materials. When those materials come in contact with abrasive detergents, the waterproof superpowers of the bag will start to fail, and so will the integrity of outer fabric and stitching.
How to wash a synthetic sleeping bag
- Head to your local laundromat and find the biggest washing machine they have. Most laundromats have at least a couple XL front-loading washing machines. Those are the units you’ll want to use for your bag. Agitator machines (the classic top-loading washing machine with an agitator in the middle) can harm your bag, so steer clear (if that’s all you can find, head back home and use the bathtub).
- Zip the sleeping bag up, and if the outer shell is waterproof, turn the bag inside-out.
- Set the washing machine cycle to gentle, and use a warm wash with a cold rinse. Make sure to throw your compression sack in the washing machine with the bag.
- Find the biggest dryer at the laundromat (usually if there’s an extra large washer, there’s an extra large dryer to match) and tumble dry your bag on the lowest temperature setting.
- Make sure the bag is completely dry, then stuff your sleeping bag in a mesh sleeping bag storage sack along with the compression bag.
How to wash a down-filled sleeping bag
The rules for how to wash a sleeping bag filled with down aren’t that different from the rules for washing a synthetic sleeping bag. The big difference lies (pun intended) in the type detergent used and the necessity of using dryer balls (dryer balls can be used with synthetic bags too, but are even more important with down bags). Follow all of the steps for washing a synthetic bag, but make sure to use a down-friendly detergent (recommendation above), and throw a couple dryer balls in with the bag to continuously break up wet clumps of down while drying. The result will be an even, completely dried fluffy bag.
That’s it. Learning how to wash a sleeping bag correctly isn’t tough, and doing it right will keep your bag clean and ready to go for many adventures to come.