How to wash a sleeping bag

Keep dirt and grime at bay with the best methods for washing a sleeping bag

mountaineering sleeping bag

If you use your sleeping bag for anything other than at-home sleepovers, there’s a strong possibility it’s going to see its fair share of dirt and grime. When your adventure bag starts to show this extensive use (read: stink), it’s time to give it a thorough cleaning. Here’s exactly what you need to know about how to wash a sleeping bag.

Note: Before washing, make sure all zippers and other attachments are fully closed

Synthetic filler sleeping bags

RhinoWolf Modular Attachable Super Tent sleeping bag

Synthetic sleeping bags are lined with polyester fragments or foam-like filaments to keep you warm and protected. These sleeping bags tend to be affordable, highly water resistant, and allergen-free. If your sleeping bag doesn’t explicitly say that it’s made with down filler, it’s almost certainly synthetic.

Option 1: For small stains and spills, you can hand wash the sleeping bag to quickly get the grime out. Mix a small container of warm water and a very light soap (try to avoid heavy-duty laundry detergents if possible), grab a sponge or cloth, and clean the affected area. Switch to clean water to rinse and leave the bag out to dry.

You can also do this in a bathtub for a much more thorough cleaning but you’ll have to squeeze all water out of the bag after rinsing it — plus, drying will take a bit of time. Synthetic sleeping bags can be lightly tumble-dried but it’s important the heat stays relatively low to avoid the chance of burning the bag.

Option 2: If you have a large front-loading washing machine, you can also choose to use it to wash your bag. This is a good solution for sleeping bags that are old, completely dirty, or need a more thorough washing.

Note: Smaller washing machines will not be able to tumble a sleeping bag enough and top-loading washers tend to tear them.

When preparing, it’s important to use a mild soap or a very mild detergent, set the washing machine to a gentle cycle, and use warm water for the full washing process. It’s also a good idea to run the rinse cycle several times to make sure all soap residue is cleaned away. Again, air-drying is best but a very light tumble dry may be an option afterward as long as you regularly check to make sure no part of the sleeping bag is getting too hot.

Do not: Don’t send your synthetic sleeping bag out for dry cleaning or try to bleach it free of germs. Also, avoid ironing wrinkles out of your sleeping bag.

Down sleeping bags

Patagonia 850 down bag

Down sleeping bags are filled with soft down feathers, usually from geese or ducks (sometimes even specific species, for very fancy campers). Down is a perennially popular sleeping bag material because of its high fill power which basically means it traps heat and keeps it efficiently, while still being extremely lightweight. Down sleeping bags are more expensive but are also comfortable and well-suited for particularly cold environments.

If your sleeping bag has any down in it — including down/synthetic blends — you should follow these instructions for the best results. If you received the bag as a gift and aren’t sure, it’s worth it to look up the model online (although you can usually feel down with your fingers).

Option 1: Due to the way down sleeping bags are manufactured, they’re more sensitive to water and can actually sustain damage making it unusable if it gets too wet. So, your first step must be to purchase a laundry soap specifically made for down feathers — i.e. One that won’t ruin them. Nikwax is the most common and you can pick some up for around $10. Many people also prefer to throw in a tennis ball when washing their down sleeping bag, with the hope it will break up clumps of down.

Once you have a soap that treats your down right, make sure you’re using a large, front-loading washer and give it a warm wash on a gentle cycle. If there’s a waterproof membrane on the outside of your sleeping bag, we recommend turning it inside-out first.

When finished, rinse the bag several times to remove leftover soap. Move the bag over to a dryer, set it on the lowest warmth setting, and carefully dry it out. It’s a good idea to dry carefully in 20-minute intervals to make sure nothing gets burnt. Expect this stage to take a while.

Option 2: With the right soap and some extra time, you can do the same process in the bathtub by hand. The benefit to this option is that it’s easier to make sure the sleeping bag doesn’t damage. However, it does take a long time to wash the sleeping bag yourself before thoroughly rinsing it to make sure there’s no sign of soap in the water.

Option 3: Use a professional down cleaning services company that accepts sleeping bags. This is by far the most expensive option, and you have to send your bag off for a vacation, but it is easier on your end.

Do not: The same rules apply here as above. No dry-cleaning, no using harsh chemicals, etc. To add to this, do not use a traditional soap (as mentioned) and do not use a washing machine or dryer without checking to make sure it doesn’t have any snags or cracks that could damage the sleeping bag.

Additional tips

MummyPod Hammock Sleeping Bag
MummyPod hammock sleeping bag system

Does the inside of your sleeping stand a good chance of getting a little grimy or sweaty on your adventures? We recommend considering a sleeping bag liner to help protect it and to make cleaning sessions more effective. If the ground is likely to be dirty or muddy, think about investing in a sleeping pad, as well.

Mobile

SatPaq’s satellite messaging is a lifeline for when you’re off the grid

The great outdoors can be a beautiful place, but it's also fraught with danger and hazards. Make sure you're always able to connect with the world with SatPaq's satellite messaging accessory.
Computing

How to change your Gmail password in just a few quick steps

Regularly updating your passwords is a good way to stay secure online, but each site and service has their own way of doing it. Here's a quick guide on how to change your Gmail password in a few short steps.
Outdoors

The best sleeping bags to help you conquer the cold, no matter what season it is

A proper sleeping bag has the ability to make or break a camping or backpacking trip. Here are our picks for the best sleeping bags on the market to help you choose the correct bag for any type of outdoor adventure.
Deals

REI’s Cyber Week deals will save you up to 65 percent on top brands

Cyber Week deals are still going strong at REI, with discounts lasting up until this weekend. If you've been meaning to follow REI's mission and hit the outdoors, now is the perfect time to save big on outdoor gear and more.
Deals

Cyber Monday Extended: Best Cyber Week Smartwatch Deals

Cyber Monday is known for its awesome online sales. Smartwatches, fitness trackers .. they both will see deep discounts. Now is your chance to score a new wearable at rock bottom prices.
Deals

REI slashed the price of the Garmin Fenix 5, but the sale ends today

The Garmin Fenix 5 is a multisport fitness watch, built almost entirely for use with just about any indoor or outdoor activity you can think of. From now until the end of the day on December 1, you can save $150 on a brand new model.
Outdoors

Columbia’s latest Star Wars jacket will keep you as warm as a Wookiee

Columbia Sportswear introduced a limited edition parka based on the jackets that were worn by the crew that filmed The Empire Strikes Back in 1979 that are sure to be a coveted item for Star Wars fans.
Emerging Tech

The best solar chargers for your phone, tablet, and other battery-powered gear

Looking for a gizmo that can help you charge your phone while on the go? Here, we've outlined the best solar chargers on the market, whether you're looking to charge your phone once, twice, or three times over.
Outdoors

Light up the night! Here are the five best headlamps money can buy

Headlamps make all the difference when camping or walking the dog at night, especially when you're in need of both hands. From Black Diamond and Petzl to Coast here are some of the best headlamps on the market.
Outdoors

Onak 2.0 is an origami-inspired folding canoe for waterborne adventures

The Onak 2.0 is an origami-inspired folding kayak that measures 15 feet in length when fully assembled, yet can breakdown and be stored in a small, easily transported box making it a great option for apartment dwellers.
Outdoors

Lime’s dockless electric bikes land in London, but its scooters aren’t allowed

Lime has landed in London with its dockless bikesharing service. The pedal-assisted electric bikes are unlocked via Lime's app and can reach speeds of 15 mph. It plans to have 1,000 bikes on the streets before the end of the year.
Outdoors

Forget pumps. This innovative filter purifies H2O in 8 seconds flat

The Grayl Geopress water purification system removes more than 99 percent of all bacteria, cysts, and viruses from water in just eight seconds, providing clean drinking water to travelers and outdoor adventurers.
Outdoors

Built to take a beating and still perform, these are the best hiking watches

A proper hiking watch should track exercise metrics and act as a navigational co-pilot during any kind of hike. Ideally, it'll even have a built-in GPS system and sensors. Here are five of the best hiking watches.
Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: Folding canoes and ultra-fast water filters

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!