How to Wash a Sleeping Bag

How to clean a sleeping bag

The right sleeping bag can give you an excellent night's sleep no matter where you're camping. However, when your hiking trip is over and you head back home, washing your sleeping bag can feel like a bigger task than any mountain.

Whether you prefer down or synthetic fill sleeping bags, washing them doesn't have to be difficult! With the right information, it can be a quick and easy job, and you'll be well-prepared for your next camping trip. There are several washing methods to choose from, so you can even select the one that works best for you!

Properly maintaining your bag can even improve its durability, so learning how to wash a sleeping bag correctly is always a good idea. When you invest in a good quality bag, you'll want to make sure it stays in good condition for as long as possible, so you won't end up having an uncomfortable night on the trails. Regular washing and maintenance will certainly help you make the most out of your gear.

This guide will provide all the information you need to effortlessly clean sleeping bags. If you'd like any further information, scroll to the bottom for the answers to some commonly asked questions.

How to Care for Your Sleeping Bag

When you want to wash your sleeping bag, there are several approaches you can take. Here are a few things you can do to minimize dirt, and clean or dry your bag properly.

How to care for your sleeping bag

Preventing Damage

Using your sleeping bag carefully is an excellent way to prevent damage, and make your job easier when wash day comes.

Firstly, do your best to only use your sleeping bag when you're wearing clean clothes. If you're travelling light, you may want to minimize the amount of clothing you bring, but having a separate set of clean clothes for sleeping in will make a big difference. Dirt and oils can really affect your bag's insulating abilities, so make sure you change before bed, and even have a quick wash if possible.

Another great way to prevent damage is to use sleeping bag liners to separate your body from the bag itself. This will stop any excess dirt from coming into contact with your bag and damaging its insulation. Liners are really lightweight and easy to wash, too.

You should also prevent your sleeping bag from coming into contact with the ground as much as possible. A tent will usually safeguard your bag very well, but if you want to sleep outside, try to use a mat or another protective layer between the bag and the ground. This way, you'll stay warmer, and your bag won't be damaged by dirt or sharp objects. It's also important to make sure you store your sleeping bag correctly.

Spot cleaning your sleeping bag will also help keep it safe. Being proactive about addressing small stains or spots will stop any damage from getting worse, and protect your bag's insulation. It will also mean you don't have to deep clean your bag as often! Simply use a damp cloth or old toothbrush to lightly buff away the problem area.

Finally, airing out your bag every day is always a good idea. Whether your bag is slightly damp, or you simply want to keep it fresh, turning it inside out and airing it for a few hours will make a big difference. Make sure you keep an eye on the sun or potential rain showers, as these will affect your bag. Just a few hours airing outside is all you need!

Use Gentle Washing Methods

Taking preventative measures is an excellent way to maintain your bag's condition. When washing day eventually comes, there are a few different methods you can try to deep clean your sleeping bag! Always check the label first for the manufacturer instructions, and remember that you should never use dry cleaning services for your sleeping bag!

Washing By Hand

Washing by hand is actually fairly simple, and using a bathtub will easily get the job done! Follow these steps on effortlessly washing sleeping bags by hand:

  1. Always check the label first for more information.
  2. Fill your bathtub with lukewarm water and a cleaner that's suited to your insulation type. Down and Synthetic bags will often require specific detergents, so always check first.
  3. Gently place your bag in the water and work the soap in. Don't apply too much soap as it can become hard to wash out. Try to focus on problem areas if you can!
  4. Soak the bag for up to an hour, and then lightly squeeze out the water.
  5. Drain and refill your bathtub with clean water, and work the soap out of your bag. You can then leave it to soak for an extra ten minutes if you require.
  6. Repeat this rinsing process until all the soap is gone.
  7. Gently squeeze all the moisture out of the bag and begin the drying process.

Washing By Machine

If you don't have a bathtub, or would rather not wash by hand, you can also use a machine! Most bags can be machine washed, but there are a few important things to keep in mind.

Only use a front loading washing machine if possible. You can use a top loading washing machine, but it must not have an agitator, as it can cause damage to your bag. Follow these steps to correctly clean a sleeping bag with a washing machine:

  1. Always check the label first for more information
  2. Choose the most gentle cycle on your machine, and use cold or warm water depending on the tag's directions.
  3. Use gentle detergent formulated for your insulation type.
  4. Gently load the bag into the machine and run it through the cycle.
  5. Run the bag through a second cycle without any cleaning products to make sure that all the soap is gone. Some machines have an extra rinse function which also works well.
  6. Squeeze out the extra water from your bag, and begin the drying process.

Mail Services

If you're short for time, you can also employ a mail service to wash your sleeping bag. It is more expensive than washing at home, but your sleeping bag will be professionally cleaned for you.

Simply send out your dirty gear to a company of your choice, and wait for it to be returned to you in great condition!

Drying Your Sleeping Bag

How to dry a sleeping bag

Drying your sleeping bag can come down to personal preference, or what you've got available. It's really important to make sure that your gear is fully dry before you use it again. There are two main approaches you can choose from:

Air Drying

Air-drying is generally the best method for all insulation types, and is the least likely to cause any damage. Simply hang your bag up outside, making sure it's not touching the ground at all.

Unfortunately, this can take several hours, so it might not be suitable if you've got a camping trip coming up soon. You'll also need to make sure the bag isn't in direct sunlight or at risk of any rain showers, as these can damage your bag.

Tumble Drying

Tumble drying is a much more convenient method, but it does come with a few extra steps!

Make sure your dryer is big enough to comfortably fit your sleeping bag, as this will help it dry better. Ensure you pick a very low heat setting, to minimize the risk of your shell or synthetic fibers melting.

It's always a great idea to put a few clean tennis balls into the dryer with your sleeping bag. The tennis balls will help to gently break up any clumps of insulation that may form inside the bag. This way, you'll maintain the loft of your sleeping bag, and have a much more cosy camping trip.

Extra Tips

Maintaining your sleeping bag can go beyond washing it, so here are some extra tips for getting the most use out of your gear:

  • Correct Storage: Using a stuff sack on the trails is a great way to free up pack space. However, long term compression can damage your insulation. Between trips, air your sleeping bag and store it in a large, breathable sack. This will keep it safe and secure, protect it from dust, and generally ensure it lasts for its full lifespan.
  • Maintaining Water Resistance: Over time the water repellent coating on a sleeping bag can wear away. It's easy to maintain the shield with sprays or products that you can wash into the bag. This is especially important for down sleeping bags, so you'll be able to keep clean and dry in any weather.
  • Patching Holes: When tears happen, you can lose insulation and affect your bag's heat retention. Keeping a handy sewing kit in your pack will allow you to stop holes from getting worse and conserve insulation. You can also get your sleeping bag professionally repaired in the event of major damage. 

FAQs on Washing Your Sleeping Bag

Washing a sleeping bag FAQs

1. Do you need to wash sleeping bags?

It's really important to wash your sleeping bag regularly. You don't need to wash it every week, and being proactive with spot cleaning will help your sleeping bag last longer between deep cleans. However, dirt and oils can damage your bag's insulation over time, so you will need to wash a sleeping bag to prevent stains from building up.

If you camp casually, a deep clean once or twice a year will generally be enough. If you camp a lot in summer, you may want to wash it slightly more often. Dedicated campers who go on trips most weeks may have to wash more frequently, but it will come down to personal preference.

2. Where can I wash my sleeping bag?

Where you choose to wash your sleeping bag will depend on what services you have at home, and how much time you want to dedicate to deep cleaning your bag.

It's easy to hand wash down or synthetic bags in your bathtub. It may take more time, but you can be sure of a gentle wash. It's also possible to use a washing machine, as long as you choose a front loading model, or a top loading machine without an agitator.

You can also try mail order services who will professionally clean your sleeping bag for you. This is a really convenient method, but it will cost more than washing a sleeping bag at home.

You cannot use dry cleaning services for your sleeping bag, as the chemicals can really damage it.

3. How do you wash and dry a sleeping bag?

If you're confused on how to wash a sleeping bag, our handy guide above has more information on the different methods you can choose.

Ultimately, whether you're machine or hand washing, be sure to use cool or warm water and appropriate detergent for your insulation type. Select a gentle cycle and make sure you properly rinse the bag and properly strain any excess water before you take it to dry.

Air-drying is generally the best method to dry out a sleeping bag, but it can take time. If you're in a hurry, a tumble dryer can get the job done quickly. Ensure you pick a low heat so that there's no risk of melting the sleeping bag's delicate fibers. Putting a few tennis balls in the dryer with your bag will lightly break up any lumps of filling inside the bag, and ensure it insulates you correctly.

4. Can you machine wash Coleman sleeping bags?

You can machine wash your Coleman sleeping bags, but always ensure you check the label first.

However, you must only utilize a large, commercial front loading machine with rotating drum action. A top loader machine with an agitator must not be used, as it can damage the bag. Warm water and an appropriate mild soap should be used for washing, and cold water should be used for rinsing. Alternatively, you can hand wash your Coleman sleeping bag in a bath tub if you prefer.

Ensure you strain as much water as you can before drying. Tumble dry at a low heat in a large commercial dryer.

Make sure your bag is completely dry before it is used or stored.

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