How to Wash a Down Sleeping Bag

Sleeping bags can be the best ally of any backpacker when they head off camping or trekking and beyond.

These can keep you dry and warm on the coldest nights and give you the best in comfort as if you had never left your own bed.

When treated with care, sleeping bags can last for many years of regular use. Keeping warm is one of its many benefits when you’re busy camping or walking the trail.

But many backpackers mistreat their sleeping bags, let sand or dirt rub against them, and over time the dirt and grime get soaked in them. This adds to the number of years they leave them without washing them.

procedure in washing your sleeping bag

This will not only create a sleeping bag that does not smell very good but will not feel better and will not be as efficient to keep you warm.

Eventually, all this will ultimately ruin the fabrics, which significantly contributes to decreasing the insulation and insulation properties of the sleeping bag.

Luckily, when it comes down to how to clean a down sleeping bag,  you will see it is really very simple.

But, down feathers are very different from man made fibers. These are sensitive and incredibly delicate. Knowing this, it is essential to wash and dry the sleeping bag carefully.

To save all the hard work, we have the two best ways you can wash down sleeping bag. The two ways to do it are the following: Machine washing and hand washing.

Machine Washing Your Sleeping Bag

Sleeping bags can be quite bulky, so these steps are best followed using a laundromat because they have larger washers and ideal tumble dry machines. If you are lucky to have machines (washer and dryer) capable of taking a 10kg payload, then you can carry out this procedure at home.

Materials required for machine washing and drying a down sleeping bag:

  • Large front-loading washing machine – 10kg payload
  • Specialty down soap. Recommendations are Nikwax Down Wash, Granger Down Wash or Gear Aid ReviveX Down Wash. You can use alternatives if you spot any. These three are well proven to clean down effectively.
  • Large front-loading tumble dryer – the laundromat dryers are exceptional for drying sleeping bags because of the extra space.
  • Wool dryer balls, clean sneaker or tennis balls – clumps can form in the down after washing. Any of these items can help to stimulate these, and they will break up as the bag dries.

Note: If you decide to use dry sneakers, you should place these inside a large pair of socks to prevent the laces or the soles from catching on the fabric of your sleeping bag.

washing and drying instructions for your sleeping bagThings to know in washing a Down Sleeping Bag

Before following the steps involved, you must read the manufacturers washing and drying instructions on the care instruction label.

Once you start washing, you won’t be able to check. From this, you can set the machine to the correct temperature and any other settings the manufacturer dictates.

Never use bleach, bleach-alternatives, or fabric softener. Never use regular detergent as this strips natural down oils from the feathers.

NOTE: For added protection, you also have the option to use Down Proof after completing your wash cycle with Down Wash.

This additional step ensures that not only the shell of your bag gets a new DWR (Down water repellant) application, but also the down feathers inside your bag.

Step by step in washing sleeping bagSteps in Washing a Down Sleeping Bag

Step 1: Make sure to check the washing machine and make sure there are no foreign objects left from the previous washing.

This can easily and unknowingly tear your bag material. At the same time, check that there is no detergent buildup in the dispenser from the previous washing. Regular detergents can damage the feathers.

Step 2: Turn the sleeping bag out, zipper, and put it in the machine. Make sure the washing machine is a front load. Note: Top load washers can be used as long as they do not use agitators.

This agitator is the middle column in the washing compartment of several top load machines. It has grooves and fins that can tear the fabric of your sleeping bag. This is why the front loader is recommended.

Step 3: Put in your soap according to the instructions on the soap bottle. Most will recommend about 100 ml of liquid for the wash cycle.

Step 4: Set the water temperature of the machine to what is on the sleeping bag label. You need to use either the delicate or gentle cycle.

Step 5: Once the cycle is complete, check that all the soap scum has come out by pressing your bag and looking for soap bubbles.

If there are still soap bubbles, you must pass the sleeping bag through a rinse cycle without using soap. This is most cases is not necessary with automatic washing machines in the laundromat.

That is all there is to wash a down sleeping bag. As long as you follow the manufacturer’s instructions, and use the right soap for the job, then you shouldn’t have any problems.

Here are the steps for the drying of your down sleeping bag.

Step 6: Set the tumble dryer to the low setting. Make sure the heat setting is set to low. Otherwise, the high temperature can damage the down feathers in your bag.

The time required to dry a down sleeping bag may vary slightly, but allow a full drying time of 3 to 5 hours. You can check every 15 minutes or so to see how far it is into the drying process.

Step 7: Place your bag in the dryer

Step 8: When your sleeping bag is almost dry, open the door and add 3 to 6 tennis balls, wool drying balls or sock-wrapped sneakers. The dryer uses them to inflate the down in the sleeping bag. If there are clumps, they will help disperse these clumped feathers which may have gathered during the washing phase.

Step 9: Once you have finished drying, and your sleeping bag is all puffed up. Hang or store it loosely without flattening in a dry place.

As you can see, when washing and drying your sleeping bag, it is the drying aspect that consumes the majority of the time.

wash your sleeping bag by hand at homeHand Wash Your Sleeping Bag

If you do not have access to a front-loading washer, you can still wash your sleeping bag by hand at home.

The process takes a little longer, but some people find it delivers a smoother process for their favorite sleeping bag.

If you do not have a sizeable front-loading dryer, you will need a flat surface to allow your sleeping bag to dry.

Below are the steps to wash your sleeping bag by hand.

The specialty down soaps is the same as when using the washing machine option. It should be noted that to wash a down sleeping bag by hand, you do need a bathtub.

Step 1: Fill a bathtub with warm water. Flip your sleeping bag inside out and close all zippers.

Step 2: Mix your down soap into the water according to the instructions on the bottle. Remember: Never use bleach, bleach-alternatives or fabric softeners. Also, avoid using a regular detergent as this will remove the natural oils from your down.

Step3: Put your sleeping bag in the tub and start gently massaging your bag. This allows the down soap to penetrate the fabric and clean the feathers.

Step 4: Once it is totally soaked, let your sleeping bag lay in the tub for an hour.

Step 5: Empty the tub and fill it with fresh water without adding any soap.

Step 6: Gently massage the bag again, but this time the goal is to remove all the soap from the bag. Never twist or squeeze the bag to eliminate excess water. You may have to drain and fill the tub several times before you can remove all the soap out of the bag.

Step 7: Dry your bag by placing it on a clean surface outdoors, like grass or a beach towel. Place your bag under sunlight or partial shade for best results.

If you have a sizeable front-loading dryer in your home, you can also put your bag in the dryer in a Low-Drying setting and follow the steps in the previous procedure.

Step 8: Once your bag is somewhat dry, you should manually unclog the down feathers. To do this, gently separate the groups of feathers by hand, or gently rub the bag as if it were a feather pillow.

Step 9: Once you have finished drying, and your sleeping bag is all puffed up. Hang or store it loosely without flattening in a dry place.

Sleeping Bag Maintenance Tips

Once you have thoroughly dried your sleeping bag, you can store it in the bag it was supplied with. This is often a mesh bag.

Never store it in a stuff sack as air will need to circulate and you can also squash the down again

The more times you wash your sleeping bag, the quicker it will degrade. To slow down wash cycles, you can use a sleeping bag liner. These are easier to wash, and they will keep the inside of your sleeping bag much cleaner.

How to Wash a Down Sleeping Bag


Leave a Comment