How to Wash a Sleeping Bag

Imagine you’re trying to sleep under a starry sky on your great outdoor adventure. But there’s a funky smell coming from your sleeping bag, and the fill has lost its loft and warmth. If it happens, it won’t take much time to turn your dream into a nightmare.

So, what’s the solution? Easy. Just clean your sleeping bag. You don’t even have to clean it regularly. Washing once every year is more than enough, and in the meantime, you can do small spot cleaning. However, if you’re a hardcore camper and go camping every week, then you need more frequent cleaning I’m afraid.

You may wonder about how to wash a sleeping bag. Well, that depends on you which method you prefer. You can use the washer and dryer for quick and easy cleaning. Or you can hand wash it yourself using a tub. And if you don’t trust yourself to do a good job, then you can send your bag for professional cleaning.

Let’s look at the steps for how to clean a sleeping bag.

Spot Cleaning

A sleeping bag is more susceptible to wear and tear and getting decreased loft with constant washing. So there’s no need for a full wash if your bag just got a little stain or mark. You can just spray and dab the spot with a cleaner.

Or you can make a cleaning solution with non-detergent soap and water. Use a brush (toothbrush too) to clean the shell or liner gently. Hold the liner fabric away from the insulation so the inside fill doesn’t get wet. Wash and rinse the spot carefully.

The interior lining at your bag’s head, collar, and foot areas tend to get extra dirty. You can spot clean these areas before washing the entire bag.

Machine Washing

Before washing, make sure to check if your bag can be machine washed and follow the manufacturer’s washing instructions. You can have your bag professionally cleaned, but those take longer time and cost money. If you have access to the washer and dryer, you can do the washing yourself.

  • Set the washer to a gentle washing cycle in warm (or cold) water option with an appropriate soap
  • Load your sleeping bag in the machine
  • After washing, let the bag run through another rinse cycle to make all the soap residue is gone
  • Gently squeeze out any excess water
  • Put the bag in a dryer on a low heat cycle
  • Toss in a couple of tennis balls to ensure the stuffing doesn’t clump together as it spins around
  • Run as many cycles as needed till the bag’s dried completely

Hand Washing

Using a commercial machine for washing and drying your sleeping bag is the most effortless process. However, if you don’t have access to an industrial washing machine, then handwashing is the way to go. You can wash your bag using a large basin or tub.

  • Fill your tub with cool or warm water
  • Add the appropriate cleaning product for the down or synthetic bag; avoid using too much soap, so it’s not harder to rinse out
  • Put the bag in water and gently let the soap seep throughout the whole bag
  • Rub together heavily dirty areas
  • Allow the bag to soak up to one hour
  • Drain the bathtub and push out any remaining water
  • Fill your tub with water again to rinse and repeat the rinse process till there’s no soap residue
  • Gently squeeze out as much water as you can
  • Gather the bag fully in your arms while taking out from the tub to avoid straining and ripping the seams
  • If your home dryer is too small for your bag, then take it to the laundromat
  • Use low heat setting and check it frequently, so the bag doesn’t get damaged from heat or twisting
  • You can hang your bag over a line or on a large hanger for air drying in an outdoor space with no direct sunlight
  • If you don’t have available outdoor space, you can also hang it in a dry, temperature-controlled indoor area

How to Wash a Down Sleeping Bag

As long as the dirt or lumps or decreased loft aren’t noticeable, you can put off washing your down sleeping bag. You don’t need to wash it after every camping trip, but you should at least try to wash it every year.

Hand Washing

  • First, turn the sleeping bag inside out, put it in the tub, and add warm or cold water
  • Use specifically-formulated down soap and gently knead the bag to put soapy water throughout it
  • Drain the bathtub then carefully roll up the sleeping bag and squeeze the water out
  • Do not pick up the bag when it’s full of water
  • Turn the bag right side out and refill the tub with clean water to rinse
  • Continue rinsing till there are no more soap suds
  • Again roll up the sleeping bag to squeeze out the remaining water

Machine Washing

  • before putting the bag into the machine, zip up all zippers and turn it inside out
  • Set up a delicate wash cycle with low temperature and add extra rinse cycle
  • Roll up the sleeping bag carefully and squeeze out the water
  • Do not use fabric softener as it can damage the down filling
  • Check out the spin cycle regularly and redistribute the weight if necessary


Hanging your down bag to dry is a long process, as it can take up to 24-48 hours or more. However, this way, the down bag will be least damaged. You need a well-ventilated, low-humidity area that doesn’t get direct sunlight. Also, shake out your bag gently to break-up down clumps and flip it often for faster drying.

If you want your bag to dry faster, you can try tumble dry. Put your down sleeping bag inside a large laundry sack before putting it in a dryer. Set the dryer to low heat and run a complete cycle. Remove the bag from the laundry sack and turn it inside out. Then put it again in the laundry sack and run back another cycle. Check the bag to make sure the down insulation is completely dry before putting it away for storage.

How to Wash a Synthetic Sleeping Bag

Synthetic sleeping bags are less sensitive than down sleeping bags, but you still need to be careful while washing. The process is the same as cleaning a down bag. The only difference is you need to use non-detergent soap specially made for synthetic bags.

If you’re not sure how gentle your washing machine can be, don’t put the bag in it. Especially top-loading washing machines are too rough to handle sleeping bags.

How to Take Care of a Sleeping Bag

Good care is the secret to any sleeping bag’s longevity. Doesn’t matter whether it’s down or synthetic; if you take proper care of your sleeping bag, you won’t even need to wash it too often. It’s better to keep it clean, dry, and protected so that it lasts longer and performs efficiently.

  • Change into clean clothes before getting into your sleeping bag. That way, the dirt and grimes you’ve accumulated the day camping won’t get inside your bag.
  • Use the sleeping bag liner. Silk, cotton, wool, or polyester – any liner will keep your sleeping bag clean. And washing the liner is relatively easier than washing the entire sleeping bag.
  • Use a sleeping pad to protect your bag from the ground. The pad will act as a barrier between your sleeping bag and the earth.
  • Check your bag periodically to make sure zippers, seams and drawcords aren’t broken. Use them gently and carefully, so they don’t break or get damaged easily. Air out your bag regularly. Even if it’s dry, turn it inside out to dry out any moisture, as soon as you get home from your trip.
  • Never store the sleeping bag in a small stuff sack. Keeping it in a small compress sack for an extended period of time will damage the insulation fill inside.
  • Store your bag in a large cotton or mesh storage sack
  • Never dry clean your sleeping bag
  • Never use bleach, fabric softener, or strong detergent while washing your bag
  • Never wring or scrunch up your bag, instead gently squeeze out the water
  • Always check if the washing machine is suitable for the sleeping bag was

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