How To: Wash Your Sleeping Bag

by Vierra Reid January 31, 2017

Have you ever thought about washing your sleeping bag? Don't judge me, but it didn't even cross my mind until I spilled soup all over it.

After I went into a minor panic that my brand new down sleeping bag was ruined, I Googled how to wash it. Instead of letting you sift through random blog posts, I thought I would write down the biggest points.

For starters, if this sort of thing stresses you out, Rainy Pass offers a service that will do it all for you. Rumor has it that the service takes about seven days to complete and is around $50. It's 'highly recommended' if you have a down sleeping bag - but I dare you to live on the edge and do it yourself - it ended up costing me $13. 

This step-by-step process is for anyone who owns a sleeping bag whether that means you use a Bison Bag (polyester microfiber synthetic) or you use a down sleeping bag with a regular hammock

Step 1: Get the Goods 

Step 2: Spot Clean

  • Wipe off any residue on the bag before soaking in water

Step 3: Soak the Bag

  • It's possible to wash your sleeping bag in a front loading machine, but I didn't want to take any chances or spend hours at the laundromat, so I washed mine by hand
  • Fill your bath tub or commercial sink (not sure why I conveniently have one of these?) with about 4 gallons of 'hot to the touch' water
  • Add 100 ml of Nikwax (two cap fulls)
  • Use your handy dandy yellow gloves (yes, they have to be yellow or the entire process gets screwed up) to clean & soak the dirty parts of your bag
  • Let it soak for 5-10 minutes

NOTE: I tried to only soak the part that was already soaked in soup because I didn't want to risk ruining any of the down feathers. I'm a first timer - you can't blame me.

Step 4: Rinse the Bag

  • With your gloves squeeze out any soapiness in the bag until the bubbles are at a zero
  • Try to squeeze the majority of the water out of the bag without clumping together the wet down feathers (contradicting, I know)

NOTE: If you're washing a synthetic bag, this is when you'd apply the TX Direct to 're-waterproof' your sleeping bag before drying it out.

Step 5: Dry it Out

  • Place the bag in the dryer with three tennis balls - no more, no less (this is serious stuff, guys and you have to make sure they're Wilson brand too)
  • Tumble dry with minimal heat - this process takes three or more full cycles to completely dry

NOTE: If you're drying a synthetic bag, you can either do the steps above or choose to air-dry it.

Step 6: Never Spill on Your Sleeping Bag Again 


What To Remember:

  • DO NOT dry clean. Solvents, fabric softeners, bleach or alternative-bleach products strip the natural oils from down and can ruin water resistance. 
  • DO NOT wash in a top-loading machine with an agitator (the big stick in the middle). It can tangle then tear your precious bag.
  • DO let your bag breathe when it's not in use. If you have a down sleeping bag, keeping it in a compression sack for more than a few days at a time can ruin the down feathers. For synthetic bags, a similar effect can happen to the fibers, so it's best to play it safe and keep your sleeping bag at optimal conditions. Would YOU like to be crammed into a compression sack?
  • DO your best to keep your bag away from liquids. This is really the only major thing that forces you to wash it. Unless the bag has gotten unusually dirty, years might go by before it actually needs a complete wash. 

P.S. If you're interested in buying a compression sack, I've used this Sea-To-Summit Compression Dry Sack on a 3-day rafting trip - it's a must have.

About the Author:

Vierra is a 25 year old Idahomie at heart living in the northend of Boise. She enjoys all things outdoors and is convinced that living fully human is essential.
Follow along at @vierramae

Vierra Reid
Vierra Reid


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