Washing Your Sleeping Bag

No matter how careful you are or whether or not you use a sleeping bag liner, eventually your sleeping bag is going to need a good wash. However, cleaning your sleeping bag can be time consuming and if done incorrectly cause more harm than good. The obvious solution then is to run it down to the dry cleaners for them to deal with – right? WRONG! Down filled bags may survive this......maybe, but synthetic bags almost certainly won't. The most likely result will be a damaged shell, ruined filling and a bag which has no further use.

It is possible to machine wash some sleeping bags both down-filled and synthetic but follow the manufacturers guidelines to the letter or risk damage. If you do machine wash then it needs to be on the gentlest cycle possible and ditch the spin cycle. Many aficionados recommend placing a tennis ball in the drum of the machine with the sleeping bag which will help avoid clumping of the bag's filling. Tumble drying is also best avoided unless your sleeping bag wash instructions advise otherwise.

As spinning and tumble drying is usually out then your bag will come out of the washing machine quite wet and down-filled bags need especially careful handling in this state to avoid tearing any  stitching. Spread your bag out flat to dry, somewhere out of direct sunlight. A down-filled bag seems to stay wet forever so be prepared to attend to it over the course of several days. As the bag starts to dry agitate it gently by patting or with small shakes to ensure even distribution of the filling and to assist healthy lofting.

Although it is the most labour intensive, hand-washing your sleeping bag with specially bought products is in most cases the safest method. Fill a bath filled with warm water and a gentle or purpose specific cleaning product and leave it to soak for a few hours gently agitating it every so often. Be sure to rinse out every last trace of soap or cleaning product which may take several attempts. Dry it by following the same procedure as after a machine wash.

Camping stores and on-line shops sell a vast range of products designed to help you clean your sleeping bag effectively and safely and are probably worth shelling out for. Additionally, you can buy products which help to maintain a bag's water repellent properties and again are probably worth investing in as not only do they work at keeping your bag dry but also protecting it from dirt and oils from your body.

If all else fails, many camping stores run a sleeping bag cleaning service so if you have some extra pennies but little time this may be your best bet.