A lightweight sleeping bag can cost upwards of $500 or more depending on your needs. For many people the cost of the sleeping bag can be their largest investment in backpacking gear. Consequently, it’s important to know how to properly wash and dry your bag. You can maintain and extend the life of your down sleeping bag by following the steps outlined in this article.
You should never wash your down bag after each outing as it will significantly decrease the life of your bag. Spot treating is the best method for most stains. Simply shake the down away from the stain, and gently scrub the area with mixture of non-detergent soap and water. Make sure to wipe the area with a damp cloth afterwards to remove any residual, and allow to completely dry before storing. Also, be sure to focus on the hood where hair and oils tend to accumulate.
However at some point you’ll realize that it’s time to wash your down sleeping bag. A good indication is when you significant other refuses to step within 20 feet of your sleeping bag.
Never Do These Things When Washing Your Down Sleeping Bag
- Never take your down sleeping bag to the dry cleaners. The chemicals used in the dry cleaning process actually remove the natural goose and duck oils from the feathers. This oils helps down maintain it’s loft which is what keeps you warm at night.
- Never wash your sleeping bag in a washing machine with an agitator (most home models have an agitator). The agitator can cause tearing to occur. The only type of washing machines that should be used are front loading ones typically found at laundry mats.
- Never use regular laundry detergent or fabric softer. The chemicals in those liquids can strip the down of its natural oils (see item 1). In addition residual soap is left behind in your bag. Only use the down cleaners listed later in this article to wash your lightweight sleeping bag.
Down Cleaning Solution
There are two cleaning solutions that are designed specifically for cleaning down sleeping bags and are highly rated by people who have purchased them. They are Nikwax Down Wash and ReviveX Down Cleaner. Each bottle contains enough cleaner to wash two to three bags. These are the only cleaners that should be used when washing down sleeping bags (see Never Do section above).
Washing By Hand
You can wash your sleeping bag by hand using your bathtub and the cleaner listed above.
- Fill the tub with cold water, and then add recommended amount of down cleaner
- Turn sleeping bag inside out and add to the water
- Immerse the bag underwater and gently knead it so that the soapy water gets into all areas of the bag. Spend extra time on areas with stains
- If the water is especially dirty you might need to drain the water, refill the bathtub, and add more soap to continue cleaning the bag until it’s completely clean
- Drain the water and refill the bathtub to rinse. Gently knead the bag with your hands to remove all traces of soap. You will likely need to do this two or three times before all soap is removed
- Drain the water, and then carefully roll the bag to remove as much water as possible
- Carefully lift the bag and then follow the instructions for drying your bag
- Locate a laundry mat that uses large capacity front loading machines.
- Carefully inspect the inside of front loading washing machine for dirt, grim, rough spots (which can tear your bag), and other debris. Either clean and/or remove debris from the washer or simply choose a different unit
- Add recommended amount of down cleaner, turn bag inside out and start the washer
- Add an additional rinse cycle to the washing cycle to completely rinse the bag of soap. If that’s not possible simply run the bag through the wash cycle again without using down cleaner
- Once completed carefully roll the bag to remove any remaining water.
- Carefully lift the bag and then follow the instructions for dying your bag
Drying Your Down Sleeping Bag
The best way to dry your sleeping bag and to restore its original loft is to use a commercial front loading dryer. The drying process takes several hours so make sure you have plenty of time and quarters to complete the process.
- Carefully inspect the inside of the dryer for any rough spots or sharp objects that can tear and damage your bag.
- Set the dryer to the low or warm temperature setting, carefully add your sleeping bag, and throw in 2-3 clean tennis balls. The tennis balls will help break up clumps during the drying cycle
- Be sure to occasionally stop the dryer and check for any hot spots on the drum that can cause your bag’s shell to melt
- It should take anywhere from 2-3 hours for the bag to be completely dry. Be sure to carefully feel the down inside the bag to make sure no moisture remains. Also, if you feel clumps it means the bag still has moisture inside and needs to be run through the drying cycle again
It’s possible to allow a down sleeping bag to air dry but be sure to keep it out of direct sunlight which can break down the shell over time.
If you follow these instructions you will prolong the life of your lightweight sleeping bag and bring happiness into the life of your significant other.
Be sure to checkout our Lightweight Sleeping Bag Guide.