How to Wash and Clean Your Sleeping Bag

How to Wash and clean your sleeping bag

We usually wash our sleeping bags at the end of each camping season. However, because of the increased time required, we are not used to washing a sleeping bag by hand washing in the bathtub.

Instead, we take a trip to a nearby laundromat that offers cleaning in larger washers and dryers.

These instructions on how to wash and clean your sleeping bag are for newbies who need a helpful guide so that they can improve their sleeping bag lifetime.

How to Wash and Clean Your Sleeping Bag – Step by Step

Can you wash a sleeping bag?

Washing a sleeping bag is basically possible and very common for regular camping or hiking. However, sensitive down sleeping bags should be washed by hand in a bathtub. And synthetic fiber sleeping bags can usually be washed in the washing machine at 30 degrees on a gentle cycle.

How often should I wash the sleeping bag?

Since frequent washing endangers the loft and therefore the insulation, sleeping bags should be washed as rarely as possible. The frequency of cleaning depends on how often the sleeping bag is used. As a rough benchmark, I recommend thorough washing after 40 nights at the latest.

However, for casual campers, the sleeping bag should be washed at least once a year at the end of the season.

A good time to wash the sleeping bag is at the latest moment when the sleeping bag is not used for a long period of time or when it gets dirt, sebum and sweat accumulate due to frequent use and then endanger the loft and insulation.

If the stains are only minor, stain cleaning is preferable to machine washing.

Should I wash the sleeping bag before using it for the first time?

If possible, the sleeping bag should not be washed before it is used for the first time. If the brand-new smell is bothersome, spreading the sleeping bag on the floor for several hours will help. In this way, most of the smell will evaporate until the sleeping bag is used for the first time.

Instructions: Machine wash the sleeping bag

Wash down sleeping bags – machine wash

I recommend gentle, albeit more complex, hand washing for down sleeping bags. Because not all down sleeping bags are suitable for the washing machine. Larger down sleeping bags with more than 1000 grams of down filling, for example, require washing machines with a high capacity.

Here are some tips to follow before putting your sleeping bag in the washing machine:

  • Before washing the machine, it is essential that you read the manufacturer’s instructions on how to care for and wash your down sleeping bag. Consult the manufacturer’s website or follow included instructions. The care label and the information are enclosed with the sleeping bag.
  • Before washing, you should repair any cracks with a down sleeping bag repair kit.
  • Make sure to use a front-loading washing machine with a drum of at least 10 kilograms for down sleeping bags. Compared to top loaders, front loaders offer more capacity and therefore ensure a more thorough wash. In addition, the down sleeping bag does not get tangled in the drum with front loaders. Larger drums prevent down from sticking together.
  • If there is no washing machine or if it has too little capacity, you can use a large front-loading machine in a professional laundromat.
  • Dry cleaning can damage the sleeping bag. A special detergent, which is particularly gentle, is suitable for down sleeping bags. When choosing the detergent, I recommend down detergents without alkali, phosphates and silicone. In any case, avoid adding fabric softeners; the same applies to detergents with fabric softeners.
  • Make sure that the detergent compartment of your washing machine is completely free of detergent residues. Rinse it carefully with warm water. If in doubt, choose a different machine in the laundromat.
  • Before washing, the cords on the collar should first be loosened. The zipper is opened, the down sleeping bag turned inside out and Velcro fasteners on the hood are closed. This way, the zipper cannot be damaged during machine washing.
  • Now set the washing machine program according to the care instructions determined in step 1. As a rule, it should be a program for hand wash, wool wash or delicates with a maximum of 800 revolutions per minute at 30 degrees Celsius.
  • After the first wash, I recommend an extra rinse with plenty of water to remove residues.
  • Take particular care when removing the wet down sleeping bag from the washing machine after cleaning the machine. Caution: The heavyweight can damage the seams if the sleeping bag is jerked off.

Wash synthetic sleeping bags in the washing machine

A synthetic fiber sleeping bag is far less sensitive to laundry than a down sleeping bag. For example, synthetic fibers do not necessarily require a large machine and leaky seams are far less problematic than with down fillings.

You can machine wash the synthetic fiber sleeping bag with the following instructions:

  • Before washing in the machine, it is essential that you read the manufacturer’s instructions carefully and wash the synthetic sleeping bags properly. Consult the manufacturer’s website, the care label and the information enclosed with the sleeping bag.
  • Make sure to use a front-loading washing machine with a drum of at least 6 kilograms for synthetic sleeping bags. Compared to top loaders, front loaders offer more capacity and therefore ensure a more thorough wash. In addition, the synthetic fiber sleeping bag does not get tangled in the drum with front loaders. Winter sleeping bags with synthetic fibers should be washed in the laundromat.
  • If there is no washing machine or if it has too little capacity, use a large front-loading machine in a professional laundromat.
  • Commercially available mild detergents or special functional detergents for synthetic fibers are suitable for synthetic fiber sleeping bags. In any case, avoid adding fabric softeners; the same applies to detergents with fabric softeners.
  • Make sure that the detergent compartment of your washing machine is completely free of detergent residues. Rinse it carefully with warm water. If in doubt, choose a different machine in the laundromat.
  • Before washing, the cords on the collar should first be loosened. The zipper is opened, the synthetic fiber sleeping bag is turned inside out and the Velcro fasteners on the hood are closed. This way, the zipper cannot be damaged during machine washing.
  • Now set the washing machine program according to the care instructions determined in step 1. As a rule, it should be a program for hand wash, wool wash or delicates with a maximum of 800 revolutions per minute at 30 degrees Celsius.
  • After the first wash, I recommend several extra rinses with plenty of water to remove residues.
  • Spinning at around 400 revolutions can shorten the drying time.

This is how you can hand wash a sleeping bag

If you want to be on the safe side or if you have a high-quality down sleeping bag, hand washing the sleeping bag is preferable not machine washing. However, this is associated with an increased expenditure of time.

  • As with machine washing, you should first observe all the care instructions for your sleeping bag, which you can find on the manufacturer’s website or on the package insert. Pay particular attention to the care label on the sleeping bag itself.
  • Make sure to use a bathtub for hand washing the sleeping bag. This is the only way to avoid residues and have enough volume available for a thorough wash.
  • Use lukewarm water at a temperature of 30 degrees Celsius to hand wash the sleeping bag. A thermometer for pools, aquariums or ponds is suitable for the measurement.
  • When hand washing a down sleeping bag, down detergent should be used. The amount depends on the hardness of the water. With medium water hardness, 40 ml is sufficient. When washing sleeping bags by hand, neither fabric softener nor bleach should be used.
  • The sleeping bag should be pressed slowly and carefully under the water when hand washing in the bathtub. This process takes longer because the sleeping bag is initially filled with air.
  • If the sleeping bag is completely soaked with water, it is now hand washed along its entire length. Knead the chambers gently but consistently with your hands. The sleeping bag should soak in the tub for an hour.
  • Now rinse the sleeping bag particularly thoroughly. Use a sponge for detergent residue and gently blot the residue with plenty of water.
  • The sleeping bag, which has now been completely cleaned, is heavy at this point because of the penetrated water. Therefore, the sleeping bag must be carefully removed from the tub so as not to damage the seams from the weight.

This is how I dry the sleeping bag

I have already washed both down and synthetic sleeping bags separately. In fact, the time-consuming process is not washing, but drying the sleeping bag. By the way, this method can apply to both types of sleeping bags.

Regardless of whether it is down or synthetic fibers, the sleeping bag must first air dry – even if it is to be machine dried. In order to avoid damage to the seams and a deteriorating insulation effect, neither a synthetic fiber nor a down sleeping bag should end up in the dryer immediately after washing.

Therefore, you should be extremely careful when transporting the wet sleeping bag out of the bathtub or washing machine.

Air dry your sleeping bag

Anyone who has washed their sleeping bag should then use the following instructions for air drying:

  • For air drying, you need the largest possible, stable clothes horse with a sufficiently wide area. Rotary clothes dryers in the garden are also an option, provided that the drying process can be monitored.
  • Roofed drying racks are preferable. Avoid both rain and direct sunlight.
  • Make sure there is adequate drainage of the water. A large container or the bathtub are good options.
  • In the first step, the heavy sleeping bag soaked with water must be placed on a large, stable clothes horse. The rotary clothes dryer in the garden is also a good idea, provided the sleeping bag can be laid flat. It must not hang down in one or more places.
  • Carefully lay your sleeping bag flat on the clothes horse with two people without jerking movements. If horizontal drying is not possible, you will need a larger clothes horse! If part of the sleeping bag hangs down on one side, there is a risk of damage to the seams. In addition, the filling is redistributed.
  • Allow two to three days for air drying only. If you want to dry the sleeping bag in the dryer, air drying is sufficient for six to eight hours as preparation.

Dry the sleeping bag in the dryer

Attention: A sleeping bag can only be dried in the dryer if it has been air dried beforehand. If you want to use a laundromat for washing and drying, you should either bring your own clothes horse or choose salons that have clothes horse available.

The following instructions are used to properly dry the sleeping bag in the dryer:

  • Ideally, drying in the dryer takes one or two days after the sleeping bag has been allowed to air dry. At least eight hours are strongly recommended to minimize damage to the sleeping bag material.
  • Select gentle drying at the lowest possible temperature of the dryer (at least 30 degrees Celsius, at most 40 degrees Celsius). Large drum dryers in a laundromat are ideal, as they can be used to keep down sleeping bags puffy. Larger dryers dry better overall.
  • Drying is improved if two to three tennis balls or special dryer balls are added.
  • Make sure to keep direct heat sources away during the drying process. Subsequent ironing or steaming must be avoided at all costs.
  • The sleeping bag must be completely dry before final storage.

Stain cleaning of the sleeping bag

Stain cleaning is a targeted option for areas that are particularly susceptible to dirt. This primarily includes the head and foot area of ​​the sleeping bag.

But not only spot cleaning of stains is possible: Even if the sleeping bag has several dirty spots, this gentle stain cleaning is often the better solution for the longevity of the sleeping bag than full hand or washing machine wash.

This is how you go about cleaning the sleeping bag stains:

  • Close all zippers and Velcro fasteners.
  • Have the appropriate detergent ready that you need for your sleeping bag type: down detergent for down sleeping bags, mild detergent or special functional detergent for synthetic fibers.
  • Apply a small amount of detergent to the area you want to clean.
  • Use a toothbrush with extra soft bristles to gently but steadily work in the detergent in a circular motion.
  • Use a soft, wet sponge to clean and rinse the appropriate areas.
  • Make sure to only let the top layer get wet, not the lining. If the filling gets wet, the sleeping bag must dry for at least one day.

Where can I have my sleeping bag professionally cleaned?

Some outdoor product companies offer professional cleaning services with special detergents, washing machines and dryers. The service costs between 20 and 100 dollars and includes a wide variety of processes. Of course, the quality, filling quantity and weight play a role in the final price of professional cleaning.

Simple cleaning without removing any filling material usually costs between 20 and 50 dollars. On the other hand, if the cover and down are to be washed separately and refilled on top of that, costs between 60 and 100 dollars must be expected.

Thanks for reading! If you have any questions, you can ask in the comment section below.

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