How do you wash a down sleeping bag without ruining it?
Let’s explain when you should just wipe it down, when to put it into a washing machine and how to dry it.
We also explain which sheets to use inside the bag so as to avoid washing too often.
After a long camping trip, how to wash your goose down sleeping bag so that it does not lose its quality (and allowing the sleeping bag to keep you warm to optimum efficiency)?
It all depends on how dirty your sleeping bag is.
Table of Contents
How do you wash a down sleeping bag? Introduction
If the sleeping bag is not very dirty, it is better to simply use a wet washcloth and a little soap.
This mainly on the marked areas (sun cream on the collar, a little mud on the feet, etc.).
This avoids having to completely wash the sleeping bag and its down.
Moreover, this type of cleaning with a glove allows a very simple and fast drying.
Sometimes, we also find that a sleeping bag is dirty because it smells a little strong.
You just have to leave it open on a clothesline for 2 days.
The wind and the air can ventilate the bag perfectly and the bad stale odors disappear.
However, if your sleeping bag is really dirty and needs to be washed with water then read on:
Step 1: Washing
- Machine washing does not usually pose any other major problems.
- Check the drum so that it doesn’t catch on the threads of the sleeping bag and there are no traces of washing powder.
- You can use your own washing machine if large enough or go to a laundromat to use a very large machine.
- A bathtub at home with warm water will also work well.
- Use a specific detergent for down. Generally, 3 or 4 capfuls of detergent and one machine cycle on fragile/wool and at 86°F are sufficient.
- Be sure to check the temperature indicated on the sleeping bag.
- Do not use aggressive detergents that eat away at the down and feathers!
- By experience, do not entrust your goose down sleeping bag to a dry cleaner
Then comes the drying stage and this is very important!
Step 2: Drying
Drying is the most important phase and is often taken lightly when in fact it is the most important phase!
- Slip your sleeping bag into a large dryer (at home or at a laundromat).
- Run the dryer on a 15 minute cycle with 4 or 5 tennis balls inside.
- Stop the cycle, take out the sleeping bag, and break the down balls by hand in each box.
- It takes a good 10 to 20 minutes to break up all the clumps of fluff.
- A bit tedious but necessary work.
- Then put the sleeping bag back in the dryer
- Run it for another 30 minutes with the 4 or 5 tennis balls.
- Once the dryer cycle is finished, take out your sleeping bag again and by hand, break up the last clumps of down.
- You can now lay it out in the open on a wire or on a drying tower with a fan underneath.
- Your sleeping bag will be perfectly dry after +/- 48 hours.
- The down will then be perfectly loose and will fill all the boxes perfectly.
The importance of drying well
Washing a sleeping bag itself is never really a problem.
The tricky part is clearly the drying. Indeed, as soon as you wash a down jacket or a sleeping bag, the filling will clump together.
Hard lumps are the result of still wet feathers and down that have stuck together and have not been separated by hand.
Once dry, it is almost impossible to break these lumps.
Drying in a tumble dryer with 4 or 5 tennis balls is very effective because it breaks up the lumps permanently.
We therefore recommend a first 15-minute tumble dryer run.
Follow by a very important (and somewhat tedious) job of breaking up the lumps by hand.
This gives a good distribution of the feather and down in each box.
Follow with a second tumble dryer run of about 30 minutes.
Make sure to check the manufacturer’s maintenance guidelines of your sleeping bag before you pop it in the washing machine or the tumble dryer. ⚠
Dry your sleeping bag properly
Position the sleeping bag on top of a tower/spreader and place a fan underneath to keep the moisture out by ventilating the sleeping bag.
Regularly shake the sleeping bag and distribute the feathers in their compartments.
The down will then regain its loft because all the feathers and down will be separated (no more lumps).
A sleeping bag can easily take 48h to 72h to dry perfectly.
It is therefore necessary to be patient and regularly beat it to move the feathers in the sleeping bag.
Avoid washing too frequently
Ideally, the less you need to wash your down sleeping bag, the better.
For this reason, we always recommend the use of a sheet slipped inside the sleeping bag during the night.
This bag sheet, often called a meat bag, can be made of cotton (economical) or silk (light and compact).
For adequate temperatures there is Coolmax (cool for hot countries) or Thermolite (warm for cold countries).
In any case, whatever the sheet used, the sweat and the sun cream is trapped in the sheet.
You just have to wash your dirty sheet in the washing machine and open wide and ventilate your sleeping bag.
This allows you to wash your sleeping bag as little as possible to guarantee the best possible life span and to avoid a cold feeling in the sleeping bag for as long as possible.
For those who like to bivouac on the ground, without a tent or tarp, always choose the cleanest spaces possible.
Dry or wet soil can be removed from a sleeping bag quite easily.
Traces of wet grass, however, are much more difficult to wash away.
How do you wash a down sleeping bag? Conclusion
In this post we have explained how to wash and dry a sleeping bag to make sure that you can avoid changing it often.
The drying stage is the most important, and the right care will give you a brand new bag every time!
Sometimes all you need is to wipe it down.
Your best bet is to buy the right sheet to use inside the bag, so you won’t have to wash it as much.