How to Wash a Sleeping Bag – Keeping the Quality

Sleeping bags are an essential tool for those planning to spend a weekend outdoors or camping. They come in many different materials, but the most common are synthetic and down. 

Ensuring that you keep your sleeping bag clean and in good condition will help it last much longer and serve you faithfully. Sleeping bags are usually made out of a water resistant outer shell and an insulated, puffy inner layer. 


Sleeping bags have been around for almost 200 years, originally used by explorers who went on expeditions that ventured deep into the Arctic and colder regions of the world. At that time they were very crude and rudimentary but they effectively kept people warm. And at times even saved lives. Since then they have been refined a thousand fold. 

Synthetic filler is the most common material used in decent sleeping bags. Down filler offers much more heat retention and is more lightweight than it’s counterpart however it does cost significantly more. 

Can You Wash Sleeping Bags?

Yes, you can. And in our opinion, you should. It’s generally encouraged that you wash your sleeping bag if it has accumulated some dirt or looks rather scruffy. There are a multitude of reasons why sleeping bags need to be washed. Primarily, it maintains the quality of the bag itself and keeps it well insulated. 

It’s recommended to give your sleeping bag a decent clean after excursions that have lasted a while or caused the sleeping bag to be used on any open ground. 

Over time, sleeping bags can develop a buildup of grime and oils from the human body. As a result, they will require a wash to keep them fresh and maintain good quality. 

How to Clean a Sleeping Bag

Cleaning your sleeping bags is an important factor in maintaining their quality. Many of the differing materials have specific requirements for care and the washing process. These requirements can be found easily online or in the packaging the sleeping bag was purchased in. 

Spot cleaning any visibly dirty areas beforehand is advisable. You can use a toothbrush, soap and wet sponge to remove any marks and grime before washing. 

Washing a synthetic sleeping bag can be done either by hand in a bathtub or in a washing machine. It should be noted that the former can be quite hard work to do alone if you own a larger sleeping bag. But it is manageable.  

You should refrain from washing in a top loading washing machine as the agitators that are found within can occasionally rip the seams of your sleeping bag. 

Sleeping bags generally only need a wash every few months but this ultimately depends on how often the bag is used and what terrain it’s used on. There are specific cleaning products specially tailored for down or synthetic sleeping bags that can be added to the wash before starting it. By following these steps you’ll quickly learn how to wash a sleeping bag correctly and effectively.

After the wash, unzip the sleeping bag fully and leave it open to hang outside for a day or two until there is no extra moisture inside. Ensure that your bag is fully dry before packing it away.

It’s highly recommended that you never dry clean a sleeping bag as it can damage the fabric and compromise the overall quality of the bag itself. Tumble drying a sleeping bag is generally alright, particularly as air drying can sometimes take a few days. But always remember to consult the website of the brand you’re using to make sure it’s tumble dryer friendly. 

How to Wash Sleeping Bags without a Sink or Washing Machine 

Sleeping bags can be washed in a bathtub by hand. However, it is important to ensure that you wash it gently and use the correct cleaning products for the type of fabric your sleeping bag is made out of. 

There are specialty cleaning products that can be bought which are specifically designed for the care and upkeep of either down or synthetic material. However, a mild fabric cleaner is also generally acceptable for handwashing. Most sleeping bags can be air dried or put in a tumble dryer.

How to Clean a Down Sleeping Bag

When it comes to the general maintenance of down sleeping bags, it’s important to know how to wash and clean them correctly. This in turn helps maintain its quality, by not compromising or damaging the bag and it’s lining throughout the process. 

Down is generally more delicate than synthetic fibres, requiring care to ensure that it keeps it’s natural warmth and softness.If you decide to use a washing machine ensure that any loose fasteners are tied or removed beforehand so that they don’t get snagged and tear the sleeping bag while the machine is spinning. Double check that the bag is rinsed thoroughly after the wash cycle and press on it to ensure there are no excess soap suds. 

Down can be tumble dried or hung outside to dry. However, this can take a long time so patience is necessary as taking it down too early can lead to mold and mildew. It’s recommended that you always wash down sleeping bags with lukewarm or mild water, generally 30°C.

How to Wash a Down Sleeping Bag Without a Washing Machine

To hand wash a down sleeping bag you’ll need a bathtub, a fair amount of water and some space. It’s advisable that you rinse out your bath beforehand to ensure that there is no residue that can damage or stain the sleeping bag.

Fill the bath with lukewarm water. You can add a special down cleaner or regular fabric cleaner to the water as either works well. Leave the sleeping bag to soak in the water for an hour or so before draining the excess water and running a new tub full with fresh water. 

Work the soap out from the sleeping bag by moving it around gently and massaging the fabric until there are no soap suds leaving the bag. Drain the tub and push down on the sleeping bag to remove as much water as possible. You can then either tumble dry or hang it outside until properly dried.

Preventative Maintenance and Cleaning of Sleeping Bags

Properly caring for your sleeping bags and making sure that you take the proper preventative measures and care can extend their lifespan dramatically. It can also reduce the time it takes to clean them when required. The main preventative measure is to sleep in clean clothes and use a sleeping bag liner to keep the inner clean and reduce body oils from rubbing off onto its surface. 

It’s also recommended that you don’t sleep directly on the ground where the sleeping bag can come into contact with dirt, mud and muck. Always make sure that you have a spare mattress or groundsheets to separate the dirt from your sleeping bag if you’re not going to be sleeping in a tent. 

It’s also very important to remember to shake out and air a sleeping bag after keeping it compressed during a long trip. Storing sleeping bags in loose mesh bags is recommended as it allows the material to breath over long periods of time while it’s not being used.

In Conclusion

Cold weather sleeping bags can be lifesavers and have been in the past, they’re technological marvels when it comes to insulation. Ensuring that your sleeping bag is properly cared for and maintained will help it to keep it’s high quality and comfort for years. By looking after your sleeping bags they will serve you just as well as they did on the day of purchase.