How to wash a sleeping bag?

Whether sleeping bags are filled with down or synthetic-fibers, body oils and dirt can effect their insulation. As your kids return from camp this month, you’ll want to make sure their sleeping bags are thoroughly cleaned before you stash them away until next year. Here’s the how-to.

How to Wash a Sleeping Bag

Since you don’t know what hitched a ride home in your kids’ sleeping bags, have them leave their gear on the patio before they enter the house. Open the sleeping bags fully and shake out the dirt. Then check the manufacturers’ care labels to see if the bags are machine washable. Our Textile Director, Kathleen Huddy says don’t even think about buying a sleeping bag that can’t go into the washing machine. Hand-washing one is a long and tedious task.

sleeping bag care label

sleeping bag care label

Sleeping bags have to be cleaned in a front-loader washing machine as the agitation in a traditional top-loader can damage the insulation. Wash one sleeping bag at a time and be sure to toss in a few other light items to make sure the load remains balanced. We recommend using the gentle cycle and cool water. For down bags, use a specialty detergent, like Nikwax Down Wash and for synthetics, a mild detergent, like Woolite. Once the wash cycle is complete, run an additional rinse and spin-only cycle to make sure all the soap and excess water is removed.

When it comes to drying sleeping bags, your best option is air-drying. While it will definitely take longer, it’s guaranteed to protect the outer shell and insulation from over heating. If you must tumble-dry the sleeping bags, use a very low heat setting and make sure the bags have room to tumble freely. If your dryer’s not large enough, you’ll need to take them to the laundromat and use a commercial machine. Keep an eye on the bags as they’re drying and, when they’re almost dry, add a couple of clean tennis balls to break up any insulation that’s clumped up.