A sleeping bag is a vital piece of equipment for anyone who ventures into the outdoors, especially since it’s part of the essential gear you need for camping. But it can also be a spendy investment. Maintaining, storing, and washing your sleeping bag is essential to get the most use out of it. We’ve compiled all the information you need below to help you clean your sleeping bag.
Sleeping bags should not need washing for many years when properly tended to. The best way to prolong the time between washes is to take good care of your sleeping bag in the first place. Some tips to help maintain cleanliness include:
- You get what you put in: Keep a clean pair of clothes to sleep in. Try to keep yourself clean as well. That means removing oil, dirt, sunscreen, and bug spray that can permeate into the bag. The cleaner the items are in the bag (you), the greater likelihood your sleeping bag will stay clean too.
- Liner: A sleeping bag liner is a single-layer enclosed sheet you sleep in inside your bag. The liner serves as a barrier between your body and the bag. It should be easy to remove and should be washed regularly. Liners are slipped inside a bag, not attached.
- Off the floor: Keeping your bag off of the ground will help keep dirt, pine needles, and other debris out and off of your bag. This does not include your sleeping pad which serves as a barrier between your bag and the ground.
- Dry it out: Lay your sleeping bag to dry the day after every use. Our bodies produce moisture that gets trapped in our bags from our breathing, sweat, or the environment’s humidity. When camping, try to find a dry spot on a tarp or maybe over a clean log and give the material a chance to dry and breathe. Laying out your sleeping bag prevents mold from forming in your bag.
Treat your bag with care. Take your time with zippers, gently put the sleeping bag away, and mind where you place them. Most bags are best stored loosely in a well-vented bag or hanging environment. Compression stuff sacs are helpful for compact travel but are not recommended for long-term storage as they compress the material and wear down the fill. Over time, this compression ultimately impacts your bag’s warmth and comfort. Additionally, tight storage can trap smells and moisture, leaving you with a pleasant experience the next time you use it!
The first factor to consider when cleaning your sleeping bag is how much of your sleeping bag needs cleaning. The second factor to consider is whether you have a down or synthetic bag. The third is whether you have access to a machine wash or if you will need to hand wash. Consider a total wash if you notice a general browning color, overall grime, or an overall smell. For smaller messes or stains, simple spot treatment of the impacted area is fast and effective.
Often, only a few areas of a sleeping bag need cleaning. To spot clean, use a gentle soap mixed with water and lightly brush or rub the dirty area with the cleaning solution. Do your best to keep the cleaning solution on the exterior material only and not saturate the bag’s fill. Once you have spent some time cleaning, wipe the spot with a wet cloth and leave it to dry.
Most new sleeping bags come with wash instructions which you can find on the tag. This is the best method to follow when cleaning your bag. If there are no instructions, consider the following techniques and remember that no matter the form, cleaning your sleeping bag takes time and patience:
- Device: The best way to machine wash a sleeping bag is to use a front-loading washing machine. Do not use a top loader, as the bag may become damaged and tangled around the center bar. If you do not have access to such as machine, consider going to a laundromat.
- Soap: If you are machine washing a down sleeping bag, use special soap that is friendly on down material. If your fill is synthetic, you can use a regular detergent, but a technical gear-specific detergent will be best. Nikwax makes different detergents for both down and synthetic fill.
- Means: Some suggest fully unzipping your bag before loading it into the washing machine, so the upper doesn’t pull apart or catch in the wash. Another option is to turn your bag inside out with the zipper fully closed. Wash your sleeping bag in warm water on a gentle cycle. The sleeping bag may need two or more rinse cycles. It is ready to dry if the bag is wet but not holding large amounts of water. Then be sure to gently squeeze any excess moisture out of the bag as you remove it from the wash.
- Drying: Use a large dryer if possible; the more room in the dryer, the better the fill can expand when drying. Synthetics will often dry faster. Bags with down fill may take several drying cycles. Set the dryer to tumble on a low heat setting. Consider using tennis balls or other dryer aids to break up condensed pockets of fill towards the end of the cycle or when it is mostly dry.
- Device: Fill your bathtub or a similarly large tub with warm or cool water.
- Soap: Use the same material-specific soap listed above and read the instructions for the recommended amount. When hand washing, it can be more difficult to rinse the soap out, so starting with a smaller amount than recommended may be beneficial, and slowly adding more as you go.
- Means: Lay the bag in the water and gently rub and massage the bag. Next, soak the bag for around thirty minutes or until it is fully saturated. Rinse your bag with clean water (you may do this multiple times) until the soap is out. Before hanging to dry, gently squeeze excess water out of the bag. It can be helpful to work from one end to the other squeezing section by section.
- Drying: Follow the directions above. If a dryer is unavailable, lay the sleeping bag on a clean surface or hang it up to dry. Use a location out of direct sunlight and with low humidity. Once it has started to dry, you may need to manually unclump or fluff the fill in your bag to ensure it dries thoroughly.
Have a new sleeping bag that you are excited to test out? Autumn is the ideal time to hike and then cozy up in your sleeping bag under the stars! For some spectacular colors and views, check out the best fall hikes near Colorado Springs. While it is safe to hike alone, if you are looking for some expertise, guided hikes through Broadmoor Outfitters are a perfect way to learn about and get familiar with a new area or trail.