How to Wash a Sleeping Bag

Sleeping bags can get dirty over time. They can gather grime, sweat, moisture, dust, and more from various camping activities. So after a trip, you might want to wash it to get rid of all the ick. But how you wash it will depend on the material it's made out of (both interior and exterior material). In this guide, we'll dive into some basic techniques for cleaning down filled and synthetic bags.

How Often Should You Clean a Sleeping Bag?

You don't need to wash your sleeping bag after every camping trip. Washing it too often can wear it out faster. A good rule of thumb is to clean it once or twice a season if you're camping regularly. If you only camp occasionally, you can wash it once a year.

General Cleaning Tips for Your Sleeping Bag

Avoid dry cleaning since the chemicals used can damage your sleeping bag and cause it to wear down faster. Dry cleaners are great for clothes but not the best for camping equipment. It's better to hand wash or machine wash at home.

Also, while at camp, try to keep your sleeping bag as clean as possible. Use a sleeping bag liner to minimize direct contact with the ground and your skin (your face might transfer sweat and oils onto the bag). This will also keep your bag safe from spills or crumbs in case you decide to eat or drink inside.

How to Wash a Down Sleeping Bag

  • You'll need a mild, down-specific detergent, a large front-loading washing machine (top loaders can damage the bag), and a few clean tennis balls or dryer balls.
  • Check for any tears or damage and repair them before washing. Close all zippers, Velcro, and snaps.
  • Use a small amount of down-specific detergent to remove any stains. Using your fingers or a soft brush, gently work the laundry detergent into the stain.
  • Fill a bathtub with lukewarm water and add the down-specific detergent. Submerge the entire bag and gently press it to ensure it's fully saturated. Let it soak for about an hour.
  • Transfer the wet sleeping bag to a large front-loading washing machine. Set the machine to a gentle cycle with cold water. Add more down-specific detergent if needed.
  • Run a second rinse cycle to remove all the detergent. Residual detergent can affect the loft and performance of the down filling.
  • Remove the down bag from the washer. Press out as much water as possible by pressing it against the sides of the washer or the bathtub (do not wring out the bag).
  • Place the sleeping bag in a large dryer on a low heat setting. To help with breaking up the clumps and restoring the loft, add a few dry tennis balls or dryer balls. This can take several hours. Keep checking and fluffing the bag every now and then during the cycle.
  • The sleeping bag should be completely dry before storage. Any remaining moisture can lead to mold and mildew. Once dry, fluff it up to restore its loft. Store it loosely in a large, breathable storage sack in a cool, dry place.

How to Wash a Synthetic Sleeping Bag

  • You'll need a front-loading washing machine, a mild detergent suitable for synthetic fabrics, and a clothesline or drying rack.
  • Inspect your synthetic bag for any tears or loose stitching. Repair any damage before washing to prevent further issues.
  • As with the down bag, use a small amount of mild detergent to pre-treat any noticeable stains.
  • Place your synthetic sleeping bag in a front-loading washing machine. Choose a mild cycle with cold or warm water. Avoid hot water.
  • Use a mild detergent designed for synthetic fabrics. Do not use fabric softeners or bleach, as these can degrade the synthetic fibers.
  • After the wash cycle, run a second rinse cycle to remove all the detergent.
  • Gently squeeze out any extra water from the wet bag.
  • Instead of using a dryer, air-dry your synthetic sleeping bag. Hang it on a clothesline or lay it flat on a drying rack.

How to Spot Clean a Sleeping Bag

  • You will need a mild detergent or a specialized cleaner for outdoor gear, a soft brush or sponge, a clean cloth, and a bowl of warm water.
  • Lay out your sleeping bag (down or synthetic sleeping bags) and identify any spots or areas that need cleaning. Spots usually tend to gather at the hood, collar, and foot box.
  • Mix a small amount of mild detergent or specialized cleaner with warm water in a bowl. Use just enough detergent to create a sudsy solution.
  • Soak the sponge or soft brush in the cleaning solution. Use a circular motion to scrub the soiled or stained areas. Be careful not to scrub too hard.
  • Dampen a clean cloth with fresh, warm water. Wipe the cleaned areas to remove any soap residue.
  • Use a dry, clean cloth to blot excess moisture.
  • You might have to repeat the process if the stain is too stubborn.


Whether you have a down-filled sleeping bag or a synthetic sleeping bag, proper washing and spot cleaning techniques are crucial. Remember to check the care label, use the right products, and store your sleeping bag correctly. Most sleeping bags have instructions to clean and wash.

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