Camping & Hiking

How To Wash a Down Sleeping Bag?

Down sleeping bags can provide many cozy nights, and last for decades. That is, if you know how to properly care for and maintain them.

As you may know, these sleeping bags come with a hefty price tag, and with good reason. They have great insulating properties, light-weight, and can last about 20 years.

So it makes sense to keep them in tip-top shape. However, if they are poorly looked after, they will lose their warm insulating properties, the fabrics will deteriorate, and its lifespan will be dramatically reduced.

Stick around to learn some easy and effective ways to wash a down sleeping bag!

Washing a Down Sleeping Bag

Before we dive in, you cannot wash a down sleeping bag the same way you would clean a synthetic one. Unless you want to ruin it, that is. Down is much more delicate, and many people resort to professional cleaners to wash them.

However, if you follow the safety precautions, it is okay to do it by yourself. You can clean your down sleeping bag either by hand or in a washing machine.

It also takes more time to clean it than a synthetic sleeping bag. It may take you about three to seven hours to properly wash your sleeping bag. Therefore, time management is also key when deciding to wash your down sleeping bag.

Spot Washing

You can spot clean your bag if small areas are darkened with dirt or grime, and it has no foul odor. Remember that your sleeping bag is prone to damage and loft decrease every time you wash it, so it is not necessary to fully soak it in water and wash it.

To spot clean your down sleeping bag, you only need a soft-bristled toothbrush or sponge, water, and non-detergent soap or cleaner. Follow these instructions:

  1. Create a paste-like mixture using soap and water. Let the mixture sit about ten minutes before using it.
  2. Drench the toothbrush or sponge in the mixture and then apply on the areas that are filled with grime or dirt.
  3. Gently scrub the shell of the sleeping bag and avoid dampening the inside of it.
  4. You can also wash the part of the hood and collar because hair and skin oils tend to build up in these areas. Also, try to separate the shell away from the insulation so you are able to clean it without the risk of soaking the inside of the sleeping bag.

Hand Washing

In order to wash a down sleeping bag in a washing machine, it has to be a front-loading type.

This is because top-loading machines have a central agitator, which can cause damage and tears in the sleeping bag. For this reason, people tend to handwash their sleeping bags to reduce the probability of tears and loft reduction.

To hand wash it, you need a container or bathtub, warm water, and a down-specific soap. The most common brands are Nikwax and Granger Down Wash.

Never use bleach or fabric softeners because these products can permanently damage the feather and reduce its insulating properties.

  1. Fill the container with lukewarm water and incorporate about 100 ml of the down soap. Mix it well with the water and let it sit approximately 10 to 15 minutes before drenching the bag.
  2. Place the bag inside the container and let it absorb all the mixture by pressing it in gently. Once you believe it is properly soaked, let it rest for about one hour.
  3. Remove the excess water and add once again warm water to rinse the bag. Remember to strain it from the all absorbed water.
  4. Continue this process until you have eliminated all the soap from the sleeping bag.
  5. Roll the bag into a ball and place it in your dryer.
  6. Incorporate some clean tennis balls as these will reduce the formation of clumps as it dries.
  7. Down takes about three to four hours to completely dry.
  8. If you do not have a dryer, you can place the bag in a clean surface and open it for air drying. It is also possible to let it dry under direct sunlight.
  9. Once it is completely dry, you can store it.

Washing Machine

To clean a down sleeping bag in a front-loading washing machine, you must:

  1. Read the washing label to understand the water temperature and load requirements.
  2. Follow the washing requirements and add about 100 ml of down soap.
  3. Place the sleeping bag inside. Remember to turn it inside out to avoid tears or damage.
  4. Activate the washing cycle and assess that there are no soap suds in the bag. If you find soap suds, repeat the washing cycle once again.
  5. Sometimes, it is necessary for two washing cycles to completely wash a down sleeping bag.
  6. Once it is completely clean, you can dry it in a dryer at low heat, or place it on a surface and let it air dry. Remember to place the tennis balls to break down clumps as it rotates.

If you take proper care of your down sleeping bag, I can assure you that it can last for decades. Although it may cause a strain on your living expenses, it is worth it in the end. The coziness and warmth of a down sleeping bag is incomparable when camping or hiking.

Nathan Barker

My wife and I are huge adventure seekers! We've traveled and explored over 40 countries and want to share what we have learned on our journey. We'll be talking about everything from hiking and camping, to guides, reviews and tips that we're sure will help any avid adventurer no matter what walk of life. So relax, grab a cup of coffee and we hope you enjoy the read!
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