Follow these simple cleaning methods to keep your sleeping bag free of dirt, sweat, and odor. A clean bag will not only last for years, but be a lot more relaxing at the end of a long day’s adventure!
Wear clean clothes to bed. The clothes you hiked and camped in will have perspiration, dirt, and odors on them which will transfer to your sleeping bag during the night. In the summer, consider a clean change of cotton clothes before going to bed. In cooler weather, slipping into a fresh synthetic base layer will not only keep the dirty clothes out of your sleeping bag, it will add 5 to 10 degrees of warmth to your bag.
Consider adding a sleeping bag liner. These are inexpensive thin liners made of silk, nylon, wool, or fleece that go inside your sleeping bag. A liner adds 5 to 10 degrees of warmth to your bag and is machine washable. This is a great advantage, because it is closest to your body and will capture most of the dirt and perspiration. When you return home, just throw the liner in the wash and you’re ready to go!
Refresh your bag daily by airing it out for half an hour. This will help keep it smelling fresh and dissipate any odor left from sleeping. If the morning air is too cool to let the bag air out and dry completely, pull it out of your pack when you stop for lunch.
In wet conditions, use a waterproof stuff sack or a plastic garbage bag to protect the bag from moisture in your pack. A wet bag will cling to more dust and dirt.
Spot-Cleaning The Bag
You can stretch out the times between bag washings by careful spot cleaning between trips. When you return home, before putting the bag in storage, use a mild laundry detergent and a small brush (a toothbrush works well, but just don’t tell your younger brother you used his toothbrush for this.) Mix the detergent with a little water, and carefully wash any dirty spots (look around the hood and collar.) By pulling the outer shell away from the insulation a bit, you can avoid unnecessarily wetting the insulation.
Washing a Sleeping Bag
Check with a local outdoor gear store. Often they will offer a professional bag cleaning service.
Do not dry clean a sleeping bag. The chemicals used in dry cleaning will strip the natural oil in down that gives it its loft, destroying or seriously reducing the usefulness of the bag. The chemicals are also very difficult to remove from synthetic fills.
Always check your bag manufacturer for instructions that may differ from the general instructions below!
Down Sleeping Bags
To wash a down sleeping bag, the best method is to handwash the bag in a bathtub. Fill the bathtub with warm water and a mild, non-detergent soap.
There are some good down soaps available. You can order one online with the affiliate link to Amazon Gear Aid ReviveX Down Cleaner, 12 Ounce
Put the sleeping bag in the water and gently shake the sleeping bag, working the liquid all the way through the bag. Pay special attention to the dirtier areas (usually the collar and hood.) Let the bag rest for 15-20 minutes.
Next, fill the bathtub with cold water and gently press the soap from the sleeping bag. Let sit for 10-15 minutes, then drain the tub. Repeat this cold water rinsing process again until all the soap is removed from the bag.
Some sleeping bag manufacturers indicate that their bags can be washed in a front-loading washing machine. If recommended by your manufacturer, follow their directions carefully. If a bag must be cleaned by washing machine, here are a few tips. Do not use an agitator-type top-loading washer. These will tear the bag and weaken the stitching. Use only a front loading machine on the gentlest cycle, using one of the down soaps.
Synthetic Fill Sleeping Bags
Refer to manufacturer instructions where they exist. Generally, follow the same instructions as used to clean a down sleeping bag. Wash by hand in a bathtub or in a front loading washing machine as described earlier. Synthetic bags can be spun somewhat dry in a spin cycle.
Air dry the bag. It is not recommended to use a machine dryer because dryers often produce uneven heat which can melt part of the bag or damage the insulation. When finished drying, fluff the bag to make sure the insulation is evenly distributed.
Never store a sleeping bag in compressed form (like a compression sack.) If left compressed for long periods of time, the sleeping bag fill will lose its loft and no longer be able to hold warmth.
Store the bag on a flat shelf if available, or in a large cotton or mesh breathable storage bag. This will allow the bag to maintain its fully-lofted state during storage, maximizing its ability to keep you warm when you need it again.
You can purchase an inexpensive sleeping bag storage sack and have it shipped to your home with this affiliate link on Amazon: Equinox Sleeping Bag Storage Sack