How To Wash A Down Sleeping Bag – Ultimate Guide
For camping enthusiasts, the right equipment can mean the difference between a happy, healthy outdoors adventure and a cold, grueling one. While budget sleeping bags may be tolerable for those who head out once a year in fine weather, frequent campers need gear that’s suitable for all conditions.
Down sleeping bags are a popular choice because they provide more insulation than nylon versions while weighing less. They require more care, however, so they’re best for those who camp out regularly and need high grade outdoor equipment. If you’re planning to purchase one, you should learn how to wash a down sleeping bag.
This guide will show you how to wash your down sleeping bag and keep it cosy for longer.
Table Of Contents
How to Machine Wash
You should only attempt to machine wash a down sleeping bag if you have access to a large (over 10kg), front loading appliance. Otherwise, it must be hand washed. Before putting your bag in the machine, complete a rinse cycle while the drum is empty. This will remove potentially abrasive soap residues left over from previous washes.
If the sleeping bag has a waterproof shell, turn it fully inside out. Fasten up all the zips and Velcro straps. Place it inside the machine. Add the recommended amount of technical detergent – any laundry cleaner specifically designed for outdoor fabrics. Do not use standard household detergent or softener. You risk causing damage to the delicate down interior.
Wash your sleeping bag on a delicate cycle (no higher than 30°). Make sure the wash ends with or is followed by a robust rinse cycle. All suds and soap residues must be gone before you take it out for drying. To check, press down gently on the wet fabric. It’s ready for drying if no soap suds appear. Repeat the rinse cycle as many times as needed.
The sleeping bag will feel heavy when removed but try not to drag or pull too hard on the fabric. This might warp the down and prevent it from returning to its original shape. Carry (don’t drag) it to a nearby tumble dryer if you plan to use one. Adding two tennis balls to the dryer drum will stop the downy material from clumping.
When you remove your sleeping bag from the dryer, you may find some of the down has formed clumps. You can work these out with your hands. Shake the bag vigorously (only when already dry). Use your fingers to gently pull apart any lumps of material on the inside.
How to Hand Wash
This section will explain how to wash your down sleeping bag if you don’t have access to a large, front loading appliance. The next best thing is your bathtub. Fill the tub with lukewarm water after ensuring it is squeaky clean and soap free. Add your technical cleaner (specialist detergent) directly to the water. Swirl it around to evenly distribute.
Carefully submerge your down sleeping bag in the water. Leave to soak for 60-90 minutes. Then, empty out the water and refill the bath with clean, non-soapy water. The goal is now to remove all soap and suds from the bag. So, you must repeatedly drain and refill the bathtub until no more soap comes out of it.
Take care not to wring or squeeze the down too tightly. It’s best to lightly rub the sleeping bag to push out leftover suds. If you don’t mind getting your toes wet, you can get in the bath and slowly walk up and down the bag. This is the best way to speed up rinsing without causing damage. Finally, drain the tub and walk up and down the bag a final time to remove as much water as possible.
Tumbling drying is the best option but, if this is not possible, place your sleeping bag in a well ventilated area. Spread it out flatly and evenly; water will collect in any sections left to sag or hang below the rest. At the same time, it must stay elevated (all sides exposed to the air), so we recommend a broad, freestanding airing rack or two racks pushed together.
The Big Benefits of Using a Down Sleeping Bag
It’s true that down sleeping bags require more care than nylon versions. The super insulating, impeccably cosy inner material is sensitive to heat and moisture and must be washed in a particular manner. However, the benefits are worthwhile if you camp out regularly or camp outdoors in cold conditions.
Due to their ability to trap hot air, down sleeping bags are prized for being both warm and lightweight. It means you can guarantee a restful night’s sleep without compromising on practicality, portability or convenience. If you are planning to buy a down bag, as opposed to a synthetic one, we strongly recommend you pick a product that has been waterproofed.