How to Wash Sleeping Bag: Easy & Efficient Tips

Sleeping Bag Savvy:  Washing your sleeping bag

 

Want your sleeping bag to see many more Aussie starry night skies? You’ll wanna make sure you keep it well-maintained and clean.

A well-kept sleeping bag will not only make your camping adventures more enjoyable (and less smelly), but it also prolongs the life of your gear. And given the amount of money us campers invest in our gear, I’d say it’s always worth the effort to properly care for them…wouldn’t you agree? 

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Preparing for a Wash

 

Checking the Label

Before washing your sleeping bag, check the care label. I know, I know, it’s the kind of thing your mum always did, but you never do (or is that just me?). But the truth is, that label details the rules that’ll make the difference to the end result of washing your sleeping bag. Just do it – even if you never admit to it later.

Selecting the Right Detergent

Choosing the suitable detergent is crucial for washing your sleeping bag properly. Avoid conventional laundry detergents and fabric softeners, as the chemicals can damage the bag’s insulation fibres. We recommend Grangers Down Wash, it cleans, neutralises odour, revitalises water-repellency, enhances breathability, and restores sleeping bag loft.

 

Removing Loose Dirt and Debris

Before washing your sleeping bag, gently shake it to remove any loose dirt and debris. I always find this step intriguing to see what falls out…bottle caps, lost socks, and more red dirt than the Simpson. Truth.

Shaking out your bag ensures those bottle tops won’t create havoc in your washing machine, and tear up your sleeping bag.

Checking for Damages or Repairs Needed

Give your sleeping bag the ole once over for any tears or holes. If you find any, patch them up with a repair kit before washing it. Repairing damages before washing your sleeping bag prevents further harm during the washing process.

Spot Cleaning Stains

Before you wash your entire sleeping bag, it’s an excellent idea to spot-clean any stains with a gentle soap or stain remover. Apply the cleaning product to a soft brush to tackle heavily soiled areas, but steer away from using harsh chemicals like bleach, which could damage the bag’s insulation.

Collecting Washing Supplies

Apart from detergent, you’ll need a washing machine large enough for your sleeping bag, preferably one without a central agitator. A large front-loading machine is ideal for washing your sleeping bag.

If you opt for a commercial washing machine at a laundromat, avoid their cleaning products, as they’re typically really potent. The chemicals in commercial cleaners could damage the materials in your sleeping bag, and strip its water-repellent qualities. Not fun on a rainy night out in the bush!

Washing a Sleeping Bag

Hand Washing

  • Prepare the cleaning solution: fill a bathtub or large basin with lukewarm water. Add an appropriate cleaning detergent, like Grangers Down Wash, avoiding conventional laundry detergents that can damage your sleeping bag’s fibres. 
  • Submerge and clean: unzip your sleeping bag and fully submerge it in the water. Gently agitate the bag with your hands to ensure the cleaning solution reaches all parts of the sleeping bag. 
  • Soak and rinse: let the sleeping bag soak for about 20 minutes, then gently press the water out without wringing. Drain the soapy water and refill the tub with fresh water. Rinse your sleeping bag by pressing and releasing the water until the water runs clear. 
  • Remove excess water: lay your sleeping bag on a clean, dry towel. Carefully roll the towel and sleeping bag together to remove the excess water. Avoid twisting or wringing.
  • Dry: lay your sleeping bag flat or hang it in a well-ventilated area to dry completely. Adding a few tennis balls while air-drying can help maintain the bag’s loft.

Machine Washing

  • Read the label: check your sleeping bag’s label and instruction manual for specific cleaning instructions.
  • Choose the suitable detergent: use an appropriate cleaner like Grangers Down Wash, avoiding conventional laundry detergents.
  • Prepare the washing machine: load your sleeping bag into a front-loading machine without a central agitator. Place 2 or 3 tennis balls in a mesh stuff bag and add them to the wash to help maintain the loft during the cycle.
  • Select a gentle cycle: choose a gentle cycle with cold or lukewarm water and the recommended detergent amount.
  • Rinse thoroughly: run an extra rinse cycle after the wash cycle to remove all detergent from the sleeping bag.
  • Dry: remove your bag from the washing machine and gently shake out excess water. Dry your sleeping bag either flat or hang it in a well-ventilated area. Add a few dryer balls or tennis balls during drying to help maintain the loft.

Pro tip: the Grangers Down Wash Kit is the perfect all-in-one solution to thoroughly cleaning your sleeping bag and neutralising odour, while also restoring loft and water repellency. The kit comes with both cleaner and loft balls. Easy right?!?

How to Dry Your Sleeping Bag

No one wants to rock up to a campsite, roll out the sleeping bag, and discover mould…which is why it’s essential to dry your sleeping bag properly after washing it. In this section, we’ll cover two primary methods: air drying and machine drying.

Air Drying

Air drying’s the safest option for drying your sleeping bag. To air dry, follow these steps:

  • Find a suitable location: a shaded, well-ventilated area away from direct sunlight, as UV rays (which can damage the bag’s materials) is perfect. Avoid using clotheslines or hangers, as they can stretch the bag. 
  • Spread out your sleeping bag: lay your unzipped bag on a clean, flat surface – this helps the sleeping bag dry evenly.
  • Flip the bag periodically: turn your sleeping bag over every few hours – this ensures. This process can take several hours or even a full day, depending on the humidity and ventilation of your drying area. 
  • Fluff and break up clumps: as the bag dries, gently massage and fluff the insulation to prevent clumping and ensure even distribution.

Machine Drying

Machine drying offers a faster alternative to air drying but requires extra care. Here’s how to machine-dry your sleeping bag:

  • Check the care label: before machine drying, read your sleeping bag’s care label to confirm compatibility and avoid damaging the bag and its insulation.
  • Use a large commercial dryer: choose a large commercial dryer with low or no heat, as high heat can damage your bag. Avoid small household dryers, as they might not provide enough space for the bag to tumble freely.
  • Add dryer balls or clean tennis balls: including a few dryer balls or clean tennis balls in the drying cycle will help break up insulation clumps and maintain the loft.
  • Monitor the drying progress: check on your bag every 20-30 minutes to gauge its dryness level and redistribute insulation if needed. Whatever you do, don’t over-dry it, as this can damage the materials and insulation of your sleeping bag. You don’t want that.

Removing stubborn stains from sleeping bags

While washing your sleeping bag helps maintain cleanliness, some stains may still be challenging to remove. In this section, we’ll cover how to tackle stubborn stains caused by mud and dirt, food and beverages, and oil and grease.

Mud and Dirt

Ahhh mud and dirt….us campers love it, don’t we? Except, it’s not that great in our sleeping bags.

When dealing with mud and dirt stains, the key is allowing the affected area to dry completely before removing it. Once the mud has dried, gently brush off as much as possible using a soft brush or cloth. Next, gently scrub the remaining stains with a damp cloth or sponge with a mild detergent. Be sure to rinse the area with water to remove any detergent residue.

 

Food and Beverage Stains

Enjoy tucking into your bacon and eggs in your sleeping bag around the campfire each morning? Goodo. But what happens when miss your gob, and get egg all over your sleeping bag?

Food and beverage stains can be tricky, as different types may require other cleaning techniques. Start by gently scraping off any residue with a blunt object, such as a spoon.

Then, dab the stain with a mixture of warm water and mild detergent using a cloth or sponge.

For protein-based stains like milk or egg, it’s best to use cool water instead of warm. Repeat the process as necessary, and rinse the area with water to remove any remaining detergent.

 

Oil and Grease Stains

Oil and grease stains can be challenging to remove due to their tendency to cling to fabric fibres. Use a clean cloth or paper towel to gently blot the stain, removing as much excess oil or grease as possible.

Next, use a mixture of warm water and a mild detergent like Grangers Down Wash to massage the affected area, being cautious not to spread the stain further.

Rinse the area thoroughly with water, ensuring all detergent is removed.

If the stain remains, consider using a specialised stain remover formulated for oil and grease stains to improve your chances of successfully eliminating the stain without damaging your sleeping bag’s materials.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can you wash a sleeping bag in a washing machine?

Yes, you can wash a sleeping bag in a washing machine. Using a front-loading washer without a central agitator is recommended for the best results.

Should the sleeping bag be zipped or unzipped during washing?

Before washing, unzip your sleeping bag to ensure a thorough cleaning. This allows water and detergent to reach all areas of the sleeping bag.

How do you wash a sleeping bag in a top-loader?

If you have a top-loading washing machine, it’s still possible to wash a sleeping bag. Just be cautious, as the central agitator might cause damage. Ideally, use a commercial front-loading washer at a laundromat.

Where can I find a sleeping bag cleaning service?

Many outdoor gear stores or specialised cleaning services offer sleeping bag cleaning. Ask your local adventure gear shop or search online for a service near you.

What temperature should be used for washing a sleeping bag?

When washing a sleeping bag, use the gentlest cycle and warm water (about 30-40°C or 86-104°F). This helps preserve the bag’s insulation and fabric.

Can a dry cleaner handle sleeping bags?

It’s not recommended to dry clean a sleeping bag as the harsh chemicals used in the process can strip down its natural oils, affecting its insulation and loft.

How often should I wash my sleeping bag?

Wash your sleeping bag as needed or when it becomes dirty. For most people, this might be once or twice a year, depending on how often you use it. Regularly washing it can reduce its lifespan. If you find your sleeping bag is getting really dirty, often, it might be worthwhile investing in a travel liner for your sleeping bag. 

Can I use regular detergent to wash a sleeping bag?

Avoid using regular laundry detergent, as it can damage the insulation and fibres in your sleeping bag. Instead, opt for a sleeping bag-specific detergent like Grangers Down Wash Kit.

How can I remove odours from my sleeping bag?

When washing your sleeping bag, use a specialised detergent designed for outdoor gear. These detergents have odour-neutralising properties that help eliminate smells.

Can I dry my sleeping bag in a dryer?

Yes, you can dry your sleeping bag in a dryer. Set it on the lowest heat setting and add either dryer balls, or two or three clean tennis balls to break up any clumps of insulation and ensure even drying.

Should I store my sleeping bag in its stuff sack?

Storing your sleeping bag in a stuff sack for long periods can compress the insulation and reduce effectiveness. Instead, store it in a large, breathable storage bag or hanging up, allowing it to maintain its loft.

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MEET THE WORD-SLINGER

G’day, I’m Stacey, CAW4D wifey, author of all our CA4WD blogs, and builder of all things website-ey. When I’m not writing about our family’s camping adventures, you’ll find me kicking around on social media with the incredible camping and 4wd community we’ve built.

Ohhh, and sometimes, you may find me doing ‘actual work’…which, ironically, is very similar to what I do ’round these parts – marketing. You can find more of my pen-pedalling atrocities here.

In the meantime, kick back, grab a coldie, and check out some more cool camping content I’ve put together for you here. Cheers.

Wanna hear about a tale about an emergency dunny roll and the Mundi Mundi Bash? Read it here.

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28 June 2023

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