You've Been Washing Your Sleeping Bag All Wrong

If you are an avid camper, then you know that after a while sleeping bags can get quite grimy. In fact, after a year of heavy use, oftentimes, the outside of the bag has picked up a few stains making it look a little worn for wear. However, worse than that is when the inside of the bag collects the oils and salt from your sweat giving your sleeping bag a stale smell. While having a smelly bag is not ideal, the big problem is that a dirty sleeping bag can also lead to decreased performance. This is because when the oils from your skin soak into the down or synthetic filling of a sleeping bag, it can flatten the insulation which will make the entire bag less resistant to cold temperatures.


Fortunately, sleeping bags are washable, and cleaning them is easier than you may think. In fact, it's a common misconception that sleeping bags need to be hand washed in the bathtub. The truth of the matter is most sleeping bags are machine washable (under certain conditions). However, a sleeping bag should never be dry-cleaned or washed with fabric softener as doing this can completely ruin your bag's insulation.

How to wash your sleeping bag without ruining it

The first thing you should know about washing a sleeping bag is that they are heavy when wet and this means that the washing process (no matter if done by hand or machine) will put extra stress on the seams of your bag. Therefore, before you get started, you should always examine the bag for any weak seams and reinforce them with a few extra stitches.


Once this is complete, you need to take a look at your washing machine. Sleeping bags can be washed in side-loading machines but cannot be put into top-loading machines that have the agitator sticking up in the center. The reason for this is that the agitator will most likely rip your sleeping bag. If your home washing machine has an agitator, then you will need to make a trip to your local laundromat to wash your sleeping bag. However, this may be a good thing because the commercial washing machines at laundromats are often more powerful than home machines and can better withstand the weight of a wet sleeping bag.

Sleeping bags should be fully unzipped before being put into any washing machine. For specific washing directions, check the instructions on the tag of your particular bag. After washing, you can carefully remove the bag from the washer and then put it in the dryer on low with a few dryer balls.


Ways to avoid washing your sleeping bag for as long as possible

Although washing sleeping bags is possible (and recommended) it can be a bit of an undertaking. Plus, if you make a mistake you can accidentally ruin the whole bag. Therefore, it's best not to wash your sleeping bag more than you need to. To avoid washing your bag multiple times a year, you can make sure to sleep inside your bag in only clean clothes and avoid laying your bag directly on the ground.


If your bag is starting to smell but doesn't need to be fully washed, you can try laying it out in the sun. Putting your bag in the sun for around 10 minutes after each use is a great way to remove odors from oils from sweat. However, you should make sure not to leave the bag in the sunlight for too long as exposure to UV rays can start wearing down the fabric.

Lastly, before tossing your bag in the wash, try the spot-cleaning method. This works great for areas that are prone to collecting oils like the top where your hair and head lay at night. Spot cleaning can be done using just a toothbrush, soap paste, and a little water.