One thing every outdoor explorer needs to know: how to wash a sleeping bag.

So you just returned from your latest outdoor adventure and you may have brought a bit of the outdoors back with you. Wilderness camping is surely not for the faint of heart, or the sensitive of nose for that matter. Sometimes you just have to “rough it” for a few days, and be okay with not having access to running water, or soap. Of course, when you return from the adventure, it is always a good idea to clean your gear. It is a good idea to know how to wash a sleeping bag.

Washing a sleeping bag might bring with it the same anxiety as folding a fitted sheet. But it doesn’t have to be a struggle. With a few helpful tips, you will be snuggled up in a fresh and clean sleeping sack in no time.

Here is everything you need to know about washing a sleeping bag.

How to wash a sleeping bag

What kind of sleeping bag should I get?

The best sleeping bags are of course the ones that keep you the warmest and most comfortable. After that, the best sleeping bags are the ones that are easy to care for. When shopping for a sleeping bag, you can choose between down or synthetic material options.

Keep in mind that down sleeping bags require a little more attention to keep in prime condition. Because of this, many people opt to have their down sleeping bags professionally cleaned.

Of course, if you would rather not have to pay to clean your sleeping bag, it is entirely possible to do it yourself. As a matter of fact, having your sleeping bag dry cleaned actually does more harm than good. The chemicals used during dry cleaning can damage the down material inside. With this in mind, it is even more important to learn this for yourself.

Is spot cleaning an effective way to clean my sleeping bag?

When wondering how to clean your sleeping bag, you might think you have to always machine wash it. Fortunately, you can take care of minor cleaning needs with a simple sleeping bag spot treatment.

In regards to spot treating your sleeping bag, REI recommends making a paste of non-detergent soap and water. You can then use a toothbrush to carefully clean the shell of the sleeping bag. REI notes that it is important to hold the shell or liner fabric away from the insulation. This helps prevent the inside fill from getting wet.

You can typically maintain your sleeping bag and keep it fresh by only spot treating it. Full machine washing is really only necessary if your sleeping bag has gotten unusually dirty, or a significant amount of time has passed between washings.

Is it safe to wash a sleeping bag in a washing machine?

Maybe this past camping trip was a big one. If your sleeping bag saw the proper wear and tear of back country camping, it might need more than a spot treatment. Of course you do not have to wonder any longer how to wash a sleeping bag in a washing machine.

You can best wash a sleeping bag in a heavy duty front loader washing machine. Wash it in the gentle cycle with either warm or cold water. Use a pure, or mild soap when washing. Then put it through a second rinse cycle to ensure all of the soap is washed out.

You can even dry your sleeping bag in the dryer for added speed. Dry your sleeping bag on the lowest heat setting possible. It is also important to frequently check the dryer during the cycle to ensure that it is not getting overheated. If you have a few tennis balls on hand, toss them in the dryer as well. The tennis balls help break up any clumped insulation inside the sleeping bag.

How can I hand wash my sleeping bag?

If you would rather not risk entrusting your sleeping bag to the fate of the washer, you can certainly hand wash it. Hand washing your sleeping bag can be just as effective, if you do it correctly.

To hand wash your sleeping bag, fill a tub with cold or warm water. Add a small amount of mild soap for an added cleaning effect. Then place your sleeping bag into the tub and gently wash it. You can leave your sleeping bag soaking for up to an hour.

The next step is to remove all of the soap from the bag. Drain the tub and refill it with cool or warm water. Gently knead the sleeping bag in the water until all the soap is removed.

After this, you can choose between air drying your wet sleeping bag outside or on a low dryer setting.

A few last tips for future sleeping bag maintenance

Before you even learn how to wash a sleeping bag, it is important to know how to care for one. The effort you put into keeping your sleeping bag maintained will reduce the chances of needed a new one too soon. Treating your sleeping bag gently is important to ensuring you will have a comfortable place to sleep.

Sleeping in clean clothes when camping is a consistent way to keep out excess oils and dirt from inside your sleeping bag. Sleeping bag liners are another practical option. The liners act as a top sheet, protect your sleeping bag, and are easily washable between each use. These are a great option if you don’t clean your sleeping bag very often.

Airing out your sleeping bag keeps it fresh and clean between uses. Be sure to turn it inside out each day on your trip.

Next stop: endless camping adventures

camping adventures

This helpful guide is sure to come in handy with everyday sleeping bag care and maintenance. Now that you know how to wash a sleeping bag, you can feel comfortable packing it up for your next trip. Enjoy the fresh mountain air, or those wild campfire nights, all with a clean, comfortable place to sleep.

Related Article: Best Sleeping Bags for This Year’s Adventures

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Faith is a writer and social media manager residing in Virginia Beach, Virginia. She is passionate about people and currently attends university in pursuit of a degree in Clinical Psychology and Counseling. A nomad by nature, Faith finds utmost joy in trekking around the globe and strongly advocates backpacking as the best way to explore anywhere. Being a bookworm and an avid coffee drinker, she is likely to be found sipping an Americano and mulling over a classic novel.

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