Body oils, sweat and dirt can affect loft and sleeping bag performance. Most manufacturers recommend washing your sleeping bag after 20 nights use. Washing a down sleeping bag usually restores its loft (thickness and warmth) and the effect is often dramatic. In general: if it’s dirty, losing loft or smells – wash it.
How to Wash a Sleeping Bag
STEP 1: Close all zippers. Turn bag inside-out. Sleeping bags with a waterproof exterior shell like GORE-TEX must be turned inside-out to ensure the water and cleaner reaches the down.
STEP 2: Wash the sleeping bag in a front-loading commercial wash machine on the gentle cycle with cold water and a clean-rinsing detergent specifically formulated for down, like ReviveX® Down Cleaner. Down feathers feature a protective oily or waxy coating. Abrasive cleaners and dry cleaning will strip down of these natural oils and will result in a loss of loft. It is important that you use a specialized cleaner and avoid dry cleaning all together.
STEP 3: Run an additional spin cycle before drying to ensure the detergent rinses clear.
STEP 4 (OPTIONAL): To add water repellency to the sleeping bag, remove it from the wash and make sure it is no longer turned inside-out. Spray the exterior of the bag with ReviveX Durable Waterproofing Spray. Provide an even spray to the entire bag. Spraying the exterior of your sleeping bag with a water repellent will help prevent the down from becoming wet. Once wet, down loses its ability to retain loft and heat.
STEP 5: Dry in a large commercial drying machine on medium heat (this may take some time). Clean tennis balls may be added to break up down clumps. Check the bag periodically to ensure the shell fabric does not melt. The bag must be dried until the insulation is completely dry. This can take up to 3 hours.
NOTE: Home dryers aren’t big enough to let sleeping bags tumble freely. The bag needs to be lifted and then free-fall to dry properly. High heat or small home dryers can melt synthetic fabrics. Always use a commercial dryer.
STEP 6: After the bag comes out of the dryer, hang and inspect it to be sure it is completely dry and to check for leaking down feathers. If there are leaking feathers use a down repair patch like Tenacious Tape Mini Repair Patches.
STEP 7: Once dry, store loosely in a large cotton sack or pillow case. For easier stuffing, start with the foot first. Avoid compressing your bag for an extended period as it will reduce the bag's loft.
Washing your sleeping bag allows you to maximize loft, which will result in a warmer and cleaner sleeping bag. Take care of the gear that takes care of you by learning how to wash a sleeping bag.
Originally Published: Aug 31, 2015