How to Wash Sleeping Bag featured image

How to Wash a Sleeping Bag

Sleeping bag is an essential camping gear that keeps you warm and comfortable during outdoor adventures. Unfortunately, these items can become dirty over time with use.

If you're looking for tips on how to clean your sleeping bag without damaging it, this guide is for you.

Let’s walk through the entire process of cleaning a sleeping bag, from gathering the necessary supplies to choosing the ideal detergent for good results.

Risks of Using a Dirty Sleeping Bag

Risks Of Using Dirty Sleeping Bag

1.    Risk of Illness: Dirty sleeping bags can be a breeding ground for bacteria and viruses.

If you use an unclean bag, the germs inside can spread to your skin or even enter your mouth and nose when you sleep, leading to potential illness.

2.    Uncomfortable Sleep: When dirt accumulates in a sleeping bag, it will become uncomfortable to sleep on – making it difficult to get a good night's rest.

So if you don't want to wake up feeling tired and groggy, make sure your sleeping bag is clean before each use.

3.    Damage to Fabric: Allowing dirt to accumulate in your sleeping bag can cause damage to the fabric over time, resulting in holes and tearing.

This can make your sleeping bag impractical, so it’s important to clean it regularly.

4.    Smells: Unclean sleeping bags can start to smell over time and become unpleasant to sleep in.

If you want to keep your bag smelling fresh, make sure to clean and air out after each use.

5.    Decrease in Efficiency: The insulation in a sleeping bag will naturally become compressed over time, reducing its efficiency.

Regular cleaning can help restore some of the lofts and provide better insulation for your sleeping bag.

When to Consider Cleaning a Sleeping Bag?

Consider Cleaning Sleeping Bag

When you're using a sleeping bag for an extended period, dirt and oils can build up in the fabric, which can lead to odors and make your bag less effective over time.

Therefore, it’s important to clean your sleeping bag periodically so that it doesn’t lose its insulating power or start smelling bad.

The frequency of cleaning will depend on how often you use your sleeping bag set as well as the conditions it is exposed to while in use. If you frequently camp in an area with a lot of dust and dirt, you should aim to clean your sleeping bag every few months.

You can go a little longer between cleanings if you don't camp as much if the surroundings aren't as filthy.

When it comes to cleaning your sleeping bag, there are several methods to choose from depending on the type of bag and the severity of the dirt or stains.

Generally speaking, most synthetic bags can be machine washed, while down bags should be spot cleaned with a special detergent or dry-cleaned with a professional cleaner. Let's explore the sleeping bag washing method in detail now.

How to Clean a Sleeping Bag – A Walk-Through

How To Clean A Sleeping Bag

Here we'll give you step-by-step instructions on how to clean a sleeping bag so that it lasts many years.

Preparing Your Sleeping Bag for Washing

Before putting the bag into the washer or tub, use scissors to remove any loose threads and excess fabric. This will prevent tangles when washing your bag.

Also, check for any spots that may require per-treatment with spot remover before washing. If there are any spots, treat them now before continuing with the cleaning process.

Supplies You Need

Before you get started, gather the items you need to clean your sleeping bag:

  • A washing machine large enough to fit the bag or a large plastic tub.
  • Mild soap, such as laundry detergent or a mild fabric cleaner.
  • White vinegar (optional).

Choosing Right Detergent

Choosing Right Detergent

The key to cleaning a sleeping bag is choosing the right detergent. Using a mild soap or delicate fabric cleaner that won't damage the sleeping bag's shell or insulation is recommended.

Avoid using bleach or any other harsh chemicals on your sleeping bag, as they can break down the fibers and ruin it.

In some cases, you may also want to add a small amount of white vinegar to the water to help break down any stains or odors.

Also, some special sleeping bag cleaners are available in camping stores, specifically designed to help preserve the fabric and insulation. However, they can be more expensive than regular soaps.

Cleaning By Hand

Cleaning Sleeping Bag By Hand

If you don't have access to a washing machine, you can also clean your sleeping bag liner by hand.

Fill a large plastic tub with lukewarm water and add a mild detergent or delicate fabric cleaner. Submerge your sleeping bag in soapy water and gently rub any spots that need extra attention.

When soaking is completed, drain the water and rinse the sleeping bag until all soap residue is gone.

If required, add 1/4 cup of white vinegar to the final rinse cycle for added softness and shine to the fabric.

Cleaning By Washing Machine

Cleaning Sleeping Bag By Washing Machine

If you wish to use a washing machine, make sure it's large enough to fit the sleeping bag inside. Add mild detergent or fabric cleaner and set the washer on a gentle cycle.

If you have an extra-large capacity washer, it's best to put the bag in by itself for optimal cleaning results.

When the cycle is complete, inspect the bag for any remaining spots that need attention before tossing it into the dryer.

Drying Your Sleeping Bag

Once the washing cycle is complete, take your sleeping bag out of the washer and transfer it to a dryer set on a lesser speed.

Make sure there are no clumps of insulation or wet areas that may be sticking together.

You can also use a clothesline for drying if you don't have access to a dryer. Once the sleeping bag is dry, it's time to store it away until your next camping trip.

Make sure to fold or roll the bag loosely so air can circulate throughout and prevent mold and mildew buildup. It's best to store the bag in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight or other heat sources.

Periodically checking your sleeping bag for signs of wear and tear will help ensure it lasts many years.

If you notice any rips or tears in the fabric, repair them immediately with an appropriate patch kit available at most outdoor stores.

Storage Hacks

  • Invest in a sleeping bag stuff sack to keep your bag clean and organized when not in use. This will protect it from dirt, dust, and other elements that can damage the fabric over time.
  • Consider adding a few drops of essential oil to the stuffing before storing your sleeping bag. This will help deter pesky critters like moths or mice (which love to make nests in sleeping bags) while keeping it smelling fresh.
  • If you're really tight on space, consider using a vacuum-sealing storage bag to minimize the size of your sleeping bag. This will also help reduce the amount of dust and other particles that can accumulate over time.
  • For added protection, you can also use a waterproof storage bag on top of the vacuum-sealed bag. This will help keep your sleeping bag dry and free from mildew or mold buildup.

What Not To Do When Cleaning A Sleeping Bag?

Donts When Cleaning Sleeping Bag

1.    Using too much detergent can strip away the natural oils of your sleeping bag and make it less effective at trapping heat. Stick to a very light coating of soap or specialized down cleaner when washing.

2.    Front-loading machines are pretty gentle on materials than top-loading machines, which means they won’t break down the fibers easily and cause damage to your sleeping bag fabric.

3.    Too many items in the wash can create friction, leading to tears and other fabric damage – especially with delicate items like sleeping bags. Make sure to launder your bag alone or with other similar items.

4.    High-spin settings on the washing machine will create too much friction between the fabrics and cause damage. Stick to a low spin speed, like 600 RPM or less.

5.    Don't use fabric softener. Fabric softeners can strip away natural oils from down sleeping bags, making them less effective at trapping heat and building up grime quicker than usual.

6.    Dry cleaning is not recommended for down sleeping bags. It uses harsh chemicals that can strip away natural oils and degrade the material over time. Use regular detergents and a gentle wash cycle instead.

7.    Don’t forget to fluff your sleeping bag after washing. This is especially important when using a front-loading machine, as the agitation of the spin cycle can cause clumps and lumps in the down filling that need to be broken up after each wash. A few minutes of fluffing will help keep your sleeping bag in shape.

How to Properly Take Care of Your Sleeping Bag?

Take Care Of Your Sleeping Bag

Here are some tips on how to best take care of your sleeping bag:

Clean Regularly

After each use, it's essential to clean your sleeping bag. If there are any dirt stains or sweat marks on the fabric, use mild soap and lukewarm water to spot-clean them.

Make sure to hang your sleeping bag to air dry after cleaning, as heat drying can damage its insulation.

Repair Any Damage

If you notice any rips or tears in the fabric of many sleeping bags, make sure to repair them as soon as possible.

This will help prevent further damage and ensure your sleeping bag continues performing at its best for years to come.

Buy As per Your Needs

When shopping for a sleeping bag, make sure you buy one tailored to your needs.

If you plan on spending most of your time camping in cooler temperatures, opt for a model with thicker insulation and a higher temperature rating. This will ensure that it can keep you warm throughout the night.

Check Temperature Rating

Be sure to check the temperature rating of your sleeping bag before each use. Bring extra blankets or a thicker sleeping bag to stay warm during the night if the temperature is below the recommended limit.

Air It Out

After each use, air out your sleeping bag to get warm water to remove any moisture or sweat that has built up in the insulation.


A sleeping bag is an essential piece of camping equipment that should be taken care of properly.

Cleaning, repairing, and storing your sleeping bag easier will help keep it in top shape for many years.

Be sure to follow the tips we’ve discussed above in order to get the most out of your sleeping bag and ensure a comfortable night's sleep no matter where you are! If you take good care of it, your sleeping bag can become a cozy bed during all your upcoming adventures.


How Often Should I Wash My Sleeping Bag?

How Often Wash Sleeping Bag

It depends on how often you use your sleeping bag inside and the conditions it's exposed to.

If you frequently camp in an area with a lot of dust, you should aim to clean your sleeping bag every few months. If not, then once or twice a year is enough.

What Type Of Detergent Should I Use?

You should use mild soap or a fabric cleaner that won't damage the insulation of wet bag.

Special sleeping bag cleaners are also available in camping stores specifically formulated for this purpose. Avoid using bleach or any other harsh chemicals.

What Should I Do If My Sleeping Bag Has Rips?

Yes, most synthetic bags can be machine washed. However, down bags should be spot cleaned with a special detergent or dry-cleaned with a professional down bag cleaner.

If you choose to machine-wash your sleeping bag, ensure it fits in the washer and use a gentle cycle with mild detergent.

Can I Machine-Wash My Sleeping Bag?

Yes, you can hand wash. But before washing the sleeping bag in the machine, read all the instructions on the packaging carefully.

Some sleeping bags can be machine washed, while others cannot. But when washing a sleeping bag in the machine, you should always use mild detergents and a gentle wash cycle.

Can I Store My Sleeping Bag When It's Damp?

No, it isn’t recommended. Storing a sleeping bag when it’s damp can cause mildew and damage. Therefore, you must completely dry the sleeping bag before storing it.

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