How to Wash a Sleeping Bag
Discovering how to wash a sleeping bag does not have to be an expensive exercise in trial and error. Just like a pillow or blanket, the sleeping bag comes into contact with oily skin and greasy hair. Unlike the bedding, it also faces exposure to dirt and grime from the elements. Some common sense bits and pieces of advice–coupled with hard core science–makes cleaning the bag a quick chore to get out of the way.
- Read the label. Before trying to find out how to wash a sleeping bag, it pays to find out what it is filled with. Generally the options are down or synthetic fibers. You can clean both but there are slightly different methods to choose.
- Remove stains with a moist sponge and cleaning solution. Rather than letting the washing machine do all the work, count on using the shorter “gentle” wash cycle by manually removing stains.
- Zip up the sleeping bag and secure any strings. Learning how to wash a sleeping bag is virtually synonymous with discovering how not to upset the balance of the washer; presenting the machine with a relatively uniform–albeit bulky–item that won’t get snagged on the agitator or caught in the door seal is preferable.
- Pick a gentle soap. Finding out how to wash a sleeping bag introduces the camper to a section in the supermarket he may only have noticed in passing: the mile-long aisle of laundry detergents. Detergent gets the bag clean but it also breaks down the filling. Use mild soap usually associated with delicate laundry; it does not cause any residue buildup and does not dry out down. Synthetic fibers can withstand a watered down detergent in a pinch.
- Wash twice, dry once. Run the sleeping bag through the washing machine--preferably a front-loader--once with detergent and once without. Follow this two-step process as an additional precaution against soap residue buildup.
- Unload the wet sleeping bag with great care. As you are finding out how to wash a sleeping bag, you also notice that the weight of the filling puts a lot of strain on the exterior fabric. Small tears can rip if you manhandle the wet item!
- Dry the bag in a clothes dryer. Choose a warm cycle and throw in a new tennis ball or two. The ball pummels the filling and causes it to fluff as it dries. The low heat gently dries the down or synthetic fibers.
Dry-cleaning is not a good option for a down sleeping bag. The chemicals and solvents used in the process strip the material of its oils to such an extent that it clumps together and results in a lumpy filling. Adding insult to injury, you are sure to find that the smell of the solvent lingers inside the bag for months to come.
Aussie bush walkers frequently encounter dirty conditions when bedding down for the night. While learning how to wash a sleeping bag might be useful for the occasional wash, it is not a procedure they recommend to be done with any great frequency. Invest in a high quality liner instead and greatly cut down on the dirt your bag comes into contact with.