How to Wash and Clean a Sleeping Bag

How Tos & Tips

A sleeping bag is a fabulous thing to have on any camping trip. Those sleeping in tents find sleeping bags convenient because they offer both a sleeping surface and a top cover. Meanwhile, RV campers enjoy them because they make RV bed making (a task that can be a total pain) a breeze.

Other great benefits of using a sleeping bag include the fact that there is an option for every type of weather, and that they can be rolled up and stored easily.

Of course, if you’re going to be using sleeping bags on your camping trips, you will want to make sure you’re caring for them properly. After all, good sleeping bags don’t come cheap, so the longer you can make yours last, the better.

In this article we will discuss how to clean a sleeping bag and what you can do to ensure your camping bedding lasts as long as possible.

How to Wash a Sleeping Bag

Can you wash sleeping bags? Yes! In fact, cleaning your sleeping bag is very important. Not only is a dirty sleeping surface just plain gross, but a bag that’s left uncleaned for too long will begin to absorb body oils and dirt into the fill. This can cause problems related to the loft and warmth of your bag.

That said, you can wash your sleeping bag too often, something that will result in extra wear and tear. Therefore, we recommend making washing a sleeping bag a yearly ritual unless something happens to make the bag excessively dirty in the meantime.

Can you wash a sleeping bag in the washing machine? Usually, yes, but there are some things you’ll want to know first.

Before you wash sleeping bags, be sure to check the care instructions on each one to ensure you don’t make any big mistakes. In most cases, this will be printed on a label attached to the bag.

Generally speaking, you have three options when washing a sleeping bag. You can…

  1. Hand wash in the bathtub.
  2. Pay a professional to do the job.
  3. Head to the laundromat to use the commercial-size machines.

If you decide to go the DIY route, you will need to purchase the proper cleaning product. Which product you choose will depend on whether your sleeping bag has synthetic or down fill.

How to Wash a Sleeping Bag at the Laundromat

To use the laundromat option, place your sleeping bag into a commercial-size front-loading washing machine along with the appropriate amount of the special cleaning product, and without any other laundry or soaps. Use the gentle cycle and cold water to wash and run an extra rinse cycle to remove excess soap.

Remove the bag from the washer—making sure to support the entire bag to avoid straining fabric or ripping seams—and gently squeeze out excess water.

Place the sleeping bag into a commercial-size dryer and run the dryer on low heat. Plan to run multiple dryer cycles, as drying a sleeping bag can take several hours depending on the size and fill of the bag.

How to Clean a Sleeping Bag by Hand

Don’t want to spend time and money at the laundromat? As mentioned before, you can also wash sleeping bags by hand.

Begin by filling the bathtub with cool water. Add a small amount of the aforementioned special cleaning product, keeping in mind that it may be difficult to rinse out this way. Lay the bag flat in the water and work the soap through it, rubbing heavily soiled areas to remove grime. Allow to soak for up to 60 minutes.

Drain the tub, press any remaining water out of the bag, and refill the tub with cool water. Work the soap out with your hands and let the bag sit for an additional 15 minutes before draining the bathtub. Press out any remaining water and repeat the rinsing process until all soap is removed.

Squeeze out as much water as possible and lay your sleeping bag flat somewhere with low humidity and no direct sunlight. Hanging the bag is also a possibility.

If you opt to use your home dryer, be sure it is big enough to allow the sleeping bag to move rather than staying balled up during the drying process.

How to Clean a Sleeping Bag with Stains or Spots

Sometimes a full bath isn’t really necessary, and using the washing machine too often is bound to lead to a shorter life for your bag. If you notice your sleeping bag getting dingy at the top or bottom or find a stain on your bag, a short and simple spot-cleaning might do the trick.

How to Wash a Sleeping Bag Quickly

To spot-clean your bag and get back out into nature quickly, follow these simple steps:

  1. Pull the shell away from the fill in order to keep the fill as dry as possible. Keep the parts separate throughout the cleaning process.
  2. Apply a small amount of the proper cleaner to the area you’d like to clean, or the stain you’d like to remove.
  3. Rub the area gently using a soft-bristled toothbrush.
  4. Use a wet sponge to rinse the area, using as little water as possible in order to ensure a quick dry time.
  5. Allow the bag to dry completely before storing it in order to avoid mold and mildew.

How to Take Care and Maintain Your Sleeping Bag

Of course, there are a few other things you can do to ensure your sleeping bag lasts a while. Here are our top tips:

  • Avoid snagging and bunching by loosening drawstrings and closing hook-and-loop fasteners.
  • Sleeping bags should be completely dry before being put away.
  • Skip dry cleaning, which can damage the bag.
  • Avoid cleaners besides the sleeping-bag-specific cleaners mentioned above.
  • Use a bag liner and sleep in clean clothes to avoid getting the bag dirty.

Sleeping Bag FAQs

Have a question about washing your sleeping bag? We might have an answer! Below are some questions people tend to ask about cleaning sleeping bags, as well as our best answers.

Can you put a sleeping bag in the washing machine?

Yes, as mentioned earlier in the article, washing your sleeping bag in a large front-loading machine on gentle cycle is perfectly okay.

Can I wash a sleeping bag in a top-load washer?

No. Top-loader machines agitate, which can cause the fill in a sleeping bag to bunch.

How do you wash and dry a down sleeping bag?

Wondering how to wash down sleeping bag bedding? The steps for doing this are all the same ones noted above. That said, you will want to make sure you purchase down-specific sleeping bag cleaner. Additionally, you might find that tossing tennis balls in the dryer with your down sleeping bag cuts back on drying time.

Is it safe to put a sleeping bag in the dryer?

As long as the dryer is large enough to allow the sleeping bag to move freely without balling up, your bag should be fine in the dryer. Just make sure you stick to the low heat setting.

How do you clean a stinky sleeping bag?

Generally, washing your bag normally will do plenty to get rid of smells. That said, if you feel it needs extra treatment, adding a bit of vinegar to the wash can be helpful.

Drying outdoors is also useful, as sunlight kills bacteria and fresh air will help rid the bag of odors. Just be sure to avoid direct sunlight, which can fade the fabric.

How do you disinfect a sleeping bag?

Disinfecting a sleeping bag can be tricky. Some campers have found spot-cleaning with white vinegar to be effective; others choose to use isopropyl alcohol to remove germs. That said, in some cases, you might be better off getting a new bag in order to ensure you avoid illness during your next camping trip.

Now that your sleeping bag is nice and clean, why not take it camping? Pick out the perfect RV rental and plan a trip to one of these amazing destinations.