How to wash a down sleeping bag?

Washing a down sleeping bag is quite problematic. After all, we are talking about one of the most expensive elements of outdoor equipment, so everyone worries about damaging it during washing.

On the other hand, you can’t pretend that your sleeping bag is still clean and does not need to be refreshed. Fortunately, the whole operation is not as difficult as it might seem. In today's post we will give you some guidelines how to safely wash the down sleeping bag so as not to destroy its thermal properties during washing.

What will you learn from this description?

  • How to wash a down sleeping bag?
  • What cleaners to use to wash a sleeping bag?
  • How to dry a down sleeping bag?

In a nutshell

Read the washing instruction symbols on the care label before starting to wash your down sleeping bag. Usually manufacturers allow washing in a washing machine (at low temperature and minimum spin speed). As natural down does not tolerate strong detergents, do not use ordinary washing powder or fabric softener. Use special products such as Grangers or Nikwax. Make sure your sleeping bag is thoroughly dry after washing. Spread it out horizontally on a dryer and place it in a warm and airy place. Once the down is completely dry, shake it out to break any remaining compressed down or feathers.

How often should you wash your sleeping bag?

If you asked someone on a mountain trail how often you should wash your sleeping bag the answer would probably vary, as it depends how often, where and when you use your sleeping bag, and even what you wear at night. It would certainly need to be freshened up when it doesn’t smell nice. It is not only a matter of hygiene or aesthetics, but also maintaining high thermal parameters. Sweat can rob your down sleeping bag of a compression ability (and this feature is the key one to protect you well from the cold).

Therefore, the answer would be as rarely as possible, but as often as necessary. Contrary to the common belief, natural down tolerates washing much better than synthetic filling.

The most important manufacturer's instruction - how to wash a down sleeping bag

Read the washing instruction symbols before starting to wash your down sleeping bag. All guidelines can be found on the care label inside of the sleeping bag. It is usually allowed to wash it in a washing machine. However, a thick winter sleeping bag may be too big for a standard drum. There is no point pushing it in by force, as it simply won’t be washed properly. In such a case manual washing is recommended.

How to wash a down sleeping bag in a washing machine?

As both natural down and fabrics used for sewing sleeping bags do not tolerate standard detergents, clean the washing machine before switching it on. Remove any traces of accumulated detergent residue and run an empty cycle with just hot water. In the meantime, soak your sleeping bag in water with its cover. It would do the trick to make the washing machine draw more water during washing. Later, put it in the washing machine without the cover. A wet towel put in the drum will also do the job. Remember to close all zips and pockets before putting it into the washing machine.

Use a delicate wash cycle to wash down sleeping bags (usually at 30°C and minimal speed spin). However, always follow the manufacturer's guidelines when choosing the programme. It is worth rinsing the sleeping bag again thoroughly after the washing cycle. In order to avoid lumps, the down has to be washed and thoroughly rinsed off all residues of the washing powder.

Use only special products such as Nikwax or Grangers to wash down sleeping bags. Do not use ordinary washing powder, capsules, fabric softeners or bleach, as they can damage the structure of the outer fabric.

Don’t worry if your sleeping bag doesn’t look the same as the one before washing. It will  return to its original shape during drying.

Hand-washing your down sleeping bag

If your sleeping bag is too big for your washing machine, you can wash it by hand (preferably in a bathtub). Most importantly, wash the sleeping bag very gently. First, soak it for a while in lukewarm water, and then add detergent throughout its length. Gently massage it - do not rub or twist it, as it may damage the sensitive structure of down.

Rinse it thoroughly when it’s clean. This is the most consuming thing. Rinse it until all of the foam and detergents have been removed.

How to dry a down sleeping bag?

Contrary to a popular belief, the most critical point of keeping your sleeping bag clean is not washing, but drying it. Pay special attention to it, as natural down absorbs water very easily and it may take even several days to dry it.

Down sleeping bags, just like clothes, should be dried flat by spreading it out horizontally on a dryer in a warm and airy place. However, do not expose it to direct sunlight. Once the down is completely dry, pat it gently to break up any clumps of down after drying.

It would be much easier if you have an tumble dryer. Always select gentle drying programs and keep the setting on low heat and slow spin speed. It sometimes takes a few drying cycles to dry natural down completely.


Maintenance tips

Take good care of your ‘duvet’, especially the one insulated with synthetic filling to extend the time between washes. If possible, always use a special sleeping bag liner that prevents sweat from soaking into the insulation, as well as a foam mattress that protects it from the ground. If you plan to sleep out under the stars air out your sleeping bag afterwards. Definitely air it out as soon as you get home from your camping trip. Microorganisms can develop in damp down causing unpleasant smell and it will be necessary to wash it. You can remove dirt on a regular basis by cleaning it with a damp cloth with a special cleaner.

And if it's time to buy a new sleeping bag visit our website - You will find a wide variety of down sleeping bags that will keep you warm and comfortable in all conditions.

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