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How To Wash Your Down Sleeping Bag Without Ruining It

February 10, 2020

Let’s be honest, down sleeping bags are expensive and a total nightmare to wash if you don’t know what you’re doing. But good thing you do, because by the grace of the universe, you found yourself here on this very informative blog post. Fist bump.

how to wash a down sleeping bag without ruining it

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Understanding Down Insulation

Okay first, let’s talk about how down insulation works.

Down feathers have these fuzzy little plumes on the feathers that create a space known as “loft” in which air gets trapped. It’s in this magical, poofy space known as “the loft” that the air warms up and creates that toasty insulation down is famous for.

how to wash your down sleeping bag

Moral of the story: if you lose your loft, you lose your warmth. So protect it like your life depends on it— because one day it just might.

How do I wash my down sleeping bag?

What you need to wash your down sleeping bag

  1. Down Wash
  2. Tennis Balls/ Wool Dryer Balls
  3. Front Loading Washer
  4. Front Loading Dryer
  5. Time and Patience
  6. Optional: Down Proof
  1. Check yourself before you wreck yourself and be sure to read the care instructions for your bag. This will tell you the best water temperature and setting for the washing machine. 
  2. Find a front loading washing machine and make sure it’s totally empty. Sleeping bags are pretty damn delicate and something as small as a paper clip could make your annual sleeping bag wash look like a Mother Goose murder scene. 
  3. Use A Down Wash. Down wash is a non-detergent soap that allows you clean your sleeping bag without coating the down feathers with a residue that makes the feathers stick together. When the down feathers stick together and are no longer fluffy, they lose their loft. Remember: no loft, no warmth
  4. Use cold to warm water (reference the care instructions for your bag) and opt for a delicate cycle
  5. If you see some soapy suds on the bag, give it a second rinse cycle to ensure all the soap has been removed.

Extra Credit: Down Proof your bag! This magic potion helps to revive the insulating qualities of your bag while giving the down and the exterior fabric some added water repellency. Plus, It’s biodegradable and doesn’t contain any VOC’s, PFC’s, or fragrances. 

How do I dry my down sleeping bag?

  1. Grab the entire bag from the bottom (just embrace the awkward wetness), being very careful not to rip the bag, place it in a large dryer, and squeeze out any excess water.
  2. Turn the dryer on to the lowest heat possible with a few clean tennis balls. Yes, you read that correctly, clean tennis balls. The tennis balls help to break up the wet clumps of down— essential for reviving the loft back into your sleeping bag.
    • Wool dryer balls also work— but tennis balls are the old school, dirtbag way.
  3. Grab your headphones and listen to an episode of your favorite outdoor podcast . Or have a dance party. You do you.
  4. Basically, get cozy and stay patient because you might need to give it a few rounds in the dryer. Continue to run as many drying cycles as needed until the sleeping bag is completely dry and fluffy. 
how to wash your down sleeping bag without ruining it

Important Things to Consider When Washing and Drying Your Sleeping Bag

  • Washing and drying your sleeping bag can take hours so don’t wash your bag right before you hit the road. 
  • Sleeping bags don’t need to be washed all that often. With proper care, your sleeping bag should stay relatively clean. Keep your bag smelling and looking fresh by:
    • Using a sleeping bag liner.
    • Wearing clean clothes to sleep to help absorb the sweat and oils from your skin.
  • Consider giving your bag a spot treatment before throwing it in the wash.
    • If you have one or two dirty spots on your bag, clean those spots with a non-detergent soap, water, and a washcloth or toothbrush. 
    • Try to avoid wetting the insulation if you can. 
three women in a tent with colorful sleeping bags | how to wash your down sleeping bag

How To Store Your Down Sleeping Bag At Home 

Be sure to store your sleeping bag in it’s open position not a compression sack. 

Here are some ideas of how to store your sleeping bag:

  • In a large mesh or cotton bag (most sleeping bags come with these now).
  • On a hanger in your closet.
  • Open in a gear bin.

Remember that loft thing we talked about earlier? The same principle applies here. 

When sleeping bags are stored compressed, the down plumes get crushed and stick together, causing you to lose the precious loft (the thing that keeps you warm) in your bag.

Backpacking Tip: When you first arrive at your camp site, set up your tent and unstuff your sleeping bag to allow the maximum time for the loft to return to your sleeping bag before you hit the sack.  

Related: 22 Rookie Mistakes New Backpackers Make and How To Avoid Them

Grab ya supplies!

Wishing you a healthy and sustainable relationship with your down sleeping bag. 🌻

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how to wash your down sleeping bag without ruining it
how to wash a down sleeping bag without ruining it
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Hey you! I’m so glad you’re here!

Hey you! Welcome to my little arête on the internet! This blog is for wild women doing wild things including backpacking, rock climbing, low-waste living, protecting wild spaces, and sustainable adventure travel. My mission is to bring you radical resources and inspiration to add more adventure and less plastic into your life. I don’t subscribe to living an ordinary life. And if you have made your way to this blog, I don’t think you do either. Dare to live wild. See you outside!

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