How to Clean a Down Sleeping Bag (step-by-step tutorial)

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In this post, I’m going to show you exactly how to clean your down sleeping bag without ruining it. While this is a long process, it’s something that does need to be done occasionally. If your sleeping bag is not keeping you warm like it used to, or if you notice clumps of down forming, then you know it’s time to give it a wash. Let’s get started!

how to clean your sleeping bag thumbnail

How to Clean a Down Sleeping Bag (video tutorial):

How to Wash a Down Sleeping Bag

Before we begin, it’s always a good idea to check the cleaning instructions given by the manufacturer of your specific sleeping bag.

Chances are, it’s going to be the same (or very similar) to what I’m showing you here, but it’s always smart to look for any special instructions first.

Supplies You’ll Need:

Grangers down sleeping bag wash
  • Grangers Down Wash – You must use a cleaner specifically made for cleaning down. Do not use normal laundry detergent.
  • Clean bath towels – Make sure your bath towels are free of any fabric softeners or scents from dryer sheets.

Step 1: Prep the Bathtub

I’m going to clean my sleeping bag by hand in the bathtub. The first thing I do is make sure that the tub is clean and free of any soap scum or buildup.

I just use Dr. Bronner’s unscented baby soap to scrub the tub and make sure that it’s clean before I being.

Squeezing the air out of the sleeping bag
Getting a down sleeping bag wet

Step 2: Wet the Sleeping Bag

I think one of the hardest parts of cleaning a down sleeping bag is getting all the air out of it, so to help that process along, I stuff my sleeping bag into its stuff sack to get most of the air out before it gets wet.

You don’t have to do this step, but I’ve found that it really helps to get the air out faster. Next, fill the tub with warm water and start getting the sleeping bag wet.

Super Important Note

Once the sleeping bag is wet, you have to be SO careful with your movements. The cleaning process is slow and tedious.

A down sleeping bag is heavy when it’s wet and the threads holding the baffling together can easily break, so do not rush and do not pull on the sleeping bag. You have been warned.

You can and will ruin your sleeping bag if you’re not slow and gentle and thoughtful with your movements. Okay?

Slowly continue to squeeze the air out as it gets wet.

You want to get the sleeping bag saturated with the water and most of the air out as best you can.

Using Grangers down cleaner
soapy water for cleaning a sleeping bag

Step 3: Add Soap

Once the sleeping bag is wet, add the soap to the tub and mix it into the water.

I use 2 cupfuls, but follow the instructions on whatever down wash you’re using. The Grangers brand also makes a concentrated version of this cleaner, so just check on the back of the bottle for the amount.

Mix the soap into the water. At this point, the sleeping bag is floating and it’s a lot easier to work with.

Use your hands to gently agitate the sleeping bag, working the soapy water into it.

As you agitate, you can continue to get any remaining air out.

Once you’ve agitated the sleeping bag with the soapy water, let it soak for about 10 minutes while the down cleaner does its job.

Squeezing water out of a sleeping bag
washing a sleeping bag by hand

Step 4: Drain and Rinse (x3)

After it has soaked, let the water drain out of the tub. Again, this is a slow process.

You have to be SO CAREFUL here. I use my whole arm to hold back the sleeping bag and let the water slowly drain out. I’m not pulling on the sleeping bag to hold it back.

Once most of the water has drained, slowly squeeze more of the water out with your hands.

I like to slowly roll my sleeping bag to get the water out. Then, I will unroll it and fill the tub back up with warm water.

Again, slowly work the water into the sleeping bag for the first rinse. Let the water drain, and then once again, squeeze the water out as best you can.

I recommend that you put on a show, a podcast, or an audiobook just to have something to listen to while you do this. I think I had The Office on in the background.

Rinse one or two more times, until you’re confident that all the cleaner has been rinsed out.

drying a sleeping bag after washing
drying a sleeping bag after cleaning

Step 5: Dry

After you rinsed a few times with warm water and you squeezed out the water as best you can, lay out two large bath towels.

Carefully lift your sleeping bag out of the tub.

Place it on a bath towel and slowly unroll it. Then slowly roll it up in the towel to get some of the water out. Again, be slow and patient as the air continues to escape.

Repeat that process one more time with the other dry towel. At this point, the sleeping bag should start to feel a lot lighter.

Pick up the sleeping bag rolled in the towel and bring it over to your dryer.

If you have a nice dryer that has great temperature control like the one I’m using, then you can set it on low heat (the lowest heat setting).

If you’re at all unsure, have an old dryer, or your dryer doesn’t have good temperature control, then use no heat. When in doubt, use no heat. I set my dryer to a timed dry and let it go.

Drying the sleeping bag is going to take a long time, especially if you are using no heat.

So just keep re-starting the drier over and over and over.

As it gets drier, you can take it out, fluff it around, and turn it inside out just to make sure everything is getting dried evenly.

If you want, you can use dryer balls to help break up the down, but I’ve dried my sleeping bag with and without them and don’t notice any difference, so I don’t use them anymore.

inspecting a clean sleeping bag
how to clean your sleeping bag

Step 5: Inspect

When it’s dry, it should be nice and fluffy again and there should be no clumps of down left.

I like to feel around every part of the sleeping bag and double-check. If you find any lumps of down, it needs more time – even if it seems dry.

When in doubt, keep drying it.

If needed, you can move the down around with your hands to make sure it’s evenly distributed within the baffles.

tent camping in the desert

How to Clean Your Sleeping Bag Less Often

One of the simplest ways to reduce how often you need to clean your sleeping bag is by using a sleeping bag liner.

Sweat and body oils build up over time and reduce the effectiveness of your sleeping bag.

Using a liner will better protect your sleeping bag from that. In addition, a liner is very easy to clean in your washing machine at home.

Also, make sure to store your sleeping bag in a dry place within a large sack. You never want to store your down sleeping bag in a compressed state for long periods of time.

Further Reading >> How to Clean and Store Your Camping Gear

Have questions about the cleaning process? Comment below!

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