How to Wash a Down Sleeping Bag

How to Wash a Down Sleeping Bag

A down filled sleeping bag is an investment – they’re light, compact, comfortable and insulating, but they’re not cheap. They have a long lifespan if you look after them properly, though, which is why you need to know how to wash a down sleeping bag.

It is important that down sleeping bags remain clean to preserve their loft and warmth. They also need more specialist cleaning than their synthetic counterparts, so it’s important to know how to wash them

Please note that this is only a general guide to washing down sleeping bags and doesn’t replace reading the care instructions on your sleeping bag.  Follow any specific cleaning and care instructions indicated on your down sleeping bag to ensure that it stays in tip-top condition.

If you have a synthetic fill sleeping bag, then please check out our How to Wash a Synthetic Sleeping Bag guide for instructions.

Machine Washing

Although your down sleeping bag is relatively light, it will become very heavy when wet – please check your machine has sufficient weight capacity before proceeding. A 10kg + capacity front loading washing machine is recommended, if your machine is smaller or a top loader then please follow hand washing instructions.  Also check whether your sleeping bag’s washing instructions allow machine washing.

  1. Down sleeping bags require specialist down-safe detergents for washing. To remove any standard detergent residue from your washing machine, run it through a rinse cycle whilst empty before putting the sleeping bag in
  2. Do up all the zips and Velcro fastenings on the bag to prevent snagging. Turn your bag inside out if it has a waterproof shell to allow for proper penetration of the detergent.
  3. Place your sleeping bag in the machine and add a down-safe technical cleaner according to the cleaner’s usage instructions. DO NOT use regular fabric detergent or fabric softener, they will damage your sleeping bag
  4. Wash your down sleeping bag on a delicate cycle with a temperature setting of 30°C
  5. Once the wash has finished, ensure that the sleeping bag is thoroughly rinsed. Check this by pressing down on your sleeping bag. If soap suds come out, the bag will need another rinse cycle. Repeat until the sleeping bag shows no signs of soap suds.
  6. Down absorbs a lot of water that will leak from the sleeping bag as you take it out of the machine. Place several towels on the floor to soak up any water. The down feathers are delicate when wet and your sleeping bag will be heavy – make sure you support the length of the bag when moving it for drying to avoid any damage.

If your washing machine isn’t large enough to wash your sleeping bag, or the care instructions indicate that it can only be washed by hand, then you’ll have to use the manual labour option:

Hand Washing

Hand washing a sleeping bag requires a lot of space to spread the bag flat. This must be done in a bath tub.

  1. Rinse your bath thoroughly to remove any soap residue, then fill with lukewarm water
  2. Add your specialist down-safe cleaner to the bath and mix to evenly distribute.
  3. Close your sleeping bag’s zip and any Velcro fasteners to prevent snagging and turn bags with waterproof shells inside out
  4. Put your sleeping bag flat in the bath and ensure it is fully submerged
  5. Leave to soak for about an hour. Drain the water and refill with cool fresh water
  6. Gently massage your sleeping bag to remove all the soap.  This can be done by hand or by walking up and down the bag with clean bare feet. DO NOT wring or squeeze the bag to prevent damaging the down feathers
  7. Empty the soapy water and replace with clean water and massage again. Continue until all the soap has been removed
  8. Once there is no remaining soap residue, drain the water from the bath. The sleeping bag will still be water logged; push down on it carefully to remove all the remaining water. DO NOT wring or twist the sleeping bag to prevent damage to the filling

Now that your sleeping bag is clean, you will need to dry it.  There are two methods you can use depending on your sleeping bag’s care instructions, the weather conditions and whether you have access to a large tumble dryer:

Tumble Drying

This is a preferable method of drying if you can as it reduces the drying time and will fluff up your down feathers. Place your sleeping bag in the tumble dryer and add a couple of clean tennis balls to the drum. The tennis balls will prevent clumping of the filling as the sleeping bag dries. Dry on the lowest heat setting and be patient, it can take a long time for the down to be completely dry

Air Drying

If you cannot tumble dry your sleeping bag, you will need to allow it to dry naturally. Carefully put the sleeping bag across a sturdy clothes airer or across a multi strand washing line that will support the whole of the sleeping bag whilst it is drying. Check the weather forecast to avoid rain as it will take a long time for the down to dry completely.

Now that you know how to wash a down sleeping bag and your bag is nice and clean, remember not to store the sleeping bag in its compression bag.  Keeping the down heavily compressed for long periods of time can lead to damage, so store the sleeping bag in a way that allows the down to take up its natural space.