How to Clean Your Sleeping Bag

We're sharing a few basic tips on how to care for and clean your sleeping bag.

August 21, 2015
two girls smiling laying in sleeping bags in the grass at night with a lantern lit up between them



Every sleeping bag, down or synthetic, must be cleaned. Accumulated body oils, trail dust and grime all decrease the effectiveness of a bag's insulation and increase odors and fiber-weakening microbes.



  1. For down bags, use mild soap or specially formulated down soap. For synthetic bags, use a mild detergent or cleaning agents designed for synthetics.
  2. Scrub the head and foot section before washing the entire bag. Wash warm and rinse cold with the minimum recommended amount of cleaning agent in a front-loading machine only.Be sure that all soap or detergent is thoroughly rinsed from the bag. This may mean running two or more rinse cycles.



  1. Wash with warm water in the bathtub using a mild detergent for synthetics and a specialized cleaner for down.
  2. Knead water through the bag thoroughly and carefully scrub the head and foot. Don't expect to remove every stain from the shell and never use commercial stain removers.
  3. Once the bag is clean, begin draining the tub and press the soapy water out of the bag with your hands. Do not lift the bag and do not wring it.
  4. Rinse thoroughly, making sure all the cleaning agent is out of the bag. Refill the bathtub with clean, cold water at least three or four times to be sure you have adequately rinsed away all the detergent. If soap remains in the fibers, it will cause the fill to mat.


  1. Once you have completed the final rinse, gently roll the bag to press out as much water as possible. Do not wring.
  2. Carefully place the bag into either a large pillowcase or a plastic clothes basket. If you try to lift it without support, you risk tearing the baffles and ruining the bag.
  3. Take a supply of quarters to the nearest laundromat. Tumble dry in a large commercial dryer on medium-low heat. The dryer must be large enough for the bag to be tossed around freely.
  4. Dry slowly and thoroughly with some terry cloth towels and two tennis balls thrown in. The terry cloth minimizes static electricity and speeds the drying process, while the tennis balls fluff the fill.
  5. Plan on two to four hours total drying time.


  • Do not use a top-loading washing machine
  • Do not use strong soap or detergent
  • Do not use your home dryer
  • Do not attempt to lift your bag from one end when wet. Lift the entire bag all at once.
  • Do not hang dry in the sun. UV damages nylon.
  • Do not ever dry clean your synthetic fill bag. Dry cleaning will irreversibly damage the fill.

You can extend the usable life of your sleeping bag with these tips:

  • Always stuff your sleeping bag, never roll it. Stuffing is actually easier on the fabric and fill.
  • Be gentle with your sleeping bag when removing it from the stuff sack, never yank it.
  • Store your bag uncompressed in a large, breathable storage sack or king-sized pillowcase. Hanging it or storing it flat also works.
  • Wear a T-shirt, shorts and socks to bed. The clothing protects the inside of your bag from damaging sweat and body oils.
  • Never lay your bag directly on the dirt; use a ground cloth.
  • Air and fluff your bag after each use and never leave it compressed for long periods.