How to Clean a Sleeping Bag

Ah, the sleeping bag.

Your bed-away-from-home.

Your cozy refuge in the wild.

Adventures will inevitably get it a bit dirty, but don’t fear, it’s easy to wash your sleeping bag.

There are two main types of sleeping bags, down-filled and synthetic-filled. Here are some tips and tricks to keeping them both clean and fluffy.

 

how much Nikwax cleaner do you need for your sleeping bag?
A handy Nikwax cleaner volume guide for your sleeping bag

 

Down-Filled Sleeping Bags:

Cleaning down bags can seem intimidating. But with proper know-how, it’s easy. The first thing to note: use a big, front-loading washing machine, generally found at a laundromat. Home washers are too small, and don’t allow proper circulation of water through the bag, making for ineffective cleaning. Always use a front-loading washer, as top loaders have an agitator that can tear up down baffles. Gentle is best!

1. Put bag in washing machine.

2. Add proper cleaner. Nikwax Down Wash Direct is formulated for both normal, and water-repellent down. It cleans crud away while maintaining loft and revitalizing water-repellency. (Volume Guide: for a 1-2.5lb bag, add 100ml, for a 2.5-4.5lb bag, add 150ml, for a bag 4.5lbs or heavier, use 200ml)

3. Wash. Throw in an extra spin cycle or two to get excess water out of the bag.

4. Dry! This is key for down bags. Your bag will emerge from the washer looking like a drowned rat. Run multiple dry cycles on low heat with clean tennis balls, or dryer balls, to fluff the bag back up.

 

Synthetic-Filled Sleeping Bags:

Synthetic-filled bags are a tad less fussy than down bags to clean. You still need a big washer though, so pack up and head to the laundromat.

1. Put bag in washing machine.

2. Add proper cleaner. Nikwax Tech Wash is great for synthetic-filled bags. It cleans crud away while revitalizing water-repellency. (Volume Guide: for a 1-2.5lb bag, add 100ml, for a 2.5-4.5lb bag, add 150ml, for a bag 4.5lbs or heavier, use 200ml)

3. Wash. Throw in an extra spin cycle or two to get excess water out of the bag.

4. Dry. You can use a dryer on low heat to speed up the process, or hang to dry if you have the space.

 

 

There you have it! If you want to go longer in between washes, use a sleeping bag liner. It will help keep body oils (and odors) off your bag, and can be washed at home.

Stay toasty and dry!

 

27 thoughts on “How to Clean a Sleeping Bag”

  1. Thank you for the information. I really like these emails. I have never been able to win 1 of your quizzes but I do like your products as I do a lot in bad weather. I live in Daytona and went walking during the strongest part of Hurricane Mathew in October of last year. Your products, along with good equipment and rain gear kept me dry during the storm. I’m also a camper and fisherman so you’ve been a big help to me.

    1. Thanks Tom! You’re quite brave going out walking in a hurricane. Give our customer service team a shout at 800-563-3057 and we’ll see about helping you with your quiz problem.

  2. The Nikwax Tech Wash is really good for cleaning sleeping bags, gets all of the dirt off and smells great! I usually hang my bag up in the boiler room, after 2 or 3 days it is bone dry.

  3. Nice article – thanks for posting it. One question: how would you clean a blood stain? I’ve cut myself a bit in the last trip and there are stain all over my gear including my sleeping bag. Thanks!

    1. Hi Dan,

      Spot treat the stain with the appropriate Nikwax cleaner- undiluted. Allow to sit for an hour or so. If your bag is synthetic-filled, use Tech Wash. If it’s down-filled use Down Wash Direct. Then wash according to direction in the article. We have heard from our friends in the hunting and fishing world that Tech Wash is great for getting out blood stains. We have also found (much by accident) that it’s great for red wine stains too! Best of Luck!

    1. Hey Blake! Glad we could help. All bags need a friendly cleaning every once in a while.

      Thanks for reading!

      Brennon

  4. Thanks for posting it. One question: how would you clean a blood stain? I’ve cut myself a bit in the last trip and there are stain all over my gear including my sleeping bag. Thanks!

    1. Hi Tony! If you have a synthetic-filled bag, you would use Tech Wash. If you have a down-filled bag, use Down Wash Direct. Spot treat the stain by pouring a little bit of the cleaner directly on the stain, and gently scrub with a soft-bristled brush. A toothbrush works great. Then wash as instructions say. Both Tech Wash and Down Wash Direct are pretty great at getting out blood (and red wine!). The sooner you treat the stain, the better.

    1. Hey Deena! Glad we could help! Cleaning a sleeping bag will revive it and make your experiences more enjoyable. – Brennon

  5. Great post! I think this is very crucial for anyone who go camping. One question: I do love Vietnamese food so I brought fish sauce once. it was a pity that my naughty son accidentally pour it over some pillows, blankets and of course 1 of my favourite sleeping bags. It smells really bad though I tried to wash it 3 times. Can you help me to get rid of the smell?
    Cheers! I love your post!

    1. Hey Kevin! That sounds like a major bummer for your sleeping bag. I definitely suggest doing a couple back-to-back washes with Tech Wash (if it is a synthetic-fill bag) or Down Wash Direct (if it is a down-filled bag). That should remove the odors and refresh the bag, without damaging its insulation and functional properties. Let us know how it goes. Thanks for reading! – Brennon

  6. I often make a paste of a little non-detergent soap and water and use a toothbrush to gently clean the shell and never use fabric softener, bleach or alternative-bleach products.

    1. Hey Solhim! It sounds like you genuinely care for your bag. That’s awesome! And abstaining from using bleach and fabric softener is great as well! You may benefit from using Tech Wash or Down Wash Direct because standards soaps and detergents leave behind a residue that actually attracts water, meaning your bag has lost its water-resistant functionality. Tech Wash and Down Wash Direct reinvigorate water-repellency and breathability on your bag’s shell. You may also like the fact that the cleaning process would be a little less hard on your hands: simply add the wash-in formula to a washer machine (large enough drum for the bag) and press a couple buttons, and viola! Might be a nice breath of fresh air from the toothbrush cleaning technique. Hope that helps! – Brennon

  7. I have a partial container of Nikwax Down Wash (NOT Down Wash Direct). Is the recommended procedure any different for the plain Down Wash vs. Down Wash Direct?

    1. Hey Nora! First off, check the date on the bottle… if it is past its 4-year shelf life, then I would toss it and start fresh with a new bottle. If it hasn’t expired yet, then the steps are the same, yes. If you are not sure about the expiration date, I wouldn’t risk it, because we can’t guarantee how the chemistry responds after 4 years… it may work the same, but it also may have “gone bad.” Hope that helps!

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