When you go camping you’ll need a comfortable and clean sleeping bag to keep you warm and well rested. If you used it before you’ll want to know how to wash a sleeping bag, so you don’t ruin it.
I’ll tell you the importance of a clean sleeping bag and how to wash it properly so you don’t risk any health problems from it being dirty. And there are plenty of ways to clean it, either while you’re home or out in the wilderness.
This article will analyze the reasons you should clean your sleeping bag regularly. But I’ll start you off with how to clean your sleeping bag after a camping trip.
How to Clean Your Sleeping Bag After a Camping Trip
Most sleeping bags come with cleaning instructions, but I will give you some more effective ways. With these care and washing tips, you can make sure that your bag will last longer.
Hand-Washing Your Sleeping Bag
First of all, I would like to mention that this method is highly recommended for all materials. It is the safest and most gentle with any item, especially camping ones.
- Fill your bath with cold water and 75g – 90g laundry soap
- Add a little cup of laundry fabric softener
- Open all zippers
- Stir the water and put it in your unzipped sleeping bag
- Try to sink it into the water and make sure that it is as flat as possible
- Use your hands to create the washing action. Or step into the tub and walk up and down the bag
- Leave it for about 20 minutes in the water to soak
- Drain the water from the bathtub and fill it with fresh cold water
- Ensure that all soap is removed. You may have to refill the bath more than five times to get rid of all the soap.
- Now, roll your bag into a cylinder and try to squeeze out the water
- Do this more than three times
- At last, you have to dry your bag. I’ll provide more info about this later
- If you notice just a few spots on the surface, simply make a paste mixture of soap and water and use a toothbrush to clean the surface.
- Wipe away with a damp rag to eliminate the mixture and allow it to air dry.
Take Your Sleeping Bag to the Launderette
Maybe you do not have enough time or your sleeping bag requires to be cleaned professionally, so bypassing all the steps above you could just go to a launderette store.
Several laundry stores have a pickup service so you do not have to wait around for them to finish. This method is a bit more costly, but you can ensure that you’ll have a clean sleeping bag at the end of the day.
Wash Your Sleeping Bag in the Washing Machine
Maybe this is the easiest way to wash, but keep in mind that a top loader washing machine is not a good choice, because the agitation could ruin the insulation.
Attention! Check the label and see if the sleeping bag is machine wash friendly. Once you’ve determined if your bag is washing machine friendly, turn your bag inside out and put it into the washing machine.
An appropriate wash cycle is necessary to avoid the stuffing to lump together. Sleeping bags are made of delicate materials that should be washed only with cold water.
Hot water can damage the bag completely or even melt the outer shell. The delicate-handwashing cycle is the most appropriate one because it is designed to be less abrasive, especially for items that require a light ‘’touch’’.
The cycle treats the bag sustainably, meaning that the wash cycle uses a slow or lesser degree of agitation and the spin cycle uses a slow spin to extract water.
Now you’ve picked the cycle, but what about the time? A 30-40 minute washing time is absolutely capable to clean your sleeping bag.
On some machines, the numbers are replaced with super heavy, heavy, normal, and light signs. Keep in mind that the ‘’light’’ sign is considered 35-40 minutes or below. Strictly avoid the super heavy, heavy, and normal signs.
Most washing machines generally give us the option to select a temperature, so you should select one that is appropriate for the material of your sleeping bag. The laundering instructions should state the temperature it is safe to wash your bag in.
Depending on how filthy your bag is, choose the right temperature but certainly avoid the hot selection. Hot water can cause your bag to shrink or melt especially synthetic bags.
Cooler water will prevent fading in several types of dyes and fabrics. Do not forget to use gentle detergents formulated specifically for cold water.
|Material||Hand Wash||Machine Wash||Temperature||Fabric Softener|
|Cotton bag||15°-40°||One cup|
|Polyester||30°||Should be avoided|
|Mixed materials or spandex||15°||15-20 ml maximum|
Drying Your Sleeping Bag
The goal is to dry the sleeping bag completely. If you have used the washing machine, you can prime your clothes to dry more quickly. Additionally, you can use a high spin setting.
Choose a sunny day to wash your bag and make sure that it is not wet before putting it in the storage package. There are two ways to dry your bag on your own.
Hang drying your sleeping bag
Hang drying is the best method for sturdy items, cotton, polyester, and linen. You can hang it unzipped on a washing line or a horse dryer.
If you want to dry your bag much quicker, you could put your wet zipped sleeping bag in a big towel to absorb moisture.
Leave it for about 40 minutes and then hang it on the horse dryer. Never store a wet sleeping bag. If you have decided to wash it, try to select a sunny day.
It has been proven that sunlight kills dust mites, but there is also the fact that direct sunlight will cause the colors of your sleeping bag to fade. So choose wisely.
Putting Your Sleeping Bag in the Dryer
A dryer is a powered household appliance that could help us dry our bags more quicker. Most sleeping bags are a bit large, and you might not have enough space in your home to hang them dry. If the bag does not dry completely, it could get moldy.
You have to be careful with the dryer. Set the dryer on low heat and use a delicate cycle to maintain the integrity of your sleeping bag.
Sleeping Bag Liners to Keep Them Clean
Sleeping bag liners are not expensive and they keep our sleeping bags clean. Not to mention that they could add valuable degrees of warmth (+ 10°C).
According to the climate, you plan to camp in, you should choose the right material. There are cotton, silk, synthetic, and fleece liners. At the end of each camping trip, simply wash the liner.
Silk sleeping bag liners
Silk liners are more breathable so they should be used during the summer. They are suitable to keep our body dry and cool and can help us relax, as it feels nice on the skin.
Fleece sleeping bag liners
Fleece fabric is the perfect choice if you’re looking for something durable, soft, and Eco-friendly. It is strong, holds warmth, and dries quickly.
It is warm and comfortable, and highly breathable. People who are allergic to wool can use fleece instead. Make sure that you are not close to the campfire because fleece is extremely flammable.
Cotton sleeping bag liners
Cotton is a natural hypoallergenic fiber and does not contain chemicals. This material allows air circulation that discourages fungi from growing in the sleeping bag and offers a high level of ventilation.
Cotton liners can easily absorb body moisture and are durable and strong. Although cotton has poor elasticity and can shrink after washing it.
For a comparison between a down and synthetic sleeping bag, check our earlier piece on this topic.
Health Issues from Dirty Sleeping Bags
Despite the fact that we are spending a third of our lives sleeping, many of us do not pay attention to the right maintenance of our bags.
Camping is an outdoor activity that involves many activities. You are going to get dirty, and your gear as well. Most camping gear is made of synthetic materials.
That means they have the perfect surface and ideal habitats for dust mites, pathogenic germs, and mold. Not to mention the insects, and creepy crawlies, that could carry many diseases.
Insects are hard to avoid in nature, and you can get bitten and the bite might get infected. If you notice small red bites on your skin, those are a sign of ticks, which can transmit a severe disease called Lyme disease, also known as Lyme Borreliosis.
Symptoms include fever, headaches, stiffness, swelling of the joints, bull’s-eye patterned rash, and muscle pain. But you do not have to be bitten by a tick directly to get infected.
The disease could be transmitted to an animal like a squirrel. Fortunately, this can be prevented by washing your sleeping bag to eliminate any fleas that may be dwelling there.
These are microscopic health threats. They are commonly found in mattresses and everything that is padded.
These insects can cause allergies and have been proven to trigger asthma. Lying on a dust mite-infected surface can cause skin problems, which can greatly affect the quality of your camping experience.
After a long camping trip, you may be exhausted and tired. The only thing you want to do is to crawl into your bag and sleep.
Keep in mind that crawling into the bag wearing the same clothes you hiked in is a really bad idea. The materials could absorb all that odors.
Dirt, sweat, mud, body oils, and grime could build up and make the bag smell awful and moldy. If you want to expand your bag’s life and save money, the only thing you have to do is wash it properly.
Many people sleep in their bag many times before washing it, despite the obvious threats that they are exposed to when backpacking or hiking (mud, perspiration, spilled drinks, insects). A well-maintained sleeping bag can help solve hygiene issues.
Once you have to wash it, make sure that it is thoroughly dry before storing it. A wet sleeping bag that you store tends to develop a moldy environment, causing an awful smell. In this case, you have to wash it again.
Cleaning our sleeping bags is a time-consuming procedure that can be avoided by using liners. Once you’ve washed it, put on the liners. They are removable and easier to clean, and there is no need to wash your sleeping bag after every camping trip.
Before leaving for your next adventure, take a look at our must-read article on how to choose the best Nemo Tango solo down comforter sleeping bag.
Do you have any helpful tips for keeping sleeping bags clean? Please share your stories with us in the comments section below.
Daniel is a gear freak when it comes to hiking, climbing and camping. He went to REI Outdoor School to meet new people and learn best practices. Don’t even try to argue with him about the latest backpack or ice axe, he tried most of them. Daniel’s dream is to climb Mount Everest.