Sep 26, 2009 at 10:02 am #1239652
During several long trips I have had my sleeping bags in constant use.
Overall I have slept in each my WM Ultralight and Summerlight at least 360 days in a row. Both sleeping bags have suffered. There is not much loft left and the down has clumped together. Shaking the sleeping bag does not help a lot any more.
I am back home now preparing my next trip and wonder what to do with the bags:
I could dry clean the bags and hope to get much more life out of them or save the money for dry cleaning and buy a new bag. In other words: Dry cleaning only seems to make sense if I have not reached the end of the bag's life expectancy. I do not want to waste money for dry cleaning if there is no hope of improving the situation.
What is your experience? How much use can a high quality sleeping bag stand before it is beyond repair?
Thanks for any input,
ChristineSep 26, 2009 at 10:08 am #1530764
@arichardson6Locale: North East
I have never used my Ultralight to that extent, but as far as my reading has taught me, you should be able to wash the bag in your bathtub or front load washer than put it in a big dryer with some tennis balls and it should be as good as new. check out the western mountaineering site for care instructions. Good down bags should last like 10 years or so. I think you just need to clean yours to remove the oils and such that are causing the down to clump.Sep 26, 2009 at 10:10 am #1530765
Have you tried putting the sleeping bag in the dryer with 2-3 tennis balls and running it on the "no-heat" cycle? This seems to work like a charm in getting that loft back.Sep 26, 2009 at 10:34 am #1530773
Christine, your bags are fine… just need a good washing. They'll last 20 years, easy. Don't dry clean, the chemicals are generally too harsh for down. The reason your down is all clumped up is that you have too much of your own body oils built up on it.
My WM Antelope had lost a lot of loft; I washed it once, dried it thoroughly, and it still didn't loft well, still a bit clumpy. I called WM; they said to wash it a couple more times. I washed it in one cycle, left it in the machine, washed it another cycle, then dried it thoroughly again. As good as new! You don't want to overwash a down bag, but you do need to wash it every now and then!
Use a down soap, get a few rolls of quarters, and go to your good local laundromat. Use a front loader only, triple loader. I throw in a couple towels to weight the bags a bit (they tend to float on top of the wash water otherwise). Leave the bags unzipped to allow water to penetrate easily. Run the wash. Since your bags are so bad, you might want to cycle it three times, fresh soap each time. Very gently take the bags out of the washer, put in a centrifuge. From centrifuge into dryer on low heat. I like two big tube socks with two tennis/racquet balls in each. Dry thoroughly. You'll be there just short of forever… I do encourage thorough machine drying; I've seen many partial dries that end up with the down still clumpy.
Down is really great stuff, but you do need to take care of it and maintain it.Sep 26, 2009 at 12:33 pm #1530793
@halfturboLocale: Northernish California
I finally decided my Ultralite needed decon after perhaps 150-200 nights since new (far fewer than yours, to be sure). I washed it in our front-loader using down soap and it rebounded quite a bit, not to mention smelled rather better. I can't verify loft versus new, but it's still a legitimate 20-degree bag and the shell is fine.
It's likely your bags can recover much, if not most of their initial loft with proper cleaning. It can definitely be a DIY task but if you're nervous, there are commercial outfits that safely clean down gear. WM bags certainly warrant the effort.
RickSep 26, 2009 at 12:46 pm #1530795
As long as you take care of them and its a quality bag it should last a lifetime. That said, I could see some of the newer ultralight nylons failing before the down, maybe the Montbell elastic thread might fail.
I have a top of the line Snowlion sleeping bag, 850+ down, V baffles etc, that I bought in 1977. It still has 10" of loft in the chest area. A bit less in the legs, but its been rolled for quite a while.
Also it has better/heavier YKK zippers and heavier 1.9 oz ripstop.
Wash your bag with the proper soap and it should spring back.
I also have a Snowlion polargard parka that I bought in the 70's Its still 100%, but I dont stuff it. Got a lot of snags in it, that I just patched. Just repaired the pockets and other misc stuff. Its good to go too.Sep 26, 2009 at 1:36 pm #1530812
Thanks for the quick replies! I have to admit that I was not aware of the fact that the cause of clumping is a build up in body oil. I had assumed that the down has been damaged by too much use.
I had heard of the tennis ball washing procedure but had also read that the tennis balls might damage the down. Putting the tennis balls in socks seems a very good idea. It is good to get advice from someone who has actually tried it – with success.
I will try washing the bags now and hope for equally good success.
ChristineSep 26, 2009 at 1:44 pm #1530814
I've got about 800 nights on my Marmot Helium and I've washed it two or three times myself and once professionally. I find washing the bag myself to be a huge pain in the ass. I requires being around the dryer for six or so hours. One time I sent the bag back to Marmot and they washed it before they repaired it. It came back lofted like it was new. Their professional washing service was MUCH better than what I achieve doing it myself. For ~$15, I'd let a pro do it.Sep 26, 2009 at 2:01 pm #1530821
I don't find washing/drying bags to be a pain at all. Quite simple and easy. As to how long it takes to dry, I just make the best of the time. It gives me an excuse to play those inevitable old arcade games at the laundromat. Or read a book I keep putting off because I have other things to do. I do like a nice stout decanted into my coffee mug, though ;)Sep 26, 2009 at 4:50 pm #1530851
@danepackerLocale: Mojave Desert
Never dry clean a down bag. Dry cleaning strips ALL oils off the downplumules, including the natural oils from the original owner of the down (the goose) and you permenantly lose loft.
Washing with a soap specifically made for down is the best route(not a detergent of any kind). Even the largest home dryers are not big enough. Use a laundromat drier set on LOW. Toddler's clean tennis shoes are better for breaking up damp clumps of down than tennis balls but you can use both. Take a lot of quarters and good book like War and Peace to read while the bag is drying.
In the future always wear a "sleeping only" T shirt or long johns, weather permitting,in the bag to keep (most of) your body oils from getting into the bag and exend the time between washings.
EricSep 27, 2009 at 1:09 am #1530931
See PHD's page on cleaning: http://www.phdesigns.co.uk/cleaningdown.php
How about silk pyama's for the future? They are ultralight, add warmth, and protect the bag.Sep 27, 2009 at 2:54 am #1530936
@rcaffinLocale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
> How about silk pyama's for the future?
Buy or MYOG
CheersSep 28, 2009 at 4:22 pm #1531275
Just a comment… I also use and recommend body covers to keep sleeping bags cleaner. I'm always either in my silk sleeping bag or in long johns. But they don't eliminate dirty bags for me. Generally it's the head region of the bag that gets grody and looses loft. It comes from my face, beard, neck and sometimes uncovered head grease. This is pretty disgusting to talk about :)Sep 29, 2009 at 9:41 am #1531425
@crgowoLocale: Desert SW
Do silk pjs or bag liners really work? Since they are pretty thin, I would think the body oils would go right through them.Sep 29, 2009 at 7:19 pm #1531612
I finally sold mine on eBay after thirty years. Some guy in France bought it. Not sure why he wanted it. I couldn't get the 550 cubic inch loft to rebound and the 1.9 ounce nylon shell felt like tissue paper after my sister in law dry cleaned poison ivy from it; I'd loaned it to my nephew.
Many fond memories with that bag…sometimes I wish I'd kept the thing.Sep 29, 2009 at 8:14 pm #1531619
I have wshed my own bags and have had other bags cleaned professionally. If there is someone who knows what they are doing, I think it is worth paying to have it done right. I one dried a bag in a laudramat machine that had small burrs in the metal drum. It left tiny cuts in the fabric. I was pretty disapponted.Sep 30, 2009 at 12:46 pm #1531836
@hikin_jimLocale: Orange County, CA, USA
Jack H wrote: >
Just a comment… I also use and recommend body covers to keep sleeping bags cleaner. I'm always either in my silk sleeping bag or in long johns. But they don't eliminate dirty bags for me. Generally it's the head region of the bag that gets grody and looses loft. It comes from my face, beard, neck and sometimes uncovered head grease. This is pretty disgusting to talk about :)
A lightweight balaclava does wonders. I sleep in socks, long john top and bottom and a fleece cap or better still a balaclava. I minimize the amount of skin to bag contact as much as is reasonably possible.Sep 30, 2009 at 12:58 pm #1531845
@retropumpLocale: The Antipodes of La Coruna
"A lightweight balaclava does wonders. I sleep in socks, long john top and bottom and a fleece cap or better still a balaclava. I minimize the amount of skin to bag contact as much as is reasonably possible."
This is fine in cold weather, but not comfortable in warmer weather. In warm weather I just count on my pillow keeping most of my hair off the hood, and not cinching the bag around my face to keep the rest of the bag clean. In colder weather my head and face are usually covered with something to keep me warm, but this also protects the bag when cinched tight. A very light base layer (top and bottom) is always worn, though for seriously warm weather I have a 3 oz bivy bag that I just lie on top of my bag and sleep on that, minus the base layer!
I also just plan on washing my bags ~ every 2 years. It definitely revives it.Sep 30, 2009 at 3:44 pm #1531908
@rcaffinLocale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
> Generally it's the head region of the bag that gets grody and looses loft. It comes from my face, beard, neck and sometimes uncovered head grease.
In summer my quilt doesn't cover my head, but my silk PJs have a hood anyhow.
In winter I often wear a fleece cap covering head and ears, and my quilt goes lightly over the top.
My pillow has a very light poly-cotton cover over it – that cover gets washed after every trip.
The way a hood on a SB gets dirty is when your head lies on it, squashing the down flat. Seems like a waste of down to me anyhow.
CheersSep 30, 2009 at 4:12 pm #1531921
@retropumpLocale: The Antipodes of La Coruna
"The way a hood on a SB gets dirty is when your head lies on it, squashing the down flat. Seems like a waste of down to me anyhow."
Certainly a waste of down in warm weather. However when the weather turns unexpectedly (or even predicatbly) cold, it's nice to have the option of placing the pillow (actually a neck roll in my case) underneath the hood rather than inside, and bundling up into one warm package. When a neck roll is used like this, the only down that gets compressed is under the neck. The rest of the head gets unimpeded loft. Of course, if you don't sleep on your back, or use a whopping big head engulfing pillow, this won't work!Sep 30, 2009 at 4:26 pm #1531929
looks like it has been covered… BUT NEVER DRY CLEAN YOUR DOWN BAG!
I have seen many ruined this way. If you have the time and the patience… it really isn't too difficult to hand wash.Sep 30, 2009 at 4:28 pm #1531933
Ditto on liking a hood, even if it doesn't get used all the time. I'm not a fan of quilts and won't be giving them yet another shot any time soon. Don't know about that whole "neck roll" poppycock. I'll be sticking with my jacket as a pillow. Or if I'm wearing that, my shoes. Or if those are wet, my pile of first aid kit, compass, water purification and other doodads. I'm a sad boy on nights like that :(Oct 2, 2009 at 8:40 am #1532423
@snusmumrikenLocale: SF Bay Area
This thread inspired me to wash my favorite down bag, a North Face Hightail, that I've had for several years.
The bag showed some grime around the hood, smelled a bit funky, it was definitely time for a wash. I'd been putting it off though, scared that I'd ruin the bag.
Took it to the laundromat, washed it with down soap on warm / delicate setting, then let the washing mashine go through a second cycle with no soap on cold so as to give it a thourough rinse. Carefully lifted the washed bag into the dryer. The wet bag was so small, tiny.
Let it spin in the dryer on warm / delicate for an hour and a half. It puffed up something wild, almost filling the whole dryer. Then I took it home and discovered a clump of wet down. Put it in my home dryer for another two and a half hours.
The result is beautiful. The bag now has lofted up significantly. I was so surprised, I measured the loft. It ranges from 5 to almost 8 inches, with an average well over 6. I'm so pleased.
Big thanks to everybody who encourage the OP to wash their bag. It's definitely doable. Trick just seems to be access to a dryer that you can run for a loooong time.Oct 2, 2009 at 10:46 am #1532474
@akajutLocale: Central Oklahoma
I have been happy sleeping in a Terramar Thermasilk top and bottom to keep my bag cleaner. They also make sleeping more enjoyable if your skin is sticking together. The pair weight 6.6 ounces.
I have been wondering if there is anything that would help between washings. Febreeze might help with odors??? Is there anything that one could spray on a cloth to wipe down the insides to pick up some extra body oils from the bag?Oct 3, 2009 at 11:59 pm #1532814
Thanks everyone for your replies! All I have to do now is wash my bags….
Unfortunately, I – as almost anyone else in Germany – do not have a dryer at home. That means I am in for a very long stay at a laundromat. At least I can do 2 bags at the same time. And it is still cheaper than having it dry cleaned or buying a new bag.
Thanks again and greetings from Germany,
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