Sep 6, 2011 at 7:55 pm #1279005
I've washed down-filled gear a few times in the past, all of them successful. Recently I washed my Marmot Helium. Due to a hectic back-to-school schedule the process ended up being a bit disjointed. I washed the bag at a coin-op laundry in an oversize front-loader, but did the majority of the drying in a residential drier. Furthermore, I wasn't able to 'de-clump' the bag as frequently as I should have. I tried one final 'touch up' in a commercial drier today, but I can't get rid of some small clumps.
As I understand it, the solution likely involves re-washing the bag and doing the drying process properly. What I'm trying to figure out is if I can simply perform a 'rinse' to re-wet the down, then dry it again; or should I included a wash using Down Wash? Seems to me I should avoid unnecessary soap exposure to prevent premature stripping of natural oils etc., but as always I'm curious about the experiences of others and would love some input.
Thanks!Sep 6, 2011 at 8:20 pm #1776748
Have you tried putting tennis balls into the dryer with your bag?
Personally i would just put your dry, clumpy bag back into a big commercial dryer on "no-heat" with a bunch of tennis balls.. like 6 or 10 or as many as you can get.
If the bag is still a tiny bit damp just alternate between no heat and low heat every few minutes.
This has always done the trick for me and my friends.
If this fails to do the trick after 30 minutes, You might have some soap left in the down causing the clumpiness.
Perhaps then you might consider as rinse or re-wash with down soap.Sep 7, 2011 at 5:09 am #1776802
Thanks Matt! I think I'm going to re-do the whole process from scratch, this time washing the bag in my bath tub instead of a machine. I'll post the results.Sep 7, 2011 at 8:33 am #1776846
@richardglyonLocale: Bridger Mountains
Jason, I'd advise hand washing and drying down bags and sweaters, particularly those with today's lightweight fabrics. I've had a bag (more than one) ripped when drying with tennis balls. Picking apart the clumps is tedious but less of a pain than sending a bag out for repairs.
RichardSep 7, 2011 at 8:43 am #1776849
Richard, do you mean air drying and breaking up clumps by hand, or still using a front-load dryer?Sep 7, 2011 at 9:05 am #1776859
@pillowthreadLocale: like, in my head???
I'd advise against a back-to-back double wash, unless your bag had clumps before you washed it, indicating that a good bit of your body oils was already in the down.
I'd definitely do the tennis ball thing before I washed it all over again, as to double-wash it could easily strip too much oil from your down, which is also a regrettable situation.Sep 7, 2011 at 12:01 pm #1776954
@ewolinLocale: Hampton Roads, Virginia
I've washed many down bags and garments by hand in our bathtub. Just be sure NOT to squeeze any part of the item with your hand, just use the flat of your hands to press down to get water to move through it. I've always dried things in our home drier with a few tennis balls thrown in. I've never had problems (except once when I squeezed the garment while washing and got lumps that eventually came out with usage, but didn't in the drier).Sep 7, 2011 at 12:40 pm #1776967
@dwambaughLocale: Pacific Northwest
Do remove the goose first ;)
+1 on using tennis balls and no-heat tumble again. If that doesn't work, I would run it though a rinse cycle and dry again with the tennis balls and low heat in a big dryer. I don't think a full wash cycle with detergent is needed and is just more stress on the materials.Sep 7, 2011 at 1:11 pm #1776986
@richardglyonLocale: Bridger Mountains
Jason – yes, use a front load dryer. Hand drying still requires removing the clumps. After that I air dry them. RichardSep 7, 2011 at 2:31 pm #1777018
@hikinggrannyLocale: Gateway to Columbia River Gorge
I did very well following the directions on the Western Mountaineering website, including the products they specify. I was able to use my DIL's extra large capacity frontloading washer (with extra delicate cycle) and dryer. No tennis balls were needed. It did take most of the day, though–I started by running a wash through the empty machine to remove detergent residue at 10 am. The sleeping bag wasn't completely dry until 9 pm.
The bag actually came out with a bit more loft than when it was new!
Be sure to renew the DWR on the shell when you wash!
I agree with removing the goose, tee hee!Sep 8, 2011 at 4:10 am #1777239
Well, I'm almost done getting this bag dried again. I re-rinsed it at home in the bathtub, and ran it through an oversized front-loader at the local coin-op laundry. However, I ran out of time last night (they close at 11pm). So I've carefully draped the bag over some furniture in my living room with my jumbo floor fan pointed at it all night. Hopefully this will keep the drying process happening until I can get back to the laundromat today . . . somewhere in all of this I've got classes to attend!Sep 8, 2011 at 4:32 am #1777240
@swearingenLocale: Portland, Oregon
Wow, tennis balls? Really? Doesn't seem like they'd have enough mass to do any good. I've always washed my bags and jackets by hand in the tub, then dried them in my dryer at home on low heat with a pair of clean tennis shoes tossed in. The shoes are LOUD banging around in there, and sometimes they'll knock the dryer door open, but they sure get the job done. Never had any damage to the bags either. It does take many hours though.
GSep 8, 2011 at 5:31 am #1777249
– -K.T.- –Participant
Tennis balls have enough mass for the task at hand. Shoes on the other hand would make me nervous with the lightweight shell fabrics used these days. Overkill.Sep 8, 2011 at 1:41 pm #1777448
I opted to use a half dozen new tennis balls in the dryer along with the bag. To be honest, I'm NOT convinced they do much, but at the rate I'm going through quarters at the laundromat I figure it can't hurt. My bag's now almost 100% dry, but I'll run it in the dryer a little more tonight (after another hour of lecture) to finish it off. I've been using the giant front-loaders, set to medium heat. I have stopped it mid-cycle to check temperatures, and low heat was effectively 'no heat' and medium turns out to be quite low temp. Perhaps a tactic to get patrons to pump in more coins?Sep 8, 2011 at 9:05 pm #1777615
Okay, I've now dropped $60 in quarters at the local coin-op, attended my bag diligently between cycles during all my free time for the past two days, and STILL my bag has clumps that won't go away. I've spent HOURS now carefully breaking them up by hand, and I just don't have the spare time to continue. Has anyone else experienced this? I was careful to rinse the bag 3 times by hand, and once more in a front-load washer. I can't figure out what's not working here.
I'm literally out of time for this little project, and am thinking I'll leave the mostly-dry bag in front of a large fan at home. Going through the bag to get all the tiny clumps takes 45 minutes + each time. Can I just leave it to finish drying? Again, it's mostly dry, but full of tiny clumps here and there.Sep 8, 2011 at 9:34 pm #1777629
any tips on tub washing down gear?
also, has anyone used these instead of tennis balls? recommended or?
http://www.amazon.com/Nellies-Nellie%2592s-Dryer-Balls/dp/B0009IB6T2Sep 8, 2011 at 9:35 pm #1777630
This is truly bizarre.
This demands a bizarre solution.
I recommend sleeping in your bag every night.. even at home.
Actually I am currently sleeping in my MLD Spirit Quilt 30 every night. I don't know what it is, but after 400 bag nights in the last 3 years i can't get use to the feeling of sheets anymore.
I am thinking that using your bag at this point might de-clump whats left.
The Marmot Helium is a solid bag.
I have two Western Mountaineering bags myself but a lot of my PCT buddies used the Helium and from what they tell me it was fine after laundering.
Sleep in it for a week at home and see if that doesn't fix it up.
Post script: I just re-read you last post. You say the bag is "mostly dry".
This is unusual. If you spent 60 bucks on a dryer on medium heat the thing should be dryer than the Mojave.
At this point i would set the bag out in the sunshine during the day and sleep in it at night.
If it is still wet, the sun during the day combined with your body heat and thrashing at night will surely do the trick.
By the way, I learned a trick from my thru hiker buddies. Even when you sleep in a down bag every night with a sweaty dirty body for months, the majority of the dirt and oil is simply on the surface of shell's inside fabric.
My buddy Daylate (PCT09) and Piper (PCT08,09) both simply washed the shell of their bags by wiping it with a damp soapy cloth and set the bag in the sun to dry.
They only wash their bag thoroughly once in 2,665 miles or about 140 bag nights.
I do the same.
Unless you spill soup in your bag.. or other things (i had giardiasis for 2 weeks on the PCT.. enough said) you should wash a down bag sparingly to preserve the natural oils in the down.
The sun has the amazing power to de-stink-ify even the stinkiest bag.
Trust the sun!Sep 8, 2011 at 10:01 pm #1777644
@nodiakLocale: Humboldt County coast, CA.
I've found them to be helpful and know their products. Fwiw i wash and dry down bags while keeping them in their large cotton storage bag to keep water weight stresses to a minimum. Started doing double rinses. 5-6 hours drying usually. Maybe not drying in one stage caused the excessive clumping?Sep 9, 2011 at 12:10 pm #1777819
So as suggested I emailed Marmot Mountain Canada today, and they promptly responded by asking me to send the bag in. I've put it in the mail, and it should get there late next week. Hopefully they can solve it somehow . . . . I really wasn't intending for this to be a 'warranty' type thing at all, that bag's been a lot of places with me and I hope it will be on many many more adventures.Sep 9, 2011 at 1:09 pm #1777831
What brand of down wash did you useSep 9, 2011 at 2:42 pm #1777871
I used Nikwax Down Wash. I've used it many times before with other bags, jackets etc.. I should note that I simultaneously washed my Patagonia Down Sweater while doing the Helium, and it came out like new the first time. So I'm still perplexed by why the clumps won't come out of the bag.Sep 10, 2011 at 4:47 am #1778050
@jamesdmarcoLocale: Finger Lakes
I hope there is nothing wrong with the fill. But down is not that hard to wash, or, to dry. A little knowledge and some care is all that is needed. I think you did things mostly OK, but you may have missed one step.
I used to tie flies and subject my maribou plumes (a type of down) to relativly high heat during dying and and drying. Wood duck, mallard, and goose were also used, a bit. Anyway, heat up to about 200F does not bother a down plume. I was told to not boil the feathers, but heat and hot water was OK. I belive this was to protect the skin the feathers were attached to since it became brittle. In a sleeping bag, of course, the synthetics will start softening at about 120F. Plastics in general will distort permanently at 150F (Hot water,) depending on the type (the chemical make up) of plastic. Light heat or no heat, depending on your washer/dryer set up, should be fine. BTW, I still use a tea kettle with steam heat to revive hackles on dry flies and perk up & straighten down plumes on streamers. They do not become brittle, nor degrade even at the high temps of steam (212F+.)
Soaps and Detergents:
As long as it was never subjected to any type of detergent, you should be fine. Detergents and soaps are about the same thing, I guess. But soaps do not have the strength to pull the natural oils out of the plumes. Detergent does. Even some soaps can, so use caution. And, use half as much, or even a third as much of a dedicated soap, ie down wash. It will still clean a bag pretty effectivly but will leave stains. After many (at least 50-100) washings it will do noticable damage, though. Typically, for a bag that is used a lot (more than 30 nights per year) this means at 2 washings per year it will last at least 25 years with no noticable damage. Using a detergent once (or having residue left in a comercial washer) will do damage every time. Detergent will strip the lanolin-like oils out of a plume leaving it brittle. The barbules will break free and may clump even dry, as you are seeing. The easiest way to destroy a good down bag is to wash it incorrectly, once. To my knowledge, there is no way to repair this type of damage. I will GUESS that Marmot will add more down or simply replace the bag, if they determine that this was the cause of the clumping. (This is my guess, but only a guess, and was probably not your doing, Jason…see below.)
Dryer Balls vs Sun drying:
Low or no heat with 2 dryer balls, or tennis balls) works fine. Both in commercial dryers (unpredictable heat) and at home. This will break up any clumping. Mostly the clean dry plumes will pick up an electrostatic charge and repel each other. So, declumping is usually a built in process. This also helps a bird in cold dry air to "fluff" it's down keeping it warmer. A clean dry bag should loft at or slightly more than the rated loft due to the static electricity in the down plumes. Out on the trail, it almost never does. The slight banging by the balls only helps the plumes do what they want, ie separate. Using the bag 'may' help with your clumps, but, they should have naturally separated. Sun drying is OK, in a pinch. The UV will kill bacteria (the source of the smell) and degrade any food for them. It will also degrade the synthetics in the shell. Soo, use this with caution. I reserve this for on the trail. Heavy weights, sneakers for example, can break the internal baffles, damage zippers, rip pockets and hoods, loosen seams, etc. I do not use this methode on my bags, though some have had no problems with it.
Just to be complete, Jason. I know that you are well beyond this. Any washing machine without vanes is fine. A couple years back we purchased a new washer without vanes. I tried my jacket, it worked fine. For the past few years I have been washing my bags at home. If you use a comercial washer, clean it and check for any buring inside(dryers, too.) Check to insure that ALL the detergent residue has been cycled through it. This may mean a couple dollars in quarters, but, it is worth it to protect your bag. Choose a machine that is level. Often these machines are off level. This will mean that the sump may collect small amounts of detergent water and build up a rind. Generally, you cannot fix this. Every wash done in that machine will have some detergent in it, soo, choose a different machine. Again, washing a down bag with detergent once can destroy the down plumes. I suspect this may have been what happened, Jason. Again, not you fault if thay cannot keep the machines level. Drying should be thurough…twice or three times more than normal bedding. Our down bed quilt is cotton covered and more than 5 years old. It gets washed 4 or more times a year and dryed on high at home with no problems. Down itself is rugged and durable.
Handle wet down like a baby. Fold it or roll it while it is in the washer, never lifting more than is necessary. Slip both hands under it, spreading your fingers and move it to the open dryer. Incorrect handling can break internal baffles and loosen seams. Carefuly, unroll it there and dry it with a couple dryer balls.
Anyway, these are some breif notes on washing down. To summarize: No vanes in washers, clean and level, use small amounts of very mild soap (downwash,) double (if available) or tripple rinse the bag (another cycle,) handle wet bags carefully, use the hotest heat your shell material can withstand safely, add light weight tennis balls (or porcupine dryer balls), stop and fluff it after it has mostly dryed. Dry it thuroughly, and take it home and hang it. It should not be a hard or long drawn out process like you went through, Jason. There is something wrong somewhere.
Marmot may never tell you what they did. Anyway, please keep us posted. Thanks!Oct 4, 2011 at 11:25 am #1786563
Thanks for all the responses. I finally received my bag back from Marmot, in what I consider to be very good time. However, that's where the good news ends.
The bag remains really clumpy, and there's now an appreciable loss of loft. In some places the down has shifted, leaving areas essentially unfilled and others overstuffed. Enclosed in the box was a short letter explaining that that (I quote):
'The drycleaner was able to "declump" your down. I, personally, have my sleeping bags drycleaned, it doesn't cost much and is a way better job (in less time) than I can do'
Not to put too fine a point on this, but my bag has come back in worse condition than what I sent in. Marmot Canada is also indicating that they prefer dry-cleaning for goose down. Weird, right?
I've been trying to get in touch with Marmot in the US, as I don't think my concern was addressed in a competent way. I honestly think my sleeping bag didn't get looked at to ensure that A)the bag looked good and the down was where it should be, and B)that my concern regarding clumping had been addressed, before it was shipped back to me.
I know Marmot Canada is essentially a distributor and not the manufacturer, so I'm trying to get in touch with Marmot USA.Oct 4, 2011 at 12:48 pm #1786616
@rmkrauseLocale: Pacific Northwest
I'm really confused on the note – Western Mountaineering and Feathered Friends both explicitly state not to dry clean:
Did Marmot Canada charge you anything? Does the letter provide contact info for either the dry cleaner or the Marmot rep stating they prefered dry cleaning?
Feathered Friends does have a down washing service – obviously go after Marmot, but maybe keep FF in mind.Oct 4, 2011 at 12:48 pm #1786617
I don't think they were suggesting to dry clean down, since everything I've read has said that the chemicals used for dry cleaning will completely damage the down's natural coating. I believe most dry cleaners will just run it through the wash the same as you would on your own, but they would charge you for the time.
It's a shame the bag is still "damaged". Have you tried calling and talking to them directly about it and your concerns?
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