Options for cleaning a sleeping bag?

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    Max Dilthey



    Yeah, yeah, I know Google's answer to this question. Mine's specific: I'm at my grandparent's house at the moment, and they have a front-loader! I don't have any Nikwax Down Wash or anything here, though.

    I was considering two options for washing my 15º Mountain Hardwear synthetic bag:

    1. Wash it in cold (warm?) water, nothing else, in the front loader, then hang it out to dry after shaking it out.

    2. Wash it in cold water with Dr. Bronner's Pure Castille soap and then do the same.

    My questions:

    Is the soap a bad idea? I was hoping to clean the bag without causing any damage with harsh chemicals. Some experience or advice would be greatly appreciated!


    Greg Mihalik


    Locale: Colorado

    IMHO castile (oil based) soap doesn't rinse out very well in cold or warm water.

    I recently looked for "soap" of any kind for laundering and failed. I found only detergent.

    There are "mild" detergents – WoolLite – and hopefully you can google some up and find them at the local market. "WoolLite (detergent) is recommended for by some down bag manufactures.

    Low suding detergents rise out easily and should be fine for synthetic, and are usually suggested for the newer front loading washers. There may be some on the self.

    Stephen M
    BPL Member


    Locale: Way up North


    Soap will be fine, wash on a gentle cycle at 30c and rinse twice.

    If you have access to a dryer then stick it on a low heat.

    I would leave it hanging overnight from s banister or over a couple of chairs.

    Its far less grief than washing a down bag.

    Franco Darioli


    Locale: Gauche, CU.

    Pure soap used to be sold over there in flakes
    Lux is a brand we have here (Australia)
    That is Lux Pure Soap Flakes not Lux in general….
    BTW, best not to shake/wring the bag when finished washing.
    Leave it in the tub to drain squeezing gently on it then take outside by moving it into a clothes basket so you don't damage the stitching and stread the weight over the line across not down.

    Greg Mihalik


    Locale: Colorado

    Thanks Franco.

    Searching for "pure soap flakes" does the trick. (In the USA.)
    Glad to know it's coming back.

    Jerry Adams
    BPL Member


    Locale: Oregon and Washington

    why are you washing it? Has it lost loft? Does it just seem dirty?

    Maybe just wipe off the surface with a soapy (detergenty) rag or something?

    M B
    BPL Member


    My suggestion, is to tub wash it by hand.

    DWR coated bags, dont wet out well, trap air when wet, and the bag just kind of floats there sometimes in a washer while the washer spins around it. Even after multiple rinses, I have low confidence in getting all the soap out in a washer.

    By hand you can work the wash thru the bag better IMO.

    hwc 1954


    Down bag should wash fine in a front load washer.

    Get some Woolite — your grandma probably has some or it's sold in every grocery store. That's a mild soap for delicate sweaters. It'll work fine on down.

    Zip the bag and run it through the washer on a gentle setting — no hotter than warm. I'd run a second rinse cycle or just wash it a second time with no soap.

    Put it in the drier on a warm setting with three tennis balls banging around to break up the down clumps. It may take three to four pr five cycles in the dryer to get it dry.

    I would NOT hang a wet sleeping bag to dry. That sounds like a really good way to tear the internal baffles apart. You should be careful to support the weight even when transferring it from the washer to the dryer.

    Mitchell Ebbott


    Locale: SoCal

    Don't use Woolite, it's one of the worst detergents out there for DWR. Find some Atsko sport wash or something like that, it really is the best way to go, and if you can't find that I would just wash it with plain water.

    Ken Larson
    BPL Member


    Locale: Western Michigan

    1. Only use commercial washer and dryers. The reason for this is that most household washers have agitators (pinnacle of plastic that sticks up inside the washing machine) that twist and turn as the machine does it's job; these household washers will rip a down sleeping bag to shreds. Also, the common household dryer is far too small and can melt your gear.
    2. Only use "down soap." This can be purchased at just about any outdoor retail shop.
    3. Prepare the garment by trying to get off all loose dirt, dust, debris, etc.
    4. Once at the Laundromat, place the garment inside a large washing machine and start the machine on gentle cycle, warm water. Double rinse or until clear water drains from item.
    5. Only use about 2/3 the amount of soap that the down-soap-bottle manufacturer suggests, for most down garment manufacturers use somewhat bad down (600-700+ fill), whereas Nunatak only uses the best 800+ fill that can be found, which also means that much less soap is needed when washing the garment or sleeping bag.
    **Once the item is done with the washing cycle it is important to follow the remaining steps very carefully. **
    6. The item will look quite strange once out of the washing machine and through the spin cycle. The down will naturally be all clumped together and water-logged; this is normal, don't freak out. It IS important though, that from now until the item is dry you take very CAREFUL steps in the process of drying.
    7. Before putting the item in the dryer, place in on a flat and clean surface. Take a clean towel and press it against the down jacket to try and soak any excess water out of the down clumps. (Don't press really hard though, just medium resistance) This allows the down to squeeze out any excess water before the drying process begins. Do this for about 10 minutes on a full sized sleeping bag.
    8. Take the item over to the LARGE COMMERCIAL TUMBLE DRYER and place inside. Dryer HEAT OUTPUT VARIES GREATLY from machine to machine. Medium heat is usually sufficient, but use your best judgment. Let it run for5-10 minutes and pull the item out to check the temp and begin step 9-10.
    9. Now that the item has had some time, you want to hand separate the clumps of 800+ fill down, both by patting and gently pulling clumps apart.
    10. Return to the dryer for another 15 minute or so spin. Repeat ad infinitum. Get that bag warm and repeat step8/ 9/10. You might need to do this many times, so really try to get the down in a uniform clump size, so that you can maximize drying surface area. IT'S VERY IMPORTANT THAT YOU DON'T TRY TO USE OBJECTS TO SHORTCUT THE WORK; THE SHOE OR TENNIS BALL MAY TEAR OR DAMAGE THE DOWN GARMENT /SLEEPING BAG.

    hwc 1954


    Marmot recommends the tennis balls for drying their sleeping bags. You need something to break up the down clumps as they dry. I've used tennis balls on down sleeping bags, jackets, gloves, and comforters for 20 years. They work great. In fact, I often throw a piece in the dryer with the tennis balls just to "fluff" the down, even when I'm not washing it.

    He already said that his grandparent's have a FRONT LOAD washer. That means no agitator. Front load washers are fine for sleeping bags. That's why you go to the laundromat. If you got one at home, no problem.

    A home dryer is not going to "melt" a sleeping bag unless maybe you set on ultra-high and leave running for days. If that were the case, you could never use a home dryer to dry a nylon or polyester shirt. The melting temperature of nylon is above 400 degrees F.

    Stephen M
    BPL Member


    Locale: Way up North

    Its a synthetic bag Max is washing, any non bio liquid or soap will work nicely in my experience with synthetic clothing.

    Troy Childs


    Mix woolite dark care detergent and put it in a spray bottle. 10:1 is what I start with but sometimes 6:1 is necessary too.

    Spray woolite lightly on a soft microfiber or 100% Terry cotton towel. Wipe bag clean paying special attention to head and foot areas. Do not soak bag in woolite! Spray on towel and wipe down, folding and turning cloth to clean side as necessary.

    1. Woolite won't harm the dwr or fabric. 6:1 – 10:1
    2. The towel can scuff up the bag. Use 100% Terry cotton or quality soft microfiber towels

    Repeat over time but clean only when necessary.

    Max Dilthey



    The bag is clean! Thanks, everyone!

    FYI, my method:

    I followed the advice here and spent the $10 on Nikwax Down Wash instead of shortcutting. I didn't want to ruin the DWR. I used 2/3 what the manufacturer recommends, as read here, and I put it in for a gentle cycle in my front-loader, 36 minutes.

    Then, I put it in for a "wash" cycle with no soap, another 55 mins.

    Then, I moved it to the dryer and put it in without anything, and let it go for a full 30 min cycle on low heat. I took it out, shook it out a bit, but it was VERY lofty so I stuck it back in for another cycle.

    Finally, I flipped it inside out and hung it overnight across the top bar of my shower. This morning, I'm giving it one more spin in the dryer on low heat just to make sure it's dried through and through.

    Thanks everyone :)

    Taylor K


    I'm totally copying this to the notes on my phone for future reference. After hanging it over the top bar of the shower, did you notice any clumping of the down into either end?

    Max Dilthey



    It's a synthetic bag, but no!

    You could hang it from the hang loops, though.

    JJ Willcoxon


    Locale: Midwest

    I use sport suds for all of my gear now. I do use Nikwax Down Wash for my bags. But, I would feel comfortable using the sport suds, in your position. I'm not sure about availability in your area. You could always next day in some Down Wash from Amazon, if you have a day to spare and really need it washed.

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