How to Wash a Sleeping Bag in a Washing Machine? [Detailed Guide]

how to wash a sleeping bag in a washing machine

Last updated on April 12th, 2023 at 02:06 pm

Many of us enjoy a cozy relationship with our sleeping bags and we would like them to last for many years. Thankfully, this can be made possible with proper care and cleaning. So, if you are wondering how you can wash your sleeping bag with a washing machine, here’s how. 

Both a front-loading machine and a top-loading machine without an agitator can be used. Ensure you use just enough soap and rinse it more than twice to remove all soap residue. The sleeping bag should be washed in a gentle cycle. 

Machine washing a sleeping bag is not as complicated as many like to think. Here’s more on how to do so.

How to wash a sleeping bag in a washing machine 

how to wash a sleeping bag in a washing machine
Source – pelican.com

Cleaning sleeping bags depends on whether they are synthetic or down filling. Generally, down sleeping bags require more attention and time taken into cleaning them. for this reason, many campers with down sleeping bags opt to take them to professional cleaners. However, you can also do it yourself. 

Spot cleaning the sleeping bag

The sleeping bag does not always have to get a full wash– sometimes it just requires a little spot cleaning. It is important to remember that constant washing subjects your sleeping bag to wear and tear. It also decreases the loft, and the bag will not perform optimally. 

Therefore, spot cleaning is a good idea. You will only need a non-detergent soap, water, and a toothbrush for shell cleaning. From here, focus on the areas that are more exposed to skin and hair oils such as the hood and collar. 

This should be done meticulously by holding the shell away from the insulation to keep the inside from getting wet. The sleeping bag rarely gets extremely dirty, so it should take a few years before needing a complete wash. 

Washing your sleeping bag 

If you notice that your sleeping bag has darkened with grime, it needs a full wash. Refer to any manufacturer’s instructions on washing usually on the draft tube or tag. You can opt to clean the bag at the large commercial machines. Here, use a non-detergent soap that is suitable for washing items filled with synthetic or down. 

Ensure you do not use any bleach, fabric softener, or other bleach products on the bag. Also, ensure that you use a top-loading machine without an agitator. The agitator tends to rip off the seams on the sleeping bag. The sleeping bag is not to be dry cleaned. The solvents that are used for dry cleaning tend to remove the natural oils from down that maintain its loftiness. 

Machine washing a sleeping bag 

Unless otherwise stated by the manufacturer, most sleeping bags can be machine washed. However, the washing machine should strictly be a front-loading or a top-loading without an agitator.

The size of the washing machine is also an important factor. Some of them may be too small to give the sleeping bag enough room to clean thoroughly. 

The washing machine is set on a gentle cycle, and warm or cold water and an appropriate soap are added. The soap used should be in little proportions to avoid over-sudsing. You can add in other items that need washing to balance off the spin of the machine. 

To remove all the soap residue, you are advised to rinse the bag twice. Alternatively, you can run it through another wash and rinse cycle that is soap-free. 

Ways to keep your sleeping bag clean in camp

Whether the sleeping bag is down or synthetic, proper care goes a long way in extending its useful life. You always want to have a clean, dry, and warm sleeping bag for your camping experience. Here are a few tips that you can adopt to ensure you take care of your sleeping bag to serve you for the long haul. 

Ensure you sleep in clean clothes

Camping can be exhausting, but it is important to try not to crawl into your sleeping bag with the same hiking clothes. With time, your body oils, dirt, and sweat accumulate, robbing the sleeping bag of its insulating power. Change into clean clothes and have on a clean bandana or knit cap to prevent your oily hair from damaging the hood. Also, do a quick washup of your face and neck to wipe off any sunscreen. 

Use a sleeping bag liner

The liners are available in wool, polyester, cotton, or silk and are considerably lightweight. These help to keep the sleeping bag clean since they form a barrier between the bag and your skin. Moreover, they serve to add around 5 to 15 degrees Fahrenheit to the bag’s actual rating. 

Keep your bag from the ground

Do not directly place your sleeping bag on the ground. If you want to sleep under the stars, you can first put a sleeping pad beneath the bag. Also, some of the sleeping bags come with a durable waterproof fabric on the bottom that needs protection from sharp sticks. 

How often should you clean your sleeping bag? 

While cleaning your sleeping bag is important, over-washing it might do more harm than good. If you consistently used your sleeping bag, you can wash it at least once a year.

It is important to note that the accumulation of dirt, oils, and grime adversely affect the performance of the sleeping bag. After some time, you will have to give it a full wash.

On the minimum side, you can wash your sleeping once a year. Often, they do not always require a full wash to keep them clean—spot cleaning may suffice. It is not advisable to wash the sleeping bag after every trip, otherwise, they will become easily damaged. 

Moreover, it is important to follow the right guide on how to clean your sleeping properly to prevent further damage. 

Can you wash your sleeping bag with a top-loading washing machine? 

Thankfully, sleeping bags can be machine washed. Preferably, you can use the front-loading commercial washer. However, if you do not have that option, it is okay to load it in a top-loading washing machine.

However, the machine should not have an agitator which can otherwise strain or rip the seams off the sleeping bag.

Another thing to be keen on is that non-detergent soap is used when washing a sleeping bag, whether it is handwashing or using a washing machine. Do not use a regular washing detergent on your sleeping bag. The regular detergents tend to alter the working of the insulation and easily form clumps.

How long do you soak a sleeping bag in water? 

When handwashing the sleeping bag, you will have to let the bag soak in water for a while. After filling the tub with warm or cool water, add the appropriate soap, and then lay the bag in the water. Ensure the soap is worked throughout the bag, and then let it soak for about one hour. 

The tub is then drained, and water is pressed out from the sleeping bag. Afterward, refill the tub with warm or cool water and let the bag sit again for 15 minutes


With proper care and cleaning, your sleeping bag can last for a long time and perform optimally. Hopefully, the tips above will guide you on how to properly wash your sleeping bag. 

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