How to Clean a Sleeping Bag

How to Clean a Sleeping BagAnyone who's ever camped with kids or been on a long overnight trip with friends knows how dirty a sleeping bag can get even in a few days in the woods. Keeping your bags clean makes packing up to head out a lot easier, and takes just a few minutes during your unpacking time.


Difficulty: Easy

Step 1
When packing up to return home, make sure you shake the bag out to remove leaves, dirt and rocks before rolling it up, and don't roll it up if the material is damp--simply fold loosely and it carry back.
Step 2
When you're home and ready to clean up, it's a good idea to start washing your bag as you unpack your other supplies. This gives you time to wash everything in one unpacking, rather than letting dirt and moisture build up on the bag until you have time to wash it.
Step 3
Shake the bag out again and unzip it completely. In the washing machine, wash (one bag at a time) in cold water on the delicate cycle, usually for only 10 to 12 minutes, on the smallest load setting. Use a mild or chemical-free detergent, and don't soak the bags before washing. If you have a stain, food spill or other dirty spot, scrub that area before washing with a mild soap.
Step 4
When the cycle is finished, immediately remove the bag. It is always best to line-dry sleeping bags, preferably outdoors where the wind and sun can help ensure they dry out completely. You can use a clothesline, porch railing or other support to hang them up. At least 3 days of drying is recommended, particularly if it's not a warm season or if there's been little or no wind.
Step 5
You can tumble dry a sleeping bag in a clothes dryer, but there are several reasons not to do this. First, using even low heat can melt the plastic clasps, zippers and laminate materials on the bag--always use the lowest or no-heat setting on the dryer. Secondly, the dryer will cause the stuffing inside the bag to bunch up and move around, distributing the padding unevenly. This cannot really be fixed once it's happened without taking the material apart and re-flattening the stuffing, and will make for an uneven, uncomfortable sleeping surface the next time you head out.
Step 6
When the bag is completely dry, zip it back up and roll it up properly for storage. Most bags benefit from being tightly rolled up after washing; this allows the bags to stay clean and dry while not being used. Store in a cool, well-ventilated area, and if you've stored them over a few months, wash them again before taking them out to remove any dust or mold that has built up on the material.

Article Written By Emily Elder

Emily works as a Greenway coordinator and parks project manager in her local community, and has been hiking, camping, fishing and riding all over the mountains of western North Carolina. She enjoys being outside with her family, especially her two children, Creedence and Mason, and her husband, James, and lives on a small farm surrounded by the Blue Ridge Mountains.

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