If you are travel buff like us, we are sure you are spending more time in your sleeping bag or pad than your actual bedroom. But do you give it the care and attention it needs?
Has your sleeping pad/bag lost the loftiness and warmth it once had? Is it covered with grime and dirt all around? By leaving it unwashed, you are compromising both comfort and durability of one of most essential and expensive hiking gear. So here is what you need to do right away.
You can have it washed at a laundry service. But if you do not want the added expense here is how to wash a sleeping bag at home.
Note: Whether the bag is machine-safe or needs to be hand washed will be given on the label. But generally speaking, hand-wash is by far the safer and more gentle option.
How to wash a sleeping bag in a Washing Machine?
Thanks to washing machines, wearing clean clothes daily doesn’t take up tons of your time and effort and it works like magic for a sleeping bag as well. Below are a few things to keep in mind when machine washing the bag.
Have the right soap
Standard soaps and detergents can damage the material resulting in tears, loss of loftiness etc. You want something that is gentle on down or synthetic filled bags and pads.
And luckily, most of these soaps are readily available online or your everyday supermarkets. The instruction on the back of the soap bottle should tell you about the quantity needed for a spic and span sleeping bag.
Tip: Stay as far as away as you can from bleach and fabric softeners as their residue can have a detrimental effect on the synthetic or down material.
Use the right washing machine
Like the soap, even the washing machine needs to be gentle on the bag. For this reason, we recommend using a front load washing machine over a top load model.
Use cold water and set the machine on the delicate setting so it goes easy on the bag.
Turn the bag inside out so the machine rinses off all the body sweat, odor, oil etc. (applicable only if the bag has a waterproof lining). Also, remember to close all zipped and Velcro pockets.
Along with the bag, throw in 2-3 tennis balls as well. These will take the brunt of all the bouncing making sure no damage comes to the internal cushioning.
Run a second cycle using the same settings but do not add any soap. The objective here is to rinse out any remaining soap on the bag
In case you find the bag to still of soap residue on it, run another cycle.
When taking the bag out of the washer, do not pull from one end as it can lead to loosening of the threading or tears.
Remove excess water by gently pressing down on the bag. Rolling it up and pressing on it will also help squeeze out the water, in turn, drying the bag faster.
Washing the Sleeping Bag by Hand
If your sleeping bag only allows for a hand wash, then here’s what you need to do.
Fill up a bathtub with cold water and soap. For the soap, the rules remain the same. Look for one that is gentle on synthetic or down material.
Once the soap mixes with the water, lay the sleeping bag flat into the tub but make sure you close all zippers before doing so.
Now, get in the tub and just like a good masseuse, gently walk on the pad/bag. Continue to do so for 4-5 minutes until the bag is completely soaked.
Once done, drain out the soapy water and fill in some more cold water (but this time do not add soap).
Gently walk on it again to remove the soap residue. Continue the process till all of the soap is eliminated.
When the soap residue is out, roll it up and squeeze the water out of it. Avoid twisting and turning the bag as it can create lumps or tears.
How to Spot Cleaning the sleeping bag?
If your sleeping bag is relatively new and is dirty at only particular spots, then spot cleaning is all that is needed.
One of the most common ‘hotspots’ of the bag will be the lining close to the head and foot. Here’s how to clean it up.
In a mug, mix some cold water and soap.
Dip a toothbrush into the soapy water and gently rub on the hotspots
While rubbing make sure you do not wet the inside insulation of the bag as it takes longer to dry.
Clean off the excess soap using a wet sponge and let the bag dry.
Tip: When you are getting the bag out of the tub, do not let it drag and lift it all in one shot (get help if need be) to avoid dirtying it again.
Drying the Sleeping bag
Once you are done with the cleaning, the last part of the process is to dry the bag the right way.
If you don’t intend to use the bag in the immediate future, you can always unzip it and hang it over the washing line to dry.
Make sure it faces the sun. This type of drying should take around a day or two.
If you expect rain, you can lay it flat on the ground the let the ceiling fan dry it for you. But keep in mind, it can take a little longer than sun-drying it.
But if you are looking for something quick, a tumble dryer should do the trick.
Run the dryer in the lowest heat setting and throw in a few tennis balls to tackle any clumps the tumbling around may result in. Remember, excessive heat will melt the material compromising both durability and comfort.
Tip: Not all sleeping bags can be dried in a dryer, don’t forget to check for instructions before doing so.
If you sleeping pad is machine-safe and you have access to a front load washing machine, just run a dry cycle at the lowest available temperature.
Throw in a few towels to soak up the excess water and don’t forget the tennis balls (they are must anytime you machine wash or dry a sleeping bag).
Few tips to keep in mind
While the task of washing a sleeping bag is unavoidable, there are a few steps you can take to delay it.
- Sleep in it with clean clothes on
- Use a liner. Cleaning a liner is way easier than cleaning the whole bag
- Keep the bag protected from sharp objects on the ground and water. You can place a waterproof fabric underneath for it.
- Use the sleeping bag with care
- Avoid lending the bag
- Don’t let snaggy zippers frustrate you as they can cause a tear
- Air out the bag after every hike so it keeps smelling fresh. Plus, the sunlight will keep it free of germs
Washing a sleeping bag does require some time and effort but any real traveler will agree, it is a must. After all, you can be spending anything around 7-8 hours sleeping in it.
Think about all the germs, dirt, grime etc. you would be in contact with if not cleaned, plus, let’s not forget the odor. Sounds yucky, doesn’t it?
Well, now you know exactly how and what needs to be done. So get going, and turn your sleeping pad into a long-term investment in comfort (don’t tell me that’s not worth it).