Washing a Down Sleeping Bag
Down bags can, and definitely should, be
cleaned when they start to accumulate oils. Body oils, hair oils, and
sweat are all acidic and will slowly decompose down. Moreover, washing
your bag restores lots of loft!
Do not dry-clean your sleeping bag.
Dry-cleaning fluids remain in the bag for weeks. You do not want to be zipped up
inside a bag giving off carbon tetrachloride or perchlorethelene. These solvents also strip the down of oils that are important to its function. For this reason, whenever you wash your bag use a down specific detergent.
Down bags that are baffled can be safely washed in a front-loading washing machine, but hand washing is safest of all. In fact it is
nearly impossible to damage a bag in hand washing. Use a down cleaning
product or a mild shampoo. Use a bathtub, or sometimes you can get away
with washing your bag in the laundromat sink. It can be hard to soak your
bag, especially if you have a DWR finish on the fabric. I recommend
filling the sink and putting the bag into the soapy water in its stuff
sack. Slowly work the water and soap into the bag as you pull it out of
the stuff sack. Leaving it to soak for up to an hour helps to remove more
thru-hiker grime. Rinse the bag several times until no more soap comes
out. Be very gentle when you lift out the bag. Don't wring it
out! Your bag will be really heavy, and it can tear the delicate
baffles under its own weight. If your Laundromat has an
"extractor", use it to remove most of the water left in the bag.
Alternatively you can carefully arrange the bag in an upright washer for a spin
cycle. If you skip this step it will take forever to dry out your bag.
Use a medium heat. Be skeptical of public
Laundromats. I nearly cooked a bag because the dryer was stuck on High no
matter what the knob said. Some tennis balls thrown in with the bag will
help to break up the down clumps. When I'm on the trail I use rocks
stuffed into sock rolls. Take the bag out every dry cycle to feel the bag
over. Gently breaking up the clumps a little helps to speed up the drying
process. Dry it over and over again until it is bone dry. Now revel
in the sweet smell and high loft of your clean sleeping bag!
|Recommended Soap: Down Cleaners or mild shampoo
How often: Whenever you notice a degradation of loft or it starts to stink
Don't use an upright washer except to spin an already washed bag to remove water.
Bags with baffles can be safely washed in a front loading washer.