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How to Wash a Down Sleeping Bag

Washing a down sleeping bag (or a down jacket) is simpler than you might think.

sleeping bag clean gear patrol lead
Gear Patrol

So it’s time to break out your trusty sleeping bag for another season of outdoor slumber: music festivals, camping trips in the mountains or bike expeditions to the far reaches of the globe. Most people take their sleeping bags for granted, expecting them to perform the same year after year without any maintenance. Over time though, down becomes compacted and dirty, which inhibits its loft and makes the sleeping bag less warm. To clean your sleeping bag, revitalize its warmth and get it ready for all your summer adventures, follow our simple guide.

Shake out the sleeping bag. Take your sleeping bag outside and shake it out. Make sure that all of the dust bunnies, leaves, and any other large pieces of debris are removed.

Put your sleeping bag into a washing machine without an agitator. It is easiest to do this at a laundromat, but if your home washer is of the large, front-loading variety, feel free to toss it in there. If you use a washing machine with an agitator, you run the risk of tearing open your sleeping bag or clumping the down in large balls inside — so avoid agitators at all costs.

Wash with Nikwax Down Wash. Though there are other good down washes out there (namely Grangers), we recommend using Nikwax’s Down Wash. Add the Down Wash directly into the washing machine, using three ounces for a one-season sleeping bag and five ounces for a two- to four-season sleeping bag. Follow the directions on the care label of your sleeping bag for specific temperature and cycle settings.

Switch your sleeping bag to the dryer and add tennis balls. Move your sleeping bag over to the dryer, but before you turn it on, add in a package of new tennis balls. As the drier spins, the tennis balls will bounce around inside the drum, breaking up and clumps of down and helping dry the bag completely through. As for dryer settings, low heat for a long period of time is the name of the game.

Pause the dryer and manually break up any clumps. Every twenty minutes or so, pause the dryer and manually work out larger clumps of down. While the tennis balls work well to help break up clumps, you’ll need to put some extra effort in to break them up completely.

Tumble dry until the bag is completely dry. Dry the bag until it is dry the entire way through. Not only does moist down function terribly as an insulator, it’s also prone to mold, which will lead to a stinky bag.

The Gear to Get the Job Done


Nikwax Down Wash ($11)
Tennis Balls ($2)

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