The Art of Cleaning a Sleeping Bag

How do you feel about camping? On a scale from 1 to 10, with 1 being “I’d rather have a root canal” and 10 being “I’d live in the woods if I could”, how would you rate your interest in being one with nature? Camping can be a lot of fun, but it’s also a lot of work. And you always come home with loads of dirty clothes and big bulky sleeping bags to clean. Unless you’re going glamping (glamorous camping) of course. In which case, there are no sleeping bags and there are people who clean up after you. And it sounds like heaven.

However, if you chose roughing it in a tent, there are two options for getting your sleeping bags clean. But first, while on your camping trip, try airing out your sleeping bags in the sun every morning. Do this for 10-15 minutes to let the sun dry up any perspiration and moisture, like dew. Keep your sleeping bags as dry as possible to prevent mildew and odors.

After camping, you can either wash your sleeping bags in a commercial front-loading washing machine or the bathtub.

For the washing machine method, try the Laundromat for an oversized front-loading machine, which has a rotating drum instead of an agitator. Do not use a top-loading machine, because its agitator can tangle strings and straps and cause additional damage to your sleeping bag.

Use a mild detergent and follow the bag’s care label for special instructions (typical instructions include washing in warm, rinsing in cold). Most sleeping bags can go in the dryer on a low temperature (an oversized, commercial dryer will be more effective in getting it completely dry).

The other option, which sounds like a fun way for the kids to help, is to clean the sleeping bags by hand in the bathtub.

Place the sleeping bag in the tub and fill with warm water and mild detergent. Toss a pre-measured pac in the tub. Now step in and push the bag down with your feet to submerge it completely. Move the bag around with your hands to gently clean it. Follow up this step with a cold rinse to remove all suds. Drip dry, line dry or use an oversized dryer on a low setting.