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Cleaning Down Clothing and Sleeping Bags

Made of lightweight materials and insulation, a down sleeping bag or jacket is one of the most delicate things in your pack. Over time, perspiration, food stains, and dirt can seep through the synthetic material or lining and compromise the lofting ability and warmth of your puffy items.

Photo: Andrew Wexler

Cleaning Down Items

You'll need:

  • Your soiled article.
  • Mild soap, or soap made for cleaning down.
  • Front-loading washing machine or a large sink.
  • Dryer (bring patience, extra quarters, and a good book if you're not at home)
  • Clean tennis shoe or tennis ball.

Note: we do not recommend dry cleaning or bleaching down garments.

Instructions:

  1. Close zippers before washing. Using soap, wash gently by hand or use a front-loading washing machine on the gentle cycle. Top-loading machines with a central agitator can cause damage.
  2. Rinse repeatedly until the water is crystal clear. If hand-washing, gently press the water out. If a laundromat spin extractor is available, rinse two to three times, use the extractor, and repeat.
  3. Machine Dry (air-drying is too slow and risks mildew). Use a front-loading dryer, large enough that the article can tumble freely. Set it to the lowest heat. Add a clean tennis shoe or tennis ball to break up the down clumps. The process may take a while (use the quarters; read the book). Make sure the item is completely dry and there are no clumps left in the down before you remove it.

Keeping a Down Sleeping Bag Clean

Minimize contamination by sleeping in long underwear or using a bag liner. Sleeping with your skin next to the lining will cause body oils to compromise the down.

Storage

Do not store a down sleeping bag or jacket in a stuff sack. The fibres or down plumules will compress. Never store a wet article in either a storage sack or stuff sack.

It is best to store a sleeping bag in a clean, ventilated area, but not draped over a hanger or rod. It will be happiest if loosely stuffed in a large cloth or mesh bag so it will retain its loft.