man holding sleeping bag


It’s always the last thing I want to do when I get home, clean my sleeping bag properly and put it away. But keeping your sleeping bag in good condition is essential to maintain its insulating abilities.


When I get home I usually air my sleeping bag out for about 24 hours. Especially if I’ve packed it away in the morning shortly after waking up. Once it has been aired out you can store it. The sacks the sleeping bags come in are really meant for storing the bag when out on the trail. If you leave them in the tiny bags for long periods of time, the sleeping bag will start to lose insulation from being constantly compressed. I usually spread mine out under my bed so it isn’t too compressed. If not, you can hang it in a wardrobe or put it in a big pillowcase.


Most people wash their sleeping bag once a year, but obviously, if you’re using it every weekend you may want to freshen it up a little more often. Before you wash check to make sure it is going to survive the ordeal. Grab the inner lining and the outer lining and gently pull to see if they are coming away from each other. If you don’t hear or see any tearing or popping, then it should be ready to wash. If it looks like it’s on its last legs, you will probably need to repair the baffles before washing it.

You can put it through the washing machine on a gentle cycle with a quarter of a cup of washing detergent without a problem. Don’t take it to a dry cleaner. The chemicals will damage the material, especially any water-resistant shells.

Completely unzip the sleeping bag for washing. It is best to use a front-loading washing machine. The sleeping bag can get caught in the spin of the top-loaded ones and it might tear the fibres.


Once the bag is clean it is best to use a dryer. When sleeping bags are wet they are prone to tearing so be careful when transferring the bag to the dryer. I usually get someone to help me so the whole bag is supported during the transition.

The bigger the dryer is, the better. The sleeping bag will still be prone to tearing when it is wet, so cramped dryers with a fierce spin could cause damage. A dryer with plenty of space should fluff the sleeping bag up and dry it out in a few hours. If your sleeping bag has a waterproof shell, prepare for the long haul. These bags hold a lot of moisture and will take around 5 hours to completely dry.

Check the sleeping bag regularly while it is drying. Make sure it isn’t getting too hot. The dryer should be on a cooler setting, but if you the temperature is rising too high take it out and hang it on a line to dry.

Once it’s dry you can store it. If you have a waterproof shell, you might want to treat it before storing with a layer of waterproof coating. The simple spray on agents will be fine. The detergent of the wash can sometimes deteriorate the waterproof integrity of the outer layer.


Is there anything you would like to add? Share your experience through the comments section below.

Jake Taylor

Jake is a global traveller who has recently called Australia his home again. If he's not travelling, he is writing about it and his experience.