How to wash a synthetic sleeping bag
A stinky sleeping bag won't make you any friends in the wild—or keep you very warm.
The dirt and body oils on the fabric of your synthetic sleeping bag can find their way through to the synthetic fill, affecting its ability to loft up and keep you warm.
Whilst being easier to clean and dry than their down-fill counterparts, there's still a knack to washing synthetic bags.
HOW OFTEN SHOULD YOU WASH YOUR SYNTHETIC SLEEPING BAG?
It doesn't need to be after every camping trip but once a year is a good goal. If dirt, grime, lumps or decreased loft are noticeable. Grime of this kind first shows up around the hood and neck area, but the effect on the insulation is out of sight on the inside of the bag.
PRO TIP: Use a sleeping bag liner to keep your bag cleaner for longer and spot clean using a specially-formulated synthetic cleaning product like Grangers Performance Wash.
WHAT YOU'LL NEED
- Non-detergent soap specially formulated for synthetic bags. Conventional laundry detergents contain brighteners and fillers that may stick to the polyester fibres and reduce loft. Most outdoor retailers sell specially formulated wash products that’ll do the job.
- Somewhere you can hand wash or a front-loading washing machine with a gentle cycle. We tend to err on the side of caution and hand wash. But if you’re looking for a less labour-intensive way of doing things, try a washing machine that’s gentle enough not to tear any of the internal stitching that holds the synthetic insulation in place.
- A large tumble dryer. The more room you have to dry your bag, the better.
PRO TIP: If in doubt as to how gentle your washing machine is, don’t risk it. Try hand washing instead.
- Dry clean your bag. Dry-cleaning chemicals are bad news for technical fabrics and fills.
- Pick up your sleeping bag when it is full of water. The weight of the water can tear out the internal seams securing the insulation.
- Use a top loading washing machine. The mechanical action of the impeller (the plastic spiral in the drum) is far too rough for a sleeping bag.
- Use dryer sheets or softeners. Fabric softeners can compromise water-repellent finishes on shell fabrics and the wicking performance of liner fabrics. They can also make insulating fibres stick together.
- Store a damp bag. This is how mildew and mould can form.
HOW TO WASH A SYNTHETIC BAG
HAND WASH INSTRUCTIONS
It’s best to use a bathtub but, in a pinch, you can use your laundry sink.
- Turn the sleeping bag inside out, place it in the tub and add warm water (enough to cover the bag)
- Using the recommended amount of the wash product, gently knead the sleeping bag to force the soapy water through it.
- When the sleeping bag seems clean, drain the bathtub and then roll up the bag to squeeze the water out.
- Turn bag right-side out. Refill the tub with clean water and knead the bag to force clean water through it—continue until there are no more suds.
- Carefully roll up the sleeping bag again to squeeze the water out of it.
MACHINE WASH INSTRUCTIONS
- Zip up all zippers and turn the sleeping bag inside out before putting it in the machine.
- Select a delicate wash cycle (see PRO TIP above) with a temperature setting of no higher than 40°C and add in an extra rinse cycle.
- Carefully roll up the sleeping bag again to squeeze the water out of it. It’s important that you spin as much water out of the bag as possible before you attempt to remove it from the drum.
PRO TIP: Check on your spin cycle regularly, as it can stall due to weight imbalance. If this happens, redistribute the weight of the bag and keep going.
HOW TO DRY A SYNTHETIC BAG
Once the water has been gently squeezed out of the sleeping bag, you can roll it up and transfer it to the tumble dryer.
- In the drum, gently roll out the bag so it will fill the whole tumble dryer when it gets going.
- Set the dryer to low or ‘delicates’ and run a complete cycle—do not use dryer sheets for this process.
- Turn the sleeping bag inside out and put it back in the dryer.
- Once dry, air your bag for at least 48 hours before storage.
One of the nice things about a synthetic-fill bag is that they air dry pretty well.
- Lay your sleeping bag flat between two towels, preferably over two portable clothes racks.
HATE DOING LAUNDRY?
If laundry is your least favourite chore, best invest in a sleeping bag liner.