Can You Wash a Sleeping Bag in a Washing Machine?

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Yes, you can wash a sleeping bag in a washing machine provided you use a front-loading washing machine.

Top-loading washers are not ideal for washing a sleeping as they produce too much heat that can damage the bag.

If you like long hikes and camping, a sleeping bag can be one of your greatest allies. It helps you enjoy bushcrafting and surviving in the wilderness by keeping you warm at night.

When treated with care and proper maintenance, a sleeping bag for bushcraft can serve you for decades of regular use.

Unfortunately, most backpackers have insufficient knowledge on how to care for and keep a sleeping bag clean, hence they end up mistreating it.

Failure to care for your sleeping bag makes it stink and ruins the fabrics, decreasing the insulation capability and its overall lifespan.

This article will help you learn how to wash your sleeping bag in the washing machine and discover some essential tips for sleeping bag care and maintenance.

Continue reading to find out more!

How to Wash a Sleeping Bag in a Washing Machine

It’s easy to wash your sleeping bag in a machine washer, but you need to be extra careful as too much heat can damage your bag.

To wash your sleeping bag in a washing machine, you can follow the following steps:

  • Set the machine to a delicate wash with cold water. Front-loading machine washer is the best in this case. Don’t use a top-loading machine washer as it’s too harsh on the sleeping bag and will damage it.
  • Put your unzipped bag in the machine. Then put two tennis balls in the machine to prevent the stuffing from being lumpy as the bag moves around during the wash.
  • Let the machine run for a full cycle before running it once more to rinse the bag and remove all soap.
  • Once the bag is clean, remove it from the washer to dry it out in the sunlight or a front-loading dryer.

How to Hand Wash Your Sleeping Bag

While the use of a machine washer is an easy way to clean your sleeping bag, some bags, especially the synthetic ones need to be washed by hand.

If your sleeping bag isn’t machine washable, you can hand wash it by following these steps:

  • Fill the bath half full of cold water and add a half cup of mild fabric soap.
  • Stir the soap well into the water until it’s fully dissolved.
  • Turn the bag inside out if it has a waterproof lining, and close all the zippers.
  • Press the bag into the soapy water and ensure that it’s fully immersed and wet. Try walking on the bag in the soapy water to distribute the soap well and clean the bag.
  • Leave the bag to soak for about 30 minutes to one hour while turning it periodically.
  • Drain the water and fill the tub with cold clean water to remove all the soap from the bag. Then move the bag around the clean water with your hands several times until there is no more soap left.

How to Dry Your Sleeping Bag

Once you have washed your sleeping bag, you’ll need to handle it with care since it’s usually very delicate when wet.

There are two main ways to dry a completely wet sleeping bag, including drying in the sunlight and using a front-loading dryer on a low setting.

The best way to dry your sleeping bag after washing it is by letting it air dry out in the sunlight. You can hang it on a clothesline for faster drying.

Generally, it will take about one to two days for a wet sleeping bag to dry out completely in the sunlight.

If the weather isn’t favorable and you want your bag to dry faster, you can dry it on a low setting in a front-loading dryer.

You just have to ensure that the dryer is clean with no debris or sharp corners that may catch on the sleeping bag. Then set the dryer on the lowest temperature and place two tennis balls in with the bag before running the dryer for a full cycle.

Tennis balls will help soak excess water. If the bag doesn’t dry completely after the first cycle, you can run it once more in the dryer to dry fully.

Tips for Sleeping Bag Care and Maintenance

  1. Air Out Your Sleeping Bag Regularly

After using the sleeping bag during your adventure trip, you should air it out in the sun for about an hour or a few minutes. This is to ensure that your bag is completely dry before you put it away.

Ideally, you can turn the sleeping bag inside out to dry out any moisture before storing it in a cotton or mesh bag.

Nonetheless, you need to be careful not to leave the bag in direct sunlight for very long as the UV light will slowly degrade the fabric.

  1. Always Sleep in Clean Clothes

After a long day of hiking and adventuring in the backcountry, you may be tempted to crawl into your sleeping bag in the same clothes you hiked in.

However, this isn’t always a good idea as the clothes you have been wearing the whole day may have sweat, oils, and dirt. All these contaminants can interfere with your sleeping bag’s insulation and leave it stinking.

It’s crucial to change your clothes and cover your hair to keep your sleeping bag clean with at least no unpleasant sweat and dirt smell.

  1. Use a Sleeping Bag Liner

A sleeping bag liner is another way to keep your sleeping bag clean for a longer time. It can be made of cotton, silk, wool, or polyester.

The best thing about sleeping bag liners is that they are usually lightweight, so you won’t have to worry about extra weight on your backpack.

Using a sleeping bag liner will keep your bag clean as it acts as a barrier between your skin and the bag to block any sweat and body oils.

  1. Protect Your Sleeping Bag from the Ground

If you like sleeping under the stars, it’s important to put a pad down on the ground to protect your sleeping bag.

A pad will ensure that your bag doesn’t get torn or absorb moisture from the ground. While some waterproof sleeping bags come with sturdy fabric, using a pad will protect the bag from sharp sticks.

  1. Treat Your Sleeping Bag Gently

If you want your sleeping bag to last for an extended period, it’s vital to treat it with gentleness. For instance:

You should never jump around while standing inside your sleeping bag as doing so would trash the bag’s toe box.

Moreover, you should bring it to keep you warm and covered near the campfire as sparks will burn holes in your sleeping bag.

It’s also prudent to not leave your sleeping bag in its confining stuff sack for an extended period. Keep in mind that constant compression will damage the bag’s fill.


If you are wondering whether you can wash your sleeping bag in a washing machine, the answer is yes. However, you need to be careful when washing it as you don’t want it to lose loft and warmth.

It’s important to keep your sleeping bag clean and give it the appropriate care to ensure that it lasts for a reasonable time.

Whether you decide to clean your sleeping bag by hand or in a washing machine, the above instructions should help you do it effectively.

You can also use the essential tips explained in this article to enhance the lifespan of your sleeping bag and get the most out of it.


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