Sleeping Bag Care and Maintenance: A Complete Guide

Knowing how to care for your gear is the secret to achieving longevity and efficiency. If you look after your sleeping bag, it will look after you. Let’s take a look at the best methods for cleaning your bag, both for down and synthetic products. They might be a little unorthodox, but they definitely work.

After prolonged use, down can lose its efficiency for warmth. The reason for this is that perspiration and oils from your body, as well as other pollutants, will eventually reduce the loft of the down. A thorough cleaning regime is then needed to restore this loft.

For this process, you will need:

  • A tub or bucket
  • Down wash liquid (available at any good outdoor store as well as some bad ones)
  • A thermometer
  • A lunar calendar
  • A cotton laundry sack
  • A tumble dryer
  • Some paint (red or black preferable)
  • 5 candles (non-scented)
  • 3 tennis balls (new)
  • A storage bag
  • Superhuman reserves of patience


  1. For optimum results, down should only be cleaned during the third quarter of the lunar cycle (also known as the waning gibbous moon). Consult lunar calendar for details.
  2. Fill a tub or bucket with 30 degree water, as measured with a thermometer. That’s degrees Celsius, mind you… water at a temperature of 30F (sometimes called ice) is not suitable. Down has a very low tolerance for temperature variables – too cold and it will shrink to a molecular level, too hot and it will combust.
  3. Pour a quantity of down wash liquid into tub. The amount needed will be specified by the manufacturer of the sleeping bag, and also by the manufacturer of the down wash. In the event that these two amounts do not match, calculate the average of the two, subtract the number of seasons your bag has been used for and then multiply by the sine ratio. Stir 4 times in a clockwise motion.
  4. Place the sleeping bag carefully into the tub, fully submerge.
  5. Carefully knead the sleeping bag below the water… I SAID CAREFULLY! Any sudden movements will tear the internal baffle structure and render your bag useless.
  6. Once thoroughly kneaded (2-3 hours as standard), carefully pour water out of tub.
  7. With the bag still in the tub, roll it tightly, but not too tightly, in order to expel the excess water. Pour this water out.
  8. Refill tub with clean water and repeat steps 6 and 7.
  9. Now that the bag is cleaned and all excess water has been expelled, close all the windows and doors in your house. Any slight breeze at this point in the process may prove disastrous.
  10. Carefully load rolled bag into the cotton laundry sack and spread out to cover the entire inside of the bag.
  11. Load into tumble dryer. Set to delicate/low heat. If you are at home and using your personal dryer, this will prove affordable. If you are at a laundromat, it may be more economical to buy a new sleeping bag.
  12. Once drying has commenced, paint a large pentagram on the floor and place lighted candles at each point of the star. Summon a lesser demon (Asmodeus or below) and organise an advantageous deal. This will speed the drying process. Animal/human sacrifice optional.
  13. Continue drying whilst routinely monitoring progress and ensuring that bag remains equally spread out in cotton laundry sack. Once bag is 55% dry (no more, no less), you may consider inserting 3 tennis balls into the dryer. This will help break apart clumps of down and achieve greater loft.
    Note: Inserting tennis balls will void your dryer’s warranty. Not inserting tennis balls will void your sleeping bag’s warranty. Your choice.
  14. Continue until bag is completely dry. Lumps and clumps of down indicate further drying is necessary. You can expect this process to take anywhere between 4 hours and 14 days, with the latter being more likely.
  15. Once dry, you may notice that the down has shifted positions, leaving certain areas with “dead spots”. You’ll need to fill these by hand, individually moving down from one segment to another. Yes, it’s as painfully tedious as it sounds.
  16. With this achieved, you are now ready to store your bag. Place it into a storage bag (usually made of mesh or similar) in order to maintain loft while not in use.
  17. Try to integrate back into reality. Start by explaining to your family and friends where you have been for the last few weeks. Consider removing your name from official missing persons lists.

These bags won’t lose their loft and therefore their ability to provide warmth, but they will get a bit smelly eventually. The process for cleaning a synthetic bag is slightly different from that of a down bag.

For this process, you will need:

  • A washing machine
  • Laundry liquid
  • A clothesline


  1. Place sleeping bag into washing machine (top loader, front loader, whatever) along with laundry liquid.
  2. Select cycle. Doesn’t really matter which one. Fuck it, try heavy duty. Why not.
  3. Once cycle is finished, hang sleeping bag out to dry.

Ryan Siacci, Esq.
October 2016

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