Skip to content

Orders over $75 always ship free. Enter "FREESHIPPING" at checkout. (U.S. Standard Ground Only)

Did You Know You Might Be Ruining Your Sleeping Bag by Washing it Incorrectly? - COCOON USA

Did You Know You Might Be Ruining Your Sleeping Bag by Washing it Incorrectly?

Your sleeping bag is a key piece of gear and, oftentimes, also a hefty investment. It’s an investment that can and should last you for years to come and will be well worthwhile as long as it’s properly cared for.


Whether your sleeping bag is down or synthetic, mummy or rectangular, it’ll likely be put through the wringer. It will see backpacking trips, dirty tent floors, questionable hostel beds, and your body when it isn’t at its cleanest. Your sleeping bag will do a lot to keep you clean (cleaner than lying on the ground or in a grimy hostel bed), warm, and cozy. To maintain the lifespan of your investment, it’s important to give your sleeping bag a little love in return. One way to do this is by knowing when and how to wash it.

Whether Down or Synthetic, There are a Few Universal Rules to Washing a Sleeping Bag

While your sleeping bag might be able to rough it in the mountains, you don’t want to rough it up in the wash. Both down and synthetic filler can be easily damaged in the washing and drying process if you don’t know a few things ahead of time.


Always wash your sleeping bag according to the manufacturer's recommendations. If you can’t find any laundering guidelines on your sleeping bag, read on and follow the instructions below.

Keep these things to keep in mind to ensure your sleeping bag lasts you for years to come:

  • If washed improperly, you risk damaging your sleeping bag by decreasing the loft, displacing the down, tearing seams, or even melting synthetic liners and fabrics.
  • Never dry clean, iron, bleach, or use fabric softener on sleeping bags.
  • Your sleeping bag’s loft is the consistency of the down (or synthetic filler) within your bag that keeps it insulated. Washing your sleeping bag improperly can cause the filler to clump, decreasing loft and ceasing to allow room for pockets of air within the filler. These pockets of air trap body heat, allowing your bag to maintain the level of insulation it’s meant to provide.
  • Using standard laundry detergent to wash sleeping bags can reduce their loft and lead to clumping.
  • Do not use dryer sheets as they can damage any water-repellent finishing that your sleeping bag may have and can reduce the water-wicking performance of interior liner fabrics.

Washing Down Sleeping Bags

There are two ways you can go about washing your sleeping bag if you’re going to DIY it. If you have easy access to a laundromat with large-sized front-loading washers and dryers, taking a trip there will likely be the easiest option. If your local laundromat isn’t actually “local”, all you’ll need is a bathtub, running water, and the proper cleaner.

Woman washing TravelSheet

How to hand wash down sleeping bags


  1. Fill your bathtub with cool or lukewarm water.
  2. Add a down cleaner (this will be your detergent) such as Grangers Down Wash or Nikwax.
  3. Gently lay the bag out flat in the bathtub. You can walk back and forth across it or knead it with your hands to work the wash through the bag and filler.
  4. If you find any particularly grimy spots, you can target them by pulling the liner away from the down filler (while the bag is still resting in the water). Pinch the liner and rub it against itself between your fingers.
  5. Let the bag sit for 1-2 hours as needed and then drain the tub when you’re ready.
  6. To be safe, we recommend running a second round of fresh rinse water to ensure all of the detergent (downwash) is flushed out of the sleeping bag—drain it before the next step.
  7. Removing your bag from the water can cause damage if it’s not handled with care. Your sleeping bag will be incredibly heavy when it’s full of water, so be sure to knead out as much water as you can before removing the bag from the tub.
  8. With your arms beneath the sleeping bag, ensure its entire length is supported. Gather it up into a ball and carry it to a dryer or take it outside in a shady spot to dry.

How to wash a down sleeping bag in a washing machine


  1. If you have a front-loading washing machine or a top-loading machine without an agitator, you can do this process at home. Do not wash sleeping bags in a washing machine with an agitator as it can cause clumping and tears. 
  2. Wash your bag on a gentle (or delicate) cycle in cold to warm water with the down cleaner of your choice, again, Granger's and Nikwax are good options. Add a minimal amount of cleaner to avoid having soap lingering in the down fill of your bag after washing.
  3. Add a couple of separate items of clothing that need a wash to balance the machine as it spins the bag.
  4. After the cycle ends, run the bag through a second rinse cycle to assure all the soap residue has been removed from the bag.
  5. Carefully gather your sleeping bag up in your arms (similar to how you would remove it from the bathtub) and swap it to the dryer.

How to dry a down sleeping bag


  1. If you don’t have a dryer, after kneading the excess water out of your bag: Carefully carry your bag outside and lay it flat on a blanket or towel outside of direct sunlight. You can flip it or rotate it intermittently until dry.
  2. If you DO have a large enough dryer to accommodate your bag: Run your bag through the dryer on a low heat cycle. You want to be careful not to let the dryer get too hot to melt any synthetic fabric on the bag.
  3. When the cycle is about ¾ of the way done, add a few tennis balls or dryer balls (Granger's Down Wash Kit comes with dyer balls) to help break up the down filler and restore its loft.
  4. After the cycle ends, lay your sleeping bag out flat on top of a clean blanket overnight to ensure it’s 100% dry before storing it.  

Washing Synthetic Sleeping Bags 

The difference between washing (whether by hand or in a washing machine) a synthetic sleeping bag versus a down sleeping bag is the soap you will use. We recommend Nikwax Tech Wash for washing synthetic sleeping bags.

Woman lying in sleeping bag

On the bright side, there isn’t too much more to know about washing sleeping bags! Washing a synthetic bag is much the same as washing a down sleeping bag. If you’re hand washing a synthetic sleeping bag, follow the same guidelines above for hand washing a down sleeping bag.


Likewise, you can machine wash a synthetic sleeping bag similar to machine washing down sleeping bags. Follow the same steps listed above. Remember, whether your sleeping bag is down or synthetic, you want to use a front-loading washer or a top-loading washer that does not have an agitator. Laundry mats are often good for this as they have large load capacity machines that are often front-loading.


The difference between washing (whether by hand or in a washing machine) a synthetic sleeping bag versus a down sleeping bag is the soap you will use. We recommend Nikwax Tech Wash for washing synthetic sleeping bags.

How to dry a synthetic sleeping bag

Typically, you can expect synthetic sleeping bags to dry much more quickly than down sleeping bags. Regardless, bear in mind to plan ahead because this still can take an hour or two at minimum.


Unlike down sleeping bags—which should lie flat to dry—the most effective way to dry a synthetic sleeping bag and prolong its life is to hang dry it. Be sure to press as much water out of the bag as possible and then carefully unzip it. String it over a drying line, being sure to evenly distribute the weight. You can expect this to take 24-48 hours.


If you’re in a time crunch and you must put your synthetic sleeping bag in a dryer, ensure the dryer is large enough to accommodate the sleeping bag to puff up as it drys and regains its loft. Tumble dry synthetic sleeping bags on low heat. Visually check in throughout the drying process to ensure that the dryer isn’t melting the synthetic filling, which can happen as the sleeping bag drys and expands.


How Often Should You Wash Your Sleeping Bag?

It’s inevitable—if you use your sleeping bag, it’ll eventually need a wash. Dirt, body oil, and even the lingering smell of food and campfire will build up in its fibers and filling. The build-up of body oil and dirt can cause your sleeping bag to lose its fluffy, comfy, and insulating qualities (loft). Maybe even worse, if you cook near your sleeping bag (i.e., Over a campfire near your tent) the smell of food lingering in your sleepwear can attract bears and other animals.


If you find a noticeable dirt spot or stain on your sleeping bag, you might be able to get away with spot-cleaning it.


Otherwise, the answer to the question, “How often should I wash my sleeping bag?” depends on how much use it sees. If you’re someone who sleeps in your sleeping bag once a week or more for multiple seasons of the year, you may want to wash it more often. Otherwise, with average use, washing your sleeping bag once a year is a good rule of thumb.

An ideal time to wash your sleeping bag is right before you store it for the season. You don’t need oil and grime settling in while it’s stored away.

Sleeping Bag Liners Help Prolong The Life of Your Sleeping Bag

Need a simple, effective way to prolong the life of your sleeping bag? Washing sleeping bags is important to maintaining their insulating qualities. Unfortunately, the process of washing your bag itself causes wear and tear from stretched or torn seams to filler shifting and clumping.


The best way to protect your sleeping bag, cut down on washes, and make the most of your investment is to use a sleeping bag liner.


Not only does a sleeping bag liner provide up to 15 degrees of added insulation, but it also creates a barrier between your body oils and dirt and the inside of your sleeping bag. Without a sleeping bag liner, that dirt and oil would eventually migrate through the interior fabric of your sleeping bag and settle into the fill.


Furthermore, in warm enough climates, a sleeping bag liner can save you from having to use your sleeping bag at all! COCOON sleeping bag liners and TravelSheets provide 9-15 degrees of added insulation and trap body heat inside them, similar to a sleeping bag.


A good sleeping bag liner will prove to be worth its salt. It’s a worthy investment in its own right and will help keep the heftier investment (your sleeping bag) functioning optimally for as long as possible.

Older Post
Newer Post
Close (esc)

Wanna win a $100 COCOON Gift Card?


*One new winner is chosen every month. COCOON will email the winner via the email entered above. Must be a resident of continental US. By providing your email address, you agree to our terms & conditions

Age verification

By clicking enter you are verifying that you are old enough to consume alcohol.


Added to cart