How to Clean A Down Sleeping Bag

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If you’ve put up the small bag of gold needed to get yourself kitted up with a super-cozy, last-you-a-lifetime down sleeping bag, the chances are you want to look after it so that it does indeed, last you a lifetime. After a season of hiking, camping and hopefully plenty of deliciously insulated sleeping, your down sleeping bag could well be a little bit stinky. You may also find it has a little less body as the grime depletes that sublime feather fluffiness your lovely bag had when you first bought it.

Cleaning a down sleeping bag is definitely not as easy as chucking a cheap lightweight in the washing machine on ‘eco’ and leaving it on a washing line to dry in the sun. If you do this, you’ll be left crying over a soggy lumpy bundle of torn and broken feathers wrapped in material. We don’t want to see you like that, so we’re going to take you step by step through how to get your lovely down sleeping bag clean and ready for snuggly action on your next big adventure.

Short on time?

Don’t worry we have you covered! This awesome five video by OnlyTheLightest on Youtube will give you a quick instructional on caring for your down bag, washing it and drying it.

The Steps

Hey! Thanks for sticking with us, the video we recommended is great but these tips have a personal touch you’re going to love.

So, your down sleeping bag is el grubbo and you’re el saddo about that. No problem, these easy-to-follow cleaning tips will have you sorted in no time.

Prevention Is The Best Approach

  • Air it every morning after sleeping in it by popping it outside the tent and hanging up if you can so it doesn’t become an expensive new pad for all creatures great and small.
  • Keep your body as clean as possible to prevent dirt and grime transferring from your skin and hair onto the sleeping bag.
  • Have a ‘sleeping outfit’ if possible to prevent oils from the skin seeping into the sleeping bag. This will also help collect some of the 3 to 0.9 grams of skin you as a human shed every single hour and stop those pesky flakes making their way into your bag too.
  • Keep the bag in its holder whenever you are in transit or the bag is not in use and avoid chucking it into the back of a dusty car for example, or stuffing it into a dusty cupboard.
  • Keep it hung up at home between uses.
  • Dry it out thoroughly before putting it away for storage as any moisture in the bag may grow mold and spread, rotting the bag through so when you next go to use it, you’re greeted with scores of smiling spores.
  • Consider using a sleeping bag liner to protect it, particularly if you have to wear dirty clothes when inside it.

Small toy cleaner cleaning off a dandelion leaf

Reactionary Care

Reactionary care is really important when it comes to keeping a down sleeping bag pristine. If you happen to get a splodge of dirt on your sleeping bag, leaving it until way after summer is not a good idea.

Instead, clean that dirt away quickly. Mix washing powder and water to create a paste then keeping the sleeping bag material away from the filling, rub the spot gently with a clean cloth or a soft brush and then rinse the same spot away from the down still. When finished, air the bag out in the sun until it is dry. You can do the same thing with the sleeping bag holder and with any parts of the bag that are not filled with down, such as the hood.

Someone pouring water using a water hose

The Main Event

The time has come to actually fully wash your down sleeping bag. Don’t panic, you can totally do this and do it well, your beautiful prized down sleeping bag is going to come out pristine, with these easy steps:

  1. Fill up a large outdoor wash bucket, or a bath with warm water. There needs to be enough in there to submerge the entire sleeping bag.
  2. Add a cleaning agent specifically designed for duck down.
  3. Submerge the bag in the water and leave it to soak for around 10-20 minutes. Some guides recommend leaving it for a full hour. You could do this if you don’t plan to repeat the washing process several times as recommended below.
  4. After soaking, slowly and gently push and squeeze the down whilst it is in the water.
  5. Empty the bucket or bath completely.
  6. Press the sleeping bag against the side of the bucket or bath to gently press the water out of it. It is not a great idea to twist the bag or bash the bag to get the water out as this could damage the delicate down.
  7. Pour some cold water over the bag (a shower head is ideal for this) and then gently push and squeeze the bag before emptying the bucket or bath out again and pressing the water out of the bag again for a second time.
  8. Repeat the whole process again with warm water and then cold water ensuring that at the very end of the cleaning process all the soap is gone from the water.
  9. Place the down sleeping bag in a dryer that has a low, gentle heat and spin setting. You may need to go to a place with industrial dryers as down sleeping bags are heavy and could damage a domestic dryer.
  10. Every 20 minutes take the bag out of the dryer and pull apart feather lumps with your fingers. You can leave some tennis balls in there with the bag to get rid of the clumps, but this may not be gentle enough to protect the feathers so do so at your own risk.
  11. Continue this process at least half an hour after the outside of the bag is dry as the feathers deep inside will take a lot of drying out.


You may wish to add a down proofing product after you have cleaned your sleeping bag. It is an easy extra stage of the cleaning process that could improve the longevity of your down sleeping bag so, it is worth considering.

Comedic image of a woman stuck in a laundromat

Machine Washing A Duck Down Duvet: Is It Possible?

It is possible, but it isn’t the safest option. You can wash a duck down sleeping bag in a front loading washing machine (never a top loading machine as the agitator will cause irreparable damage to the bag) on a 30 degree wash or delicates cycle and it will get it clean, but it may well damage the down inside and it is risky.

Survival expert and professional urine drinker Bear Grylls says ‘Use a dead seals skin as a wetsuit’. Its totally unrelated to your down sleeping bag cleaning regime, but the more you know right?

Other Important Things To Be Aware Of

Dry cleaning might seem like a great idea, but harsh dry cleaning chemicals and processes will absolutely obliterate your down sleeping bag and are not recommended. In all instances, the manufacturer’s instructions should always be followed and it’s a great idea to have a read of those when you first buy the bag. There may be specific instructions related to the feathers and material your bag is made from that don’t apply to other bags, so it is worth having a gander (sorry, we eye rolled ourselves then too).

Dry cleaner returning garment to customer

There’s Always The Option Of Getting It Professionally Cleaned

If you’re one of the 45 million or more US citizens who went camping last year, you made a great choice when you bought a high quality duck down sleeping bag. It could last you a lifetime, especially if you look after it with the right cleaning method. Short on the time or effort needed to gently clean the bag yourself? Look into getting it cleaned by a professional company who specialises in cleaning down products. For the sake of what should only be a few washes for the bags entire lifetime, it might be worth getting the job done by somebody else.

Either way, hopefully this guide has you feeling super-confident about keeping your down sleeping bag so fresh and so clean for your the many hiking adventures ahead of you. See you on the trail!

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