How do you wash a sleeping bag? Here are some tips to follow. I’ve assumed that you’ll be washing synthetic and not down filled bags as the vast majority of kids sleeping bags have synthetic insulation. However fundamentally the same rules apply to washing a down sleeping bag, you just need to be more attentive when drying the bag to ensure the down doesn't clump together.
Helpful tips on cleaning sleeping bags
Don’t wash a sleeping bag every time you get back from a trip, only when it really needs to be washed. If you wash any sleeping bag frequently the insulation will become less effective over time.
This is obvious, but read the label on the sleeping bag. Most synthetic bags can be washed at 30 degrees centigrade.
Use mild soap flakes and not a detergent to wash the bag.
Do not use fabric conditioner.
Wash the bag zipped up and with any Velcro flaps closed. This will prevent it catching on anything.
Five steps to follow when washing sleeping bags
There are two methods of washing a) in a washing machine on a gentle cycle, or b) in the bath. Adult sleeping bags usually have to be washed in the bath as they are too large for domestic washing machines.
Make sure you thoroughly rinse the sleeping bag to remove all of the soap residue. Consider running an additional rinse setting if you use a washing machine. If you dry the bag without a good rinse the remaining soap residue will reduce the loft of the insulation.
If you wash the sleeping bag in a bath then let the bag drip dry on a flat surface. Don’t hang it from a washing line as the weight of the water may damage the insulation.
Drying a sleeping bag can be done in a tumble dryer on a very low heat setting, or it can be left to dry naturally on a flat surface. With either technique, it is worth checking on the bag and giving it a shake to fluff up the insulation as it dries.
Before you store the sleeping bag away make sure it is 100% dry. Also, most kids sleeping bags come with small stuff sacks to store them in. Use these when you are taking the bags away, but in between trips it is better to store them at home uncompressed.
Prevention is better than cure when it comes to keeping children’s sleeping bags clean. Here are a few basic rules that will help prevent your kids’ sleeping bags getting filthy.
5 Rules for kids to help them keep their sleeping bags clean.
Rule 1) Sleeping bags stay in the tent. If you get cold in the evening grab a blanket or a jumper, not your sleeping bag and no they are not caterpillar fancy dress costumes!
Rule 2) No food allowed in the area of the tent where you keep your sleeping bags.
Rule 3) Same applies to drinks.
Rule 4) Tell a grown up when you do (inevitably, despite the above rules) spill something on your sleeping bag. Get it cleaned off and don’t pretend it never happened and leave it to fester.
Rule 5) If the weather is fine then unzip the bags and air them out in the morning. This is a really good idea if you are camping in hot weather in a synthetic tent as it can get a bit sweaty!
If you can enforce the above rules, it will definitely help your kids keep their own sleeping bags clean, but despite all the best intentions sometimes you can’t avoid sleeping bags getting mucky. See an example of rule "number 1" being broken in the photo above! One of my friends once had a particularly memorable week camping in France… for all the wrong reasons. The furthest she ventured all week was the campsite washing block, as all four of her kids went down with a violent sickness bug, yuk! I hope you don’t have a similar experience, but at least my friend answered the question: “Can you wash a sleeping bag?” with an emphatic yes.
Learn about the different types of kids sleeping bags available at the Little Adventure Shop.