How To Wash A Sleeping Bag Before & After Using It (2022)

Happy woman in sleeping bag in snowy mountains in winter.
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    If you just got done using your sleeping bag, you might be noticing a stench. Luckily after a good washing, your bag can smell as good as fresh!

    Carefully cleaning your sleeping bag and knowing how to wash it (or when) can save its longevity. Just like certain fabrics with your clothes or home towels, frequent washing can minimize its softness or quality.

    Here’s your guide on how to wash a sleeping bag before and after using it to make sure its quality is preserved without smelling like a boy’s locker room.

    Caring For Your Bag From The Beginning

    How you handle your bag as soon as you get it and while you’re using it can help preserve its cleanliness and quality.

    It is recommended that you wash your sleeping bag before you use it and right after you buy it. Why? So that you can clean the fabric from any possible lice, bacteria, or other elements that may be on it.

    There also may be dyes on the fabric since it’s a new product that could irritate your skin, especially if you already struggle with sensitivity issues.

    Workers and other customers interact and touch your sleeping bag before you buy it, so it’s best to make sure it’s clean before using it. 

    Ways To Wash

    There are do’s and don’ts to how to properly wash your sleeping bag before and after using it. Here’s everything you need to know.

    Avoid Dry Cleaning

    The biggest don’t for cleaning your sleeping bag is to avoid the dry cleaners at all costs! 

    Dry cleaners cleaning solutions can sometimes use harsh chemicals that will strip your sleeping bag of the oils in the fabric that keeps it soft.

    Because of this, it’s better to do the washing yourself with certain cleaning detergents like a downwash made for bags like sleeping bags. 

    Machine Wash

    You can throw your sleeping bag in the washing machine for an easy, quick clean! 

    But first, make sure you have completely unzipped your bag! This will help the wash to get all angles of the fabric and clean the whole item. 

    When you use the washing machine, set the cycle to gentle with cold water, and be sure to use a mild detergent before using the downwash like Nikwax.

    Bathtub Soak

    Washing your sleeping bag by hand in the bathtub is another great way to clean your sleeping bag!

    You will basically do what the washing machine does in your bathtub:

    • Fill the tub with cold water
    • Pour in mild detergent and Nikwax
    • Spin your bag around in the water a few times
    • Drain the tub then refill to rinse
    • Hang to dry


    To keep your sleeping bag as good as new, try only washing when the smell gets overwhelming to preserve oils and quality. 

    Note: Want to try keeping your tent warm with a camping heater? Check out this review of the best heaters for tent camping!

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    Riley Draper

    Riley Draper is a writer and entrepreneur from Chattanooga, Tennessee. As a world traveler, he has been to more than fifty countries and hiked some of the most elusive trails in the world. He is the co-founder of WeCounsel Solutions and has published work in both national and global outlets, including the Times Free Press, Patch, and Healthcare Global. When he's not writing, he's probably on a hiking trip or climbing in the mountains.