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#193785 - 02/22/16 12:45 PM Washing a Down Sleeping Bag
Barefoot Friar Offline

Registered: 01/23/09
Posts: 176
Loc: Houston, Alabama
I just caught my puppy, a Certified Mongrel Dog (mostly terrier), peeing on my sleeping bags. I had a moment of lapsed attention, and she's not usually allowed in that room, but just this once, and for just a moment. Gah, it's aggravating.

How do I wash the down bag? I want to use Woolite and do it by hand in the bath tub, like I do with my wool sweaters. Do I really need the Nikwax Down Wash Direct?

EDIT: I don't know if this matters, but I have very soft water here, so I can get away with using a tiny amount of whatever detergent or soap I end up using. I generally use All Free Clear on my clothes, so that's another option.

Edited by Barefoot Friar (02/22/16 12:59 PM)
"Stand in the ways and see, and ask for the old paths, where the good way is, and walk in it; then you will find rest for your souls."

#193787 - 02/22/16 03:48 PM Re: Washing a Down Sleeping Bag [Re: Barefoot Friar]
Rick_D Offline

Registered: 01/06/02
Posts: 2939
Loc: NorCal
Have had good success washing a couple of down bags (including baffled) and coats in our front-load washer. Gentle cycle, down detergent (there are many brands, such as Nikwax), extra rinse(s) until no more suds are seen in the rinsewater.

I clean them inside-out, figuring the interior fabric probably doesn't have DWR finish to repel the soap and water. Maybe spot-clean the stained bits first, then reverse and wash.

Then into the drier on low. It can take hours, depending on how much fill. Some recommend tossing in a tennis ball or two to help break up the down clumps, but I'm neutral on that (maybe as a final step).

Used to do it by hand, which takes FOREVER, but would never trust a top-load washer. If you do this after all, stuff in in its sack then pull it out underwater. This helps it absorb water and not bob on top. Takes a long time to force out all the air.

Bad doggie!

#193792 - 02/22/16 07:08 PM Re: Washing a Down Sleeping Bag [Re: Barefoot Friar]
Pika Offline

Registered: 12/08/05
Posts: 1814
Loc: Rural Southeast Arizona
I recently washed my Marmot Helium at home and it worked out really well. I live in rural southeastern Arizona so our water comes from a well and is quite hard. I used Nikwax Down Wash Direct for the job and was pleased with the results; the bag was really dirty having had about six months worth of use without washing.

The washing went as follows:

Wash cycle. I washed my bathtub thoroughly, then filled it with about 6" of warm water and mixed in the proper amount of soap. I turned the bag inside out and then slowly immersed it in the water carefully squeezing all of the air out. Getting the air out took a lot of time and effort but I think it is important. I then worked the soapy water through the fabric and down for what seemed like a year but was more like 30 minutes in reality. Once the washing was done, I pulled the plug in the tub and let the water drain then gently squeezed as much dirty, soapy water from the bag as I could. The water was pretty bad. I didn't try lifting the bag, rather, I folded it over on itself and pressed the water out against the tub bottom.

Rinse cycle. I rinsed the bag in three changes of clean, warm, water trying to move as much water through the fabric/down as possible with each rinse. This took about an hour and was a lot of work. After the last rinse I squeezed as much water from the bag as possible gently folding and then rolling the bag into a wet ball. I rolled the "ball" onto a large towel for transport to the drying stage.

Drying. Using the towel as a supportive sling I carried the bag into our laundry room and then carefully lowered the load into our top loading washer. I very carefully distributed the bag around the bottom of the washer tub and then put the washer on spin cycle for ten minutes or so. The bag came out of the spin cycle with no free water inside. I then put the bag in our dryer on the air fluff setting. There is no heating of the air with this setting. It took about an hour and a half to dry the bag. Keep in mind, though, that the relative humidity was about 5% the day I did this; you'll need more patience if you live in a humid area.

I just got back from an overnight trip using the bag. It was back to it's original loft and smell. Before I washed it it was greasy, rancid and had lost half of its loft. Now it's like a new bag!
May I walk in beauty.

#193794 - 02/22/16 08:54 PM Re: Washing a Down Sleeping Bag [Re: Barefoot Friar]
OregonMouse Offline

Registered: 02/03/06
Posts: 6800
Loc: Gateway to Columbia Gorge
I followed the directions on the Western Mountaineering website for Product Tips and Care. That included using the recommended products. They weren't available locally (not even at REI), but I could order from

Detergent removes oils from the down which reduces its water resistance. Woolite may be mild, but it is a detergent, not a soap. Spend the money for the Down Wash; it's worth it!

It helped that my son and his wife have an extra large front loader machine. I ran a couple of plain water cycles through the empty machine first to get all the detergent residue out. I then washed the sleeping bag, using a second full delicate cycle to make sure it was rinsed. After the final spin (you can use a slightly higher spin speed), I applied the DWR to the outer shell as specified in the WM instructions.

This was a long process, starting about 11 am and not resulting in a fully dry sleeping bag until almost 9 pm. However, it was all worth it--I had what looked and felt like a brand new sleeping bag, whose loft was (and still is) actually higher than when it was new! At least by doing it at my son's home, I wasn't stuck in a laundromat for 10 hours. If you have to do the latter, take a LONG book, like War and Peace.

As for the puppy--do you have Nature's Miracle or a similar product around? IMHO, it's a most necessary product when there's a pup in the house! I'd spray the offending part of the sleeping bag--and the surrounding area--right now, before you wash the bag.

Edited by OregonMouse (02/22/16 11:17 PM)
May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view--E. Abbey

#193798 - 02/23/16 12:24 AM Re: Washing a Down Sleeping Bag [Re: Barefoot Friar]
Dryer Offline


Registered: 12/05/02
Posts: 3591
Loc: Texas
I feel your pain. grin
So, when my wife ran a Girl Scout troop for a dozen years, both daughters using my down bags way more than they were probably intended, I simply followed the directions on my North Face bags.
Wash warm water, liquid detergent, tumble dry.
I use UNSCENTED liquid detergent, warm/hot setting, dry until dry.
My favorite bag is almost 30 years old and good as new. I'll usually zip-tie a sock over the zippers to keep from beating up my dryer. Down is tough. Nothing man-made gets close.
Method: Keep bag in stuff sack. Fill washer and add detergent. Stop machine, and submerge stuff sack...slowly pulling out the bag, allowing it to saturate slowly. Else you'll be wrestling an anaconda trying to push out all the air. Run machine, regular cycle, spin, and spin again. Pop into dryer, maybe a tennis ball or two to break up down clumps, and dry until dry. I've tried being gentle, tried using gentle down specific concoctions, but in the end, normal fabric detergent works fine.
You can also spot clean. I sometimes wipe down my bags by draping them over a taught line, and with a big sponge, wipe them with a dilute solution of Dawn, and clear, warm water. Sometimes the grime never makes it past the fabric. Hope this helps.
paul, texas KD5IVP

#193800 - 02/23/16 07:53 AM Re: Washing a Down Sleeping Bag [Re: Barefoot Friar]
Barefoot Friar Offline

Registered: 01/23/09
Posts: 176
Loc: Houston, Alabama
I thank you all.

I washed it yesterday in the bathtub with just a tiny amount of Woolite. I ran it through a couple air cycles on the dryer, and then laid it out on the dining room table under the ceiling fan to finish off while I completed my laundry for the week. I think it worked out okay.

Thanks again for your help.
"Stand in the ways and see, and ask for the old paths, where the good way is, and walk in it; then you will find rest for your souls."

#206877 - 02/09/23 01:10 PM Re: Washing a Down Sleeping Bag [Re: Barefoot Friar]
GraysonDunla Offline

Registered: 02/09/23
Posts: 2
Hi there! That's a tough situation with your sleeping bag. I can imagine you're frustrated with your little furry friend. But don't worry, there are steps you can take to clean your down sleeping bag! You're on the right track with considering hand washing in the bathtub, and the Woolite you mentioned can definitely work, though you may also want to consider Nikwax Down Wash Direct specifically designed for cleaning down products.

#206878 - 02/09/23 02:28 PM Re: Washing a Down Sleeping Bag [Re: Barefoot Friar]
Arizona Offline

Registered: 02/26/02
Posts: 301
Loc: The Southwestern Deserts
The OP is most likely long gone but this might help others.

I do mine in late Spring when the weather gets hot and before the humidity comes up like in summer. Nikwax Down Wash in the bathtub followed by five rinses, gently pressing the water out. Then the bag is spread over the table out back, shaking and turning every hour. Some down will clump in the corners so lightly batting with finger tips will spread that out. As it dries it will fluff. My 20° WM bag takes about 6 hours to dry but I leave it laying across the bed for another day just in case. After the bag is stowed in its large storage bag it always fluffs up way more than before the wash. The process really revives the loft back to near brand new. Just make double sure all the soap is rinsed out and the bag is perfectly dry before storing.

Jackets are far easier and dry much faster too.

#206880 - 02/11/23 08:26 PM Re: Washing a Down Sleeping Bag [Re: Arizona]
CamperMom Offline

Registered: 01/04/02
Posts: 1228
Loc: Eastern MA, USA
My personal favorite for washing anything down is Atsko Sport Wash. No residue left behind, no optical brighteners, etc.

For those who fear using their top-load washers, consider using yours just as a tub. Fill with water, add Sport Wash or cleaner of your preference, swish, add the down article, soak 3-10 minutes, swish BY HAND, spin, rinse, hand-swish, spin, rinse again and spin. A lot more water will be removed by your washing machine than you can get out by hand. After spinning, I hang down articles on my clothesline, then tumble in my dryer without heat.

#206881 - 02/11/23 09:13 PM Re: Washing a Down Sleeping Bag [Re: CamperMom]
Arizona Offline

Registered: 02/26/02
Posts: 301
Loc: The Southwestern Deserts
Yes, you are absolutely correct and thanks for reminding me. I actually do the spin dry in the washer too, forgot to mention that. It does remove most of the water, makes a big fluffy down bag look pathetic. Lol

After that I take it outside and spread it over the table.


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