Gear – Do It Yourself – Cleaning a down sleeping bag

We are addicted to our down sleeping bags. They give us the much needed comfort on a night’s sleep on the mountains in the cold seasons. When sweating and farting out those freeze-dried evening suppers, you can imagine in which condition the bag gets after hundred’s of nights out there. Above the odours, the feathers loose much of their elasticity from compressing and decompressing it over and over again. In the end the sleeping bag will loose comfort temperature and will look pale as an overaged rag.

Want to upgrade back your down sleeping bag to its original, new state? Just wash it! Down feathers just love to be washed. They just revive after a good wash. Goose do spent quite some time in the waters, now don’t they? Cleaning will have your down sleeping bag perform better, last longer, and keep you warmer!

When it comes to cleaning down sleeping bags or quilts, most outdoor people i talk to, are afraid they just gonna ruin their valuable and costly (winter) down sleeping bag. People tend to go to (industrial) dry cleaners, in the understanding that those business know how to deal with down. Wrong! I heard dramtaic stories from outdoor enthousiast retrieving their beloved down bag from dry cleaners in a horror state.

So here is how it goes. Prepare a full day at home to be at the side of your beloved down bag. On the drying part, your input will be repeatedly for quite some hours!

1) Ecover Delicate or a similar product is the only washing liquid usable. Other soaps will damage the feathers. Washing softeners are obvious down bag killers! Here’s one very imporatant thing to remember: it’s really easy to get soap into the down feathers, but it’s way harder to get it out.

2) Close all zippers and compress the sleeping bag as good as possible before pushing in in the washer.

Ecover Delicate

Ecover Delicate

Open all zippers

Open all zippers

3) Any home washer will do the drill as long as the volume of the washer can handle your sleeping bag! You don’t have to spend all day on one of those big street front washers.

4) Before using the washer, you should remove all soap rests from the soap collection tray!

Clean the tray!

Clean the tray!

5) Select the down or delicate program and add some Ecover Delicate. Temperature not above 30°C/86°F. Rincing minimum 800 turn/min (down sleeping bag has to be as water free as possible after washing). Never dry wash the down bag, it could be completely ruined in the end.

6) When the program is ready, be very careful! Get the completely ruined down bag out of the washer and put it slowly in a laundry basket. The sleeping bag is at its weakest now. The down will be collapsed into lumps and weighs as hell which can easily tear down the stitchet compartments ( keeping the down in place in the bag).

Carefully remove the down bag from the washer

Carefully remove the down bag from the washer

5) Bring the bag to your wash drier. Open the zippers!

Open the zippers!
Open the zippers!

6) This is the trickiest part of the process: the drying! Add all the tennis balls you can find around the house and add them with the down bag to the drier. The balls will hammer into the feathers trying to get the lumps loose.

Add tennis balls to the drier

Add tennis balls to the drier

7) Put the dryer at approximately 30°C/86°F. You will need to stop the dryer every once in a while (every hour ) to take out the down bag and lay it on the floor in full length. Remove all torsions and seperate the lumps of down by hand. Hit the bag with a flat hand, which will force the feathers to expand from each other. Put back in the dryer and repeat this step for 8 – 12 hours until the bag is completely dry and back in volume.

The result is unbelievable: the bag will look like fresh from the store, in full volume and ready for the mountains! The same procedure can be done for any down clothes (down jackets,…).

I now wash our down bags every year, with great succes!

Good luck!