Should You Wash A New Sleeping Bag? (Yes, Here’s Why)


If you just got a new sleeping bag then one of your questions might be “Should you wash it?” I know that it was one of my questions when I got my first sleeping bag. Naturally, I had to do some research to find out the answer, and now I want to share my findings with you.

So, should you wash a new sleeping bag? Just like with new clothing, you should wash a new sleeping bag. Washing a new sleeping bag will help keep you safe from some of the germs that come with new fabric items.

Luckily, washing a sleeping bag is simple and easy. Much easier than washing a tent because it doesn’t have to be done by hand. You may machine wash and dry your sleeping bag whenever you need to clean it using a gentle detergent.

By the way, If you are in the market for a new sleeping bag, then you should click here to see the one I recommend on Amazon.

Why you should wash a new sleeping bag

You should wash a new sleeping bag in order to get rid of extra dyes and that new fabric smell that comes with it. More importantly, you should wash your new sleeping bag in order to remove things like lice, scabies, bacteria, and fungus. These things can be transferred from another person if they had it and came into contact with your new sleeping bag. Your not safe if you didn’t buy your sleeping bag from a physical store either. People may come into contact with your sleeping bag during the manufacturing processes or during shipping and transport.

Just like with new clothing you should wash your new sleeping bag right away to avoid getting anything that someone may have left behind for you. Additionally, washing your new sleeping bag out will remove any excess chemicals and dyes that were part of the manufacturing process. If your skin is particularly sensitive then you could actually have a mild reaction to these chemicals and dyes if they are heavily present in your new sleeping bag. Luckily, it is easy to wash a sleeping bag.

Can you wash your sleeping bag in the washing machine?

You can absolutely wash your sleeping bag in the washing machine in most cases. Exceptions to this are if the manufacturer says not to and if you don’t have access to a front-facing washing machine. Top loader washing machines are just too harsh on your new sleeping bag and could damage the materials if they have an agitator. If the top-loading washing machine doesn’t have an agitator then you should be good to go. You will need to wash it on a gentle cycle with mild detergent. More on that later.

Can you put your sleeping bag in the dryer?

You can dry your sleeping bag in the dryer, but you need to be careful. The dryer needs to be on a low setting in order to not damage any of the sleeping bag materials. Drying it on low may take longer but it will also prolong your sleeping bag’s usable life. If you have a down sleeping bag then you should add something into the dryer like a few tennis balls with it in order to keep the clumps down.

Make sure that your sleeping bag is completely dry before storing it away since trapped moisture can be disastrous to your sleeping bag when stored. To help ensure that the bag is completely dry you might want to hang it up overnight or lay it out overnight to ensure dryness. This means that it will take a little bit of pre-planning before your next camping trip if you want to do it right.

How to wash your sleeping bag and what to use

Your best options to clean your sleeping bag are either by machine wash or by hand. If you are going to use the washing machine then keep in mind the previously mentioned information. Especially important is to not put your sleeping bag in a washing machine with an agitator. If your washing machine is too small then it might not allow your sleeping bag to be fully cleaned correctly. You might have to make a visit to a local laundromat if that is the case.

Washing Machine

In order to wash in the washing machine first unzip your bag completely. Second, use the machine on a gentle setting with cold water. Third, you will need a mild detergent like Woolite for your detergent. If you are washing a down sleeping bag then you will need a specialty soap like Nikwax Down Wash.

Hand Wash

If you are going to hand wash your sleeping bag then you will basically be replicating what the washing machine will do. Fill up your bathtub with cool water and some gentle detergent like Woolite or if it is a down sleeping bag then use Nikwax Down Wash. Do not use too much detergent to where it is over sudsy. Rub the sleeping bag around in the water, then drain and refill again in order to rinse. Once finished you will need to lay your sleeping bag out in an area to dry (it might take a while) Try to avoid too much direct sunlight if possible since UV rays can damage the material. If you try to hang up your sleeping bag with too much water in it still it could end up stretching it out.

How often should you wash your new sleeping bag?

How often you wash your sleeping bag will be dependent on you. One thing that might surprise you is that it doesn’t need to be washed after every single use. Washing your sleeping bag too often could lead to a shorter lifespan just like with clothing. Washing does actually shorten fabric lifespans. You should only need to wash your sleeping bag if something happened to specifically make it dirty or if it develops a smell.

The best thing you can do is to try to keep your sleeping bag as clean as possible. It’s not going to be totally clean (you are taking it outside after all) but there are some easy things you can do in order to reduce the number of times you need to wash it. If I had to give a definitive number, I would say to wash your sleeping bag at least once per camping season. Such as at the end of summer if you do not plan on any camping trips in the fall or winter.

How to keep a new sleeping bag clean

Prevention is one of the best things you can do to prolong your sleeping bag’s usable life. Here are some steps you can take in order to keep your sleeping bag clean when out camping.

Change into clean clothes before crawling in

Before you go to bed at night you should put on clean clothes in order to help prevent the transfer of dirt, sweat, oils, etc. into your sleeping bag. If you were cooking or around a campfire then you should also change into different clothes so that your sleeping bag does not absorb those smells. Try not to sleep naked in your sleeping bag so that any filth on your body does not contact the inside of the sleeping bag, instead try to wear at least a light layer of clothing. Besides, sleeping naked in your sleeping bag won’t keep you warmer as I have explained in this article.

Air out and shake out your bag daily

Make it a habit to open up and shake out your sleeping bag every morning if you can because it will help reduce the build-up of dirt, sand, skin cells, etc that get trapped inside your bag unknowingly to you.

Keep your sleeping bag away from the direct ground

Try not to take it out of your tent and use it on the ground. If you use your bag around a campfire then it is at risk of getting very dirty and smelling like smoke, which leads me to my next tip.

Keep your sleeping bag away from the campfire

Campfire smoke is a very strong smell and your sleeping bag will soak it up. Keep the fire away from your tent and sleeping bag as much as you can in order to prevent them from soaking up the smoke smell.

Use a sleeping bag liner
Sleeping bag liners are usually made out of polyester, silk, wool, or cotton. Not only do they assist in keeping you warmer or colder nights, but they also help to keep your sleeping bag clean. These liners will act as a barrier between you and the bag and so they help keep the inside of the bag cleaner. Instead of needing to wash your sleeping bag you could just wash your sleeping bag liner.

Conclusion

You should wash your new sleeping bag in order to ensure that it is clean and ready for you to use and not get anything nasty from someone else, just like with clothing. It’s easy to wash your sleeping bag because you can put it in the washing machine and dryer. You could also wash by hand if you wanted to.

Try not to wash your sleeping bag too often however because it actually reduces its usable life, instead focus on preventing your sleeping bag from getting dirty in the first place if you can.

My Favorite Camping Gear

  • Air Mattress: click here to check out my favorite on Amazon.
  • Tent: click here to see my favorite tent available on Amazon.
  • Sleeping Pad: click here to check out the one I love on Amazon.
  • Sleeping Bag: click here to see the one I recommend on Amazon.
  • Camping Stove: click here to see the best camping stove on Amazon.

Zachary Smith

Zach is an avid outdoorsman that loves going camping with his Prius every chance he gets. He also regularly enjoys hiking and fishing. When he's not outside you can probably find him writing about it on this website. See his full bio here

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