(One minute read)
- Manufacturer guidelines
- Available equipment and products
- Requirement to be washed or not
- Wash your down products if you use them regularly.
- Treat with DWR wash in products
- Avoid getting them wet. Even if DWR treated it is best practice to keep dry.
- Wash in top loading machines (unless it has no agitator)
- Using traditional laundry detergent (it’s too harsh)
Like most clothing, Down has a specific set of recommended washing instructions but it is important to note that the ‘best practice’ is to follow the tag on the actual garment you are washing rather than the label of a particular ‘care product’. Whilst down is down, there are different grades or ratings (lofting power) and some different ratios of feather to down that may impact the care. Other things to consider are the exterior or shell fabric used to make the sleeping bag or piece of clothing, as some are more delicate than others.
As a rule of thumb with sleeping bags I would suggest for 20-30 nights of use (that’s 2-3 years for some trekkers and 6 months for others) that you wash your bag for best performance. If the down contained within a sleeping bag or jacket for that matter becomes dirty it can negatively impact its ability to loft. If the down does not loft adequately it will not retain your body heat as effectively and therefore it will not live up its intended temperature rating (which is already impacted by other factors like metabolism, sleeping mats, tent type, weather and clothing). It is with all of this in mind that you should gauge when it is appropriate to wash your product.
Many people are fearful of ruining their product by washing and I can certainly relate to that. So much so I feel much more comfortable returning my One Planet Bushlite -7 back to the manufacturer for a professional wash. They’ve washed many a bag before. In fact I washed many bags whilst working in their factory some years ago. Not much can go wrong if you follow the suggested directions but in my experience, and of those from whom I have heard, it’s the time allocated to tackling these tasks that we are sometimes short of. The drying time and space available to do it properly is sometimes worth considering.
Using a large front loader washing machine is best. Some sleeping bags won’t fit very well into a small machine. It may be that you need to go to a laundromat or visit someone with a larger machine as this allows for more water to move around whilst washing the bag. It is important not to use traditional detergents and softeners. We recommend using Gear Aid Down Cleaner or a similar mild detergent.
The usual drying process involves using a large dryer. Again you may need to visit the laundromat to get one big enough and use dryer balls or tennis balls to help agitate the down and stop it from forming clumps while drying. This part of the process can take longer for different bags with different fill quantities so a little trial and error may be required.
In order to avoid regular washing you can use a sleeping bag liner. Not only does this add extra warmth (if required) it means you only need to wash the liner instead of the whole bag. This increases the life of the bag and duration of the DWR treatment that your bag may have come with from the manufacturer. Sleeping in thermals will also minimise the amount of sweat and dirt from your skin that will be transferred to the bag. It may not always be the right conditions to be sleeping in thermals as you may get too hot and perspire unnecessarily which will counteract the reason you've worn them in the first place. In addition to that, if you are too hot, you can always zip open the bag to let some heat out. It’s all a fine art, finding the balance in the outdoors and catering for different environments. As long as you are having fun, that is what really matters.
(if you wish to know more about 'down' please download our free e-Book 'Fox's Guide to Field Gear'