Gear Care: How to Wash Down Insulation by ellie berry


Be it a sleeping bag, jacket, or very fancy slippers, down insulation needs some special care when washing it. This blog post is the companion piece to a video we made a while back on the same topic - how to wash down sleeping bags.

Having just said up above that down needs some special care while washing it, it is a very easy process once you know what to do. Apart from dirt, washing anything down can restore some of its loft (fluffiness) and therefore warmth. Down is an insulation method that uses down feathers that are stored in baffles/ribs/lines across your jacket/sleeping bag/warm thing. tThis division of the feathers into baffles is to stop them from just all falling to the bottom and leaving the rest of you cold. Also, to save us all from having to read through too many forward slashes, from now on I’m just going to refer sleeping bags, but what I’ll be saying is applicable to all down insulated things!

I’ve known that you can, and should wash down for years, but I’ve also known that getting down things wet was something to try and avoid at all costs, which resulted in me not washing my down for a lot time. The main reason why getting down products wet is bad, is that it clumps together and loses its loft, loosing its ability to keep in heat. But if you wash it correctly, you can actually restore a lot of the loft your sleeping bag and it can feel 100 sleeps younger!

So far, I’ve only machine washed down, but it is possible to hand wash it as well.


Machine Washing a Down Sleeping Bag 


  • Clean Tennis Balls

  • A large front loading washing machine
    I think top loading machines are more common in the USA, but just in case I have some readers from that far afield, apparently the vibrations of a top-loading machine can rip the baffles of your sleeping bag, ruining it. So if you don’t have a front loading machine it’s best to probably hand wash it.

  • Specialist Cleaner - I use Grangers Down Wash, but there are loads of outdoor brands that make their own cleaner.

  • A large tumble dryer - front loading again.



  1. Before you start anything, make sure your washing machine is super clean, especially if you use typically use a lot of biological detergents or fabric softeners. If you’re concerned, put the machine through an empty rinse cycle to wash any residue away.

  2. Do up all the zips/velcro on your sleeping bag.

  3. Put your sleeping bag into the machine and add the Down wash/technical cleaning solution.
    (N.B. Regular detergents and clothes softener can damage down sleeping bags!)

  4. Wash your sleeping bag at 30°, on a delicate cycle (wool cycles are usually a good call if there isn’t a specific “delicate” cycle).

  5. Be very careful taking anything down out of the washing machine. Sleeping bags absorb a lot of water, and the weight of it can actually rip the bag. So when taking it out, roll it up into your arms and make sure to support it well. They can also drip a lot, so if it might be worth putting a couple of towels down on the ground too!

  6. Once the wash has finished, make sure it’s rinsed really well - to check if your sleeping bag is completely rinsed by press down on it, and if soap suds bubble up the bag needs to go back into the washing machine for just a rinse cycle.

  7. Now it’s important to dry the sleeping bag really well. Put it in a large tumble dryer on the lowest heat. To prevent the down clumping together add your clean tennis balls into the dryer. It may take a couple of cycles for the down sleeping bag to dry completely - and you need to make sure it is 100% dry before putting it away or using it again.
    If it’s a super sunny day when you’re washing your sleeping bag (still tumble dry for as long as you can) you can opt to air dry it if it’s still the tiniest bit damp after the first or second tumble drying cycle.

And that’s it! You should now have a lovely clean down sleeping bag!

Washing Down.00_04_30_19.Still003.jpg

When I was filming the video of me washing our sleeping bags I forgot to buy tennis balls before hand, so had to run around the corner to the euro shop/super cheap place to see if they had any. The only tennis balls they had came with long handles because they were supposed to be fetch toys for dogs, but a girls gotta buy what a girl can afford!

Below I’ve included some general instructions I’ve read about hand washing a down. They’re based on a couple of sleeping bag manufacturer websites. If you know the brand of your sleeping bag/jacket/etc. look up their website for washing directions as most brands have tips and tricks for caring for their products!

Hand Washing a Down Sleeping Bag


  • Clean Tennis Balls

  • A Bath

  • Specialist Cleaner - eg Grangers Down Wash

  • A large tumble dryer - front loading again


  1. Make sure your bath is clean before filling it up with cool/lukewarm water.

  2. Add your specialist down cleaner to the bath and mix it well.

  3. Submerge your sleeping bag into the bath.

  4. Leave to soak for an hour or so, then drain the water and refill again with fresh water.

  5. Remove all the soap from the bag by gently massaging it (some suggest doing this by walking up and down the bag. I guess just make sure your feet are also super clean). Importantly, do not wring or squeeze the bag. Continue until all the soap has been removed, emptying and refilling the water as you go.

  6. Once the sleeping bag is soap free, drain the water from the bath. The sleeping bag will probably still be water logged so push down on it to drain as much as possible. As mentioned above, when a sleeping bag is this wet it is very easy for it to rip/get damaged, so make sure to lift it out very carefully, not pulling it put getting your arms under it and supporting it.

  7. Tumble dry on a low heat with the tennis balls to stop it from clumping together. Make sure it is 100% dry before putting it away or using it again.
    If it’s a super sunny day when you’re washing your sleeping bag (still tumble dry for as long as you can) you can opt to air dry it if it’s still the tiniest bit damp after the first or second tumble drying cycle.

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