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Best way to clean a down bag?
Interested in what others do to clean their down sleeping bags? Over the decades I've gotten them dry cleaned and also washed in Nikwax down wash in a commercial front loader. After a few washings in the front loader, one of the baffles in my trusty North Face bag failed, which basically renders the bag useless (major cold spot).
What do you all do to clean yours?
I only hand wipe mine down with a damp cloth or a store bought wipe. If roughing it ...it goes in a waterproof bivy sack. Every time you wash it you are breaking the materials down.
I use a liner every time. The one I generally use is silk. When this get dirty I wash it. You are asking for trouble trying to clean a bag.
Have an Eddie Bower I got about 1978. Never been washed but I bet it's been 30 years since I used it. Woke up under a piece of visqueen in the YellowJacket Creek drainage north of Challis one mid oct morning with the bottom half of the bag under a couple inches of snow. Still warm. Pretty much stick to artificialls now.
I would contact the manufacturer. You might be able to take a needle and thread to sew and another couple bigger needles to move the down and fix that bag.
Before you throw it, contact me. Her Majesty can sew anything and there might be hope for it.
Also interested - I have one that I would like to clean but scared I would ruin it and I dearly love this bag. From now on I will be using a liner, wish I would have begun doing that years ago.
Read this article in the link. Ed
I use a flannel liner that adds warmth, is warm at first touch unlike my bags,provides warmth when bag is too warm and washes well. Too heavy on a back pack hunt then silk has benefits.
Thanks, Ed. That's pretty much exactly what I do. I've tried a liner and in a mummy-style bag I get all bound up. I'm about to spring for a new WM and looking for cleaning ideas after I use it awhile. As much as I camp (and now summer backpacking again) it will need to be cleaned at some point.
Larry, I'll try some things on that baffle. That bag has spent literally hundreds of nights out so I got my money's worth out of it.
My Gerry down bag was purchased in 1972 using Christmas money from various relatives. About every 5 years it has been washed in a regular washing machine set at "gentle" using Woolite or a down specific cleanser. It then air dries outside until dry. Then it goes into a regular drier set at "no heat" along with a jogging shoe for perhaps 10 to 15 minutes- whatever it takes to beat down any clumps. Bag still gets regular use. Originally it was rated at 15 degrees and was really more of a 25 degree bag. Now I consider it a 35 degree bag.
I wash and dry on the most gentle setting I can at home. I add a couple tennis balls to the dryer to keep the feathers from loading up and balling in one section of the bag...beats the loft evenly back into the bag if you follow me? TIP...leave the house during the dryer run because those two tennis balls banging around in there will drive you crazy.
I use a shoe in the dryer ONCE. Something on the shoe ripped my coat. TIP: Tennis balls now.
I avoid washing my bags
I try to use a Liner to protect them dirt and body oils. Then I can wash the liner and not the sleeping bag
I would hand wash in a tub. Or wash on the gentle setting in a washing machine
Run a full cycle of just water through your front loader washer to remove residual soap and fabric softener. Put in your bag and the proper down wash. I don't have any of the newer "water proof" down yet, so I use Nikwax Down wash. Run on gentle cycle. Lift the bag or garment out in a ball, lay it on the floor and gently spread it out. After a day or two, put it in the dryer with a half dozen tennis balls (mine reside in the dryer) on no heat setting. You can't over tumble it. If your bag is dirty with grime, body oils and sweat, it should restore the rating, not lower it. Like any job, it has to be done correctly to get good results. Any of the denser, heavier rubber balls work better, but are much noisier. Don't use shoes.
I cold tumble all my down articles once or twice a year just to restore loft and redistribute the down. Under the bed is a great place to store down bags and garments so the down doesn't migrate to the bottom.
And as someone on Bowsite found out, tell several people in your house that you stored your brand new down bag under the bed so you're not frantically looking for it just before a big Alaskan trip!!
I would say "wash it down" but I don't want to ruffle any feathers.
Now my "serious" answer. I live near the Appalachian Trail. I do some shuttles and trail magic. Very few hikers carry down bag but the ones who do will hand wash them or machine wash in a frontloader with a tiny bit of dish soap, tumble dry on lowest heat setting.
I have 2 Marmot bags that I hadn't washed for 20 years until last year. Completely restored them (both smell and loft). I have a front loader and used the gently cycle. I probably won't do it yearly, but maybe every 3-4 years.