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How to Wash a Synthetic Insulated Jacket or Sleeping Bag

The gentle action of front-loading laundromat washing machines is recommended for washing synthetic insulated jackets and sleeping bags with delicate shell fabrics.
The gentle action of front-loading laundromat washing machines is recommended for washing synthetic insulated jackets and sleeping bags with delicate shell fabrics.

Regular cleaning of synthetic insulated jackets and sleeping bags is recommended to maximize their performance and warmth. However, the use of lightweight exterior shell fabrics requires delicate handling. Here are cleaning and gear maintenance tips to help you clean and restore synthetic insulated garments, quilts, and sleeping bags for optimal use.

Synthetic Insulated Coats and Jackets

Synthetic insulated jackets should be washed by hand in a sink or on a gentle wash cycle in a washing machine. Avoid using top loaders with agitators as these can rip the delicate shell fabric of your jacket. Instead, wash your jacket in a front loading machine if you have one at home or in a laundromat.

Specialty Soap

Always wash in cold water using a fragrance-free soap like Revivex Pro-Cleaner, specially designed for washing synthetic insulation. Woolite is also suitable but make sure you use a fragrance-free version for outdoor clothing. Never use liquids or powdered laundry detergent, bleach, or fabric softeners which are harsh and can leave residues behind. Never dry clean.

If washing in a washing machine, wash on a gentle cycle with an extra rinse if available. If washing in a commercial laundromat, consider running an empty cycle beforehand to remove any detergent residue remaining from prior users.

Tumble Dry

Tumble dry on the lowest heat setting available. Check the garment occasionally to make sure it isn’t overheating.

Repair if Necessary

Once dry, inspect your jacket carefully for tears and abrasion around high wear areas like the wrists and elbows. If you discover rips, punctures, or areas where the fabric has worn through, repair them with Tenancious Tape, a sticky fabric repair tape available in multiple colors that will hold indefinitely through multiple washes. It’s great stuff and far less expensive than sending the jacket out for repair.

Synthetic Insulated Sleeping Bags

Synthetic insulated sleeping bags and backpacking quilts should be washed in a front-loading laundromat-style washing machines because the agitators in home washing machines can rip your bags delicate shell fabric. While you can also wash a synthetic sleeping bag in a bathtub, it has to be spotlessly clean beforehand and free of soap scum and other residue that can gum up the insulation or shell fabric. It’s often easier to go to a laundromat for this reason.

Preparation

Before washing, turn the sleeping bag inside out since this is where sweat and body oils accumulate with use. Close all zippers, loosen all drawstrings to expose as much surface fabric as possible, and mate all velcro connectors. If your sleeping bag or quilt has a foot vent, open it up completely.

Specialty Soap

Always wash in cold water using a fragrance-free soap like Revivex Pro-Cleaner, specially designed for washing synthetic insulation. Woolite is also suitable but make sure you use a fragrance-free version. Never use liquids or powdered laundry detergent, bleach, or fabric softeners which are harsh and can leave residues behind. Never dry clean.

If washing in a commercial laundromat, consider running an empty cycle beforehand to remove any detergent residue remaining from prior users. If washing in a washing machine, wash on a gentle cycle with an extra rinse if available. I also recommend washing the sleeping bag, without soap, to make sure that it has been completely removed.

Tumble Dry

Once washed, carefully lift the very wet, sloppy, and heavy sleeping bag or place it inside a commercial dryer. Set the heat level on the lowest (coolest) setting available and tumble dry. This is likely to take several hours, so bring something to read or do while you wait. Check the sleeping bag occasionally to make sure that it is no too hot. You don’t have to put tennis balls in the drier when drying a synthetic sleeping bag.

Reapply DWR Coating

Many sleeping bags and backpacking quilts have a DWR coating to shed condensation and moisture that rubs off tent walls. While low dryer heat is often enough to reactivate this coating, you may want to reproof your sleeping bag shell if the DWR has worn off.

The easiest way to do this is to spray it with Revivex Instant Water Proofing Spray. Hold the sprayer 6-12″ from the surface of the sleeping bag and spray it on, paying particular attention to the foot end of the sleeping aid where the most moisture accumulates. This water proofing spray dries very quickly and is very convenient to use.

When finished, store the sleeping bag in a large laundry sack, un-stuffed, until your next camping trip.

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8 comments

  1. Thanks for writing this. Maybe it seems obvious but I’ve had s hard time figuring out how to wash my synthetic puffy jacket. Not much info out there about what soap to use.

  2. Perfect timing. It is time to wash my MLD Spirit quilt and I haven’t yet found instructions on their web site. I think it’s there, somewhere! And if I could find the instructions that came with it…

  3. Nice idea for an article, Philip. Thanks! FYI- Many newer TOP-loading home washing machines don’t have agitators anymore either and are also large enough for sleeping bags, etc.

  4. It’s possible to buy normal laundry detergent free of fragrance, softeners and optical brighteners, and it’s 1/10 the cost of the luxury outdoors-oriented detergent.
    As to “harshness”, we are washing polyester and nylon, which is pretty robust stuff. Are your everyday clothes falling apart because of these harsh detergents? I think it is clever marketing on the part of Nikwax, Gear Aid, et al. They never present any evidence of the superiority of their products, just a bunch of unsubstantiated claims.

  5. You always right very useful and informative Post.
    Thanks for posting and Keep Writting.

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