Can Sleeping Bags get Washed With A Top-Loading Washing Machine?

It goes without saying that a sleeping bag should be kept clean. Nevertheless, the type of washer you use has an impact on its upkeep.

A sleeping bag can be washed in a top-loading washing machine, but the agitator must be removed to avoid causing damage to the sleeping bag. A front-loading washing machine is your best bet if you want to be as safe as possible.

You may be wondering why the agitator must be removed. Why is it that everyone says not to use a top-loading washing machine but doesn’t explain why?

Is it possible to wash your sleeping bag in a top-loading washing machine?

Yes, you can wash your sleeping bag in a top-loading washing machine, but you’ll need to slightly and temporarily modify the washing machine.

If you’ve ever searched the internet for tips on how to clean your sleeping bag, there’s one tip you’ve probably seen almost everywhere, and that is to avoid washing your sleeping bag in a top-loading washing machine.

Maybe it’s great advice, but why? There aren’t many places that discuss why you shouldn’t use a top-loading washing machine. They simply state that they will not.

Along with avoiding sleeping bag compression, this is a common statement. However, it is unclear why top-loading washers or sleeping bag compression are issues. Compression is something to consider if you want to make sure your sleeping bag lasts as long as possible. 

Meanwhile, I believe that if you understand why these recommendations are made, you will be able to make better decisions about how to care for your sleeping bag.

So, why not wash your sleeping bag in a front-loading washing machine? In a nutshell, i mean It will almost certainly clean your sleeping bag way more than a hand wahsed sleeping bag. However, the machine’s motion, combined with the use of the agitator in the center, can pose additional risks to your sleeping bag. As it is washed, it may become tangled or even ripped. If you’ve spent $100 or more on your sleeping bag, you’ll want to avoid that situation.

Meanwhile, front-loading washing machines don’t have that agitator. There’s more room for the sleeping bag to move and be washed safely. When in a pinch, you can also opt to remove the agitator from your washing machine. However, you will want to make sure you know how to do it safely. This video from Appliance Parts Pros can help you get the job done in no time.

How to remove the agitator from your washing machine before washing the sleeping bag?

Please watch the video down below to see how to remove the agitator

To summarize, if you want to wash your sleeping bag in a top-loading washer, you should do the following:

  1. Remove the agitator to prevent your sleeping bag from becoming overly twisted.
  2. If you use detergent, thoroughly rinse the sleeping bag till there is no detergent left
  3. If you have a down sleeping bag, DO NOT USE REGULAR DETERGENT it will ruin the natural down
  4. In the dryer, use tennis balls (or yarn balls) to break up any clumps of down that form when the bag gets wet. (To reduce static clinginess, we keep yarn balls in our dryer all the time.)

How Frequently Should I Wash My Sleeping Bag?

Washing your sleeping bag should only be done if there is a problem; washing as little as possible will ensure its longevity. However, if you use it frequently, you should wash it no more than 2-3 times per year.

Check out our article here that goes into more detail about when you should wash your sleeping bag.

When not to Wash Your Sleeping Bag

Sleeping bags are not like your regular bedding you don’t need to wash them very often. While you should wash your bed sheets every couple of weeks or so, you should only wash your sleeping bag once a year, only exception is if your sleeping bag gets very dirty or wet by accident.

The reason for this is that washing a sleeping bag can cause the filling to lose its loft. If the loft deflates and becomes too low, you may need to replace the filling or purchase a new bag. This is particularly true for down-filled sleeping bags.

The air gaps in the insulation are referred to as loft. Down filled sleeping bags are especially more susceptible to moisture and is known to lose loft over time.

To keep a sleeping bag in good condition, you can easily spot clean it in the majority of the cases. You can clean any dirty spots on the outside of the bag with a damp (but not soaked) rag and a very mild soap. After that, simply allow it to dry and your bag will be ready to use.

If your sleeping bag gets wet for any reason, especially if it gets wetter than a small water spill, it may need to be washed. Consider what caused the sleeping bag to become wet. If it’s only a small amount and the substance is water, simply dry out the bag.

However, if you suspect the filling has become soaked, thoroughly wash and dry the bag to avoid rot, mold, or mildew problems.

Alternatives to Washing a Sleeping Bag in the Washing Machine

There are other options if you don’t want to spend the money or risk damaging your sleeping bag by washing it in a washing machine. Depending on what’s wrong with your sleeping bag, you can wash it by hand, replace the filling, or simply purchase a new one.

Hand-Washing your sleeping bag

The first and cheapest option is to hand-wash your sleeping bag. Depending on how you do it, this can be time-consuming. It does, however, allow you to ensure that the cleaning is gentle. Not to mention that it is less expensive than many other options.

Before you begin, you should inspect the condition of your sleeping bag. Is it just dirt on the covering, or has the filling become soaked? If the problem is with the covering, an easier method is to wipe it down with a very gentle cleanser and a damp sponge or cloth. Then, ensure that the sleeping bag can completely dry.

If the sleeping bag has been soaked, you’ll have to do a little more work. Hand washing your sleeping bag in the bathtub takes a little more effort, but it results in a more thorough cleaning. Instructables has a great step-by-step guide for cleaning a bag in the bathtub.

Visit A Professional Cleaning Service

If you have a more expensive sleeping bag your should consider visiting a professional cleaning service.

If you’ve cleaned your sleeping bag by hand and/or in a washing machine and it still has an odd odor or doesn’t appear to be clean, you may need to hire a professional cleaning service.

It may be more expensive, but if it saves you from spending $200 or more on a new sleeping bag, it’s probably worth it.

When looking for a professional service to use, it’s a good idea to look for sleeping bag-specific options. At the very least, the place should have cleaning experience with sleeping bags.

This is because some cleaning methods, such as dry cleaning, can cause more damage to the loft than others. This is also why, unless absolutely necessary, professional cleaning services should be avoided.


In some cases, no amount of cleaning will save your sleeping bag. For example, if the filling in your down sleeping bag becomes wet and begins to rot, you won’t be able to simply wash the rot away.

The smell is one of the most obvious indicators that your filling is starting to rot. If sleeping bags get too wet or go too long without being washed, they can begin to stink. Check out our article here to learn more about what to do if you have a stinky sleeping bag.

Having said that, you do have options before having to replace your sleeping bag entirely. Down filling can be replaced, and it is often much less expensive than purchasing a new bag.

All you have to do is open up a few of the seams, remove the rotting down, add in new down and sew it back up. It might seem like a lot of work, but when good sleeping bags tend to be a bit costly it can certainly be worth the effort to save some cash.

If you are replacing the down in your sleeping bag make sure and match the fill power. Your sleeping bag usually has an advertised fill power that is just a number. That means that if you replace the down you should use 650-fill or higher if you want the same (or better) performance. The higher the fill power the higher the performance (and cost).

Similar Posts