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How to Wash Down Quilts and Sleeping Bags

Updated: Sep 23, 2023

Do it right, feels like new. Do it wrong, ruin the down

A good night's sleep is crucial for a successful backpacking trip, and a high-quality quilt or sleeping bag can make all the difference. But after heavy use, even the best down can get dirty and lose its insulating properties. If you have a down quilt or bag, you might be wondering how to properly clean it without damaging the down feathers.

In this blog post, we'll guide you through the process of washing your down products. We'll also highlight the importance of making sure your down is totally dry before storing it, as wet down can ruin your sleeping bag.

(Note: from here on we will refer to quilts, the product we recommend using; but these methods work for all down products including sleeping bags, jackets, etc.)


To safely wash and dry a down quilt, you will need several materials, including:

  1. Down wash: This is a specially formulated detergent designed to clean and revitalize the down filling in your quilt. Look for a product that is specifically made for down gear, as regular detergent can damage the delicate feathers.

  2. Commercial dryer: You'll need access to a large commercial dryer that can hold your quilt without compressing it. Look for a dryer with no heat or low heat options, as high heat can damage the down. You can also do this at home if you have a large dryer.

  3. Tennis balls (optional): Tennis balls can help to fluff up the down filling and prevent it from clumping together during the drying process. If you don't have any tennis balls on hand, wool dryer balls can also work.

  4. Bathtub AND large container: Hand wash in a bathtub, rather than using a washing machine as machine washing can tear the internal baffles in your quilt, then use the container/tote to carefully carry the quilt to a dryer. This will prevent the weight of wet down breaking the baffles.

Washing and Drying Down

  1. Choose the right detergent: First, choose a down-specific detergent like Nikwax Down Wash. Regular laundry detergents can strip the natural oils from the down, reducing its loft and insulating properties.

  2. Pre-treat any stains: If there are any stains on the quilt, spot-treat them with the detergent before washing.

  3. Add the detergent and quilt: Add the recommended amount of down detergent to the tub. Make sure the bag has plenty of room to move around.

  4. Wash the quilt: gently work the soap and water through the quilt, ensuring the down is fully soaked, and giving extra attention to any heavily soiled areas.

  5. Rinse thoroughly: Rinse the quilt thoroughly in the tub to ensure all of the detergent is removed. The water should run clear.

  6. Press out excess water: Make the quilt as dry as possible before removing from the tub by pressing the quilt against the bathtub walls/base with your hands. Remember, heavy down can rip baffles!

  7. Dry in a commercial dryer: Place the quilt in a large commercial dryer on a no-heat or low-heat setting. Add a few clean tennis balls or dryer balls to help fluff the down. Dry the bag for at least 4 hours, checking periodically to make sure it is drying evenly.

  8. Ensure complete dryness: The most important part of washing a down quilt is ensuring it is completely dry. Even slightly damp down can clump together and lose its loft and promoting fungal growth, ruining the insulation properties of the bag. If the bag is not completely dry after 4 hours in the dryer, continue drying it until it is.

Don't get too impatient while drying!

Additional Tips

  1. Do not use fabric softeners or bleach: These chemicals can damage the delicate feathers and reduce the loft of your quilt.

  2. Avoid direct sunlight: When drying your quilt, avoid direct sunlight as it can cause the fabric to fade and weaken the fibers. Do not hang to dry, we don't recommend air drying.

  3. Store your quilt correctly: After washing and drying, make sure to store your quilt in a dry and well-ventilated place. Don't compress your down too much, as this can damage the down insulation over time.

  4. Consider getting a professional cleaning: If you're not comfortable washing your down at home, or if it's too bulky to fit in your dryer, consider taking it to a professional cleaner who specializes in down gear. They have the equipment and expertise to clean and dry your quilt safely and effectively.


Remember, keeping your quilt clean and dry is crucial to extending its lifespan and ensuring optimal performance during your outdoor adventures. Damp down will clump and grow mold, permanently ruining the down. Always use a specially formulated down wash, avoid using fabric softeners or bleach, and be gentle when washing any down-containing product. When it comes to drying, use a commercial dryer on no heat and toss in a few tennis balls to help fluff up the down. With these tips in mind, you can keep your down quilt in top condition for years to come.

Happy tramping!

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