How to Handwash Your Down Quilt or Sleeping Bag

If your sleep system has become dirty, typically the insulation will have problems lofting and perform less effectively, as well as feeling and smelling worse. It’s time to clean your gear! Typically you need to clean your sleep system once a year or less. This varies from user to user depending on how often you use your gear. The more you use it, the more often you will need to clean your sleep system.

The hand-washing procedure can be time-consuming to prevent damage to the insulation and fabric, so make sure you have a few hours set aside to finish the job (typically 6 hours or longer, depending on what you're washing and individual dryer differences). You can use these directions for both down and synthetic insulations with minor differences which we will mention along the way.

Disclaimer: Since Enlightened Equipment quilts are made using some of the lightest-weight fabrics available, special care is required during use and cleaning to prevent damage to both the fabrics and insulation. Failure to follow these precautions can cause irreparable damage to the quilt, including loss of insulation, and will void the warranty. Enlightened Equipment is not responsible for any damage that occurs during washing or drying.

  • No washing machines: Using a washing machine, of any kind, will void the warranty of all Enlightened Equipment products.
  • Do not dry clean: Dry cleaning chemicals are too harsh.
  • Drying: Use no heat when putting products in a dryer. Hot spots can melt the fabric and materials used.
  • Detergents: For down items, use only cleaning supplies that are specifically made for down (read labels to be sure they are down safe). For synthetic products, use a performance wash or tech wash made for high-performance fabrics. These soaps will clean your gear without damaging its DWR finish. You can find Granger's cleaning and care products on our website, and Nikwax products are also good.
  • Wet Gear: Items get extremely heavy when wet, so don't pick up and move the sleep system until as much water has been kneaded out as possible. Picking a sleeping system up wet may put stress on the fabric and down and cause long-term issues. We recommend using a mesh laundry bag to protect your sleep system during the washing process.

What You'll Need:

-Your sleep system.

-A bathtub or large wash basin.

-A bin or bag for moving the wet quilt

-Dryer.

-2-3 tennis or dryer balls (these should be clean; if your dog chews on them, pick up some new ones).

-An appropriate detergent for down products or synthetic quilts and accessories.

Now you’re ready to get started.

  1. Check for any cord locks and snaps and make sure they’re all well secured, with knots to keep the cord locks from falling off.
  2. Fill the tub or basin with the appropriate amount of water for the amount of detergent you will be using. Read the directions on the down wash to determine the correct amount of detergent to add to the water. Whether down wash or standard detergent for synthetics, try to use the least amount they recommend as it can be easy to overdo it and using too much makes it harder to rinse thoroughly.
  3. Put your sleep system in the water and begin pressing all the air out of the down. You may be surprised at how well your item floats; insulation is excellent at holding onto the air, so pressing the air out allows the water and detergent to reach all parts of the insulation. Do this until the detergent and water have completely saturated the gear. Tip: Put the item in a stuff sack and slowly let out to help saturate with water.
  4. Drain the tub, and knead out as much water as you can, i.e. massage or squeeze it with your hands. Do not wring, just press it out.
  5. Refill the tub with warm water to rinse the sleep system out. Knead the item as you did before, pressing out as much of the detergent as you can. Let it sit and soak for 5-10 minutes, then drain the tub again, and knead out as much water as you can once more.
  6. Repeat step 5 until the water is clear. If the water is still cloudy and the detergent hasn’t been fully rinsed out, you may need to refill the tub and rinse again.
  7. While pressing the water out after the final rinse, it’s important to get as much moisture out as you possibly can. Doing this poorly will result in extremely long drying times. Don't move the sleep system until as much water as possible has been kneaded out. While soaked, it's very heavy, and moving it can stress the fabric and stitching. It's best to move the quilt using a container or mesh laundry bag. Tip: It is beneficial to press out all the water you can and then press the quilt between two dry towels to remove even more moisture.
  8. Move the sleep system into your dryer, and throw the tennis/dryer balls in with it. These will help break up the clumps of down to speed up the drying process. Set to no heat and begin drying. Drying time will vary. Typical dry times are around 3-5 hours but could take longer. Tip: Stopping periodically and manually spreading some of the down out can help ensure it dries completely. If the down still smells gamey, it isn't completely dry.
  9. The washing process can result in down not being evenly distributed. When all is finished, lay the quilt flat and gently shift the down into any empty spots. Make sure to distribute the down as evenly as possible for best warmth. See our down distribution article for more info.
  10. Once your quilt is clean, make sure to get outside as quickly as possible and go on another adventure!

Now that your gear is clean, you will need to store it. Generally speaking, insulation should not be stored while compressed, so all EE sleep systems include a larger storage sack for storage at home. Where possible store your gear in a room with dry air and out of direct sunlight. When possible, choose a storage place with air circulation, instead of a stuffy closet. Keep it out of reach of pets as they tend to be very interested in what's inside your gear.