I will be the first to admit, I was scared to wash my sleeping bag. Everything about down tells you to keep it dry, and now I was considering willingly soaking my bag? I finally convinced myself that after a few years of steady service my sleeping bag was in desperate need of some TLC. I picked up a bottle of Nikwax Down Wash Direct and prepared for the worst. The bottle easily describes the process of hand washing or machine washing. Since I am not made of money and didn't want to chance ruining my bag I went with the hand washing route. The process was simple and made a huge difference in the performance of my sleeping bag. Why didn't I do this earlier? Below is the process I went through in hopes of inspiring you to clean your bag without fear!
1) Since I was planning on line drying my bag I decided to use Rocco's summer cooling pool to clean my sleeping bag and hammock underquilt. If you don't have this option, a bath tub will work perfectly fine.
2) Depending on what down cleaner you buy add the appropriate amount. Because I was doing two large pieces I decided to use half the bottle of Nikwax Down Wash Direct.
3) Make sure you thoroughly mix the cleaner into your water before adding your down pieces.
4) Take a deep breath and toss your expensive down pieces into the water. At this point there is no turning back. Make sure to thoroughly soak the down pieces. I used my hands and feet to agitate the bags and help break up any dirt. I did this for about 10 minutes and then let them soak for 5 minutes. I repeatedly this process three times and felt confident that the dirt had been removed.
5) I then drained the pool and refilled it with clean water. During the refilling I made sure to soak the bags and attempt to force any of the cleaner or dirt out. After the pool was full I agitated the pieces. After a few minutes I figured most the cleaner and dirt had been removed.
6) I placed the pieces on a chair and rinsed them off with the hose while compressing and squeezing the down. I repeated this till i was confident that the water was draining clear. I also used the chair to press as much of the water out of the bags as I could. They had become surprisingly heavy with all the water absorption.
7) Because it is February in Arizona I was able to line dry the bags (it is ok you have the right to be jealous). I made sure to securely hang the bags while being careful not to damage the down baffles. It was a little disconcerting to see all the soaked down pooling at the bottom of the bags, but I had confidence in the process.
8) After a few days of line drying and a light lofting the bags came back to their original status. The dull color of my bag has reemerged a bright green. The down has now all settled in it's appropriate locations and the bags work great. If your technical down pieces are in need of some cleaning I highly recommend the Nikwax Down Direct Wash cleaner. You can find out more about Nikwax and their line of products at their website.