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Cleaning down sleeping bag

 
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I have a down sleeping bag that has absorbed the critter urine smell from a camper trailer. It has been cold enough to not notice the smell until I went to work and warmed up. Most of my stuff is smelling good thanks to vinegar, h2o2, baking soda, laundering, and sunshine. I am working on cleaning and moving into a tent

Now I could use suggestions to clean my down bag. Is there a way to use a washing machine? I have always been told that I should dry clean down bags by other hikers. I am definitely not okay with the toxins associated with this.

I thought I would try soaking in vinegar and water then laundering and hanging in the sun. I figured I would ask here while I wait for the sun to return.

Thanks, Justin
 
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You can wash it in a front-loading washer but a top-load with an agitator can rip the bag.  I'd try it on cold first and then do a warm wash if the cold wash doesn't work, though it should.

After, you can dry it on a line or on air in a dryer.  If you hang it, you'll want to put it in a dryer on air when it's dry with a tennis ball or two to get the loft back.  I've washed my Mont Bell bags that way and they're pretty delicate and expensive (at least to me).  
 
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Justin,

There is a type of dry cleaning that might be acceptable to you but you will have to look for it.  The technology uses something called super critical carbon dioxide (SCO2).  SCO2 is CO2 compressed to its critical state where it strangely adopts characteristics of both a liquid and a gas.  It is dense but fill a chamber like a gas and is used in some dry cleaning operations in order to avoid all the toxic Gick normally associated with dry cleaning.

If that is not an option, then maybe a washing machine is necessary.  Normally I would avoid this, but the urine basically makes the sleeping back useless unless removed—am I correct in this assumption?  We had an incontinent cat and frequently used vinegar to rid the nasty smell.  OxyClean may work, but I don’t know if that passes the Gick test.

You have my sympathies as that is a terribly difficult smell to be rid of.

Eric
 
Justin Gerardot
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Thanks for the response Timothy. I will go to the laundromat soon and give it a try. Looks like my tennis balls are more than just 'back massagers'

You are right that they are expensive, but worth it. My kelty has traveled more than a thousand miles in my backpack and helped me through some below zero nights
 
Justin Gerardot
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Thanks Eric. I will have to look that SCO2 dry cleaning up. You are correct that the bag is useless until cleaned. I just wear more clothes and a blanket instead of using it. I am okay with oxiclean, but don't normally use it. I think the dry cleaning gick is particularly nasty, but haven't read too much into it.
 
Timothy Markus
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Ozone might also get rid of the smell if you put it in a small space with the bag.

Let us know how it turns out.
 
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Personally I have always washed down items in water, and it seems okay. As mentioned above, a washing machine without a central agitating rod seems better, so in the US a front loading machine is probably your best bet. I usually scrub the visibly dirty portions with some detergent before putting in the machine, but that might not be the issue in your case.

I like to run it through a second time with no detergent to make sure it is fully rinsed.

Make sure any tiny tears are patched well beforehand, or you might lose a lot of down.
 
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Rebecca Norman wrote:
I like to run it through a second time with no detergent to make sure it is fully rinsed.

Make sure any tiny tears are patched well beforehand, or you might lose a lot of down.



Excellent suggestions, Rebecca.
 
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A few tips:

1) consider using an enzyme solution to remove the critter urine smell.  Easily found in pet food stores, they are indispensable when training a puppy and dealing with a grumpy cat.
2) front load - absolutely necessary.  Lacking a front loader, use your bathtub!  It takes a long time (turns out washers are magic!), but so long as you just gently swish the bag around it will be happy.  I once knew someone who washed wedding dresses in the bathtub - if those delicate flowers can do it, so can your bag.  Without a spin cycle it can be really water-logged and heavy.  Careful removing, and maybe put in a washer (any old one) on the spin cycle only.
3) There are special soaps. e.g. https://www.nikwax.com/en-us/products/productdetail.php?productid=1015&itemid=-1&fabricid=-1  Really necessary?  I dunno.  Cheaper than a new bag.
4) Dryer - yep, tennis balls!  My mother used to use clean tennis shoes.  We have some sort of heavy plastic rings for down quilts that are supposed to work well (and I guess they do).  Anyway, something to add violence to an otherwise serene dryer experience.

Good luck!
 
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My wife has had a down bag bought in the early 70s.  We have always washed in on gentle in a top loading machine.  But we have, at least once, used a laundry mat.  We were in a tent and a bear pissed on the tent.  Where does a 600 pound bear pee?  ....Any where it wants to.  She wisely accepted her fate without complaint. And we found a laundry mat asap.
 
Justin Gerardot
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I got my bag cleaned a couple weeks ago. Thanks for all the tips. That tennis ball trick worked great.

I ended up soaking it in vinegar and water for a few hours then laundered it on gentle. I then hung it on the clothesline for a few hours. I then took it back to the laundromat for the final dry/tennis ball fluff up.
 
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