Our Alpkit Skyehigh sleeping bags are getting a bit smelly even with the silk liners. We have tried a few times to organise to send them off to a specialist, but have always mistimed it.
If you have the space, we found that hanging them outside to air did remove the smell, though that didn’t clean them. It is hard to find a place outside that is away from the rain, where the bags will not get blown away or nicked, especially when you live on the ground floor on an estate.
So we decided to give it at shot at cleaning one of the bags ourselves, against better judgement. We had the credit card at the ready in case we should stuff it up.
Before you even start thinking about cleaning your down sleeping bag do read this: Cleaning Down Sleeping Bags, a guide written by the great people at Alpkit.
If I were to do this again, I WILL* send it to the company that Alpkit recommend:
WE Franklins of Sheffield (+44 (0)114 268 6161). Though the last few times that we have tried to contact them they haven’t called or emailed back. I wonder if they have gone out of business? Alpkit (see comment below) told me that they now using http://www.mountaineering-designs.co.uk/ on phone : +44 1539 536333, email: firstname.lastname@example.org
*) This becomes very clear to you as you read the rest below.
Still ready to give it a shot? Well, first of all do read that Alpkit guide again first. What you need is at least 2-3 golf balls or tennis balls. Dry towels, you will need a fair few of them. Bathtub with a shower head. A tumble dryer, preferable a large one that can do low heat. Some sort of a rack* that you can lay your sleeping bag on so that it is above ground and air can circulate around it. Cleaner, could be soap flakes or down cleaner. Two whole days free with nothing booked in, you will need it.
*) We used our clothes dryer rack and some boxes along with a chair to make a “sleeping bag grill”.
Yesterday, I filled the bathtub with lukewarm water and added the cleaner, Granger’s Down Cleaner. I dropped in the sleeping bag into the drink. Then I started to worry, was this a good move after all? At first the bag wouldn’t soak the water, the fabric is rather waterproof. So after some light persuasion I managed to get the bag wet. I then left the sleeping bag to it and had a cuppa and went to the laptop. It was then that I started to read about people who had stuffed up their down sleeping bag cleaning attempt, gulp!
20 or so minutes later I set to rinse the sleeping bag. Remember how light your lovely sleeping bag was? Well, it is completely the opposite now! As you know it was rather hard to get water into the sleeping bag, and now it is equalky hard to get it out. You’re not allowed to wring out your wet down sleeping bag, for fear of damaging the feathers.
The wetter the sleeping bag got the more lumpier it got, all the down just gathered together and collected water, big time. I let it drain for around 20 minutes before I lifted it out of the bathtub like a big plastic bag with water in.
I placed it on the stack of towels and spread it out and started to gently divide all the lumps into smaller lumps. I had to change the towels a few times since they got soaked rather fast. These down feather do hold a lot of water. (See back to the warning that Alpkit gave.)
I let it drain/dry some more over the next two hours before it felt dry/light enough to go into our washing machine with the balls (previously mentioned – are you following carefully?) you have.
Our washing machine has a low heat setting which I recommend as you don’t want to hurry this drying process.
Why does washing machine have a delay on opening the door? This part will drive you nuts over the next two days. I have lost count of how many times I have stopped and started our washing/drying machine over the two days that it took to dry. I think it did help to give it around 15min on the drying setting and then take it out and massage and separate the still wet lumps of down. And then repeat!
If you can time your cleaning session to a time of year when you have your heating on anyway, this will help. Last night I left it out on the “grill” overnight in a heated room.
As the sleeping bag started to dry, the bigger and fluffier it got, and harder to stuff into the washing/drying machine. They do work best when there is more air/water flow around the things you are trying to wash or dry. (See we are now back to the warning that Alpkit gave.) So, I tried to stuff the dryer half into the stuff bag and made it nice and small, which seemed to work great.
The bag is now feeling dry and nice and fluffy again, though I’m sure it is not totally dry yet. So it is going to be left out laying flat for at least 2-3 more days and I will give it a good old shake now and again.
I just hope that I can get the down to go back into the panels that are now empty. And that after being packed into its stuff bag it still will be as warm and fluffy as before.
And I’ve still got another one to do!