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My down sleeping bag smelled like a wet dog after a damp night out. By reading this forum thread.

I realized that it probably didn't dry enough after the trip. So I let it out at the air, and the smell partially went away. Two more days in the open air, and the smell was still there though.

So I washed it. I know how to do it properly, using the proper detergent, a front load machine and a very gentle cycle.

Now, I have two issues.

One, the bag left the washing machine still smelling. The odor is there, persistently strong though it diminished after the first day.

I headed to the self-service laundry to discover that it was not open 24h. It is going to open tomorrow in the morning.

Hence, finally, the questions:

  • why is my sleeping bag smelling so much even after letting it drying for several days, and even after a proper wash cycle?
  • what should I do now while I wait for the self service laundry to open (that will be in about 12 hours?) to limit its damage - if there's any that may happen meanwhile?

Many thanks everybody

  • 1
    As a wild guess, I'd say your sleeping bag is filled with downs, which started to rot. Bad news, then: you should discard it, since there are certain species of mold which can produce mycotoxins with severe effects on your health. Don't take any chances! – Markus W Mahlberg May 7 '15 at 20:48
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    I've also read this, which is not nice as well: Products that have an "odor" are made with down fill that has not been cleaned properly. If a product has an odor, it is not truly “hypoallergenic”, even though some companies will claim it to be. Many companies simply spray chemicals onto their down fill and claim that they are “hypoallergenic”. These chemicals just mask the allergy causing dust mites and do not last forever. The only real way to get a true hypoallergenic down fill is to thoroughly clean the down. From "down-feather-bedding.com/faq.php#5" – Dakatine May 7 '15 at 21:35
  • As I have written, I wouldn't take any chances when it comes to health. Take it as a (presumably expensive) lesson to always dry your sleeping bag. I'm allergic to downs anyway... 😃 – Markus W Mahlberg May 7 '15 at 21:39
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    I'm afraid I'm joining the rest of the comments here - the sleeping bag is ruined. Smell is our indicator that something is wrong, in this case a mold is growing around the down. – Gilad Nachmani May 8 '15 at 5:30
  • I agree with everyone else that the outlook for your bag is grim, mold keeps growing, you can try cleaning your bag, but if you can't get all of it out, it'll likely just grow back. – ShemSeger May 8 '15 at 14:56
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It is possible to clean/repair your bag if it's not too far gone, but buying a new one will be easier, might even be cheaper, and will certainly be better.

Options for cleaning slightly mildewy bags include using vinegar or bleach (bleach will likely discolour the bag) and hot water in the wash cycle.

If washing the bag and tumble drying doesn't get rid of the smell then the only other option aside from consulting a professional cleaner that I know of its to inspect the down itself. Cut the threads along one of the seams in a spot where it would be easiest to repair, or where the smell is strongest, then pull out a good amount of the down and give it a look. If it looks bad, then it needs to be replaced. New down costs about $5-$10 per ounce depending on what loft you get. Considering that just about half the weight of your bag is down, you can guesstimate how much you would need. A 1kg bag would require about 18oz of down, so you're looking at about $90-$180 just to replace it, but you also have to make sure that the other materials of your bag aren't too affected, so wash the empty bag with bleach again before refilling it.

Where to Buy Down

  1. Thru-hiker (800 fp, $25/three oz.)
  2. KookaBay (750 fp, $16/three oz.)
  3. Seven Wonders (Hungarian 800 fp, $24/three oz.)
  4. Speer (allegedly 900 fp, $30/three oz.)
  5. Feather Industries (unknown price, grade)
  6. Feathered Friends (800-850 fp, $30/three oz.)
  7. Feathertex (unknown, probably low fp, ~$8/three oz.)

When it comes to down sleeping bags, it's important to never let them get wet, your bag should have been protected on your damp night out by your tent or overbag. When it does get wet, you should never pack away a damp bag, always let it dry fully before packing it up. If you have no choice, then never compress it while it's wet, and do your best to get somewhere where you can dry it out it if the rain isn't letting up or spending a day in your tent with your bag open to the air isn't an option.

  • Just to make things clear, the bag got damp just because of jumidity. We slept under a tarp that protected us very well from the rain, so no water touched the sleeping bag. There was plenty of humidity all inside the tarp though, despite it was pitched with good ventilation. – Dakatine May 9 '15 at 9:21
  • It's not the humidity that wet your bag, it was the condensation. Had you been in a tent or been using an overbag, the moisture in the air wouldn't have condensed directly onto your sleeping bag and soaked in. Just being under a tarp, your bag was protected from precipitation, but still open atmospheric moisture. – ShemSeger May 9 '15 at 21:00
  • Isn't that atmosferic moisture humidity? – Dakatine May 11 '15 at 12:16
  • @Dakatine Technically, but it isn't the humidity you're worried about, it's the condensation, the dew. Personally I don't know how you could stand being in a sleeping bag in a humid environment to begin with, especially a down sleeping bag, when I'm camping in humid places, I'm next to naked laying on top of my blanket in my tent. – ShemSeger May 11 '15 at 15:22
  • the place wasn't humid per se. It was because of the rain, which of course made the air very damp. So you think that tarp camping and a down sleeping bag can't go together? It is the solution adopted by most ultralight backpackers so that sounds quite strange to me - or, I did not get it right. – Dakatine May 12 '15 at 7:41

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