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How to Clean Your Outdoor Gear in Time for Camping Season!

by Ann Ferguson

Whether hiking for the day or camping and seeing the stars, enjoying all that nature and fresh air just can't be beat — as long as your outdoor gear is in tip-top shape! Regularly cleaning your outdoor equipment is a must, especially after a hefty hike or camping trip.

Enjoying nature is a blast, but no one can help all the dirt, sweat, and other nature bits from sinking into their outdoor clothes, sleeping bags, shoes, and tents. So, after the end of every outing, don't leave your outdoor gear to sit until the next time you go out — give it a good cleaning first!

Cleaning the Base Layers

Group of friends hiking in base layers

Having the proper base layers can make or break a camping trip, so keeping them clean is essential. However, cleaning them depends on the material type!

  • Merino Wool: set the washer to the delicate cycle with reduced spinning, add a wool detergent (or soapberries), and air dry on the line. But if the wool is soaked, try drying it flat!
  • Synthetic (Fleece): set the washer on a regular cycle, use standard detergent, close all zippers, and tabs, and use a wash bag to keep the synthetic safe. To dry, either set the dryer to the lowest heat setting and tumble dry or let it air dry!

For washing down base layers, it's the same as washing down outerwear!

DWR-Treated/Waterproof Clothing

The most significant benefit of outdoor gear is that it's made for withstanding the outdoors — including the rain! So, if you have DWR-treated or waterproof clothing, these require particular care!

  1. Choose the coldest setting with a reduced spin cycle on the washer.
  2. Close all zippers and tabs.
  3. Add special detergent for DWR-treated clothing (some detergents will also contain DWR).
  4. Set your clothing to wash!
  5. Check the care label for drying instructions (although air drying should be okay)

Sometimes waterproof clothing requires moderate heat to reactivate the water repellant, so double-check the care tag instructions!

Pro Tip: Some washer machines have unique settings for rainwear, so don't forget to check your washer manual!

Down Outerwear

Woman checking care tag on down jacket

Down is a popular material used in outerwear because it helps insulate body heat, but because of the feathers, washing down outerwear requires a few more steps. First, make sure you have a front-load washer or a top-load washer without an agitator to avoid the down feathers becoming tangled.

  1. Empty all the pockets, unzip all zippers, and attach all Velcro closures.
  2. Add special down-wash detergent.
  3. Wash according to the care label (usually the washer's lowest setting).
  4. Run multiple rinse and spin cycles when it's done.
  5. Start a few more spin-only cycles to get all the water out.
  6. Put it in the dryer on a low setting so it can tumble and regain loft (the drying process takes a long time, so have patience!).

Hiking Shoes/Boots

Dirty hiking boots in a forest

Even during optimum conditions, there's no helping the layers of dried mud and dirt that get on your shoes and cleaning it all can be challenging. Thankfully, there are a few methods you can try!

Hand Wash

  1. Knock all the dried mud and dirt together by smacking the boots together outside.
  2. Remove any burrs from the laces or mesh fabric, take out the laces, and put them in with a regular washer load.
  3. Spray your boots with water to remove excess mud and use a large toothbrush or scrub brush to get tougher spots.
  4. Pull out the insoles and wash them separately with soap and water.
  5. Let it all air dry — you can stuff wads of newspaper into the toes of the boots to help them dry faster.

Machine Wash

  1. Smack the boots together to dislodge the dirt and use a scrub brush for tougher spots.
  2. Remove laces and insoles (if the insoles are removable).
  3. Set the front-load washer to the cold, gentle cycle with mild soap.
  4. Place the boots and laces in a mesh laundry bag or pillowcase (to protect the washer!). And don't forget to stuff the toes of the boots with a cloth before washing.
  5. Air dry when done!

Pro Tip: You can only machine-wash boots or shoes that are NOT made of suede or waterproof materials!

Sleeping Bags

Kid surrounded by sleeping bags

You might not think it, but sleeping bags get dirtier than you think. Sure, you might sleep in a nice tent and use a sleeping bag liner, but those don't stop the buildup of oils and dirt from your skin or clothes. So, it's a good idea to wash it at least once a year at the minimum, but if you just came back from an extensive trip, wash those sleeping bags right away!

  1. Use a front-load washer or a top-load washer without an agitator.
  2. Set the machine to a gentle cycle with cold or warm water.
  3. Complete a wash, then set another wash without any soap.
  4. Throw the sleeping bags in the dryer (with tennis balls if they're down) on a low, cool setting.
  5. Lay the sleeping bags flat for a few days when done!


Sleeping in a tent is true camping style, but it too needs a good cleaning — just make sure you never try to machine wash them! Instead, follow these steps:

  1. Shake out the excess dirt.
  2. Clean off any dried mud with a soft brush.
  3. Spot clean tricky areas with a damp sponge (don't use detergent!).
  4. Dry the tent thoroughly before storing it to avoid mold!

Camping Season

Woman greeting the sun; view from inside the tent

Spending time in the outdoors surrounded by nature is something everyone should do more often — it rejuvenates the soul! And having clean outdoor gear is vital to enjoying every minute of it! But if your washer has seen better days or has a center agitator, don't wait to upgrade! At D Boy Maytag Home Appliance Center, we have various in-stock laundry appliances to save you that long trip to the laundromat!

And if you have any questions, call us or stop by! Our team is always happy to help!