Dear Heloise:

I have several sleeping bags that are in dire need of cleaning. Is it best to wash them at home or to take them to a dry cleaner?

K.R., Cleveland

Well, first you need to read the care label for washing instructions. Each could have an entirely different cleaning method.

The label might say "dry clean only," which means just that -- don't try washing it at home! But if it can be machine-washed and will fit in your washing machine, wash it alone, following the care label. If your home machine is not large enough for the sleeping bag, take it to a coin-operated laundry facility where there are larger commercial washing machines.

Typically, a sleeping bag is washed using a gentle cycle and a high-level water setting. Add the detergent to the washer while it's filling so that it mixes well before adding the sleeping bag. When the tub is halfway full, stop the machine and add the sleeping bag, pushing it under the water and releasing air pockets, until it's completely submerged. Restart the machine and let it continue through the wash cycle.

Run the sleeping bag through a couple of rinse cycles to make sure all the detergent has been removed.

You might need to stop the washer a few times to press out any air pockets so the bag stays under the water and gets clean.

If the sleeping bag can be dried in the dryer, add a couple of clean tennis balls to help fluff and distribute the fill material in the sleeping bag.

Wash a sleeping bag as needed and especially before storing. Also, store it in a large pillowcase or drawstring bag -- but never in plastic bags, according to our friends at the Soap and Detergent Association.

Dear Heloise:

My furnace company recommends that the filter be replaced each month. I try to do it the first of every month, but at times I have a "senior moment" and can't remember if I did it or not. I usually buy four or six at a time and mark the end with each month. If I look at the filter in October and it says "October," then I know I changed it.

Sally Dixon

Elizabethtown, Ky.

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