Tents can protect you from getting dirty while camping; how can you return the favor? Learning how to clean a tent – and applying that knowledge – can help it last longer and protect you better. Before you start cleaning, check your tent’s cleaning instructions. Some tents have unique specifications. The one guarantee is that it can not go in the washing machine; you need to clean your tent by hand.
Basic cleaning is something that should be done after each use, or at least before storing your tent for long periods of time. This ensures that the tent is ready to go the next time you want to use it, with no preparations needed.
- Find a nice dry spot to set up your tent. I recommend utilizing yard space if you can. There is no need to stake it down. Setting up your tent completely in a dry and open area makes cleaning easier as you can see what needs to be cleaned better, and having the tent taut makes spot cleaning easier.
- Use a broom and dustpan to get out all the dirt and loose grime. Alternatively, you could use a small vacuum cleaner. Try to get everything you can out of all crevices and corners.
- Spray down your tent with a hose set on a soft sprinkling setting to avoid putting too much pressure on the tent.
- Spot clean as needed, using unscented and mild soap and a soft sponge or rag. Using anything more abrasive to clean your tent could damage the fabric: either by tearing it or by damaging/removing the waterproofing that most tents have.
- Leave your tent up until completely dry. Alternatively, take down the tent and hang it up to dry. Do not pack up your tent when wet, as this could cause mold and mildew to grow.
When your spot cleaning turns into one big spot – the whole tent – deep cleaning is needed. This can be done whenever the basic cleaning doesn’t seem to cut it. You should do a deep cleaning of your tent at least once a year.
- Fill a tub with lukewarm water and a cleaning solution meant for outdoor gear, such as Wash N’ Proof or Nikwax Tech Wash.
- Unzip the tent doors and windows and flip the fabric of the tent to be inside out. Wear gloves when submerging the tent into the water with the cleaner.
- Let it soak for roughly 20 minutes, or however long it says in the directions for the specific cleaner you are using.
- Clean the zippers by scrubbing them with a toothbrush. This will help the zippers to run smoothly, unclogging them of built-up dirt and mud.
- Remove the tent and squeeze the water out – don’t twist it. Rinse thoroughly in cold water, squeezing the water out when finished.
- Hang up the tent and let it dry (this could take a while).
Cleaning Stubborn Problems
Deep cleaning does not always fix everything. Some problems need more specific solutions. Here are some specific problems you may encounter and how to fix them.
For moldy tents, follow these instructions:
- Use a soft brush to remove the mold and mildew.
- Wash your tent with a specialized cleaner. There are a few options here. You can use a half cup of Lysol mixed with one gallon of hot water, one quart of vinegar mixed with five quarts of hot water, and a half teaspoon of soap, or just buy a specialized cleaner and follow its directions.
- Rinse the tent with lukewarm water and let it dry out completely.
- If the mold has left a stain, soak the affected area. You can use two tablespoons of chlorine-free bleach with a quart of water on most fabrics. If you have colored fabrics, or if your tent’s cleaning instructions say not to use bleach, you can use a mixture of one cup of salt, one cup of lemon juice, and a gallon of water. Remember to let it dry completely!
If there is pine sap stuck to your tent, spot clean it with mineral oil or alcohol-based products, such as wet wipes or hand sanitizer. Rinse thoroughly with water afterward, and let it dry.
If your tent still smells after all this cleaning, using an odor eliminator such as Mirazyme or Revivex should do the job. Make sure to follow the specific instructions these products have, as to not ruin the waterproofing on your tent.
How to Clean a Tent: Conclusion
Tents can be expensive and need to be taken care of properly after each use. Washing them can help them last longer so they can continue to be your safe haven out in the woods.
Written by Tamara Coy