If you’ve ever camped in a smelly, dirty tent, you might want to take a whiff of your own tent. Understanding how to clean a tent the right way is important not only for your comfort but also for your health.
Tents can quickly accumulate mold and mildew that goes almost unnoticed until it becomes unbearable. Follow the steps in this guide and you’ll have a squeaky clean tent ready for your next camping trip.1
Gathering Your Supplies
Image courtesy of Pixabay
The first step to learning how to clean a tent is gathering the right supplies for the job. You’ll want to get the following tent cleaning supplies:
- Clean water
- Gentle soap (fragrance-free dish soap is fine)
- Outdoor cleaner
- Sponges or cloths
- A tub or shop sink
The most important part of gathering your supplies is making sure that you have the right place in your home to clean the tent. If you have a basement or garage with a large sink, you can use that to clean the tent.
This area would be the best location because you won’t have to worry too much about getting the space dirty.
If you don’t have either of those locations you could always use a bathtub. This will provide plenty of room for you to submerge the tent in the water but cleaning up could be a bit more difficult.
After a long camping trip or even a quick overnighter, you might have spilled something in the tent or got mud somewhere on the exterior. That’s where spot cleaning comes in. For these stubborn spots, you can use dish soap and an abrasive sponge to scrub the spot.
You’ll want to do this first before you prepare the bath for your tent because it’ll be harder to identify these spots once you’ve soaked the entire tent.
Spot cleaning the tent is a great way to keep it looking brand new even after extended use.
Once you think you’ve hit every spot then you can start to prepare the bath or sink for the deep clean.
For the deep clean step, there are three different steps to cover. Let’s break down each of these steps in detail.
Preparing the Tub
Whether you’re using a tub or a sink, you’ll need to do a bit of prep work. Many of us have a working sink in our basements or garages that accumulate a lot of dirt, paint chips, and debris from DIY home improvement projects. You need to make sure you clean all of that out before filling it with water.
Start filling the tub or sink with clean lukewarm water and add in the tent cleaning product. Follow the directions on the cleaner to determine how much to add and make sure you don’t add too much. You want to make sure to use the right cleaner and avoid things like bleach and vinegar even if someone once told you it was a good idea.2
Preparing the Tent
Now you need to prepare your tent for a bath. Remove any pieces of frame and inserts if you have a pop-up tent. Be sure to open the doors and turn the tent inside out so you can get the soap and water on the inside as well.
Soak the Tent
Next, you’re going to submerge the tent in the water and cleaning solution and follow the directions on the bottle to determine how long to soak it. Be sure to include any accessories such as rain flies and indoor baskets in the tub as well.
Rinsing and Drying
After you’ve let the tent soak for a while you’ll want to drain the water and refill it again with clean lukewarm water. Repeat this process until the water runs clear and then let the water run on the tent for a while as you move it around and reverse it to get all of the cleaning solutions out.
Once you’ve thoroughly rinsed your tent it’s time to hang it up and let it dry. You’ll want to hang it in a cool and shady area until it’s entirely dry. Your first instinct is to hang it in direct sunlight but that can fade the color and also damage components like zippers if the sun is baking on it too long.
Cleaning Mold, Mildew, and Odors from Your Tent
Image courtesy of Pixabay
If you’re dealing with excessive moisture, you may have mold and mildew in your tent. This happens most frequently to campers who store their tent in the basement and only use it once in a while.
When you pulled the tent out for your upcoming trip you noticed an unbearable odor. For this, you may want to check out a mold and mildew remover. You spray this in your tent, let it soak in for a minute or two, and then wipe it clean. It will disinfect and kill any bacteria in the tent while refreshing it to remove any odors. Make sure you do this outside and give the tent plenty of time to air out.
Learning how to clean a tent the right way is simple with the right materials and the proper steps. It helps to get on a regular cleaning schedule especially if you camp frequently. Spot clean your tent after every use and conduct a good deep cleaning once a season.
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- Basic Facts about Mold and Dampness. CDC.gov. Accessed 17 Sep 2021.
- 2021) A case of acute inhalation injury caused by premeditated chlorine gas exposure. Respirology Case Reports, 9( 5), e00743. https://doi.org/10.1002/rcr2.743 , , , , . (