Tent cleaning is something that we all have to do at some point. Unless you want your tent to start smelling like a wet dog, I would suggest following these tips on cleaning a tent.
You will need: A bucket of water (warm if possible), washing up liquid/dishwashing liquid, a scrubbing brush, and an old toothbrush.
Dry Cleaning your tent is handy if you have a waterproof tent. Scrubbing is not required in this method, but your tent must be completely dry before doing any of the other steps below.
1. Place the tent on a dry patch of ground and remove any bits that may be in the way, such as pegs, poles, etc.
2. Undo all zips (you may have to do this after each step depending on what section you are cleaning) and open the tent up so that it is flat and dry, with any seams facing upwards.
3. Brush off dirt using a scrubbing brush (make sure they are clean!) or an old toothbrush and get rid of leaves and other bits that may be on your tent.
4. Make sure that all bits are completely brushed off, and you are happy with how clean it looks.
5. Close your tent back up, making sure that the seams face upwards, and leave to dry for 5-6 hours (assuming it is completely dry) or until completely dry if hand drying.
This method involves wet cleaning of the worst kind. The water-based cleaning liquid should be used to spray down the entire tent (try to avoid spraying down the tent material, instead spray it on your scrubbing brush and use that to clean).
This is what your tent will look like after you have taken it down – wet, muddy and with bits of leaves in the fabric. There’s no need to remove your pegs just yet as they can be cleaned as well. All you’ll need to do is take the guy lines out and then peg them to the ground, making sure that they are covered by something so that they don’t get dirty. You’ll also need to empty the contents out of your backpack or unroll your mat.
This is what our tent looks like straight after a trip. It will already be wet from taking it down, but you’ll still need to give it a good wash – if you don’t, any dirt that has stuck to the lining will continue to smell.
Start by draining your water bucket and then fill it up with warm soapy water (or cold). Put in about 1/4 cup of washing up liquid/dishwashing liquid. You probably won’t need to put in very much washing up liquid/dishwashing liquid, so don’t buy a bottle – it should last you for years.
Try to wash your tent as soon as possible after use, especially if the weather is damp. If you let the condensation harden and then leave it in your tent, then it isn’t going to come off very well. Please give it a good dunk, and then get scrubbing!
The most important things to try and clean are the areas that collect water, such as the flysheet where rain runs down and gathers in pools – not fun if you have to sleep on that bit of fabric. However, I find it’s more efficient to clean all of the fabric at once, and then you’ll know that every part of your tent is clean.
When scrubbing, use a circular motion – this will ensure that you get into all the nooks and crannies. If there are some areas that aren’t coming off, then it’s time for the toothbrush. The one above is from an army surplus store and has little rubber bristles. This is great as it doesn’t catch on the fabric as a normal toothbrush does.
Use different toothbrushes for different jobs – I have one that I use specifically for cleaning tent pole sleeves and another one that I use to clean teeth!
When you’ve finished scrubbing every part of your tent, then it’s time to wash it all off. I find that spraying the tent with an outside hose and then scrubbing some more gets everything pretty clean, but if you’re not so lucky, then a bucket of water will do the job.
Rinsing a tent is important because soap residue can damage your fabric in the long run. Soak your tent in a bucket of water and wash off the soap residue, scrubbing again if you need to.
If your tent has more than one layer, then make sure that it is properly rinsed (same goes for backpack/mat). It takes quite a few buckets of water to get everything clean, but it’s worth the effort in the end.
If you’re worried about getting your tent wet, hold it against a wall/tree/overhang and use the spray bottle. You can also choose to do this after you’ve rinsed everything off – there’s no need to get everything soaked!
You’ll be surprised at how clean your tent can get with just warm soapy water! After scrubbing and rinsing, you may find that your tent is still stained – this can be fixed by using a mixture of 1 part washing up liquid/dishwashing liquid to 10 parts water. I do recommend washing off the soap residue, though, as any leftover soap will make the tent smell quite strong.
I’ve never felt the need to use a tent cleaner when using washing up liquid/dishwashing liquid and water, but if you feel like it’s not getting clean, then, by all means, try them out. Leave your tent somewhere sunny for an hour or so (or the whole day if necessary) – this should help to dry it off a little. Make sure that you roll your tent up and pack it away properly, so there is no chance of it getting wet!
Whatever type of tent you have, mold is not a good thing. It’s very hard to remove, and once it’s gone through the material, then it may still come back. If you know that your tent has mold in it – get rid of it now!
The easiest way to remove mold from your tent is by using TSP. This is a chemical that removes residue, which is great for mold. You can get this from hardware stores, supermarkets, and online.
Be very careful when using TSP 5! It’s extremely caustic (it will burn your skin) and should never be handled without gloves on – you should also always make sure that it isn’t going to come into contact with skin. The fumes are also extremely strong, so it’s a good idea to open up the windows and ventilate your room/house.
If you do get any TSP onto yourself, wash it off straight away with lots of soap and warm water – if in doubt, go to the ER and let them deal with it! If you have any clothes on that are affected, then throw them out, don’t risk it.
Once you’ve used TSP 5 to clean the mold off of your tent, then be sure to rinse everything thoroughly. This will make sure that there is no residue left behind.
If you’re cleaning the outside of your tent, then it’s a good idea to leave it somewhere sunny for an hour or so, but if there isn’t any sun out and you are stuck with a wet tent, then roll up the dry stuff like sleeping bags and clothes and use them to barricade against your wet tent in hot weather.
If you’ve cleaned your tent and left it somewhere to dry, then you should make sure that it’s not going to get wet again. Make sure that you roll up your tent properly and put it away in a plastic bag until the next time you are planning on using it!
I know that cleaning a tent can seem like a lot of work, but it’s worth it! You’ll be able to breathe easier in your tent, and you won’t have to worry about mold and mildew buildup.
It’s really important to pack your tent away properly so that it doesn’t get damaged.
Put a stain-proof lining at the bottom of the bag (something like a large T-shirt – make sure it’s clean). This will prevent oil/dirt from getting onto your tent and causing stains. If there is already something in the bag, then you can use your tent bag as the lining.
Put your poles away first – be sure that they are tucked under the floor and canopy, and then zip them into place in their pockets so that they don’t scratch or poke anything. It’s also a good idea to put some of the foam paddings from inside your tent over them so that they stay safe.
Put the tent body next. You don’t need to use anything for protection, but I do recommend that you put some dirty/used socks on the poles, so they don’t poke through. Zip your tent in and then fold up any extra roof space – add this all onto one side of your bag.
Fold up the ground pegs and put them away in their pocket on the side of your tent bag.
Roll up the rainfly and neatly pack it away; some people prefer to put it in a separate bag so that they can easily find it when needed.
If you don’t have a tent bag, then I recommend getting one, as this will prevent dirt/dog hairs from getting onto your tent. You can then put the rest of the pegs in their pocket and lay them on top.
If you want to, you can even spray some silicone water-repellent into a cloth or sponge (if it’s waterproof) and rub it all over the inside of your tent/all zips – this will prevent water from getting in and make your tent last longer.
Then put the bag away! Be sure to put it somewhere where it won’t get dirty or damaged.
I hope this guide has helped you – if you need any more information or advice, then be sure to leave a comment. I’ll try my best to respond. Thanks!
I really recommend cleaning it once a month, but if you know that you haven’t used it for a few months, then go ahead and give it a wash. If you do it this way, then your tent will not get any mold or mildew buildup inside and on the exteriors.
If you’re going to camp in areas with extreme conditions (i.e. a lot of humidity), I recommend cleaning your tent every time you go camping. This is because, otherwise, mold could start to grow on your gear. If you have any questions, then please leave a comment; I’ll try my best to help!