To ensure that your tent stays in good condition and lasts for a long time, it’s important to thoroughly clean it after each long outing or dirty camping trip. Don’t worry though, cleaning a camping tent is a quick and easy process! Here’s how you should do it.
Table of Contents
How to Wash a Tent
1. Gather the cleaning supplies.
The first step is to gather all of the necessary supplies. You will need warm water, dish soap, tent cleaner, a non-abrasive sponge, a soft cloth, and a large sink or tub. For a tent cleaner solution, we recommend using Nikwax Tech Wash, but similar alternatives will also work just fine.
2. Gently scrub the dirty areas.
Wet the sponge and put a few small drops of dish soap on it. Use the sponge to gently scrub clean any visibly dirty areas, including dry mud, footprint marks, and stains.
3. Fill a large tub or sink with water.
Fill a large tub or sink about two thirds of the way to the top with warm water. Next, pour a small amount of tent cleaning solution into the water. Be sure to follow the instructions on the packaging to determine how much cleaning solution is appropriate to use.
4. Soak the tent.
Unzip and open all of the windows and doors on the tent. Next, place the tent and rain fly into the water and submerge them beneath the surface. Let them both soak in the water for a few minutes. Be sure to check the instructions for the tent cleaner, it should specify exactly how long to soak the tent in the cleaning solution. Otherwise, a few minutes will typically do the trick.
If you do not have any tent cleaner solution, you can also use a mild, non-detergent soap. Be sure to avoid bleach, dish soaps, spot removers, laundry detergents, or laundry pretreatment products. These types of cleaners are harsh and can remove the waterproof coating and UV protection layers from the tent.
5. Rinse off the tent.
Drain the sink or tub and rinse off the tent and rain fly with warm, clean water. Make sure you rinse the tent thoroughly to remove all of the soap and dirt from both the outside and the interior.
6. Dry the tent.
The final step is to hang up your tent to air dry. Alternatively, you could pitch the tent and allow it to air dry that way. It is very important to allow the tent to dry completely before you pack it up for storage. If you put the tent away while it is still wet or damp, it will quickly grow mold, which smells terrible and requires an even deeper cleaning to get rid of.
7. Clean the tent poles.
Use a soft, dry cloth to wipe down the poles of the tent. If you were near salt water, this step is very important because the salt residue can cause the poles to corrode and rust over time.
How to Remove Mildew or Mold from a Tent
If you pack up your camping tent while it is still wet or damp, mold will quickly begin to grow. This commonly happens to campers after setting up camp by the lake or during rainy weather, and then quickly packing up when it’s time to head home. Mold may seem difficult to remove, but you can do it in just a few steps.
How to remove mildew or mold from a tent in 5 simple steps:
1. Brush off the mold.
Use a soft brush to brush the visible mold off of the material.
2. Mix Lysol and hot water.
Prepare a cleaning solution by mixing one half cup of Lysol cleaner with one gallon of hot water.
3. Gently scrub the mold areas.
Use the cleaning mixture and a soft cloth to gently wipe down and wash the areas of the tent where mildew or mold are visible.
4. Let the tent dry completely.
Let the tent completely air dry in the sun before folding it or packing it back up.
How to Remove Mildew Stains on a Tent
If the mildew or mold has left any stains behind on the tent fabric, there is a quick and effective way to remove it. Here is how to do it 5 easy steps:
- Prepare a mixture of salt, lemon and hot water.
- Use a soft brush to lightly scrub the mixture into the mildew and mold stains.
- After the stains are removed, rinse the tent off with water.
- For stubborn stains, simply repeat the process.
- Once you are finished cleaning, be sure to let the tent air dry completely.
How to Clean Tent Zippers
Over time, dirt, sand and particles will build up in the zippers of a tent. When this happens, the zippers can become unsmooth, stuck, and difficult to use.
How to clean tent zippers in 5 simple steps:
- Use warm water and a small brush.
- Scrub along the zipper teeth to force out any trapped debris and dirt.
- Once removed, allow the zipper to air dry.
- Test the zipper to see if it has improved.
- If it is still not zipping smoothly, repeat the process, scrubbing thoroughly.
How to Wash a Tent Footprint
Because tent footprints are placed beneath the tent, directly on the ground, they can get dirty pretty quickly. Luckily, they are easy to clean.
- Rinse off the tent footprint with a hose and warm water.
- Use a soft cloth or non-abrasive sponge and a non-detergent soap.
- Scrub the footprint, gently cleaning both sides.
- Rinse off the soap.
- Hang up the footprint to dry. Allow it to dry completely before folding it or packing it away.
Additional Tent Cleaning Tips
These are a few additional tent cleaning tips that we recommend you keep in mind:
- Use a non-abrasive sponge or cloth or scrub dirty areas.
- Use a non-detergent soap.
- Do not use bleach to clean a tent.
- Do not use laundry detergent.
- Never put a camping tent into the laundry washing machine.
- Never put a tent into the clothes dryer machine.
Tent Cleaning FAQs
Can you put a tent in the washing machine?
No, you should never put a tent in the washing machine. Most laundry washing machines use an agitator, which will stretch out or tear the fabric of the tent. Seams and mesh are also likely to get caught, which can rip a hole and permanently ruin the tent.
Can you put a tent in the clothes dryer?
No, you should never put your tent in a dryer machine. Even on a low heat setting, dryers can get very hot and damage the fabric of the tent, as well as the waterproof coating and seams. In addition, the mesh and seams of the tent can get caught during the cycle, which can result in rips and holes.
How often should you clean your tent?
If you take short camping trips, it is a good idea to clean your tent once per season. A deep cleaning probably isn’t necessary, but a thorough gentle cleaning is recommended.
Additionally, if you go on a camping trip that lasts several nights, have several different people using the tent, or have exposed the tent to mud or rain, you should give it a thorough, deep cleaning.
Can you use laundry detergent to clean a tent?
No, you should never use laundry detergent to clean a tent. Laundry detergent can remove the protective coating on the fabric on the tent, removing the waterproofing coating as well as the layers of UV protection. Instead, be sure to use non-detergent soap or a specialized tent cleaning solution.
Do you have a different process for cleaning your camping tent? We would love to hear about it! Let us know in the comments section below.