7 Tips On How To Clean A Tent The Right Way

how to clean a tent ideas Knowing how to clean a tent properly is important to prolonging the life of your tent. They are expensive pieces of equipment and with a little care they can give you a dry place to sleep for may years.

There are 2 times when you might need to clean your tent:

1.    After you have been camping and arrive home and you need to clean up any dirt spots, mud, bug spots or dust from the inside and outside of the tent.
2.    When you bring it out of storage and discover that mold and mildew have been growing on the tent. The musty smell is a giveaway.

Here are 7 ideas for cleaning and washing your tent with a couple of ideas to look after your tent so as to reduce the need for cleaning.

1.    Always store your tent dry and clean

After camping it is important to have cleaned your tent if it is needed and that it is completely dry. If you haven’t been able to pack your tent away dry at the campsite because of the rain, then as soon as you can you need to air it and dry it. This is important to prevent mold and mildew. Not only do they smell they can damage the waterproofing and tent fabric.

2.    Keeping the floor clean

To keep the bottom of your tent dry and clean you can use a footprint that goes under your tent. This will prevent it getting wet and getting dirt from the ground. Many manufacturers make groundsheets to fit their tents or you can use a tarp with folded under edges to do the same job.
Muddy shoes and boots can bring a lot of dirt into your tent if they are worn inside it. So, have a rule that they need to be taken off before entering. Many tents have an area that is covered where they can be stored. Any dirt or anything else can be brushed up as you go with soft hand brush and pan to prevent the buildup.

3.    Light Cleaning

Normally after you have been out camping your tent is only need a light clean. You can achieve this by giving your tent a vacuum to get clean up any of the dirt and dust that might have accumulated. Use the vacuum with the brush head. You don’t want the most powerful vacuum cleaner or use it without the extension; otherwise the tent may be damaged by being sucked up into it. You may want to give it a light brush as well with a soft nylon brush before you start.

4.    Heavy Cleaning

If you have been unlucky your tent may have become very dirty due to the weather or other circumstances. In this situation you are going to need a hose, bucket of water and mild detergent (or you can add vinegar, lemon juice or Nikwax Tech wash), a sponge, a soft scrubbing brush and on old toothbrush.
To start set up your tent and clean the inside by gently scrubbing the inside of the tent if it needs it with sponge or soft scrubbing brush. Next work on the outside and use a hose to wash off the residue. For any hard to get stains use the old toothbrush to get to them. Make sure you air and dry the tent fully to ensure it is fully dry before putting into storage.

5.    Getting rid of mold and mildew

This can be the hardest stuff to get rid of. And although you can get rid of it, you won’t be able to get rid of the black spots that will have stained the tent fabric. First off clean your tent as above as that will remove it. Next you want a solution of water, salt and lemon and sponge the affected areas to remove any remaining spores and also get rid of the smell. See our post here: for more details.

6.    Manufacturer’s instructions

Be sure to check the manufacturer’s guidelines before starting any cleaning. They should give you some tips on cleaning and care. They will probably let you know what not to do also. Checking their website is always a good starting point.

7.    Don’t do this

Here are just a few don’ts. If you do they will probably damage your tent fabric. Here are the things not to do:
Don’t put the tent in a clothes washer or tumble dryer
Don’t use harsh or strong cleaners
Don’t use a firm brush

All of these things are likely to remove the waterproofing from the tent and in some cases completely ruin it.

Spending time to clean your tent will help to prolong the life of your tent. It is important to be gentle when cleaning it to prevent damage and removing the waterproofing capability. You can test waterproofing before you leave by spraying the tent with a hose and checking for leaks. With good care and attention your can have many enjoyable camping trips in you tent.

9 Responses to “7 Tips On How To Clean A Tent The Right Way”

  • Derek Fountaine on June 17, 2013

    Good article. Great advice!

  • Nancy Sarvis on July 7, 2013

    Great tips. When in use, the best way to get rid of dirt, hair, mud, etc. is to bring a cheap sponge mop camping with you. It cleans and dries mud at the same time. Also works better than a broom for loose dirt and hair (dog hair specifically). Then clean after use with these great tips.

    • Paul on July 7, 2013

      This is a great idea. Thanks for sharing.

  • kim on September 28, 2013

    I bring a fully charged, hand held vacuum camping with me. I know it’s not roughing it, but it sure makes it easy to keep the test clean and dust free.

    • Paul on September 28, 2013

      Thanks for sharing. It might not be roughing it but I bet its effective.

  • Roger on September 28, 2013

    What is a good way to waterproof a tent ?

    • Paul on September 29, 2013

      Hi Roger,

      If you are looking to waterproof or re-waterproof a tent I think using Kiwi Camp Dry. Apply it per instruction in a well ventilated area. After a couple of hours the smell goes away. If you are looking seal seams of the tent you might consider Gear Aid Aquaseal 10510 Seam Grip If you follow the instructions included with these your tent should be waterproof and the seams sealed.

  • Dennis Ellison on January 17, 2014

    For after camping, I take my tent, turn it inside out, and hang in the basement by all four corners. The dirt and stuff from the inside shakes out and it helps dry it out.

    I store the tent, fly, poles, stakes, and other tent accessories loose in a large Rubbermaid tub; storing it rolled up weakens the fabric, lets the tacky parts stick together, and wears holes where the fabric is easily abraded. It also helps with air circulation, and keeps everything handy for the next time I need it.

  • Brittany on April 1, 2014

    I take a small shop vac with me, it comes in handy of you have the room to take it along. great for cleaning up, and doubles as an air mattress pump! fills up and deflates an air mattress in less than a minute! Deflating them this way makes them easier to fold for packing!

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