How to Clean a Tent After Going Camping

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If you enjoy sleeping in the mountains or having campfires on the beach, a layer of dirt, dust or sand might build up on your tent over time, which could leave you wondering how to wash your tent. This guide explains how to clean a tent after camping so that it will stay in shape. 

Cleaning your tent after camping is important to prevent damage over time. Use water with soap or tent cleanser to rid the fabric of any embedded mud, mold, sap, dirt, or sand. Washing your tent at least once a year will ensure that it lasts you for many adventurous years.

As an avid hiker, I always keep my tent ready for any adventure. Here, I have created a step-by-step tutorial for tent cleaning.

What you will need for cleaning your tent after camping

Materials:

  • Soft sponge, rag or brush
    • To avoid damaging or ripping the tent, make sure that the rag or sponge material is not too abrasive. 
    • For tougher stains, use a soft-bristled brush.
  • Bucket, sink or tub of lukewarm water; hose; shower; a spray bottle
    • If your tent is not so dirty that it requires submerging in water, you can use a hose or shower. 
    • A spray bottle is useful for spot-cleaning.
  • Non-detergent, scent-free soap or tent cleaner product
    • Use a detergent-free soap that won’t destroy the tent’s protective coating. Use scent-free soap to avoid attracting bugs.
    • You can use a tent cleaner, such as Nikwax Tech Wash which cleans while protecting the tent’s waterproof coating.
  • Vinegar or enzymatic cleanser
    • To remove mold or mildew from the tent, you can use a vinegar solution. Alternatively, you can use an enzymatic cleanser like MiraZyme.

Step by step instructions for cleaning and washing your tent

As your tent is often your home away from home, it’s important to take good care of it. After each camping trip, remove any loose debris and check your tent for any excessively dirty areas or a moldy smell which could indicate a need for a deeper cleaning. It’s best to thoroughly clean and wash your tent at least once per season. 

More: The Best Cheap Backpacking Tent

Note that it is not safe to wash your tent in a washing machine or dry it in a dryer, as doing so will damage the seams and coating of the tent, and cause it to stretch, tear or lose its waterproof coating. For this reason, you should wash your tent by hand or using a sprayer.

Do not use washing machine

For a deeper clean, use a tub, bucket, or sink full of water in which you can submerge and soak the tent. If the tent is only slightly dusty or covered in dirt that will easily wash off, you can spray it down in the shower or outside with a hose.

Step 1: Remove debris from the tent

Take the tent outside, open its doors, and gently sweep with a broom or shake it to eliminate any debris, such as leaves, dust, or pine needles. This will ensure that the rest of the tent is easier to clean in the following steps.

Cleaning with mop

Step 2: Prepare water and soap or cleaner

Fill a tub, bucket or sink with lukewarm water. Add scent-free, detergent-free soap.

Soap

Mix the water and soap until suds appear. If you are using a tent cleaner, follow the directions on the bottle to determine the necessary amount of cleaner to add. 

More: 10 Best Backpacking Tent Under $100

Step 3: Spot clean the dirtiest areas of the tent

After submerging your rag or sponge in the bucket of soap and water (or tent cleaner), clean the dirtiest or stained surface areas of the tent by scrubbing using a gentle motion. Alternatively, you can spray the dirtiest areas of the tent with a spray bottle mixture of soap and water and then scrub them with a sponge.

Cleaning tent spot

If there is mold or mildew on your tent, mix together five parts of hot water to one part vinegar in a bucket. Dip a sponge, rag or soft-bristled brush into the bucket, and scrub the mildew-covered or moldy parts of the tent. You can also use a spray bottle with vinegar and water. Allow the solution to sink in for a few minutes, then rinse with water again until the problem areas are clean.

Make sure to wipe the zippers using a wet rag or brush to remove dirt or sand residue which can damage the teeth and zipper tracks. Learn how to fix a zipper here

Red tent broken zip

Step 4: Clean the rest of the tent

4a: Cleaning the tent in a sink

If you are cleaning the tent in a sink, unzip the doors and turn the body of the tent inside out to help protect the waterproof coating. Place the tent in the sink and allow it to soak in water for a few minutes or the length of time indicated on the tent cleaner bottle. 

Drain the soapy water out of the sink and refill it with clean water. Rinse the tent by allowing it to soak until all soap is removed from the tent fabric. Alternatively, you can simply rinse it in clean water.

4b: Cleaning the tent in a shower

To clean the tent in a shower, make sure the water is lukewarm. Allow the water to spray onto all surfaces of the tent, starting with the inside surface and moving to the outside. Use a soapy sponge to gently scrub the tent. Continue spraying the tent until the water runs clear and all soap is removed.

More: The Best Coleman Tent

4c: Cleaning the tent using a water hose

To clean the tent using a hose, set up the tent outside in an area away from direct sunlight. Dip a sponge or soft rag into a bucket of soapy water and gently scrub the surfaces of the tent, starting with the inside of the tent and working towards the outside. Next, spray the tent with the water hose to rinse off all the soap.

Clean tent with hose pipe

Step 5: Clean the tent poles

Remove salt or dust from the tent poles using a dry cloth. This will eliminate corrosion which can build up over time.

woman cleaning tent with water

Step 6: Allow the tent to dry

Shake as much water as possible out of the tent. Wipe off any excess water using a dry towel. Set up the tent outside to air dry, making sure that it is staked down so that it won’t blow away. 

Tent to dry

Alternatively, you can hang the tent up to dry in a secure area. You should avoid drying the tent in direct sunlight as this may weaken the fabric and cause corrosion or degradation.

Make sure that the tent is completely dry before putting it away to prevent mold or mildew from growing, as this can rot the tent and cause respiratory issues. 

Check the tent at least once per day. It can take up to three days for a tent to dry completely, depending on the fabric type. Nylon and polyester tents may dry within a few hours, while canvas or cotton tents can take longer.

Conclusion

I have used these strategies to keep my tent clean and tidy for many years of camping trips in the wild, and I hope this guide serves you well as you care for your tent after your own adventures.

Did you find these instructions helpful to learn the art of tent care, or do you have any recommendations or questions? Please let me know what you thought of this tutorial in the comments below and share it with others if you found it useful.

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Tim Fox

Tim Fox

Since the age of 10, Tim, a writer at Outdoor With J, has enjoyed camping in the great outdoors. Although he loves the peace and quiet of the outdoors, he also likes his creature comforts. Tim’s mission is to make camping a fun and comfortable experience for all. You can find more about him here

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