How to Clean a Tent
Camping is one of summertime's greatest adventures. There's nothing quite like finding the perfect spot, pitching your tent among the beautiful scenery and drifting off to sleep to the soothing sounds of nature with a belly full of s'mores. That first breath of morning air after unzipping the tent flap is among life's finest simple pleasures.
These days, tents are made from durable and lightweight synthetic materials designed to handle the elements. But while modern tent materials are made to resist moisture and other invasive natural factors such as dirt and grime, their cleaning and maintenance needs remain the same, to ensure your tent lasts for years of camping adventure to come. This is especially important if you've been camping in the rain or mud.
Tents can often have an unpleasant, musty odor when you pull them out of storage. This could be the result of development of mold and mildew after putting the tent away dirty, or storing it improperly. It could also be the smell of your tent's polyurethane coating on the tent floor or fly breaking down, the result of a chemical reaction.
There are a number of tips to keep in mind to prevent these odors, and keep your tent clean and in great working order. You should never machine wash tents, to avoid damaging the fabric or special coatings through agitation. When camping, clear out the space in front of your tent, to help prevent twigs, pinecones, loose dirt and more from getting inside. You should also make a regular habit of clearing out any debris that has found its way in on clothing or shoes, to prevent poking holes in your tent's floor or walls.
To avoid damaging the fabrics and other materials in your tent while cleaning, you shouldn't use bleach or other harsh chemicals. It's not a good idea to use a pressure washer either, as there's a good chance you'll damage the seams. Simple Green All-Purpose Cleaner is a cleaner, degreaser, deodorizer and stain remover that powers out dirt, sap and grime and removes stubborn stains on washable surfaces, including tent fabric.
Follow these easy tent care tips to keep your camping trips fun, and help your tent last for many years.
Directions for Cleaning a Tent:
- Prepare the tent. Pitch your tent and sweep out any dirt and dust with a brush or broom. Then carefully check each section for damage. Make any necessary repairs before cleaning.
- Rinse. Use a garden hose or bucket of water to entirely rinse down the outside of the tent.
- Sap first. Treat any sap spots on your tent by applying a mix of 1oz Simple Green to 1 cup of water with a spray bottle, or with a sponge and bowl of this mixture. Let the solution sit for 1-2 minutes to penetrate the sap, before wiping away with a damp cloth or sponge.
- Apply cleaner to tent. Add about 1 oz of Simple Green to 32 oz (1 quart) of water in a spray bottle. Working in sections, apply the cleaning solution on each area and wipe away with a damp cloth or sponge. Scrub any stubborn areas clean, taking care not to damage the tent material or remove the polyurethane waterproof coating on the underside of most tent flies.
- Stakes and poles. Apply the Simple Green solution on any visibly dirty areas on the tent stakes and poles. Wipe them down entirely with a cloth or sponge, and then wipe down with water.
- Rinse. Use a garden hose or bucket of water to entirely rinse down the outside of the tent. Then unzip the tent flap and spray down the entire interior.
- Clean tent interior. Unless the inside is muddy or greasy, a simple sweep-out is usually all that's necessary for the interior of your tent. But if kids have been wiping their sticky s'mores hands inside, you'll need to give it a more thorough cleaning. Work in sections as you did with the outside of the tent, applying the Simple Green solution and wiping down each area before moving on to the next.
- Rinse. Give your entire tent a thorough rinse, both inside and out.
- Dry the tent: Shake the tent to get rid of excess water both inside and out, and lift up the back corners to drain as much water as you can from the tent's interior. Leave the tent pitched in a shaded outdoor spot, and let it dry for several hours. Avoid leaving it in direct sunlight to prevent ultraviolet damage to tent fabric. UV damage can degrade nylon and polyester, allowing it to tear more easily.
- Store tent. When folding your completely dry tent for storage, make another pass at the underside of the tent floor, to ensure that no debris has made it inside. You should store your tent loosely in a breathable pillowcase or mesh bag, and keep it in a cool, dry place.