How to Clean a Tent

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someone spot cleaning a dirty tent

Returning home from a getaway with a dusty, dirty tent is to be expected after a weekend spent in nature. But, if your home in the outdoors gets too grimy, you may start to notice ugly stains, funky odors or a zipper that doesn’t work as well as it once did.

Cleaning a tent can cure most of these problems and it’s not too tough to do. Here are the essential steps:

  1. Gather equipment/supplies: You’ll need water, soap, tent/gear cleaner, a cloth/sponge and a tub.
  2. Spot clean first, then immerse: First you’ll spot clean dirty areas, then soak the tent in sudsy water. For tackling really dirty jobs, follow our deep-cleaning tips.
  3. Rinse and dry: Be sure to rinse your tent thoroughly and dry it completely before storing it.

 

Video: How to Clean a Tent

 

Tent Cleaning Step-by-Step

tent cleaning supplies set on a tabletop

Supplies: Here’s what you’ll need to clean a dirty tent:

  • Cold to lukewarm water
  • Mild fragrance-free dish soap
  • Cleaner designed specifically for outdoor gear and clothing, such as Nikwax Tech Wash®
  • Nonabrasive sponge or cloth
  • Bathtub or other large tub
 
 
soaking a dirty tent in water

Here’s how to clean a dirty tent:

  1. Spot clean with soap: Gently use the cloth or sponge and small amount of mild dish soap to spot clean any extra-dirty areas.
  2. Prep the tub: Fill your tub with cool to lukewarm water and add your tent-cleaner product. Follow the directions on the bottle to see how much cleaner to use.
  3. Prep your tent: Unzip the doors and turn the tent inside out.
  4. Soak your tent: Immerse the tent and the rainfly in the tub. Again, follow the directions on the cleaner bottle to see how long to let your tent soak.
  5. Rinse thoroughly: Drain your tub and refill it with clean water. You may have to do this several times to get all the soap off the tent and rainfly.
  6. Dry completely: Set your tent up or hang it in a cool, shaded area until it is completely dry.

 

Deep Cleaning Your Tent

spot cleaning a tent

If your tent has mildew, mold or foul odors, use an enzyme cleaner, such as MiraZyme™. Follow the directions closely for the enzyme cleaner, especially with regard to how long to soak the tent. Leaving the tent soaking for longer than the prescribed time can risk hydrolysis, where water begins to break down waterproof polyurethane coatings.

If there’s pine sap on your tent, spot clean the tent with mineral oil, but be careful not to over-scrub. You can also try alcohol-based products like hand sanitizer or wet wipes. Be sure to rinse thoroughly with water once the sap is removed.

If the zippers aren’t running smoothly, take a toothbrush and scrub out any sand, dirt, mud or saltwater residue that’s trapped in the zipper teeth. For stubborn dirt, rinse the zipper with water, then brush.

For dirty, dusty, sandy or salty poles, take a rag and wipe them down.

Consider refreshing the waterproof coatings. If your tent isn’t keeping rain out like it once did, you can renew the coatings.

 

Related Articles

How to Store a Tent

Tent Care Basics

How to Repair a Tent


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Contributing Experts

Chris Pottinger

Chris Pottinger is a senior tent designer for REI Co-op in Kent, Wash.