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How to Clean Your Tent in 6 Simple Steps

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So you’ve come home from your camping trip, and your tent is dirty and in need of a refresh. Trying to wash your tent is a daunting task that you might be tempted to put off, but that’ll only make things worse!

Washing your tent doesn’t have to be a huge task. With our helpful step-by-step guide, cleaning your tent will be a breeze, making your next adventure much more enjoyable and extending the life of your gear to get the most value out of it.

Do’s

Don’ts

Do air out the tent after each trip to prevent mildew & bad odours

Don’t machine wash your tent, as it can damage the fabric, coatings, & seams

Do use mild, non-detergent soap for cleaning. Harsh detergents can damage the waterproof coatings

Don’t use bleach or harsh chemical cleaners, as they can degrade the fabric

Do clean the zippers with a toothbrush to keep them free of dirt & sand, which can cause wear

Don’t dry the tent in a dryer; the heat can melt the fabrics & coatings

Do spot-clean your tent as needed with a sponge, cold water, & mild soap

Don’t store the tent wet or damp to avoid mildew & fabric damage

Do thoroughly dry the tent before storing it to prevent mould & mildew

Don’t store the tent in a compression sack for long periods, as it can stress the fabric & seams

Do use a groundsheet under your tent to protect it from dirt & abrasion

Don’t ignore small rips or tears; repair them as soon as possible to prevent further damage

Do reapply water-repellent treatments as needed to maintain waterproofness

Don’t expose the tent to prolonged direct sunlight, as UV rays can weaken the fabric

The Best Time to Clean Your Tent

Muddy festival
How to Clean Your Tent in 6 Simple Steps

Ideally, the best time to clean your tent is immediately following your trip. Putting off the wash allows dirt, grime, and any unwelcome odours to settle into the fabric, making them harder to remove later and potentially causing long-term damage.

You don’t necessarily need to wash your tent after every trip. We’d recommend washing it every few trips or after particularly messy adventures.

With that being said, we definitely recommend airing your tent out after each trip to allow dew to dry, preventing mildew and mould.

Our Tent Cleaning Essentials

To keep your tent in the best possible condition, you’re going to need the right tools for the job. 

Most of the things you’ll need to keep your tent clean and ready for your next adventure are household staples you’ll already have, with only a couple of specialist products for the best results.

Our tent care essentials are:

How to Clean Your Tent: Step-By-Step

Once you’ve got all the cleaning products and tools on hand, you can get to work on giving your tent some much-needed TLC.

We’ve laid out our 6 simple steps to effectively clean your tent and get it looking like new again…

1. Prep Your Tent

Family camping
How to Clean Your Tent in 6 Simple Steps

The first step in cleaning your tent is to prep it. This involves opening your tent fully in your garden or garage.

Unzip all the doors, interior rooms, windows, and any other flaps your tent has. This will make the cleaning process more effective.

Finally, turn your tent inside out so the water can penetrate all the nooks and crannies of the inner seams.

If you don’t have enough space to do this at home, make this step part of your packing down process at the end of your camping trips.

2. Spot-Clean the Worst Bits

Kids in tent
How to Clean Your Tent in 6 Simple Steps

Before you dive into cleaning the whole tent, it’s important to spot-clean any particularly dirty areas. This could be patches of mud on the bottom, tree sap, or even mould* that’s developed since packing your tent down.

Use lukewarm water with mild dish soap and a non-abrasive sponge to gently remove any excess dirt from your tent.

If these patches are particularly stubborn, don’t scrub them too harshly. Instead, proceed to the next step and revisit these spots before drying your tent.

*Check out our detailed tips for removing tree sap and mould below!

3. Soak Your Tent

Camping at night
How to Clean Your Tent in 6 Simple Steps

Once the worst spots have been cleaned, it’s time to soak your tent in your bathtub or other large tub.

Fill the tub with lukewarm water and add your chosen tent cleaner

We always use the Nikwax Tech Wash® for its incredible cleaning power and ease of use. Make sure you follow the instructions for your chosen cleaner, so you’re adding the right amount of product to the water.

Submerge your tent in the water fully. We find that dunking the whole tent and then lifting and dunking a few times helps ensure the water gets into all the folds and flaps.

Leave the tent to soak in the cleaning mixture for as long as recommended on your cleaning product.

4. Rinse Your Tent

Wet tent
How to Clean Your Tent in 6 Simple Steps

After your tent has soaked for a while, it’s time to rinse it. Let the water drain from the tub, moving the tent around to ensure there isn’t any trapped water in a fold.

Fill the tub back up with fresh water and swill the tent around as much as possible so it gets all through the tent.

Drain the water again and repeat the rinsing process 2-3 more times.

5. Re-Waterproof Your Tent (optional)

Stormproof 250ml durable water repellent 5
How to Clean Your Tent in 6 Simple Steps

If your tent features a waterproof outer coating, it’s important to refresh this after you wash it. Skipping this step can make your tent susceptible to damage when used in wet conditions.

We recommend using the Nikwax TX Direct Spray-on or Wash-in products.

With the spray-on version, simply spray the waterproofing onto the outside of your tent, making sure it’s fully covered for full waterproofing.

If you’re using the wash-in version, fill your tub back up, add the recommended amount of wash-in waterproofing and soak your tent again for 10-15 minutes. 

Agitate the tent in the water for the most effective results. Then, rinse the tent until the water runs clear.

6. Wring & Dry the Tent

Naturehike nebula 2 tent 5
How to Clean Your Tent in 6 Simple Steps

Wring out your tent as best as you can. This step is easier if you have someone to help you twist the tent and squeeze out as much excess water as possible.

Let your tent air dry outside. You can either erect the tent to help it dry or hang it on a washing line. 

If you opt for the washing line, make sure you spread the tent out as much as possible and flip it to help the underside dry.

Don’t pack your tent away until it’s completely dry to avoid mould and mildew.

How to Clean Your Tent Outside

Packing up tent
How to Clean Your Tent in 6 Simple Steps

If you don’t have access to a tub large enough to submerge your tent, you can clean your tent outside instead.

  1. Repeat the prep and spot clean steps for this method.
  2. Then, hose down the outside of the tent. Make sure it’s completely saturated.
  3. Add diluted Nikwax Tech Wash to a spray bottle and cover the exterior and interior of the tent.
  4. Wipe away the cleaning solution with a damp sponge, then rinse the tent with the hose.
  5. Dry your tent on your washing line, or keep it pitched and open to let it air out.

Cleaning a Camping Tent With Mould

If you have discovered mould on your tent, either from it being stored away for a long time or from getting wet while camping, it’s important to clean it properly before using it again. 

Mould not only looks unsightly, but it can also cause health issues if left unchecked.

  1. To tackle mould, start by mixing a solution of lukewarm water and a mild, fragrance-free detergent
  2. For stubborn mould spots, add a small amount of lemon juice and salt to the mixture. This natural combination can help to break down the mould without damaging the tent fabric.
  3. Apply the solution to the affected areas using a soft brush and gently scrub to remove the mould. 
  4. After treating the mouldy spots, rinse the tent thoroughly with clean water to remove any residue and proceed with the regular cleaning steps as outlined above.

To prevent mould, make sure you’re airing your tent out properly when returning from trips, and never pack it away damp after cleaning.

Avoid using bleach or harsh chemicals, as these can degrade the tent material and affect its waterproofing capabilities.

Removing Tree Sap From a Tent

Tree sap
How to Clean Your Tent in 6 Simple Steps

Removing tree sap from a tent can be a tricky task, but with the right approach, you can get your tent looking its best again. 

The key is to act gently and avoid using harsh chemicals that could damage the tent fabric. Here’s how to do it:

  1. Cool the Sap: If the sap is still gooey, placing some ice in a plastic bag and resting it on the sap can harden it, making it easier to remove.
  2. Scrape Off Excess: Once hardened, gently use the edge of a spoon or a blunt knife to scrape off as much sap as possible. Be careful not to tear the fabric.
  3. Apply a Sap Remover: For the residue, using an alcohol-based hand sanitiser or rubbing alcohol on a cloth can be effective. Gently dab at the sap until it begins to lift. Specialist tree sap removers can also be used but follow the instructions on the product.
  4. Rinse: Once the sap has been removed, rinse the area with clean water to remove any leftover sanitiser or solvent.
  5. Wash Tent Normally: Follow the normal instructions for washing your tent, as outlined in the previous sections, to remove any residual cleaning products.

Before using any product on your tent, it’s advisable to test it on a small, inconspicuous area first to ensure it does not damage the material.

Summary: Extend the Life of Your Kit with Tent Care

Maintaining your tent with proper care and regular cleaning is essential for every camper who wants to ensure their gear lasts through many adventures. 

By following our steps, not only do you protect your investment, but you also enhance your camping experience with gear that’s always ready for the great outdoors.

Explore more of our camping tips and recommendations on our blog, where we share a wealth of knowledge on making the most of your outdoor adventures.

FAQs

What Should I Use to Clean My Tent?

To clean your tent effectively, avoid harsh detergents that can damage the fabric. Use specialist cleaning products like Nikwax Tech Wash® or Storm Ultimate Tent & Awning Care Kit that are designed to be safe for tent materials while providing deep cleaning and preserving waterproofing qualities.

Always follow the product’s instructions for the best results.

Can You Hose Down a Tent?

Yes, you can hose down a tent. This is good for initial rinsing or to remove loose dirt before deep cleaning and for a quick clean between trips. Ensure the water pressure is not too strong to avoid damaging the fabric.

Does a Tent Need to be Washed After Every Trip?

Washing your tent after every trip isn’t always necessary. We recommend washing it every few trips or following particularly dirty adventures. However, you should make sure to air out your tent after each trip to prevent mildew and mould.

Is Waterproofing Important?

Absolutely! Waterproofing is crucial for maintaining your tent’s protective qualities against rain and damp conditions. It ensures your shelter remains dry and comfortable during wet weather, prolonging the life of your tent by preventing water damage.

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