Ultimate Guide For Cleaning A Tent


You are hauling out your camping gear from the storage closet smiling at every memory you made last outdoor adventure. It was a great moment indeed. You remember the adrenaline-rushing surfing, beautiful sun rays that woke you up every morning, and even the last night you packed everything up ready to return home.

But what’s that musty smell from the locker? You reach for your tent and, uh-oh, it’s covered with dark stains of mildew and grey blooms of mold!

Now you remember those bird droppings you didn’t bother to clean off and the rain that drizzled that morning as you were transferring the tent back to the car!

If you are a serious camper, you will encounter such moments in life. Tents will get wet especially if you are camping in cold weather. They will pick up all sorts of dirt too. The best way to make sure you don’t ruin your in-the-woods shelter is to give it a good wash once you are back home.

Here is a quick guide, with tips on how to clean a tent, that will give this essential piece of camping equipment longer life and get it ready for next time.

Check The Weather

You need water to clean your tent and as you know, water sometimes takes like forever to dry out especially in cold weather. Your tent will therefore take a few days to dry up after a good scrubbing.

The best way to go about this is to pick a warm day. Check the weather forecasts. If the day you had in mind turns out to be a rainy one, don’t worry, you can still use it to repair the seams and other damaged parts. Your cleaning, however, has to wait for a sunny day.

Get Cleaning Supplies

Of course, cleaning a tent can be as simple as spraying it quickly with your garden hose, but if you invested good money in it, you may want to take a smarter approach. As such, you will need to get the following supplies:

  • Mild detergent
  • a soft piece of cloth
  • Tent cleaner or any other cleaner designed for camping gear and gadgets
  • Large container (you can use your bathtub if it is big enough)
  • Lukewarm water

If you have noticed, we haven’t listed any fancy chemicals, because the process doesn’t have to be complicated at all. In fact, a bucket of warm water, your dishwashing soap, and a sponge will get the job done excellently.

Avoid bleach and harsh detergents and at all costs. These will ruin the fabric and may even render your tent completely useless.

Look For Damages

Pitch your tent, just the same way you set it up when camping and check each section for tear or damages. Pay close attention to the flap and seams.

If there is excessive wear, repair before proceeding to clean the tent. Always try to keep your tent in its best condition. Don’t ignore even the slightest tear as it could end up getting worse when you start scrubbing the fabric.

Clean The Tent

  1. Unhitch the tent and shake it to remove any loose dirt and debris including leaves, pine needles, cones, etc.
  2. Pour a little amount of detergent on a sponge and spot clean all extra dirty areas gently.
  3. Fill lukewarm water in a large container (or bathtub) and add your mild cleaner. Make sure to follow the instructions on the bottle to know what amount of cleaner should be used on what amount of water.
  4. Unzip the doors of your tent and turn it inside out.
  5. Dip the tent and its tarp in the water container and let them soak. Check the instructions again to see how long the tent should stay immersed in water.
  6. Rinse your tent by draining the container and filling it again with clean water. Repeat this process as many times as possible until you have removed all the soap from the tent and tarp. Make sure these two don’t dry with soapy water because soapy water can be quite hard to get rid of.
  7. Pitch your tent or hang it in a shaded area for it to dry. It may take a while for the water to dry completely off the tent so you will need to be a little patient.

Deep Clean Your Tent

You already know how to clean a tent after a day or two in the wilderness but what if you completely forgot to do this and now your tent is all moldy and foul-smelling?

Making a camping packing list and checking things out as we put them in the car is easy and enjoyable but once we are back from the trip, sometimes we are so exhausted that all we want is to unload the car and have a good rest.

We forget that some pieces of gear like tents and camping chairs need to be cleaned and dried before storing them for the next trip. Other times, we clean them, yes, but we don’t allow them enough time to dry up completely. The result? Mold and mildew blooms – the last thing you wanted on your gear.

But all is not lost yet, you can get rid of this funky bloom with deep cleaning so that your gear gets back in shape.

To get rid of mold, mildew, and bad odor, you will need an enzyme cleaner. There are various enzyme cleaners that you can use on your tent. Just make sure the one you choose is right for your fabric.

Follow the instructions on the bottle keenly, especially to find out how long you should leave the tent soaked in the cleaner. Soaking the fabric longer than specified could lead to hydrolysis where the water breaks down the waterproof coatings on your tent. Hang the tent or pitch it out in a warm spot for it to dry.

Give Your Tent A Finishing Touch


After the tent is completely dry, check to see if everything is still working as it should. Patch ripped seams. Replace damaged mesh.

Is the tent letting in the water? Get a sealing product and waterproof your tent.

Scrub the zippers to remove any residual mold and grit. Apply a lubricant to the teeth and if there are any broken zippers, repair or replace them. We assume that you already know how to fix a sleeping bag zipper so a tent zipper shouldn’t be a problem.

Check the poles. Are they still dusty and sandy from your last time camping? Get a piece of wet cloth and wipe them down. Make sure they are completely dry before returning them to your gear cabinet.

Storing The Tent, The Right Way

Once your portable shelter is clean, dry, and in good working condition, fold it nicely, the same way as when you bought it. Put it back in its storage bag together with its poles, stakes, rainfly, and everything else that came with it.

Make sure the place you store it is completely dry, as any damp area will just get the tent moldy and musty again.

Additional Tent Cleaning Tips

  • When you set up your tent to dry, avoid UV rays exposure at all costs. These are dangerous and will wear out the fabric of your tent over time. We recommend putting it in the shade and away from sharp objects.
  • If you are not going to clean your tent immediately after your camping trip, let it dry before packing it. Also, remove any dirt, rocks, branches, and leaves that could hide bugs and other creepy microorganisms.
  • Never use a washing machine for cleaning a tent. Hand cleans it with warm water and a mild detergent as explained in this guide.
  • Do not use a bleaching agent on your tent. Use cleaners designed for tent cleaning.
  • After morning dew or rainstorm, only unhitch your tent after it has completely dried up. That way, you won’t have to wait for it to dry later for storage if you aren’t planning to clean it immediately.
  • If you are going to pitch your tent to dry, make sure the zippers are open so that no moisture collects on the inside.
  • When folding the tent for storage, let all the air escape by opening the doors and windows. This will make rolling much easier.

Globo Surf Overview

A tent is one of the most expensive camping gear, yet one of the most fragile. If not cared for properly, it can end up being a money taker.

The above tips on how to clean a tent could be all you need to keep your portable castle in good shape. Whether you are a first-time camper or have been doing it for years, following this guide will give your tent a longer life. However, make sure to do constant repairs on damaged areas too. Avoid storing your tent in a damp area or when the tent itself is wet to prevent mold build-up.

More Camping Reviews:


  1. How To Clean A Camping Tent, howtocleanstuff.net
Globo Surf
My name is David Hamburg. I am an avid water sports fan who enjoys paddle boarding, surfing, scuba diving, and kite surfing. Anything with a board or chance I can get in the water I love! I am such a big fan I decided to start this website to review all my favorite products and some others. Hope you enjoy!