How to Clean a Tent in 3 Easy Steps

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The best way to clean a tent is to first spot-clean any problem areas, then wash the tent with a gentle cleaner, and finally rinse and dry it. Here’s each step in detail.

What You’ll Need

  • Non-abrasive sponge or cloth: This is used for spot cleaning and washing the tent. It’s important to use a non-abrasive material to avoid damaging the tent fabric.
  • Mild soap: Use a mild soap designed for outdoor gear like Nikwax Tent & Gear Solarwash. You can clean a tent with Dawn dish soap or any other mild dish soap if a specialized tent cleaner is not available.
  • Warm water: Warm water is more effective at removing dirt and grime than cold water.
  • Dry, shaded area: It’s important to dry your tent out of direct sunlight, as UV rays can damage the tent fabric.
  • (Optional) Large tub or basin: If using method 2 described below, you’ll need a large tub or basin to wash your tent in. Make sure it’s big enough to accommodate the entire tent.

Before We Begin
There are two main ways to clean a tent, and the best option for you depends on your space and how much cleaning your tent really needs. 

  1. The first cleaning method involves setting up your tent in your yard. Once erected, spray down the tent with the hose and scrub it with soap and water. It feels like washing a car. If you’ve got room, this is the best way to spot-check your tent while cleaning. Use this method if multiple, specific areas of your shelter need attention.
  2. The second way is to put the tent into a large bucket or bathtub. This method is similar to handwashing clothes. It allows the tent to soak and the soap to work through the fabric. This method is ideal if your tent needs a deep cleaning. However, it is harder to spot clean with the material all bunched up in a tiny space.

Whichever method you choose, the following steps are the same.

Step 1: Spot Clean The Tent

Spot-clean the problem areas first before starting the overall washing. These areas are easier to find before the tent is wet and sudsy. When spot cleaning, use a toothbrush or some other firm but gentle cleaning tool to help eliminate the stain.

Tip: If you have sap on your tent, you can effectively remove it by applying rubbing alcohol to a sponge or washcloth and gently wiping it off.

Step 2: Wash The Tent

After that, wash down the rest of the tent using a sponge and mild soap. The soap must permeate all of the areas to do its job.

Tip: Avoid harsh chemicals or abrasive scrubbers, as they can damage the tent’s material and diminish its water-resistant properties.

If you use Nikwax Tent & Gear Solarwash, simply spray the tent down evenly on the outside of the fabric and rub it in with a damp sponge or cloth.

If using mild dish soap, fill a bowl or large basin with water and the soap and rub the soap-water mixture into the tent fabric with a damp sponge or cloth, or if using the tub method, simply soak the tent fabric in the large basin.

When washing, don’t forget the zippers and seams. These areas will trap dust and dirt. Because of this, they’re often the first places your tent rips or fails.

Step 3: Rinse And Dry

Once you finish, rinse your tent thoroughly. Any cleaner left on the surface might become sticky or cause deterioration.

Tip: If you plan on waterproofing your tent, now is the time to do it (before you let it dry).

Hang the fabric somewhere out of the sun and allow it to dry completely before you pack it away. Putting away a damp tent will lead to mold or mildew. And do not try to speed up the process by putting a tent in a dryer.

If you still notice an odor coming from your tent after washing it, check out our guide on how to clean a tent that smells to not only get it to smell fresh but also to prevent it from developing bad odors again.

Important: Do not attempt to wash your tent in the washing machine or power wash a tent. The agitation from a washing machine and high pressure from a power washer can damage the tent’s fabric, seams, and waterproof coating.


How Often Should I Wash My Tent?

Clean your camping tent at least once per season, especially after trips involving harsh weather conditions or dirty environments. Cleaning helps maintain the tent’s functionality and longevity and prevents the buildup of dirt and grime that could lead to issues like mold and mildew.

How Do You Get Mold and Mildew Out of a Tent?

To remove mold and mildew from a tent, wash your tent, soak it in a gear-specific cleaning enzyme such as Revivex, and let it completely air dry. Not only will this kill anything growing, but it will also eliminate any odors your tent picked up.

Revivex Odor & Mold Eliminator

Revivex Odor & Mold Eliminator

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Check out our guide on how to clean a tent with mold for a complete step-by-step breakdown!

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