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How To Clean a Tent After Camping in It

Man rolling tent.

Sometimes, adventures get messy – and even the toughest gear needs a little freshening up. Plus, cleaning off the grit and grime that gathers on your tent after time outdoors will extend both the longevity and weather-resistance of your outdoor abode. You don’t want to jeopardize the quality of your best tent. Not to mention, it’s always measurably better for morale to begin a backcountry campout with a clean tent. Below we answer all the questions on how to clean your tent thoroughly and how often you should be cleaning your tent.

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What You’ll Need

Cleaning groundsheet of a camping tent.                      

  • Cleaning Products: To clean your tent, steer clear of harsh household cleaners and detergents that could damage your tent’s lining or synthetic waterproofing, and instead opt for mild soaps and naturally derived cleaners, like gentle dish soaps, vegetable-based castile soap, or cleaners designer specifically for tents and other outdoor gear, such as Grangers Tent & Gear Cleaner, NikWax Tech Wash, or Gear Aid’s Revivex Pro Cleaner.
  • Sponges, washcloth, and toothbrush: To scrub down your tent, avoid bristly brushes and instead use a soft cloth or sponge – anything too abrasive could damage your tent’s weatherproofing. And, a soft toothbrush works well for cleaning grit out of tent zippers.
  • A large utility sink or wash basin: Even a washing machine’s gentlest cycle can potentially damage tent material, so use a bathtub, utility sink, or large basin to soak and wash your tent.

Tips on Cleaning Your Tent

Tackle Any Problem Areas First

First of all, identify any problem areas — like sticky sap stains, stubborn splotches of mud, or mildew — and tackle those first.  Use a cleaner designed for tents or outdoor gear, and scrub problem areas with a sponge or cloth. For mildew stains, try naturally derived enzyme cleaners such as EarthWorm Mold Stain & Mildew Stain Treatment.

Soak and Rinse Your Tent

To wash your tent, fill a large sink or tub with lukewarm water and add your chosen cleaning agent – for instance, castile soap or dish soap. And then, be sure to flip your tent inside-out before submerging it in the water – this will make it easier to clean interior mesh storage pockets, which can be prone to collecting dirt and debris. Let your tent soak for a couple of minutes, and then use your hands to create a wash cycle, to help removed caked-in dirt and grime.

Don’t Forget about Tent Poles and Zippers

Tent poles get dirty, too, especially after beach campouts, or nights spent at an especially dusty campsite. And, the accumulation of particles of dirt and sand, along with the exposure to salty sea air, can damage tent poles. Give the poles a quick wipe with a sudsy cloth or sponge to remove excess grime that could impact the pole connections. Over time dust and sand can also affect tent zippers. If necessary, use a damp toothbrush to gently sweep the teeth and sliders of the zipper to remove any potentially damaging grains of dirt or sand.

Be Sure to Fully Dry Your Tent

Once your tent is clean, be sure to allow it to dry fully before repacking it. If hanging your tent to dry, just be sure it doesn’t come into contact with any sharp or abrasive surfaces that could accidently damage the tent’s material.

How Often Should You Clean Your Tent

After a short trip, sometimes it’s perfectly fine to pack your tent away until the next adventure. But, after an especially gritty and grimy campout, or an extended backcountry expedition, it is worth taking the time to clean your tent to remove any potentially damaging natural substances, and to rinse out general grunge that accumulates from standard wear and tear.

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