How To Clean a Stinky Tent- 8 Steps to Make Your Dirty Tent Clean

a guy cleaning a tent

Let me guess you are not the most orderly person, I mean you are reading this right now because you either stuffed your tent in a place where there is moisture or you haven’t cleaned it before you stored it, not that I do any of it but I know how clean it well after everything is a mess😃

Tents are usually manufactured using sturdy, durable materials that are created to withstand all kinds of harsh conditions as long as you do the right things to take care of them, what I always tell people is to invest in a high-end tent in the first place to avoid future complications.

There are, however, certain things that make your tent less pleasant to dwell in, like if a tent has been sitting for some time it gets dirty and I can get smelly, I’d equate it to moving into a house that’s been uninhabited for years. No one wants that.

So, in this is an article I will show you how you can clean your tent and at the end of the article I will show you how to keep your tent clean for the future and most importantly I will show you how to waterproof your tent again.

STEP ONE: shake the tent out

First and foremost, what I like to do is to wear a mask, if the tent has grown mold then particles of it may become airborne when shaken up and can be harmful when you inhale them. And you obviously don’t want to touch the nasty bacterias and mold that are on the tent fabric so please wear gloves🙂

Take the tent outside and turn it inside out then shake the fabric to remove any loose debris and dirt. Don’t do it out on backyard grass cause it will be hard to clean the mess after, so, do it on a smooth surface that way you can clean it easily.

STEP TWO: spot clean the tent

Spot cleaning the tent is a very important step of the cleaning process. spot cleaning is the process where we deep clean the dirtiest spots. It might be where molds have grown densely or where dirt has accumulated.

You start by Picking out the extra-dirty spots on the tent and after wetting them a bit, gently scrub them with a sponge or cloth and some dish soap. Don’t use any harsh cleaning solutions like bleach, spot remover or laundry pre-soaking products as these can cause the fabric to deteriorate and create holes.

STEP THREE: removing mold

Mold can form even if you’ve taken all the necessary precautions during storage. I recommend a general mold treatment whenever you’re doing a deep cleaning of your tent.

If you don’t want to buy any product there are a few different ways of doing this but one effective way is to use 1 cup of vinegar, 2 species of lemon for every gallon of water, then submerge the tent in the solution and leave it there for a couple of hours. use warm water for better results.

If your tent is severely mold-infested, it might be a good idea to invest in a commercial enzyme cleaner.

STEP FOUR: clean and deodorize

For this step, fill a large basin or bathtub with lukewarm water and add a mild cleaning solution to it. There are various products you can use when soaking your tent like Nikwax Tech Wash but you can also use liquid detergent or regular soap. After soaking it for some time start washing it by hand(with a sponge). Take your time to make sure it is clean throughout.

It’s recommended that you use a non-scented detergent to keep insects and animals from curiously sniffing your tent(it is rare but in case). you are pretty much done cleaning the tent at this point.

The last part would be deodorizing your tent. Deodorizing your tent is not that hard, just use baking soda or you can also use deodorizers like GEAR AID Revivex Odor Eliminator which can do an amazing job. You are pretty much done cleaning the tent at this point.

STEP FIVE: scrub zippers

The zippers of your tent probably have bits of dirt and grit that can prevent them from functioning as they should. The best way to clean the zippers is to grab a toothbrush and gently brush at it with some warm water and then let it dry before lubricating the teeth with some dry-zipper lubricant.

STEP SIX: clean the windows

Sometimes the plastic windows of a tent may yellow or get foggy which is aesthetically unpleasing. It will help to clean them with a cloth dipped in a mixture of warm water and vinegar or a soft brush can do. Don’t scrub hard when cleaning because it can also lose its aesthetic when brushed hard.

If this isn’t strong enough it’s recommended that you use a plastic cleaning solution used to clean motorcycle windshields or RV windows.

STEP SEVEN: rinse the tent

After letting the tent soak for a while, drain the soapy water and rinse it a few times with clean water until the soap is gone and the water runs clear. Check the tent for any dirty spots before rinsing it once more, then make sure it is all fresh and clean.

STEP EIGHT- clean the poles and pegs

While you wait for the tent to dry you can clean any grime off the poles and pegs. The easiest way to clean the poles is to wipe them clean with a cloth dipped in a solution of warm water and vinegar and then wipe them again with clean warm water.

Make sure to pay special attention to the joints as sand and mud can easily get caught in them. You can also spray a thin layer of silicon over them to prevent rusting. For the pegs it’s recommended that you wash them in warm water to get all the organic material off, and then spray them with 70% methylated spirits mixed with water or some other sterilizer solution.

LAST STEP: dry the tent

Pitch your tent somewhere shady and leave to dry for several hours. The longer you leave it to dry the better; it should be completely moisture free when you pack it up.

Waterproofing is vital after deep cleaning a tent

waterproofing a tent

The waterproofing coating at the seams of a tent are prone to wearing away so if you’ve been using your tent for some time, or if you did a deep cleaning it would be good to waterproof your tent and re-seal the seams if there are any loose ones(there won’t be any if you do everything gently) so you won’t get water in your tent on your next trip.

Over time, the waterproofing coat that’s layered on the tent’s fabric will start to flake off. Which means that the tent will no longer keep you dry, and you should probably apply a fresh coat to the material. So i recommend buying a waterproofing tent sealant like this on amazon

  • Step 1: Gently scrub off the flaking coat from the fabric of your tent with a sponge and rubbing alcohol.
  • Step 2: Apply a thin coating to all the areas you’ve just scrubbed. apply a generous amount on the seams also don’t neglect the directions on the bottle of sealant.
  • Step 3: Let the coat of sealant dry thoroughly before packing it away.

How to keep your tent nice and clean for the future

Taking some time to clean your tent before you store it will ensure that the next time you take it out you won’t find a mess. Here are a few things you can do to keep your tent in the best shape possible:

  1. Use a footprint– When setting up your tent it’s good to use the ground cloth (footprint) that’s custom made to fit the size of your tent. The ground cloth is useful because it protects the tent floor from direct contact with the ground, which will definitely dirty it.
  2. Shake it out– When packing up your tent the first thing to do is to shake everything out so there isn’t any dust or debris left inside when you roll it up to put it away.
  3. Dry your tent– The most important thing you can do for your tent is to make sure it’s completely dry before you store it. A tent that is damp when stored will encourage the breeding of bacteria and will likely develop mildew and start smelling weird. It’s also possible that the moisture will damage the waterproof coating and lead to leaks in the future. It won’t take much effort on your part to avoid this, just hang the tent out on a clothesline or pitch it indoors until it’s completely moisture-free.
  4. Store in a cool dry place– When packing your tent away it’s important that you make sure it’s not compressed. Instead, try to find a bag that’s big enough for it to sit loosely in, to improve air circulation. After you have found the perfect size bag for it, it’s a good idea to store it somewhere you know won’t get hot and stuffy. A cool, dry storage area will keep the bacteria at bay.
  5. clean your tent randomly– a tent will benefit from a deep cleaning even If you don’t plan on going on a trip any time soon and you have some spare time on your hands, this might be a good time to take your tent out and get everything spick and span.
  6. Store the tent– You want to store your tent loosely inside something in which the fabric can relax and breathe. Some good options are a mesh bag, an oversized pillowcase, or a sleeping bag sack. It’s best not to fold the tent as this can cause the breakdown of the waterproofing coat. Instead, loosely stuff the tent into whatever you’re going to store it in. And don’t forget to keep it somewhere that won’t get warm and humid, opt for a cool area in the house and your tent should be in perfect condition for your next trip.