Cleaning a tent is a crucial part of responsible camping and outdoor equipment maintenance. Regular cleaning helps prevent mold, mildew, and the deterioration of fabric, keeping your tent in top condition for many adventures to come.
In this guide, we’ll walk you through step-by-step instructions on how to clean a tent effectively and safely. We cover everything from basic surface cleaning to more intensive stain removal techniques.
Why Cleaning the Tent is Important
Your tent is likely dirty after a camping trip. If the tent is not cleaned regularly, it can rot quickly in the packsack. A clean tent offers you these advantages:
- Good for your health: You are doing something good for your health because mold has no chance of spreading in the tent.
- Prolongs the lifespan: A clean tent lasts longer because dust and sand have no chance of standing off the sensitive waterproof coating.
- Prevents mold and mildew: Moisture that gets trapped inside a tent can lead to the growth of mold and mildew. This not only damages the fabric but can also pose health risks to occupants.
- Maintains breathability: Some tents have breathable fabrics to prevent condensation from forming inside. Cleaning the tent helps to keep these fabrics working optimally.
- Prevents unwanted odors: If left uncleaned, a tent can develop unpleasant odors, especially if it’s been exposed to damp or dirty conditions. Regular cleaning helps to keep the tent smelling fresh.
- Prevents stains: Stains from mud, food, or other substances can be difficult to remove if they’re allowed to set in. Cleaning a tent promptly after use helps to prevent these stains from becoming permanent.
- Improves visibility: If you’re using a tent for shelter during outdoor activities like camping, a clean tent can improve visibility and make it more enjoyable.
- Prevents insect infestations: Leftover food particles or spills inside a tent can attract insects and critters. Regular cleaning helps to eliminate these attractants and prevent unwanted visitors.
How to Clean a Tent (Step by Step)
These are the main steps:
- 1. Get the cloth, tent cleaner, tub, and other accessories
- 2. Shake or vacuum the inner tent
- 3. Put up the tent and wash off the dust
- 4. Selectively clean particularly heavily soiled areas
- 5. Wash the tent in a tub with tent cleaner
- 6. Rinse out the tent with plenty of clean water
- 7. Thoroughly dry the tent
Now let’s see how to clean your tent in detail…
1. Get the Equipment and Materials
First, you will need these tools and materials to clean a dirty tent:
- Cold or lukewarm water
- Fragrance-free detergent (for spot cleaning)
- A detergent for outdoor equipment, such as Nikwax Tech-Wash
- A soft cloth, soft brush, or microfiber wash mitt
- A large tub or bathtub
- Wash-in impregnation for functional textiles, e.g. Nikwax TX.Direct
Under no circumstances use harsh cleaners or hard brushes! The tent can leak!
2. Shake or Vacuum the Inner Tent
There is a nice trick to quickly throwing sand and dry blades of grass out of your tent: turn the tent inside out and shake it out. Finished. This method is also gentle on the tent material: you do not sweep or rub grains of sand over the tent floor. However, if there is still a bit of dirt in the tent, you can remove it with a hand vacuum in the next step when the tent is up.
3. Put Up the Tent and Wash Off the Dust
The tent walls are best cleaned when the tent is up. Use a soft brush to clean the outside of your tent from dust, dry mud and salt. You can also easily rinse off the dust with a garden hose. The advantage: stubborn dirt soaks up and is easier to remove when cleaning the tent.
A high-pressure cleaner quickly cleans the tent, but exerts too much pressure on the seams!
4. Clean Spots That Are Heavily Soiled
There may now be some stains left on the outside of the tent or inside the tent. Use a soft cloth, lukewarm water, and a few splashes of fragrance-free washing-up liquid to tackle the stain. Simply rub in the dirty areas, let it work for a short time and rinse well.
If you want a better cleaning effect, you can use a special tent cleaner such as Nikwax Tech Wash. Nikwax received the Outdoor Industry Award, and I have had pleasant experiences with Tech Wash with our tents. A microfiber washing glove for cars is ideal for cleaning large areas. The glove is particularly soft and gentle on the surface.
If your tent was only slightly dirty, you are now almost done cleaning the tent. You can now dry the tent. I recommend that you re-impregnate the tent afterward so that it stays clean longer.
Did you come back from the camping tour with a really dirty tent or do you want to do a really thorough cleaning? Then it goes on with the tent linen. Avoid vigorous scrubbing! The coating on your tent is delicate.
5. Wash the Tent in a Tub with Tent Cleaner
Fill your bathtub or shower tray with lukewarm water and add Nikwax Tech Wash. The bottle says how much tent cleaner to add. Friction, swirling zippers, and heat are not good for your tent.
Do not wash the tent in the washing machine. Open the zippers and turn your tent inside out. Now dip it in the tub. The detergent bottle says how long the tent has to soak.
Nikwax Tech Wash
6. Rinse the Tent with Plenty of Clean Water
Now the tent needs a lot of fresh water. Empty the tub, fill it with plain water, and wash the tent with your hands. You may have to repeat this until all of the detergents are out of the fabric.
Your tent is now really nice and clean and can be dried. If you want, you can impregnate it with Nikwax TX.Direct in the tub beforehand. Then the tent is better equipped for rainy days and repels new dirt more easily.
7. Dry the Tent Thoroughly
You should dry the tent really well. Simply set it up in the garden on a sunny day and open all entrances. If it rains, hang it on a clothesline in the garage or basement.
You are done cleaning your tent! Your tent is now clean, waterproof and dry. So you have optimally protected it from new soiling, mold stains and mold.
Clean Zips, Poles and Lines
Of course, the best impression is made by a tent where all parts are sparkling clean. I give tips for cleaning and protection.
- Make zips run smoothly
- Clean poles and pegs properly
- Cleaning the tent cords
Make the Zips run smoothly
Take a toothbrush and scrub any mud, sand, and saltwater off your zipper teeth. For stubborn dirt, rinse the zipper with water before and after brushing. To ensure that the zipper continues to run well in the future, care for it with a little silicone spray after scrubbing. Simply rub the zipper with a thin layer and open and close it a few times – you will feel the difference.
Clean Poles and Pegs
This tip is especially important if you have camped by the sea. Because salt on metal causes rust.
The bars are easier to put together. Wipe your tent poles and pegs with a damp cloth, then apply a thin layer of silicone spray to the metal parts. Poles and pegs are now protected from rust.
Cleaning the Tent Cords
Usually, it is enough to wipe the tent cords with a damp cloth. However, for heavy soiling, put the cords in a cloth bag and wash them in the washing machine.
The tent cords must be dried properly after cleaning before you pack them.
Clean Stain on the Tent
Some types of stains require special care or cleaning agents.
Mold, Mold Stains, Algae and Bad Smells
Use an enzyme cleaner to remove mold, mildew, animal urine, and bad odors from your tent. Follow the instructions on the bottle to avoid damaging the tent fabric.
Mold and mildew are among the worst things that can happen to a tent. In our test, the stains did not completely disappear when the tent was cleaned with the enzyme cleaner. After all, the bad smell was completely eliminated. Enzyme cleaners are also highly effective against mold spores. To do something good for your health, you should treat a moldy tent as quickly as possible.
The best method is to let the wax cool and then gently scrape it off with a spoon. This works particularly well with a cold spray. If there are still wax residues afterward, you can put blotting paper on the stain and warm the area very carefully With a hairdryer. The blotting paper soaks up the wax.
Bird droppings are quite easy to scrape off with a spoon when dry. Then the leftovers are soaked with lukewarm water and a little washing-up liquid and wiped off with a cloth.
Dust, Sand and Mud
You can brush off dried mud, sand, and dust with a soft brush.
Gently scrape off any dried resin with a spoon. A cold spray makes it easier to scrape off. If the spoon doesn’t completely remove the resin, clean the tent fabric with mineral oil or rubbing alcohol. Then you have to wash the tent well with water.
- Caution: alcohol attacks the tissue. Just leave it on the tent as long as necessary!
Coffee and Wine Spots
Fresh coffee and wine stains should be wiped off immediately with water and a cloth if possible. Rub older, already dried stains with Nikwax Tech Wash and let it sit a little. Then wash the treated areas with plenty of clean water until there are no more soap residues in the fabric.
Fat is insoluble in water and therefore cannot be removed with water alone. Soak up fresh grease stains as best you can with a tissue or a piece of toilet paper.
You can remove grease stains that have already penetrated the fabric with an unscented washing-up liquid or shampoo. Soak the stain with warm water and a little washing-up liquid. After a few minutes of exposure time, wash the treated areas with plenty of clear water.
The UVA filter in the sun cream creates light or yellowish spots. Because the UVA filter is oil soluble, you can clean sunscreen on the tent in the same way as grease.
More Knowledge and Tips on CleaningYour Tent
Your neighbor told you that he washes his tent with fabric softener in the washing machine and then puts it in a wet garbage bag so that the pleasant smell is kept until the next tour. You can do that, but … don’t do that!
Can I wash my tent in the washing machine?
If you are brave. Machine washing saves time and effort. In our experience, tents can withstand laundry with the right settings on the washing machine and the right detergent. But machine washing is not as gentle as hand washing. If the tent seams get too much tension or there is too much friction on the coating of the tent fabric, your tent can leak. Cotton tents can shrink in high water temperatures.
How often do I have to clean my tent?
It’s simple: when your tent is dirty! We clean our tents after every major tour. We clean seldom-used tents that are only set up on a few weekends a year at the end of the season.
Which cleaning agents should I not use?
Gentle cleaning agents and special tent cleaners such as Nikwax Tech Wash are ideal for cleaning tents. Please refrain from the following means:
- Scouring milk: Damages the coating through strong friction, and tent windows become dull.
- Fabric softener: The intense smell can attract animals that nibble curiously at your tent.
- Liquid soap: It contains substances that can mold in the tent fabric.
- Power cleaners: Acid or alkaline power cleaners are far too harsh for synthetic fabrics. They destroy the tent’s surface.
When do I have to re-impregnate my tent?
Tent cleaners not only wash off dirt but also the waterproofing agent from the tent. So you have to renew the impregnation if you use cleaning agents on your tent when cleaning the tent. Because the impregnation is washed out by the rain over time.
We also re-impregnate our tents about every 2 to 3 years at the beginning of the season. You can easily impregnate your tent with Nikwax TX.Direct while cleaning the tent in a tub.
Have you already cleaned your tent but not yet impregnated? Then we recommend an impregnation spray. Sprays have an excellent water-repellent effect.
How much does it cost to have my tent cleaned?
There are professional tent cleaners who can competently clean your tent for you and even offer convenient shipping by parcel service. The price is often calculated per square meter of tent space. For example, large tents sometimes cost several hundred dollars. Remember that cleaning can even be more expensive than a new tent.
- Tip: Get an offer before you go to a tent cleaning or send in your tent.
How do I clean my tent windows?
You can clean the tent’s window with a soft microfiber cloth, a little mild detergent, and plenty of water. The detergent must be completely washed off after cleaning. Then dry the windows with a towel to avoid streaks.
How do I properly store my tent after cleaning?
The tent must be absolutely dry when you store it so that no foxing or mold can develop on the tent fabric. A dry, cool storage location is ideal.
- Tip: Your tent prefers it if you store it loosely and airy outside of the tight packsack. A cloth bag or an old pillowcase is ideal for this.
In a clean tent, you can enjoy the “unsullied” beauty of nature particularly well.
- Be gentle with your tent when cleaning your tent. Avoid using scouring milk, washing machines and high-pressure cleaners.
- Shake out the tent and remove dirt with a soft cloth and water.
- If your mobile accommodation is heavily soiled, it will look forward to a cleaning bath with Nikwax Tech Wash.
- After cleaning, dry the tent thoroughly and re-impregnate it to protect it from dirt.
Thank you for your interest in our guide on how to clean a tent. Do you have any questions or a tip for me on how I can further improve the contribution? Just write me in the comment box below.