December 21, 2022 4 min read

Tent set up in a pasture.

After a long weekend in the wilderness, you may return home with some dirt and grime on your tent. Over time your tent may start to fill up with spots and stains, or worse off, mold. Periodically clean your home away from home to keep it hygienic, comfortable, and relaxing.

While it’s true that rooftop tents typically get less dirty than traditional tents because they are raised off the ground, all types of tents will eventually need to be cleaned. This article will review some of the best ways to clean traditional and rooftop tents.

When To Clean A Tent

Cleaning a tent can be quick or time-consuming, depending on how thoroughly you want to clean it and how dirty it is. Generally, it’s best to clean your tent after every camping trip; however, it doesn’t always have to be a deep cleaning. Also, if your tent has been stored away for a long time, you may want to wipe it down before use.

The quickest way to “clean” a tent is by airing it out after every trip or every few trips. Periodically ventilating your tent helps eliminate smells and dry out any wet parts. When the tent  is open and aired out, you can easily remove dust or sweep inside.

While these quick cleaning tricks can come in handy, you should clean your tent more thoroughly after a dirty or muddy camping trip– no one wants stains! If your tent has a strange odor, it could be a sign of mold or mildew growth, which we’ll show you how to remove below. Otherwise, you should clean your tent every few months or once a season to preserve it for as long as possible.

How to Clean a Tent | Step-By-Step Guide for Traditional Tents

A clean tent set up in a field.

When doing an in-depth tent clean, you can take the following steps:

1.Gather/Locate Supplies

To clean your tent, you’ll need a few basic supplies.

  • Lukewarm water
  • Soap: preferably a mild, fragrance-free dish soap
  • Sponge
  • Soft-bristle brush
  • Bathtub or large tub-like recipient
  • Special tent cleaner

2.Shake, Vacuum, and Sweep

Before beginning any invasive cleaning, you’ll want to shake out the tent, brush off any loose dirt or dust, and vacuum or sweep the inside. You can set up the tent and go around knocking off any dirt on the outside and then get inside and vacuum it.

3. Spot Clean

Spot clean any stains or dirty areas while the tent is set up. Use a wet sponge or cloth with a small amount of dish soap. Gently scrub the area.

4.Fill the Tub

Fill your tub or sink with cold or lukewarm water. Add the tent cleaner. Follow the instructions on the bottle to know how much to add.

5.Prep the Tent

Unzip all doors and turn the tent inside out.

6.Soak the Tent

Submerge the tent in the tub. Follow the tent cleaner bottle instructions for how long you should soak it.

7.Wipe Down Poles and Scrub Zippers (if needed)

Clean off any dirty tent poles with a damp cloth. Scrub any zippers that aren’t working correctly or don’t open smoothly with a toothbrush to remove dirt.

8.Rinse It

Rinse your tent thoroughly to remove all soap and cleaner. You can also fill the tub with clean water and move it around. Repeat until the water appears not soapy.

9.Dry Completely

Hang your tent or set it up in a shady area to dry. Make sure it is completely dry before packing it up to prevent it from getting mold and mildew.

10.Consider Re-Waterproofing your Tent

Reapply a waterproofing product to your tent if needed.

Note: if you don’t have a tub to wash your tent, you can also use a garden hose to rinse it.

Cleaning a Rooftop Tent

A freshly cleaned rooftop tent, ready for camping adventures.

While the general cleaning steps are the same for both types of tents, there are a few key differences when cleaning a rooftop one.

1.Remove the mattress pad from the Tent

Wipe down the mattress cover, or remove it and wash it in the washing machine, depending on the amount of dirt.

2.Vacuum or Sweep Inside

Use a hand-held vacuum or broom and dustpan to collect any loose dirt inside the tent.

3.Wipe down the Inside

Gently scrub any spots or stains with a soap/water solution or tent cleaner. Then, wipe down the interior walls with a damp cloth.

4.Rinse the Outside

Hose the tent outside and scrub any spots or stains with the soap/water solution. Then rinse it again. Wipe down poles and ladders.

5.Let Your Tent Dry Completely

Keep your tent open and air it out until it’s fully dry. Don’t store your tent if any areas are still wet.

How to Clean A Tent with Mold and Mildew

Cleaning moldy or mildew tents requires a little extra care and attention. If the soap and water solution doesn’t take away the spots, you can use a vinegar and lemon juice solution.

Spray the solution onto the mildew spots, scrub lightly, let it soak for a few minutes, and then rinse it thoroughly. You can also use an enzyme cleaner and follow the instructions on the bottle. Be sure to test any cleaners or solutions in a small area before covering larger parts of the tent.

How to Clean Sap

You can remove sap from a tent with mineral oil and a sponge. Scrub gently and then rinse thoroughly. You can also try using wet wipes or another alcohol-based wipe. Again, you’ll want to test a small area of the fabric to see if it stains before applying the cleaner all over the tent.

Routine tent care and cleaning are necessary to preserve it and keep the space tidy. It can seem like a pain, but once it’s finished, you’ll be thankful you did it.  Now you have a nice, clean tent ready for your next adventure or to store away until the following camping season!


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