If you use your tent a lot you know how gnarly it can get inside. In the summer things can get very hot and wet and all manner of mud, bugs, pine needles, sand and everything else gets dragged into the tent. Bacteria also love the hot, moist interior of a tent. In the winter you may not spend more than a couple of hours outside your big camping tent on a given day due to extreme cold and/or snow. As a result the interior becomes like a big dirty pants drawer. So whether you’re a summer or winter camper, or both, it’s important that you know the right way to clean your tent to keep it hygienic and looking good. Here’s how you do that.
● Choose a Sunny, Dry Day to Clean Your Tent – This is important because you’re going to need to set your tent up to clean it properly. If you try to clean it when it’s laid flat on the kitchen floor you’ll never see all the lovely mold patches, hunting boot footprints, rotten food stains, and the cleaned tent won’t dry properly. So make sure you’ve got a nice sunny day ahead then set up the tent completely.
● Wipe the Tent Down with Soapy Water – Fill a bucket with lukewarm soapy water and use a sponge to wipe down the tent, starting from the inside and working out. Some will advocate spraying down the tent with a hose first. This is good way to loosen dirt but it’s also a good way to damage seams and harm any waterproof coating on the material. Also, make sure you use a mild dishwashing soap and not a harsh detergent. Again, because a harsh cleanser may damage the tent material and/or any waterproof coating.
● Don’t Use a Brush or Press Too Hard – You may encounter stubborn sections where dirt and mold are particularly thick. The temptation will be to reach for a scrubbing brush to remove this mess. Don’t do it. The bristles can also remove the material’s protective coating and cause damage to the seams. Instead wet those stubborn areas and let the soapy water sit for a while to loosen things up while you clean other parts of the tent. When you return to the problem areas later you should find them much easier to clean.
● Allow the Tent to Dry Out – After you’ve thoroughly wiped down the tent inside and out make sure you leave it up with the flaps open so it can dry out completely before you fold it up and put it back in its bag. If you like you can speed things up a bit by drying the fabric with a clean, soft, dry cloth. If you don’t let the tent dry out completely before putting it away every damp area will attract bacteria and mold and you’ll be back to square one in short order.
● Clean the Tent Poles – The tent poles are an oft-overlooked part of the tent that need to be cleaned just as much as the fabric. They are often on the outside of the tent and take the brunt of Mother Nature’s wrath, including salty air if you’re camping near the shore. They also tend to pick up large amounts of dirt (and sand) where they contact the ground. Failing to clean them can cause the joints to become clogged and not assemble properly. Salt from the air can also corrode the tent poles. As they’ll be impossible to clean while the tent is set up the poles will be the last things you clean after taking down the tent. Clean them using the same soapy water and dry them thoroughly when you’re finished.
A Few Final Thoughts on Caring for your Tent
● Storage – Once your tent is nice and clean make sure you store it in a clean, dry place. You don’t do the tent any favors by storing it in the damp basement or the garage.
● Clean After Every Use – Don’t wait for the mold to take hold and the dirt and odors to make the tent uninhabitable before you clean it. By far the best practice is to clean the tent using the above method after each and every use. It may seem excessive but think about it: you clean your hiking clothes when you return from your camping trip (at least we hope you do), you clean the stove and the cooler and probably the car, why not the tent? Keeping your tent clean will add years to its life and make every subsequent trip that much more enjoyable.
We hope you find the above information useful in caring for your tent. Remember, when you’re in the woods and an unexpected storm descends upon the campsite your tent is often the only thing standing between you and the full fury of nature. Show it some respect. Keep it clean.