Ready to Freshen Up? How to Clean a Tent with Mold & Mildew Safely and Effectively

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Have you ever opened your tent at the campsite to find black dots of mildew and mold all over it? Not only is mildew a gross sight and smell, but it can cause health issues like allergic reactions and weaken tent fabric. Don’t worry! We’re going to share everything you need to know how to clean a tent with mold.

If you don’t want to replace your tent, then you need to learn how to clean a tent with mold. Of course, there are different types of fabrics that require different cleaning solutions.

In this article, I’ll share the necessary steps, tips & tricks, and products to rid your gear of mold and mildew so that you can stay safe while camping in clean gear!

Supplies You’ll Need:

General Tent Cleaning Tips

General tent cleaning is an important part of maintaining your tent and ensuring it lasts for many years. Tents can be an expensive investment, and you want to make sure that you get the most for your money!

After each use, it’s important to shake out or vacuum dirt from the tent. This will help prevent any mold or mildew growth that can occur when dirt accumulates in the fabric.

To clean the outer fabrics, mix a solution of lukewarm water and mild soap, then hand wash the material and rinse completely.

Avoid using abrasive cleaners as this could damage the fabric.

It’s also important to avoid machine washing or drying tents, as this can cause shrinkage and other damage to the material.

When cleaning tent poles, use a soft, dry cloth and avoid scrubbing the underside of the tent fly.

This will help protect against any scratches or tears that could occur if you were to use an abrasive cleaner on these surfaces.

Follow along for more details!

campsite set up among the Allegheny Front Trail
Our Naturehike Cloudup2 tent got absolutely soaked while backpacking the Allegheny Front Trail.

How to Clean a Tent with Mold

Mold and mildew can be a real nuisance when it comes to tents.

Even if you laid out your tent to dry after each use, mold and mildew can still form in the cracks and seams of the fabric.

Don’t worry! There are some different solutions for getting rid of mold, mildew, and other bacteria that can accumulate on surfaces. You might even have the things laying around your house already!

With proper cleaning, your tent can both look and smell like new again.

One popular way to clean mold from a tent is by using a solution of bleach and water mixture, but some people try to stay away from harsh bleach. Alternatively, vinegar is also an effective natural disinfectant for cleaning; let this solution sit before rinsing off with clean water.

Once you’ve thoroughly cleaned the mold from your tent, make sure to also dry it thoroughly to prevent any further growth of mold or mildew.

Fans can be helpful, but if you have access to the sun’s natural rays, that’s ultimately the best way! While this can cause the colors to fade, the light from the sun can help kill germs.

Spot Cleaning Mold and Mildew

Mold and mildew can be a real nuisance when it comes to tent fabric.

Not only do they leave behind unsightly stains, but they can also cause damage if not treated properly or cause health issues if left for too long.

When it comes to spot cleaning mold and mildew from tents, bleach should be used with caution as it may damage the material.

A natural alternative is lemon juice, which can clean without damaging the fabric.

For more stubborn spots of discoloration or mildew, Liquid Mold Remover is an effective solution that should be applied as soon as possible.

For general cleaning of mold and mildew on tent fabric, warm water mixed with gentle soap and a soft-bristle brush are all you need.

If you’re dealing with high ceilings or walls, a toothbrush or swimming pool brush with a shorter extension will help you get into those hard-to-reach areas.

With regular maintenance and spot cleaning, you can keep your tent looking like new for years to come!

Soap and Warm Water

A soap and warm water mixture is an effective way to clean up mold and mildew from a tent.

Non-detergent soap is best to use on the tent fabric, as fragrances can attract bugs the next time you use it. We don’t want to attract any more mosquitos!

To begin, fill a tub with warm water and add liquid soap.

Gently scrub the tent fabric, paying special attention to spots with mold.

Rinse the soap off when done. This will help ensure that no mold or mildew remains on the fabric after cleaning. Then, just let the tent air dry.

Make sure that the soap you are using is safe for your tent material before use.

With regular cleaning using soap and warm water, you can keep your tent looking (and smelling) great for many future camping trips.

Baking Soda

Using baking soda is an effective and natural way to clean a tent.

It can be used to clean both canvas and nylon/polyester tents, making it a versatile cleaning solution.

To use baking soda, mix one cup of baking soda with one gallon of hot water.

Then use a cloth or soft bristle brush to scrub the tent fabric, focusing on areas with mold stains. For canvas tents, use a bristle brush instead.

Once the tent has been scrubbed, rinse it off with clean water and leave it to dry in the sunlight.

Try the Vinegar Method

The vinegar method is an effective and inexpensive way to clean a tent.

It’s also environmentally friendly, so you don’t have to worry about any harsh chemicals.

Start by mixing a half cup of vinegar with one cup of warm water in a spray bottle.

Spray the patches of mold and let it soak in for several minutes.

Gently scrub the spots with a soft to medium brush and keep a tub of warm water nearby to rinse the brush as needed. For canvas tents, use a slightly stiffer brush than for vinyl or plastic tents.

Vinegar is a great natural cleaning solution that can be used for tents.

Lemon Juice and Salt

Lemon juice and salt can be used as another natural product to clean a tent without harsh chemicals.

This method is especially useful for nylon or polyester tents, as well as canvas tents.

To create the cleaning solution, mix one cup of lemon juice, one cup of salt, and one gallon of hot water. The ratio should always be 1:1:1. 

For nylon or polyester tents, use a cloth or soft bristle brush to scrub the mold patches on the fabric. For canvas tents, use a stiffer bristle brush instead.

After scrubbing the tent fabric with the cleaning solution, rinse it with clean water and leave it to dry in the sunlight.

A salt and lemon juice paste can also be used as a natural stain remover.

Use a Mold and Mildew Cleaner

Mold and mildew can be a real nuisance when it comes to tents. Not only does it look unsightly, but it can also cause damage to the fabric or your own health over time.

Fortunately, there are specialized cleaners designed to fight mold and mildew that can help keep your tent in good condition.

These cleaners contain enzymes that break down the cellular structure of the mold, sometimes making them more effective than traditional cleaning products.

It’s important to follow the directions on the cleaner for best results, as they may require you to let the product soak in or dry first.

Soaking to Clean a Tent with Mold

Soaking a tent in order to clean it of mold and mildew can be an effective way to restore its original condition.

The process begins by removing as much of the mold as possible from the tent’s surface using a brush or cloth.

Once this is done, fill a tub with warm water and, then submerge the tent.

Allow it to soak for a few hours. Then, you can scrub any difficult spots that may remain.

Afterward, rinse thoroughly and allow the tent to dry fully before storing or using it again.

Mold and mildew can form in cracks and crevices of tents even when they have been laid out to dry, so it’s important to take preventative measures against these issues. With regular cleaning sessions, your tent can look and smell like new again.

Naturehike Cloudup 2 Backpacking tent at a campsite on Isle Royale National Park without the rainfly
Using a tent without the rainfly lets the dew and moisture into the tent much more easily.

How to Prevent Mold and Mildew on your Camping Equipment

Mold and mildew can be a major problem for campers, especially when it comes to tents. They’re out in the elements, exposed to various weather conditions and many dewy mornings.

To prevent mold and mildew from forming on your tent, there are several steps you can take.

First, make sure that there is no dirt or debris left on the tent when you put it away. This will help to reduce the chances of mold and mildew forming.

Additionally, lay your tent out in direct sunlight to dry before packing it up, if possible. This will help to ensure that all moisture has been removed from the fabric before storage.

If you’re not able to lay out your tent before packing it up, be sure to take it back out to dry as soon as you return home from your trip.

Put the Tent In The Sun To Dry Thoroughly

When it comes to cleaning and drying your tent, leaving it in the sun is one of the best methods.

Once you have found a sunny day, open all the zips and unroll all the flaps to allow air to circulate. This will help speed up the drying process.

Leave your tent fully assembled and in partial sun to dry naturally. Make sure that both sides of the fabric are completely dry before disassembly.

If you’ve applied any treatments such as waterproofing or UV protection, make sure that even these coatings have had adequate time to take effect before drying.

Once everything is completely dry, pack away your tent until next time!

Re-apply A Waterproofing Treatment

Reapplying a waterproofing treatment to your tent is an important part of maintaining its integrity and keeping it safe for use.

After the tent has dried in the sun, apply a water-repellent treatment such as Scotchgard Outdoor Water Shield. This will help keep water out of the tent while it is being used and prevent mold and mildew while in storage.

Reapply this treatment seasonally to ensure the tent remains in top condition!

Additionally, make sure the tent is dry and free of dirt before applying any waterproofing or seam-sealer to waterproof the seams.

If the waterproof coat is peeling off, clean the tent and reapply polyurethane.

However, if the tent floor has lost its waterproofing, it may be best to purchase a new tent rather than trying to repair it with additional treatments.

It’s important to take proper care of your camping gear so that you can enjoy your outdoor adventures safely and comfortably.

Keep Your Tent Clean by Storing it Properly

When it comes to preventing mold on your tent, one of the best ways is to keep it clean and store it properly.

Now that you know how to clean a tent with mold, here are some tips on how to store your tent in order to prevent further issues: First, if we haven’t yet made it clear, avoid storing your tent while still wet or damp as this will quickly lead to more unwanted build-up either on the inside or outside of the material.

If you do need to store a wet or damp tent while waiting for it to dry out in direct sunlight, make sure that said storage location is well-ventilated and airflow can reach each side of the fabric.

This will let drying air get into otherwise hard-to-reach spaces within the compression sack or stuff sack prior to fully drying out.

Finally, hang up your folded/rolled or pole-supported tents whenever possible—this also helps prevent moisture from getting trapped in folds or seams!

Don’t Forget About the Tent’s Footprint and Rainfly

When camping, it is important to remember to bring the tent floor and fly. These items are essential for keeping your tent waterproof and in good condition.

Cleaning a tent with materials that are too abrasive can strip away its waterproof coatings, so it’s important to make sure you have the right materials. While waterproof coatings can be reapplied, it’s never quite the same.

Scrubbing the tent floor and fly should be avoided, if possible, in order to make the tent last longer.

If there is an ammonia-like smell coming from the tent, it may be due to the breakdown of polyurethane coatings, which can be fixed by removing and reapplying them.

Treatment for Canvas Tents

Canvas tents are a great way to enjoy the outdoors, but they require proper care and maintenance in order to stay in good condition.

Treating a canvas tent is an important part of keeping them looking and functioning at their best.

The first step is to make sure the tent is completely clean and dry before treating it. This can be done by simply hosing it down with water and wiping it with a cloth.

For more stubborn stains, such as mold, spray the affected area with a mixture we’ve already mentioned, like distilled white vinegar, and scrub lightly with a mixture of lemon juice, salt, and hot water.

It’s important to follow the instructions on the product carefully in order to ensure that you get the best results possible.

With proper care and maintenance, your canvas tent will last for many years of outdoor adventures!

Night one of the Voyageurs National Park itinerary includes tent camping.
Tent camp set up in Voyageurs National Park

Cleaning a Tent that Smells

Cleaning a tent that smells can be a challenge, but with the right products and techniques, it can be done.

Proper tent storage is the best way to prevent odors, but if your tent has already developed an unpleasant smell, you can hand wash it in cool water with a non-detergent soap or mix vinegar and lemon juice into the water as an alternative DIY solution. These solutions work great for both cleaning and helping with odors.

Be sure to rinse the tent thoroughly after washing and clean both the rainfly and the tent body to remove odors.

Scrub gently, as vigorous scrubbing can damage the waterproofing coat.

Be careful when using any soaps or other scented products. While you might think that these products are helping with unpleasant odors, they also may attract mosquitos and other bugs on your next camping trip.

With these tips, you’ll have your tent smelling fresh again in no time!

FAQs: How to Clean a Tent with Mold

Here are a few questions we get often in regard to cleaning and caring for your tents and camping equipment. We hope you find these things helpful, but if you have a question that you don’t see the answer to, just send us a message!

Why Should You Remove Mold From Your Tent?

Mold and mildew can quickly form on wet tents, so it is important to remove mold from your tent as soon as it is detected.

Failing to clean mold from tents can lead to potential health hazards, such as respiratory issues, skin irritation, and allergic reactions.

It is also important to regularly check for mold growth on your tent and clean off any dead bugs or bird droppings that may have accumulated.

During rainy seasons, keep your tent well-ventilated and spray with a waterproofing spray to help protect against moisture buildup. By following these steps, you can help keep your tent clean and free of mold.

Can a Tent be Washed in a Washing Machine?

The short answer? No!

When it comes to cleaning a tent, many people think that throwing it in the washing machine is the best option.

However, this is not recommended as it can damage and tear the fabric of the tent. Mesh materials may also be damaged by washing a tent in a machine.

Damage to the tent’s fabric means you’ll be more exposed to critters and the elements during your next trip!

Dirt and grime can damage tents over time, but regular cleaning with mild soaps, detergents, and cleaners can help keep them in good condition.

It is important to note that some fabrics may require special care when washing, so always read the manufacturer’s instructions before attempting any cleaning methods.

Can I Damage the Waterproof Coating?

Mold and mildew can be a problem for tents, but there are processes that can kill them. Unfortunately, these processes may damage the waterproof coating on the tent.

To restore the waterproofing, you should use products specifically designed for this purpose.

One such product is Scotchgard Outdoor Water Shield, which should be sprayed onto the tent after it has dried in the sun.

This helps to keep water out of the tent while it is in use and prevents mold and mildew from forming while it is stored away.

It is important to reapply this treatment seasonally (at least once a year) for optimal protection against water damage and mold growth.

I hope this guide has been helpful for you in cleaning your tent with mold. Cleaning a tent may not be the most glamorous of tasks, but it’s essential for keeping the fabric healthy and ensuring that your tent remains a safe and peaceful shelter next time you go camping.

So get to cleaning and rest easy knowing you’re doing your part to keep both your equipment and family safe!

Read more: A guide to cleaning your camping chairs