How to Clean a Tent

2) Make Sure Your Tent is Really Clean Before You Store it Away

This tent care step can probably wait until the next day when you're not tired from the long drive home. You don't have to do this step after every camping trip but you should do it after particularly dirty or rainy trips, and at the end of the camping season.

  1. Set up your tent in your backyard. Be sure that the window and door flaps are down.
  2. If necessary, sweep out the interior. Wipe up any stains, spills or grime using a clean cloth and non-detergent soap.
  3. Hose out the interior, if it's dirty, and the exterior to wash away any dust or dirt. This is also a good time to clean the tent stakes and poles.
  4. Shake the tent to knock some of the water off the interior and exterior surfaces. Lift up the back corners of the tent to drain as much water as you can from the tent's interior.

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3) Make Sure Your Tent is Really Dry

While your tent may be water-resistant, that doesn't mean you can store it away wet. That's the recipe for disaster. Take some free-floating mold spores from your campground or storage closet (they're everywhere), add water from rain, mist, dew, mud or spilled beverages, and some grime, place them in a dark, warm place and voila—mold!

Molds derive their energy not through photosynthesis like plants, but from the organic matter on which they live. So, even though your tent is constructed of plastic compounds like nylon, that material may be covered with organic materials left behind by you and your family.

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If you can't hang around the campground until your tent dries out follow these instructions for how to clean a tent properly after its gotten wet:

  1. Fold it up loosely and store it away until you get home.
  2. If the weather is bad, set up your tent in your garage away from any water heater or other device that may give off heat. Self-standing tents are pretty easy to set up inside the garage. If you have a cabin style tent, you may need to suspend the roof from the garage rafters.
  3. Clean the tent thoroughly, like in step 2 above. If possible, move the tent outside and hose it off. Then carefully carry it back inside and set it up again.
  4. Let the tent air dry completely. Depending on the weather, this can take one or two days. Make sure that the window and door flaps are closed to ensure that they dry. Once the tent exterior is dry, you can open the flaps so that the interior can air out.

To speed up the drying process, consider using a fan to circulate the air. DO NOT place your tent in a clothes dryer or use a hair dryer.

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4) Make Sure the Tent is in Good Repair

"Stuff" happens when you're out camping. Now is the perfect time to inspect your tent to make sure everything is ship-shape. You may want to re-seal all the seams to keep moisture out, replace any bent tent stakes or frayed guylines, or re-sew any ripped stake loops.

5) Pack Your Tent Correctly

Once your portable castle is completely dry, clean and in tip-top condition, fold it down in the same manner that it came to you. Place it in its storage bag, along with tent poles, stakes and anything else that goes with it. Some campers recommend stuffing it into its sac to avoid creases that weaken the fabric over time.

Now your tent is prepped for storage. Put it in a cool, dry place so it's ready to go at a moment's notice.

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