How to Clean a Tent – Everything You Need to Know

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After a night or weekend spent camping outdoors, it’s natural that your tent will get pretty dirty. However, it’s super important to clean it after each use to ensure it’s ready to go for your next adventure. Without proper cleaning, the lifespan of your tent will be greatly reduced, and you might have to deal with unpleasant odors, stains, and parts of your tent (like the poles or zipper) not working as well as they used to.

Fortunately, cleaning and other tent care is not hard at all. By following the guide below, you can make sure that your tent will always be ready for your next trip and work for years to come.

Tent Care During Use

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Keeping your camping tent clean and comfortable starts with good tent care during a camping trip.

Setting Up

When you’re getting set up at the start of your trip, there’s a few things you can do that will make it easier to clean the tent later.

Protecting The Tent Floor

First, you’ll want to find a nice, flat spot to pitch your tent, and clear away any debris that might be under it, like rocks, pine cones, or leaves. This will stop the tent’s floor from getting sticky or taking any damage.

Beyond getting rid of any debris, laying down a tarp under the tent will also limit the amount of dirt that will get on the floor.


Ideally, you’ll pick a spot in the shade when pitching. Exposure to UV rays will cause the tent’s fabric to fade over time, and this will help keep the color looking nice and new.

Keeping Tent Clean While Camping

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Your tent is most prone to getting dirty during your camping trip, so doing your best to keep it clean while you’re out in nature will be very helpful.

Keep Dirt Sources Outside

Most importantly, you’ll want to make sure to keep shoes and other dirty camping gear outside the tent. They’ll track tons of dirt on to the tent floor, which will be unpleasant to both clean and sleep in.

Minimize Food Inside

You’ll also want to avoid eating or storing food inside of your tent. Food can be a source of dirtiness on its own, but it can also attract rodents and other wildlife inside your tent, which you definitely don’t want.

Clean Tent While Camping

Lastly, it can be helpful to bring a small vacuum or broom with you. A quick cleanup every morning will make a big difference after a few days of camping.

Breaking Down Your Tent

Once your camping trip is over, it’s important to properly take apart and pack up your tent to bring it home.

The first thing you should do is shake out any debris from the inside of your tent body once you remove your belongings. The easiest way to do this is before taking it apart, by opening the tent doors and shaking the entire tent around.

After doing this, you can remove and pack up your tent poles before checking for any wet spots or moisture in the tent fabric. If there are any wet spots, you’ll want to dry them out before putting the tent back inside its stuff sack. Stuffing a wet tent inside a small bag makes it easy for mold or mildew to grow. If the tent is too wet to completely dry out, at least lay it out flat in your car trunk or do the best you can.

How to Clean Tent After Camping

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Once you get home, the true tent cleaning process begins. As soon as you get back, you should take your tent out of its stuff sack, especially if it’s still a bit wet. If you’ve taken care of the tent properly during use, then this part will be pretty easy.

The biggest mistake that people often make when cleaning their tent is to put it in the washing machine. This is an easy way to stretch and degrade the fabric of the tent, even on a gentle cycle, so don’t do this.

Instead, we suggest washing your tent by hand. Here’s what you’ll need.

1. A large bucket or tub filled with room temperature or cool water

2. A fragrance free, non-detergent soap, such as dish soap

3. A non-abrasive sponge

If the tent isn’t too dirty, you can lightly spot clean soiled areas with your sponge until they are removed. If you have a seriously dirty tent or more stubborn stains (like pine sap), you might have to completely submerge it in the tub or bucket, and let the tent soak for 10-15 minutes before starting to clean with the sponge.

If there’s dirt or other debris stuck in the zipper track, a simple way to get it out is scrubbing with a zipper after soaking in water.

Once you’re finished cleaning the tent, you’ll want to gently rinse it off in the tub or with a garden hose until all the soap is removed. Then, hang it up somewhere and let it air dry. It can take a long time for the tent to completely dry, so make sure not to pack it up too early.

How to Clean Mold From a Tent

Cleaning a tent with mildew or mold can be a bit more difficult than the standard process described above. While the best way to avoid this situation is by properly drying and storing your tent, there are some things you can do if you find mold spots.

After you have already washed and dried your tent, lay it out on a flat surface, such as your garage or driveway. At the same time, create a mixture of 50% warm water and 50% white vinegar in a small bucket or spray bottle. Apply it generously to the affected areas and wait until the tent is completely dry once again. This should remove mold or mildew from the affected areas.

Proper Storage

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Once your tent has been fully dried out, it’s time to pack it up for long-term storage.

If you have the space, the simplest option is to leave it spread out in a cool, dry location like a garage. Avoid storing it somewhere with higher humidity might cause mold to accumulate over time. However, if you must pack it up, we suggest doing so loosely in a standard tent storage sack or a large mesh bag.

When packing it up, fold the tent into thirds along its long side (bringing both edges into the center). Then, neatly roll it up. You shouldn’t roll it super tight, but make sure it’s even.

Storing your tent properly will ensure that it is ready for your next camping trip, no further cleaning required.

Other Tent Care Basics

While the guide above should cover all your cleaning needs, we wanted to touch on a few other tips to keep your camping tent in top shape.

Reapply Waterproof Coatings Occasionally

Tents come with built in water repellant, but this can fade over time with use and frequent washing. Applying a thin coat of waterproof coating (DWR) after every few trips can be a great way to extend the lifespan of your tent.

Keep a Small Tent Repair Kit

When you’re out in the wild, some damage to your tent is inevitable, no matter how much you try to avoid it. Keeping a small kit with some repair tape, extra poles, scissors, and pliers will let you patch any issues on the fly, stopping them from getting worse as your trip goes on.


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Cleaning a tent after a camping trip might sound like a pain, but proper care before, during, and after your trip can make it easy. If you find any of this information helpful on your next camping trip, we’d love to know. Happy camping!


How to clean a canvas tent?

There’s nothing special about cleaning a canvas tent compared to the general advice described above. Follow the guide and you should be good to go!

How to clean a tent that smells?

If you’re trying to clean a smelly tent, you should soak it in a bucket mixed with some clean water, vinegar, and lemon juice after spot cleaning any dirt. Let it sit for about 30 minutes and the smell should disappear.

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