It’s completely normal for your tent to be really grimy, dirty, and wet after a camping trip. To extend the life of your tent, you’ll need to clean it. If your tent is moldy, then you’ll need to follow special instructions to make it safe to sleep in again.
So how do you clean a moldy tent?
- Brush with soft bristles to remove the loose mold
- Use a special mold cleaning chemical like Concrobium or a vinegar and water mix to effectively kill the mold spores that may remain.
- The next step is to wash the molded area with warm water by scrubbing gently.
- The final step to getting rid of mold on a tent is to hang it out to dry.
- Follow these directions and you should be able to put your mold problems behind you.
If the mold is new and minimal, you may be able to wash your tent as you normally would using just hot, soapy water. Other at-home recommendations include salt and lemon juice, a mix of water and vinegar or hydrogen peroxide. Never use chlorine bleach though because it is highly corrosive.
Some people do not recommend using bleach because it can damage the fabric and can also fade the color of the tent. There is a wide variety of mold removing products on the market, including Concrobium, Tilex, Mold Control, and Mold Armor. You can find most of them at your local hardware store.
You may also need to check the material that your tent is made from. Some tents are canvas or cotton, while others are polyester, nylon, or petroleum-based. If your tent is made from canvas, then you’ll have to be extra careful to make sure the cleaning solution is safe to use on it.
Depending on the material, certain cleaning solvents should not be used. Check online or look in the user manual for the tent to be sure you don’t ruin the tent.
You could also purchase a cold Fogger which will mist a mold preventing solution throughout the interior of the tent. Once it coats all the surfaces, it will kill any mold present even if you can’t see it.
It’s always a good idea to do a spot test anyway of any product you plan to use. Choose an inconspicuous corner of the tent and apply a small amount of the solution to see if it has any negative effects.
How to Know if Your Tent Has Mold
If you’ve camped several times but aren’t sure if your tent is affected with mold, have a look inside and do a thorough inspection. It’s always best to treat mold as early as possible, so try to examine your tent as often as possible when it’s in use.
While the tent may be dirty or dusty, have a closer look to determine if it’s really mold. A dirty tent will be clean after you brush or wash it off. Mold tends to stick around a lot longer
It usually looks like small blackish specks on the fabric of the tent. Mold can also look blue or green in color and often has a fuzzy appearance.
A moldy tent will often have a distinct smell as well. It may smell musty and be humid inside since it is moisture that often causes mold to start growing.
How to Clean the Tent
If there are still mold spores on the tent, make sure to brush them off so they can’t continue to grow. You should do this outdoors, so the mold spores don’t get into the air in your house or cause an indoor mold problem.
If only a small portion of the tent is moldy, you should be able to spot treat it without washing the entire tent. Then, dip the portion of the tent into hot water and scrub it with a wash rag or sponge in the affected area.
For tents that have been infested with mold, you may need to soak the entire tent for a longer period of time. In that case, you can fill your bathtub with hot water and whatever cleaning solution you are using.
If you are using a spray-on solution such as Concrobium, read the directions first. You may be required to spray the affected area first and let the solution dry first to kill the mold spores before you wash the tent.
Then let the tent soak for some time. However, don’t think that soaking longer is always better. Leaving it overnight or longer could actually cause more damage to the materials.
After the tent has soaked, you can scrub any areas that need extra attention. Make sure to use a brush with softer bristles or a sponge, so you don’t damage the fabric of the tent. A canvas tent can take a more aggressive brush, but you still want to be gentle when scrubbing.
Never use any harsh soaps that could also cause damage. Even if you are washing your tent before you store it, try not to use soaps with a fragrance or perfume. These can cling to the tent and attract insects or other creatures the next time you camp.
Although hand washing can be time-consuming, don’t be tempted to take short cuts. You should never wash or dry a tent using a washing machine or dryer. This can tear your tent and damage it beyond repair.
Once you finish washing the tent, rinse it thoroughly to make sure there is no soap residue left. Then hang it outside to dry in a shaded spot so the sun won’t damage or bleach the colors. If you don’t have access to a place outdoors, you can hang it inside for several days.
Then, before you store the tent, make sure it is completely dry. This is the most important thing when it comes to storing your tent and preventing further mold, mildew, or strange smells.
Lastly, make sure you store the newly cleaned tent in a cool, dry place. The fabric should be able to breathe and have ventilation. Don’t put it in a hot place like the trunk of your car or your attic. If you absolutely must put it in an area that could become wet, seal it in a plastic bag or container first.
Dealing with Mold or Mildew Stains
Because mold can be bad for your health, it’s important that it be killed right away. Once you kill the mold and wash your tent, there’s a chance the area might still be stained.
In that case, there’s not too much you can do. Your tent may never look pristine and new again. However, you may be able to fade the stain a little bit. You can wash it or use non-chlorine bleach if it doesn’t damage the fabric.
For tents with colored fabric, you may be able to use a gentler cleanser such as lemon juice and salt. Try to clean the tent as soon as you realize it’s moldy to prevent a stain from setting in. Scrub it as well as you can and let it soak. Then give it several more treatments to get the majority of the stain removed.
How to Prevent Mold
The best way to prevent mold is to keep your tent as dry as possible while camping and always make sure it is dry before you are storing it. In addition, never store it in a hot or damp place.
Of course, it’s not always possible to keep a tent dry while camping. There may be rain or snow and other wet debris such as leaves, mud, dirty, or insects that fall onto the tent.
However, try to dry out your tent during the day if you know it got wet. Then do a thorough inspection and clean any areas that were affected by the water.
Also, make sure to keep the tent well ventilated. Make sure the flaps or screens are open, so moisture doesn’t get trapped inside.
After camping, follow the instructions above for cleaning the tent. Make sure it’s dry and then store it. Periodically you may want to coat the tent with water repellent in case the mold or cleanser used damaged it.
Getting Rid of the Moldy Smell
Once the tent itself is clean, it may still smell bad inside. Resist the urge to spray a sweet-smelling room freshener inside because this will simply mask the smell, and the fragrance can attract bugs and wildlife.
Instead, use an odor eliminator such as Revivex or Mirazyme which consists of various microbes which “eat” the bacteria causing the moldy smell. Follow the instructions on whichever solution you use to avoid damaging the tent’s waterproof coating.
You’ll have to soak the tent in the mixture for a few minutes but make sure not to use water that is too hot because it can kill the microbes. Give the tent time to dry though because the smell won’t immediately disappear.
While you should definitely take mold seriously, it’s quite easy to prevent it and treat it should it befall your tent. Being proactive while camping and always cleaning and drying your tent thoroughly will go a long way to extending its life. Keep an eye on your tent, treat