Photo by Peter Smithson
If you’re an avid camper, you know that sometimes, you may have no choice but to pack all of your things in a hurry. Inclement weather may halt your camping trip in its tracks and it becomes safer to seek more substantial shelter than a tent.
In situations like these, you don’t always have time to neatly store everything the way that you would otherwise. This means that your best option may just be to pack up that wet tent and hit the road while it’s still safe to do so.
But what happens to that wet tent when it sits in the storage bag, forgotten in the haste to get home?
For more information on sleeping in moldy tents, check out this article that we wrote for you.
Today, we’re going to talk about that and give you a few tips for keeping your camping gear in great shape for many camping trips to come.
Storing a Wet Tent: Consequences
It is okay to store your tent wet for a certain amount of time if need be, but doing so for too long comes with unpleasant consequences.
Packing up or storing your tent while it is still wet will result in mold and mildew. Not only is mold and mildew unsightly and musty smelling but they can also lead to health problems.
When nearly any fabric is left wet for too long without proper care, it becomes a breeding ground for mold and mildew. The presence of these fungi are bad enough, but the smell that accompanies them makes things far worse. If you have ever left clothing in the washing machine for a bit too long or perhaps forgotten a wet towel in your beach bag, you know the dreaded sour smell that indicates the presence of mildew.
Cotton and canvas tents are more prone to breeding mold and mildew, but this can happen to dirty nylon tents as well.
For an in-depth look on how to store your tent. Check out our article –Properly Storing Your Tent (How to, Where to and Clean for storage)
Reversing Mold/Mildew Damage and Growth from Wet Tent
If you are already in the unfortunate position of dealing with mold growth from storing your tent wet, then the next step is to try and reverse the damage and growth before the problem is out of control.
The first thing to understand is that mold is very difficult to clean from fabrics. Touching it spreads spores and will only aid in more growth if you don’t go about the process carefully.
You can’t just clean the mold, you have to kill it.
There are several home remedies tested by other campers that seem to work well, but they have drawbacks of their own.
Bleach will undoubtedly kill mold if it’s all you have on hand, but it isn’t ideal. Even diluted bleach is still hard on tent fabric, causing it to stiffen and even rotting the stitching on certain tents. Tents are an investment, and bleach can do more harm than good in some cases.
If you must, dilute the bleach and only use it where the mold/mildew is spotted.
Vinegar is a tried and true cleaning product for almost any situation. Many campers use it to clean their tents because the substance is natural and not especially harmful to the environment.
However, cleaning with vinegar leaves an unpleasant sour smell that just replaces the one you’re already dealing with, and it isn’t especially effective at preventing future growth, either.
- Lemon Juice
Lemon juice is another natural cleaner that is popularly used for nearly any issue. However, you need something stronger than this natural acid to kill mold and prevent regrowth. Save the lemons for lemonade and your hands from the strain that comes with juicing lemons; buy a real cleaner that will solve the issue quickly and effectively.
Fortunately, you have some options beyond home remedies that leave a stench of their own like vinegar or bleach. One such option is a mildew stain remover that contains mold blockers to prevent regrowth. This takes care of both your immediate and future problems! This mold removal spray should also take care of the sour smell that would make future camping trips truly a nightmare.
Preventing Mold and Mildew Growth on Tents
Storing your tent wet isn’t ideal, but sometimes it may be your only option. Still, it’s essential that you learn how to prevent mold and mildew from seeping into the fabric and ruining your valuable camping gear.
- Know the Timeline
Though growth rate varies based on a number of factors, be aware that mold and mildew start to grow on your wet tent between 24-48 hours of being stored. Packing it away in a storage bag will be okay, but only for a day or two. The less time your tent spends wet, the better. If your journey home will take longer than the timeline allows, follow some of the tips below to slow the growth and avoid the dreaded mildew.
- Treat Tents with Antimicrobial Spray
To prevent mold from growing on your tent in the future, treat it with antimicrobial spray. This will prevent mold spores from attaching to the fabric and taking root. These sprays work on a variety of fabrics and will give you the added benefit of waterproofing to an extent. Not only will it prevent mold, but it will keep your tent as dry as possible under the circumstances. The effects of sprays like these should last for a few months, but repeat treatments will be necessary.
This spray treatment should be done before going on your next camping trip, even if you have not experienced mold and mildew growth on your tent yet. It’s always better to be prepared before disaster strikes.
- Ditch the Storage Bag
If possible, try to store your wet tent flat in your truck bed or trunk instead of in its usual storage bag. Being laid flat in open-air dries out a tent faster and prevents the humid conditions that storage bags cause and aid in mold growth. If the former two are not viable options, you can still leave your tent in a storage bag but try and keep it partially open. The less humidity, the better until you can get home.
- Keep it Cool
Mold grows best in warm, wet, humid environments. If your tent is wet and you have to store it immediately, try to keep it in a cool place until you’re ready to dry it out completely. A large cooler, a fridge, and a freezer are all viable options. This will not stop mold from growing completely, but it will give you some extra hours to unpack everything else and gather everything you need.
- Clean Your Tent
It is true that synthetic fabrics don’t allow for easy mold growth when wet as canvas and cotton tents do. However, any dirt and other organic material that is on your tent will provide the right environment for mold to grow regardless.
Before you store your tent, make sure that you clean off as much dirt, grass, debris, etc. as you can. If your situation is emergent, just be sure to clean off this dirt as soon as you can do so safely. The goal is to prevent mold growth however possible.
Even just wiping it down quickly with a towel before hastily shoving it in and jumping in the car is far better than waiting for a nasty surprise when you get home.
- Let it Dry
After you’ve treated your tent walls with antimicrobial spray and done everything else that you can to clean already present mold or prevent mold growth in a clean tent, let it dry fully before storing it again.
Of course, drying times vary based on the tent fabric and the environment in which you’re laying it out, but at the minimum, leave the tent out in a well-ventilated, cool, and dry space for two days fully flat. Once it’s dry and no mold is present, you can store it until it’s time to hit the road again.
- Check the Forecast
Next time you plan to camp, it’s also a great idea to look at the local forecast and be sure that no inclement weather will have you scrambling to put away your soaking tent while your family piles into the car. Unexpected weather events happen, but you lessen the chances of cutting your trip short and ruining your tent by keeping an eye on the situation before you find yourself desperate for cover.
Putting a tent away wet can have some seriously nasty consequences. If you’re not careful, you may find yourself shelling out more money for a new one. Mold is difficult to clean and kill, but not impossible as long as you stick to the real cleaning solutions, but prevention is always the better and easier route in the future.
If you find yourself dealing with a wet tent, make sure to keep it cool, ventilated, and flat as possible until you can get home and dry it completely before putting it away again. As long as you follow those steps, you may not even have to clean up mold and mildew at all!
With a little planning and proactivity, you can avoid the fallout from these unfortunate circumstances and unpack your camping gear without the hassle.
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