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How To Properly Clean & Care for Your Tent

Sleeping in a clean tent is such a blessing when camping

Camping is a great deal of fun and is a very popular outdoor activity for millions of people. Your tent is the most important part of your trip to ensure you have a great time. They will protect you from the elements and allow you a good night’s rest. Tents can last a very long time if properly maintained and taken care of. Before setting off on your first camping trip of the season, you should check the entire tent out to make sure everything is in tip-top shape and give it a good cleaning.

Tents are erected outdoors, they are open to many environmental elements and will become dirty quite easily. If you stay in your tent for any length of time, you want to perform a good cleaning on the inside as well. Interior cleanings of tents are often overlooked and can become pretty nasty in a very short period of time.

At the end or beginning of camping season, your tent needs a good cleaning both inside and out. Here are some steps and tips to win the Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval:

Steps For Cleaning Your Tent

Always start the cleaning process on a pitched tent.

Step One
Remove all loose dirt and debris that accumulates on a regular basis such as pine needles, leaves and debris that build up in the corners of the tent as well as on your bedroll. Make sure you remove everything from inside the tent before cleaning it. Then clean the flooring before putting anything back inside.
Exterior cleaning also requires removing outdoor debris and cleaning off any loose dirt before giving it a bath.

Step Two
If you have a small tent it will be pretty easy to put it in a tub of hot water. This method will probably not work on very large tents for obvious reasons. Use a soft brush or damp cloth to clean off all dirt a debris. A large tent will have to be spread out, hosed down and cleaned. It will be a little more difficult but must be done.

Step Three
A small tent can be washed in a tub with hot water and a very mild cleaning solution that is recommended for tents. Do not use conventional detergents as they can break down your water repellents. You can remove mud and mildew with a mixture of lemon juice and salt or vinegar and water. Cleaning products developed for tents will ensure the tent is cleaned properly while protecting its repellency. The cleaning solutions are the same for large tents as well.

Step Four
After washing the tent, rinse it off thoroughly with water. It can be a little difficult to rinse off some areas, but it is important that all soapy residue has been removed completely.

Step Five
Apply a water repellent on the fabric floor, lower sides of the walls and the rain fly.

Step Six
Once the tent is clean, place it outside in a shady area or a building and let dry; you do not want to position the tent in direct sunlight. The drying process will take some time so be patient and leave it in place until it’s completely dry.

Important Points

Never use a washing machine for cleaning your tent.
Do not scrub the underside of the tent; it can damage the tent and remove the waterproof polyurethane coating. More on tent waterproofing options here.
Use a cleaning formula developed for tents and rinse with water until all soapy residue is eliminated.
Never dry in direct sunlight.
Your tent must be completely dry before placing it in storage.
When storing your tent, make sure it will have enough ventilation so as not to pick up bad odors. Never store in an attic or other facility that has poor ventilation.

Caring For Your Tent On A Trip

Select a campsite that offers a smooth and level surface without vegetation. Clear away any debris such as pine cones, rocks or twigs. Items like these can tear the floor of your tent. Try not to disturb your site any more than necessary.
Use a custom-cut cloth, known as a footprint, specially designed for your tent floor. Footprints will protect your tent’s floor from any abrasive materials and provide a clean surface for folding up your tent at the end of the trip.
Choose a relatively shady area as the sun’s UV rays can damage the tent. If camping in cold mountain areas, you might want to invest in a tarp to erect the tent for shade.
Place all shoes and boots outside the tent.
Always fold your tent each time you pack up and go, you want to make sure you do not damage the tent fabric overtime.

Your tent is an investment and keeping it clean will ensure you have it for a long time while providing you a safe an comfortable trip. Tents can last for many years if well taken care of. If you are using your tent many times over a season, there are different techniques you can use to protect your investment.

Always follow proper procedures to prevent your tent from unnecessary damage from harmful substances. Always use cleaners that are developed for tent materials to ensure longevity.

Following these tips will keep your tent in excellent condition for many years to come. If you take care of your tent, your tent will be there to take care of you while camping.

If reading is not your thing, feel free to watch this additional video:

How To Properly Clean & Care for Your Tent
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Mark Jonson
Mark Jonson
Outdoor enthusiast and rafting addict. From Cleveland Ohio born and raised (GO CAVS). Working for a professional kayaking company located in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park Ohio. I am a huge NBA fan and spend the rest of my spare time djing as a hobby.

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