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How to Clean a Tent That Smells

There are few things that can ruin a camping trip more than a smelly tent. Unfortunately, it’s a common issue that many campers (especially beginners) deal with.

How to clean a tent that smells: Tent by a river

From old gym socks to something you can’t even identify, your tent can produce a lot of foul odors that can linger and remain even after your trip is over. In fact, you could even have mold and mildew growing in your tent, which can be hazardous to your health.

Luckily, in this article, we’re going to explain how to clean a tent that smells, including how to prevent a smell from developing in the first place. So read on to learn more!

Exploring How to Clean a Tent That Smells

Preventing The Smell

Who wants to clean the tent every time you are about to go camping? These easy steps will help you to get rid of the very cause why your tent might smell, check these life-changing tips!

Make sure the tent is completely dry before it is stored away and keep it in a place that doesn’t allow any moisture to get in.

Even if you are lucky and your camping trip was not interrupted by rain, it doesn’t mean there is no humidity and your tent didn’t get damp from the morning dew.

The smallest amount of moisture could cause a somewhat big amount of trouble. To name a few: mold and that very smell that makes this cleaning chore particularly unenjoyable.   

Wet tent in sunrise

Here’s how you can prevent odors in your tent:

  1. Invest in a footprint to make your tent last and keep it nice and dry!
  1. Rain or not, don’t forget about morning dew and humidity. Dry out any moisture off the tent and avoid packing it up damp. 
  1. No shoes/no food allowed! Take it as a rule and maintain your tent clean from any crumbs and dirt. Remember that it is easier to stick to this policy rather than deal with mold from the food or moisture as a consequence.
  1. It is important to clean up your tent before storing it away. What might be a 5 minute task can turn out into a lengthy chore later if you neglect to clean it after a long trip. Make it a habit to clean it regularly every camping season.
  2.  Timely clean up any dirt and moisture off your tent to eliminate a slightest chance of mold or smell ruining your trip. The key is to let it dry out completely. 

Try Not to Wash Your Tent in a Washing Machine

Before I knew any better, I thought cleaning a tent was as easy as simply throwing it in a washing machine and forgetting about it; thinking it might just be a life hack. Spoiler alert: it wasn’t. 

I am glad the tent I used in my experiment was not new nor expensive. It proved a point that tents and washing machines are just not meant to be. Washing machines could actually damage your tent and are typically not recommended for large sized items that have delicate fabric and materials. 

Choosing Soap or Natural Cleaning Solutions

One way of cleaning a tent is to use a mild detergent, a dish soap would work like a charm. No need to overspend on the brand soap, any generic brand will do the job!

 It is best to use soap that has mild to no fragrance as any flowery and sweet smell would only attract bugs and bees and that is the last thing you want on your trip.

There is a DIY solution I found and tested a few times: just mix vinegar, lemon juice and water! Not only is it all organic, it also does not leave a residue like soap and detergent do! 

Washing Your Tent by Hand

To give your tent a deep cleaning use a soft sponge and work on the areas that need extra attention. Using a spray bottle helps cover more!

Never scrub or use abrasive sponges on the tent coating. Delicate cleaning is recommended, it is easy to damage the waterproof surface of the tent if you are scrubbing too hard. 

You can use a special cleaning solution for heavy duty stains but if you are pressed on time or don’t have one on hand then soap diluted with water or lemon juice with vinegar is the way to go!   

Removing Mildew or Mold From Your Tent

If your tent has mildew or mold on it dont panic, there is a solution for you! All you need is vinegar and a tiny amount of lemon juice mixed together, use a spray bottle to spray the moldy areas. 

The acid from lemon and vinegar will act as a natural disinfectant. Let the tent sit for about 60 min for best results and carefully clean with a clean non-abrasive sponge. Now your tent is good as new and ready for your next camping adventure! 

Another route you can take would be to use a mold and mildew stain remover. You can purchase these online.

Storing Your Tent The Right Way

Cleaning your tent from mold is not the way to end a fun camping adventure! To never have to find yourself in this situation just check that your tent is dry before you store it away! Just like how storing your sleeping bags are important, so too is storing your tent.

The key is to make sure you don’t just pack it up and forget about it till your next camping trip! Clean and dry your tent thoroughly outdoors if conditions allow. You can dry it indoors, it will take longer but it works! 

After the tent is dry, put it in a plastic container and store it in a cool dry place. You can use baking soda bags to keep the humidity level down, that will help eliminate any chances of the mold growing on your tent!

Family Camping

Never Deal With a Smelly Tent Again!

We hope you enjoyed these tips on how to clean a tent that smells. While they are all effective at removing or preventing odors, it’s important to check to ensure each of them are safe for the specific tent you own. 

This can be done by checking the cleaning instructions, which should have come with your tent. If not, you might need to contact the manufacturer directly.

Bri Cruz

Wednesday 26th of May 2021

My boyfriend and I are preparing for our first summer on the road and I’m trying to learn as much as I can before we head out. Thanks so much for these useful tips, hopefully we can manage to go without a smelly tent all summer 🤞🏽 haha