Practical tips on how to clean a tent with mold or mildew

Camping tent in summer forest
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Whether you are new to camping or not, you should already be aware of how important it is to maintain your gear.

Making sure everything is in good condition, cleaned, and properly stored away is vital for getting as much longevity out of it as possible. After all, you don’t want to get to your campsite, open up your tent, and find it covered in mold or mildew.

That will just put a damper on the whole experience, and if not taken care of, could cause permanent damage to the tent material to the point of it being unusable.

Tents are not a cheap piece of camping equipment, so that is not a purchase you will want to make more than a couple of times in a short period.

Your tent is supposed to be able to last you for a few years or more when taken care of. That is why we are here to help you out with how to clean a tent with mold and mildew.

How does your tent get mold or Mildew

Blond girl viewed from inside a tent

Mold happens on any and everything; in your home, on your food, and your camping gear. Mold and mildew are like mushrooms, meaning they are in the fungi family.

What kind of environment makes mushrooms grow like crazy?

That’s right, warm, humid, damp conditions. If moisture is on your tent and not taken care of properly, it will turn into mold or mildew.

If you’re camping and it rains or snows, getting your tent soaked is one of the most common reasons a tent will get mold. That’s because you may pack it up without a second thought and trap the moisture inside and store it like that once you get home.

Even if you do properly clean your tent and put it away, you’ll find it may still happen. We’ll provide you with some tips on how and what to use to clean your tent, as well as how to properly store it.

No one likes the stink and sight of mold, so let’s avoid it with some proper care.

For more general information on mold and how to get rid of it then check out this link.

The best ways to remove mold from a tent

Human hand washes mold from ceramic tile

There are several options out there that will help you keep your tent mold and mildew-free. We will discuss the different cleaning agents that will help you.

Some will be home remedies using basic agents that the average person usually will have in their home, and some are other cleaning products you could get at the store specifically to get rid of the mold on your tent.

When you are ready to clean your tent, you should have it pitched open and in an airy place. Outside is ideal if the weather is good.

Hot water and soap

The good old-fashioned hot or warm water and soap mixture works for mold and mildew. Just be sure to use non-detergent soap, and you can use the soft side of a sponge or a bristle brush to scrub the affected area with soapy water.

Once thoroughly scrubbed and cleaned, rinse off your tent with clean water. It is ideal to be cleaning outside so that you don’t get mold spores in your house.

Also, it will be easier to leave the tent outside to air dry. Be sure to put your tent in the shade and not direct sun. This mixture will remove mold and mildew from the tent. Let your tent dry completely before putting it away to prevent mold.

Vinegar and water

baking soda, vinegar and lemon

Vinegar is another well know household product that is effective in cleaning and eliminating odors. It works well to kill mold and neutralize that moldy, mildew odor that often accompanies it.

You can mix a cup of white vinegar with a gallon of warm water in a bucket to soak a rag, sponge, or brush. Then clean the affected areas until you see the mold and mildew streaks are removed.

Rinse with clean water when done. You can also fill a spray bottle with white vinegar and spray the affected area on your tent. Let it sit for a few minutes, then scrub it off with warm water. Let your tent dry before storing.

Lemon juice and salt

If you don’t have any vinegar, then lemon juice and salt will make a fine substitute. With similar odor-eliminating properties and bacteria-killing abilities, lemon juice makes for fine mold treatment.

You will need a gallon of hot water, a cup of salt, and a cup of lemon juice. Wash and scrub your tent with this solution using a sponge or brush. Rinse with clean water and let the tent dry completely.

Tea tree oil and warm water

Tea tree oil is one of those essential oils that has an unexpected use in being able to kill mold and mildew. It is also a great way to clean the tent and get rid of the smell.

You can create a mixture of two teaspoons of tea tree oil and a cup of water in a spray bottle. Spray the affected areas, then begin cleaning with a soft sponge, cloth, or scrub brush. Rinse with warm water and dry.

As an extra prevention measure, you can also lightly respray the tea tree oil and water mixture once your tent is washed, coating all creases and crevices with the solution.

It will provide more long-term prevention against mold growth or mildew.

MiraZyme

This product is an enzyme-based odor eliminator. It targets mildew, mold, and other bacteria to kill those unwanted odors.

It is an outdoor-inspired product that campers and outdoor recreationists use to prevent foul smells and mold from getting into their gear. It is also fine to use in tents.

It is an easy treatment for your dirty fabrics and just an outside option that can be obtained in stores or online.

With these options in mind, you should be able to better prepare your tent for your next camping trip and storage when you come home.

It is also important to note that you should check or test these products on a piece of your tent fabric to ensure that it will not leave a stain.

The object that you choose to wash your tent with should also be considered. The soft side of a sponge works well on nylon and polypropylene tents.

However, a canvas tent is best washed with a scrub brush to work into the creases of the material and scrub out the moldy areas.

How to prevent mold and mildew

Even if you wash and dry your tent properly before storage, it can still be susceptible to mold growth. This depends on the kind of room and environment you are keeping it stored. You don’t want to keep your tent in a place that is damp and with little airflow.

It should be stored in a controlled environment and airy space so that there is little to no moisture that can condense on your tent. Even if the place you are storing your tent does get some humidity, a room or space that gets good airflow can circulate the damp air out.

Ultimately, you want your tent to remain dry in order to prevent future mold mildew growth. Therefore, you should also take your tent out and open it up occasionally to check it and let it air out before storing it once again. Doing this will keep your tent gear mold-free and make sure your camping trip is an enjoyable experience.

The folowing video shares some useful tips for prolonging the lifetime of your tent:

Key Insights & Takeaways: no more moldy tents!

A new pitched tent

No one wants to spend their camping trip in a moldy tent. That is why it is so important to make sure you clean it, dry it, and store your tent properly.

You are supposed to get longevity out of your tent, and if it ends up with mold and mildew it can shorten that span. Mold damages your tent’s material and makes it unusable, so taking care of it is important.

The tips we have provided are to help you get the most out of your camping equipment, and prevent this unnecessary moldy event from happening while on your next trip.

Frequently Asked Questions

What happens if you sleep in a moldy tent?


You can sleep in a moldy tent if it comes to it. If you arrive at your campsite and pitch your tent only to find streaks of mold and mildew, you can still sleep in it for a night or two.

The effects of staying in a moldy tent mostly show themselves in symptoms like a runny nose and itchy eyes. Similar to pollen allergies. The smell may bother you more than anything, but if it is only for a night or two and you can tolerate the smell and some discomfort, then you can sleep in a tent with mold.

What does mold look like?


To determine if your tent has mold or mildew, you should know what that looks like. It usually comes in streaks, spots, or clumps. Mold can range in color from white, green, or bluish-black. It may also appear to be “fuzzy”.

If you notice this on your tent you mustn’t simply wipe it or dust it off. It needs to be scrubbed and cleaned with any of the solutions we provided previously. Keep your tent clean and dry, that’s the best way to prevent mold and mildew.

How To Get Rid Of The Moldy Smell?


The cleaning methods we listed previously like the vinegar, lemon, and tea tree oil are great for eliminating that odor. However, you can also find similar results using the combination of baking soda, vinegar, and water, or a cup of bleach with a cup of warm water will work.

If you like the idea of more natural methods like tea tree oil, there are plenty of options in various essential oils that are all efficient at eliminating the smell. You could also use hydrogen peroxide, or borax to scrub into the tent with water.

How do you Clean A Canvas Tent?


When it comes to cleaning a canvas tent of mold it is best to scrub it with a soft bristle brush. Avoid using solutions like bleach or detergent soaps which can be harsh on the canvas material.

Those cleaning products can be very difficult to wash and rinse off afterward. It is best to use methods like soap and warm water, lemon and salt, or vinegar and water when cleaning your canvas tent. Always let it dry and leave it out of the sun after you finish cleaning.

What If You Discover Mold On Your Tent While Camping?


If you discover mold mildew on your tent after you have already arrived at your campsite, it is not the end of the world! If it comes to it, you can still sleep in your tent without much concern for your health.

If anything, the musty smell will be more of an issue. However, you can clean your tent even while you are out. Hopefully, you will have brought some sort of soap for cleaning other things like dishes or your hands.

You can use some of that soap and heat some water on your camp stove or over a fire so that you can use a mixture of the warm water and soap to clean the mold. Either a sponge or rag will do for scrubbing the mold off. Once you get back home you should do a more thorough cleaning to ensure all the mold and mildew are gone.

Julie
Julie
I was fishing before I could walk and it's been a family tradition for centuries. Fishing is my life, or at least as long as I can remember. In the Lake Champlain International Fathers Day Fishing Derby, not only have I won first place twice but also third place! Also, in addition to majoring in Wilderness Recreation Leadership, I also happen to be a licensed camping, hiking, and hunting guide for NY.

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