Outdoors blog


How to Clean a Dirty Smelly Tent

It doesn’t matter how frequently you use your tent, at some point you will need to clean it, and proper care for it affects the durability and functionality of the tent. Whether you are a new or an experienced camper, tent cleaning is something you definitively need to master.

It looks like a simple process, but actually, it is not. However, if you stick to this article and you will learn how to do that on your own. Without any more hesitations, let’s go.


Tent care

A huge part of caring for your tent is the way you are using it. If you want something to last, you need to treat it properly. If you leave your tent anywhere, you are not careful when placing it and you are careless when using it, and the unpleasant truth is that you will need to throw it away as it will become completely useless.

To prevent that, here are some tips that you need to follow:

Leave your shoes outside

Your shoes have dirt and mud on them, and apparently, you don’t want that inside your tent. Do you want mud in your bed, or your kitchen? Of course not, that is disgusting! For the same reason, you should leave your shoes outside – it would be better for the tent, and for you too, because you care about hygiene.

Don’t let animals/pets inside

As cruel as it can be, it is better to leave your dog outside. I am an animal lover, but objectively, letting your pet inside the tent is not a good idea. Not only that is another way of putting dirt in your tent, but the claws can also be the reason for holes in the tent. It is your tent and your decision, although it is important to mention the side effects of it.

Positioning the tent

It is very important where you will place the tent. The ideal spot would be an elevated land, preferably in the shadow. The reasons for this type of placing it are simple – the sun and the rain. If you don’t follow those rules, you can easily end up with UV damage to your tent, or even worse scenario, plenty of water inside due to heavy rains.

Setting up the tent and storing it

When setting up the tent, be careful with the poles, and if you are insecure, read the manual. Plus, gently work with the zippers as well, as they might break.

When storing it, make sure that the tent is dry, clean, and loose, because if you miss something out of those, you will have troubles using it again.

These were the basics of how to use and care for your tent. But there is also another side of the caring that includes tent cleaning.


How to clean a tent?

After a completed journey, your tent will have dust, sand or other materials that you will need to clean. This is not due to bad care, as even if you are extremely careful, cleaning after a trip is obligatory.

So, what options for cleaning do you have? Continue reading to find out.


Can you wash a tent in a front loading washing machine?

Washing machines are of great use, as they reduce the time and effort needed for washing. They are very effective, and you will have your clothes (or whatever you are washing) clean as it was when you first bought it. However, not everything is meant to be put in a washing machine. So, what about your tent?

Definitively, no. You should never try to wash the tent in a washing machine, not even use a machine to dry it. A front loading washing machine uses high temperatures, speaking of which, it can damage your tent. It can tear or reduce the elasticity, and in case that doesn’t happen in the first time washing it, it will eventually happen.


Then, what is the right way to clean it?

Nondetergent soap for tents

You will need just a sponge, cold water, and a non-detergent soap. Carefully, rub the tent with the sponge soaked in the soap. Additionally, some situations will require to use alcohol for cleaning. Once you did that, it is time to give your tent a good bath.

Wash tent in a bathtub

Not only that you can, but also you should use your bathtub to clean your tent. First of all, you will need to clean it as mentioned above, before putting it in. Fill the bath with cold or lukewarm water, add the detergent, and soak the tent.

Now, you might want to use a special enzyme cleaner, but that is in case you have a tent with mold, mildew or bad smell, which will be explained to detail later on.

The amount of time you will need to wait depends on the detergent, but be careful not to leave it for very long. Once you are done, rinse it with cold water and let it dry.

This is the process of regular cleaning of your tent. For more information, you should check the REI cleaning service.

REI tent cleaning service

REI cleaning service gives a detailed explanation on how to clean your tent, and by following their step by step guide, you shouldn’t have any troubles doing the same.

For starters, the cleaning process will require:

– A bathtub

– An enzyme cleaner (your personal preference)

– Non-detergent dish soap

  • Sponge or cloth

To get a visual of what are you supposed to do, I suggest taking a look at this tutorial that will give you all the information you need.


How to clean a tent that smells

You might notice that your tent has a significant, strong odor. In case you didn’t try to clean it up yet, don’t even try, as the bad smell will probably remain.

The reasons for that smell could be mold, or mildew and its appearance should not surprise you, as your tent has spent much time in wet areas. You will easily recognize it, by the smell, and by the color, so mold can be black or green, while the mildew is white. So, what are your options in dealing with it?

How to clean a tent with mold

Cleaning mold and mildew from a tent are not easy, but luckily, it can be done. There are several things that you can choose to do and see which of them works for you the best. I will explain them to you one by one, so you can make a decision.


Clean tent mold and mildew with vinegar

It is common knowledge that vinegar is an acid, which is very effective in dealing with mold and mildew. However, this doesn’t mean that you need to directly apply vinegar to your tent, as that could make things even worse.

You will need to dilute vinegar in warm water, mix it with a little bit of dishwashing soap and use this mixture to clean. Dip your sponge in, and carefully rub the parts on your tent where there is mildew on. Before you put away your tent, make sure it is dry.

This was the “homemade” version of cleaning your tent. As you will see below, the other version is quite similar to this one.


Mirazyme tent cleaner

Mirazyme is widely known enzyme cleaner, and although you can try many others of this type, this one has proven to be very effective in dealing with mold and mildew.

This cleaner has directions on how to use it, even though it is pretty straightforward. You need to soak the tent in Mirazyme, but pay attention to the time needed for it, as if you forget about it and leave it too long, it could damage your tent.


To sum up, having a tent while camping is obligatory, as you need a place where you can sleep, cover, and put your equipment. However, the lifespan of your tent is defined by you, so it will last longer if you care about it, or on the other hand, you will need to buy a new one.

But caring doesn’t only mean careful usage, but also tent cleaning. It is a process that needs to be done from time to time, preferably after each camping journey.

In this article, you will learn how to care for your tent, as well as how to properly clean it to remove not only sand and mud but also mold and mildew. By following the tips given above, you will be able to use your tent with no problems.

How do you care about your tent? Do you follow the same rules as given in the article? What type of enzyme cleaner do you use? Feel free to share your experience!

Leave a Reply