6 tried & true tips for cleaning tents

July 28, 2015

Today's high-performance tents are certainly not cheap, so keeping them clean is a wise choice. By doing so, you'll keep zippers working longer and prolong the life of the tents’ waterproof coating.

6 tried & true tips for cleaning tents

1. After every use

  • After a camping trip, shake out loose dirt and wipe the floor and fly, using a soft sponge and warm water.
  • Let the tent dry completely before storing.

2. Treat zippers with care

  • Grit and sand can wear down the inside of the zipper slider (the metal part you slide to zip and unzip the tent), causing it to stop working properly. (If the slider fails — allowing the zipper to open behind the slider — work the slider back to the beginning.
  • Then use a pair of pliers to pinch one rear corner of the slider and then the other, so that the slider's upper and lower parts grip the zipper track better.)
  • Keep zippers well lubricated. Use a specialty zipper-lubricating product, a cleaner and lubricant available from hardware and camping stores.
  • Paraffin wax or candle wax will also help — some campers even use lip balm!
  • Don't, however, use petroleum-based products.

3. A complete cleaning

  • Occasionally clean your tent thoroughly.
  • Set it up outside and lightly spray it with a garden hose.
  • Mix up a mild solution of water and a gentle fabric cleaner.
  • Use a sponge or soft cloth to gently wipe the tent clean.
  • Rinse well, but don't saturate the tent material.
  • Let the tent dry in indirect sunlight.

4. To clean mildew

  • Wash the tent with soapy water and then wipe it out with a solution of 250 ml (1 cup) of salt,250 ml (1 cup)of concentrated lemon juice and 4 litres (4 quarts) of hot water.
  • Don't rinse the tent, just let it air dry.
  • To help prevent mildew, always store your tent in a cool, dry place, and store it loosely in a large cotton bag or box (rather than its own stuff bag), so that air can circulate.

5. Peeling waterproof

  • If the waterproof coating starts to peel because of mildew or another cause, reapply a waterproofing compound.
  • Look for the appropriate waterproofing product at your local camping store.

6. To remove sap or tar

  • Try cleaning it off with eucalyptus oil and a clean cloth.
  • If this doesn't do the trick, you can try a small amount of kerosene.
  • Make sure you test first on an inconspicuous part of the tent.
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